Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellows

ACLS created the Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars to support scholars in the humanities and social sciences in the crucial years immediately following the granting of tenure, and to provide emerging leaders in their fields with the resources to pursue long-term, unusually ambitious projects. The 2020 cohort is the twenty-first and final for the program, which over the past two decades has supported nearly 275 scholars as they took up year-long residencies at independent research centers and universities.
The Burkhardt Fellowships are generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. They are named for the late Frederick Burkhardt, President Emeritus of ACLS, whose decades of work on The Correspondence of Charles Darwin constitute a signal example of dedication to a demanding and ambitious scholarly enterprise.

Read more about this fellowship program.

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Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 

Paulina L. Alberto
Paulina L. Alberto  |  Abstract
Is it redundant to speak of racial stories? In some ways, ideas about race always consist of narratives about who people are and are not. But sometimes these stories adopt patterns with stock characters, plots, and morals, persisting across multiple generations and genres. The tales surrounding the dandy-turned-beggar Raúl Grigera (also known as “el Negro Raúl”), an Afro-Argentine man who rose to fame in early-twentieth-century Buenos Aires, illuminate the special power of storytelling to shape and reproduce ideas of race. Drawing on an extensive corpus of published texts about el Negro Raúl and on previously undiscovered personal archival records, this project reveals how exaggerated narratives of disparaged and disappearing blackness sustained Argentina’s particular ideologies of national whiteness in the long twentieth century. At the same time, it offers the first story of black presence and self-fashioned celebrity for modern Argentina.

Associate Professor, History, and Romance Languages and Literatures, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Black Legend: The Unexpected Story of “El Negro Raúl” and the Untold History of Race in Argentina
For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2019-2020

John Modern
John Modern  |  Abstract
The ontology of the brain as an information processing device is neither religious nor secular. Indeed, cognition has become a central concern for those who practice religion, for those who speculate about the ways and means of God, as well as for those who seek to explain religion in the laboratory. The brain, one could say, has long demanded obedience from scientists and supplicants alike. This project offers historical leverage upon the depth, density, and diffusion of this obedience, otherwise known as the cognitive revolution. It does so by narrating across stories of piety and experimentation since the eighteenth century—transatlantic revivalism, circuits of Swedenborgianism, antebellum phrenology, aspirations of parapsychologists, cybernetic pioneers, artificial intelligence, and electric shock therapy in the 1970s. “The Religion Machine” tells a story about cognitive science, politics, money and medicine that is infused with cosmic conjecture and religious allure.

Associate Professor, Religious Studies, Franklin & Marshall College  -  The Religion Machine, or; A Particular History of the Brain
For residence at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania during academic year 2018-2019

Renee Lynn Beard
Renee Lynn Beard  |  Abstract
Perhaps the most dreaded disease of our time, Alzheimer’s is framed as a steadfast “loss of self” for those diagnosed, a long goodbye, and torture for all involved. The common tribulations of chronic illness dramatized as accounts of resilience and connection in spite of dementia are marginalized rather than celebrated. This longitudinal interpretive study draws on stories from those most intimately affected – diagnosed individuals and their care partners - to explore experiences of memory loss. Drawing on in-depth qualitative interviews and observations with multiple stakeholders, the project depicts various models of living with Alzheimer’s. Investigating how people interpret diagnoses according to shared worldviews has vast implications for understanding our core humanity as well as context-specific care needs. Mapping the social determinants of forgetfulness may reveal and hopefully begin to reverse potential barriers to accurate understandings of the illness, thus preserving a path to meaningful aging when facing Alzheimer’s.

Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology, College of the Holy Cross  -  Listening to Early Alzheimer's Disease (LEAD): Experiences over Time
For residence at the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Boston during academic year 2017-2018

Mark Quigley
Mark Quigley  |  Abstract
This project tracks the dynamic counterculture that emerged in Ireland between 1914 and 1918 in opposition to World War One. Exploring links between the era’s cinema, literature, and richly varied popular press, “Not Such a Long Way to Tipperary” reveals the complex ways that Irish modernist culture was fueled by the war and the fascinating coalition of suffragists, filmmakers, nationalists, writers, and trade unionists that combined to oppose it. Accounts of Ireland and WWI tend to focus on the experiences of Irish soldiers and efforts to develop popular support for the war. This study of the forgotten counterculture opposing the war resituates the Irish home front as a space of electrifying conflict and creativity that radically reframes the impact of WWI and sheds important new light on the war’s overlooked connections to the Irish revolution with which it coincided.

Associate Professor, English, University of Oregon  -  Not Such a Long Way to Tipperary: Retracing Opposition to the First World War in Irish Popular Culture, 1914-1918
For residence at the Huntington Library during academic year 2017-2018

Michelle L. Berenfeld
Michelle L. Berenfeld  |  Abstract
Elite urban neighborhoods in the late Roman empire (third- through sixth-century CE) were social spaces in which daily negotiations of power, class, and piety played out among the members of the upper classes. Late Roman elites and their houses have been the object of numerous studies, but these have largely overlooked relationships among urban houses, their interaction with public spaces, and changes in those relationships over time. This project employs archaeological evidence for upper-class neighborhoods in selected provincial cities and in Rome, together with texts produced in and about those cities, to explore how the rise of Christianity intersected with developments related to class and elite power during this critical time.

Associate Professor, Classics, Pitzer College  -  At Home in the City: The Neighborhoods of the Urban Elite in the Late Roman Empire
For residence at the American Academy in Rome during calendar year 2018

Jesse Rodin
Jesse Rodin  |  Abstract
How does late-medieval music happen in time? This study creates an analytical methodology for understanding musical form. Moving beyond a scholarly tradition rooted in abstract formalisms and note counting, “Giving Form to Fifteenth-Century Music” draws on close readings, corpus study (bolstered by digital tools), and performance to explore the music’s moment-to-moment flow. This project takes its inspiration from contemporary discourses about time-bound aesthetic experiences in the literary and visual arts, while registering an important shift to a clock-bound way of life that occurred during this period. Treating music alongside feasts, jousts, paintings, buildings, and liturgy, this project adopts a multidisciplinary, analogic approach that aims to bring modern audiences closer than ever before to the experiences of late-medieval musicians and listeners. It also invites readers to think harder about today’s fragmented, accelerated temporality.

Associate Professor, Music, Stanford University  -  Giving Form to Fifteenth-Century Music
For residence at Villa I Tatti during academic year 2017-2018

Daniela Bleichmar
Daniela Bleichmar  |  Abstract
This project examines the production of codices (indigenous pictorial manuscripts) in early colonial Mexico, and the documents’ circulation, reproduction, and changing interpretations in America and Europe from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries. The study is centered on the “Codex Mendoza,” the most important and best known of these documents during that period. It begins with the manuscript’s creation in Mexico City around 1542 and follows its journeys across cultural traditions, geography, media, and interpretations over the course of three centuries, concluding with the publication of the first modern facsimile in England in 1831. By following the manuscript’s itineraries and relating it to other Mexican and non-Western materials, the project investigates how artistic and cultural exchanges in the early modern period produced new types of transcultural objects and new knowledge about non-Western cultures. This allowed a diverse range of makers and viewers on both sides of the Atlantic to use images, words, and things to investigate cultures and to construct narratives about history, religion, and civilization.

Associate Professor, Art History and History, University of Southern California  -  The Itinerant Lives of Painted Books: Mexican Codices and Transatlantic Knowledge in the Early Modern World
For residence at the Huntington Library during academic year 2018-2019

Julia B. Rosenbaum
Julia B. Rosenbaum  |  Abstract
This study explores images of the damaged or "compromised" body, literal and more metaphorical from the American Civil War through the 1920s. In a period gripped by the physical trauma of war and the absorption of seemingly foreign peoples, questions about the health and integrity of the body politic became ever more pressing. The project examines the visual response to those dilemmas. It reconstitutes a narrative arc starting with the founding of the Army Medical Museum and the portrayal of amputated Civil War soldiers, moving to the representation of immigrant and Native American bodies, and culminating with notions of the perfectible and imperfectible body inflected by the advance of athletics and eugenics. In considering racial theories, definitions of gender, and the relationship between art and science, “Unruly Bodies?” offers a new lens on corporeality and social constitution.

Associate Professor, History of Art, Bard College  -  Unruly Bodies?: Portraying Science and Citizenry in Post-Civil War America
For residence at the Charles Warren Center for American History at Harvard University during academic year 2019-2020

Lara Langer Cohen
Lara Langer Cohen  |  Abstract
“Before Subculture” investigates the emergence of the concept of the underground in the United States. The project excavates a vibrant world of nineteenth-century subterranean writing, including Black radical manifestos, anarchist periodicals, secret societies’ initiation rites, and amateur newspapers. By distinguishing the underground, a term introduced in the early nineteenth century, from subculture, a term coined in the twentieth, the study considers subversion as a historically specific concept whose earlier formations look surprisingly different from our own. How did the underground take shape, and what resources might we yet find there for contemporary practices of cultural resistance? “Before Subculture” uncovers a familiar concept’s surprising origins, forgotten dimensions, and unrealized possibilities.

Associate Professor, English, Swarthmore College  -  Before Subculture: Nineteenth-Century Genealogies of the Underground
For residence at the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania during academic year 2017-2018

Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch
Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch  |  Abstract
This book traces how Ghanaians in the post-independence era came to embrace a vibrant form of African internationalism. This was a strategy to realize specific nation building goals but it also enabled the newly independent state to engage and influence global debates facing the wider world in the 1950s and 1960s. This period saw the admission of an independent Ghana into a range of international bodies such as the United Nations. The involvement of Ghanaians in the deliberations of international bodies demonstrated their engagement with many of the key transnational and internationalist struggles of the mid-twentieth century. Among these were debates about anticolonialism, human rights and an emerging peace movement. Ghana’s internationalism was not only Pan-Africanist; it sought to build alliances with decolonizing countries in Asia and other anticolonial areas, and was labor-based, gender-based and pacifist in orientation. This project offers generative insights into the global dimensions of post-colonial nation building.

Associate Professor, History, Dartmouth College  -  Global Ghana, Itinerant Citizens, and the Making of a New Nation
For residence at the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University during academic year 2018-2019

Elizabeth A. Davis
Elizabeth A. Davis  |  Abstract
The question of a settlement for national reunification in Cyprus has dominated the horizons of politics and history itself since the violent division of the island in 1974. But in the last decade, since the opening of checkpoints between north and south and the accession of Cyprus to the European Union as a divided state, a post-ethnonationalist vision of Cyprus’s future has emerged along with a vigorous, multi-vocal interrogation of its past. “The Good of Knowing” addresses that interrogation, exploring knowledge production about the division and its aftermath in the domains of forensic science, documentary film, and so-called conspiracy theory. Using ethnographic, visual, and archival methods, the book examines the dynamics of suspicion and transparency that drive this knowledge production and condition its reception. Ultimately, it shows how the search for “new” knowledge about their history of violence has come to inform Cypriots’ notions of justice, security, and democracy.

Associate Professor, Anthropology, Princeton University  -  The Good of Knowing: War, Time, and Transparency in Cyprus
For residence at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies during academic year 2017-2018

Harleen Singh
Harleen Singh  |  Abstract
This project is an investigation of rape narratives in modern India, which uses sexual violence as a prism to get at broader phenomena of modernization. It examines how Indians are recalibrating what it means to be modern and global in debates about rape. By reframing narratives of rape since India’s independence from Britain within India’s modernity, the project offers an alternative history of sexual violence, which eschews tradition, religion, and culture to focus instead on the relevance of modernity and nationalism in India’s present. After the Delhi case of 2012, public introspection focused on rural and class-based notions of gender and was less attentive to the rapid modernization of India from 1947 to the present. This project examines film, literature, popular culture, and ethnography through the lens of sexual violence to understand the particularities and ambivalences of modern lives in India.

Associate Professor, German, Russian, and Asian Languages and Literatures; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; and South Asian Studies, Brandeis University  -  Half an Independence: Women, Violence, and Modern Lives in India
For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2017-2018

Andrea Denny-Brown
Andrea Denny-Brown  |  Abstract
“Criminal Ornament” claims a new importance for the aesthetic category of medieval ornament in Western intellectual history. The project demonstrates the emergence of ornament as a provocative interdisciplinary technique in late medieval verbal, visual, and decorative arts that also played a crucial if antithetical role in the articulation of modernist aesthetics in the early twentieth century. Poetic ornament––the use of ornate, self-consciously artificial forms of poetic expression such as polysyllabic Latinate words, alliterative patterning, and aural accumulation and resonance––dominated English courtly verse in the fifteenth century. It took part in a larger cultural fascination with ornament more broadly in this period, and often simulated decorative gestures in the applied and decorative arts. As important as it was to its own literary-historical moment, however, medieval ornament also played a critical role in modernist ideas emerging in the first decades of the twentieth century.

Associate Professor, English, University of California, Riverside  -  Criminal Ornament: Aesthetic Misbehavior in the Fifteenth Century
For residence at the Huntington Library during academic year 2018-2019

Quinn Slobodian
Quinn Slobodian  |  Abstract
Mainstream accounts narrate globalization since the 1970s as markets set free. Yet the story is more one of encasement than liberation as proliferating trade treaties, investment agreements, justice reform projects, Rule of Law indicators, balanced budget amendments and forums for non-state arbitration have shifted the world economy from the purview of government to that of law. This project offers the first intellectual history of this transformation. It shows that the field of international economic law developed since the 1970s from the belief that decolonization and democracy were threats to the global economy. Experts proposed that global capitalism and democracy could only co-exist by legally limiting state sovereignty or “tying Ulysses to the mast.” This project provides an archival history and genealogy of the legal architecture of globalization as an outcome of political struggle and the clash of competing visions of the world.

Associate Professor, History, Wellesley College  -  Tying Ulysses to the Mast: International Economic Law and the Bonds of Globalization
For residence at the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History at Harvard University during academic year 2017-2018

Timothy S. Dobe
Timothy S. Dobe  |  Abstract
This project applies new religious studies models of lived pluralism to argue for the importance of Gandhi’s underexplored engagement with Islamic traditions and Muslim leaders. It offers a genealogy of that engagement in Gandhi’s African and Indian contexts based in Urdu archives and an ethnography of the religious practices and memories of contemporary, transnational Gandhian networks. In both contexts, Gandhi’s “prejudice” in favor of Muslims and of Islam should be seen as vital to the creation of a public sphere of religious encounter and everyday ethical experimentation. Thus, while this project builds on recent scholarship on religions’ public roles in postsecular thought, it also challenges the often Eurocentric and rationalist parameters of "public reason."

Associate Professor, Religious Studies, Grinnell College  -  The Muslim Gandhi: Islamicate Hinduism, Alternative Communities, and Radical Religious Love
For residence at the Islamic Studies Center at Duke University during academic year 2018-2019

Tamara Venit-Shelton
Tamara Venit-Shelton  |  Abstract
Chinese medicine has a long history in the United States, dating back to America’s colonial period and extending up to the present. Over time, Chinese medicine has both facilitated and undermined the consolidation of medical authority among formally trained, biomedical scientists. Practitioners of Chinese medicine, as a racial embodiment of “irregular” medicine, became a useful foil for “regular” physicians to articulate their superiority. Orientalism had trained the American public to perceive the Chinese as a primitive race, and those assumptions extended to their medical traditions. Chinese doctors, in turn, embraced and successfully employed Orientalist stereotypes to sell their services to non-Chinese patients skeptical of modern biomedicine. What regular physicians labeled unscientific or backwards, Chinese physicians celebrated as ancient, mystical, and closer to nature than biomedicine. This history reveals how “regular” and “irregular” medicine have always been mutually constitutive categories, deriving their boundaries and their authority from one another.

Associate Professor, History, Claremont McKenna College  -  Herbs and Roots: A History of Chinese Medicine in the United States
For residence at the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West at the University of Southern California during academic year 2017-2018

Laura Anne Kalba
Laura Anne Kalba  |  Abstract
Focusing on Great Britain, France, and their overlapping spheres of financial influence, from the railway mania of the 1840s to the First World War, this project investigates how visual culture mirrored and mediated controversial new understandings of economic and aesthetic value ushered in by the global expansion of the financial industry. The promise and reality of generating money from money as opposed to the production and exchange of goods and services uprooted traditional understandings of value, money, and their relationship to one another. In response, economists, statisticians, architects, and artists both invested traditional symbols of wealth with new meanings and collaboratively cultivated new understandings of visual representation as such. “Currencies” considers graphs, buildings, paintings, coins, and the so-called primitive currencies of non-Western people, underscoring how images, objects, and places played a crucial role in acculturating experts and lay people alike to new conditions of economic and semiotic uncertainty.

Associate Professor, Art, Smith College  -  Currencies: Symbolism and Signification in the Golden Age of Finance Capital
For residence at the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine during academic year 2018-2019

Dorothy J. Wang
Dorothy J. Wang  |  Abstract
This project re-thinks not only the literary historical narratives of American poetry since Modernism but fundamental concepts and practices that constitute contemporary poetry criticism. Whether in discussions of lyric, “craft,” formal experimentation, or other such categories, these core ideas (e.g., the poetic speaker, difficulty) and techniques (e.g., description) are usually assumed to be neutral, objective, universal, and/or impersonal aspects of poetry and poetics—“what we tend to feel is without history” (Foucault). Foundational poetic ideas are often invoked by centering the work of “major” (white canonical) poets. This project, instead, re-contextualizes American poetics by bringing side by side poetries that are usually not read in relation to one another: the work of experimental Asian American, African American, Latina/o, and Native American poets and that of both canonical and lesser-known white poets.

Associate Professor, American Studies, Williams College  -  "Things Unintelligible, Yet Understood": Race and the Genealogies of American Poetics
For residence at the Department of English at the CUNY Graduate Center during academic year 2017-2018

Tait Keller
Tait Keller  |  Abstract
“Green and Grim,” the first global environmental history of World War One, focuses on how energy geopolitics linked the battle lines and home fronts with industry and agriculture in ways that transformed environments around the world. In 1914, agriculture, industry, and warfare formed a violent triad geared for the production of destruction. While combat caused devastation, the resulting damage to nature was generally short-lived. Paradoxically, major environmental change occurred behind the lines, away from the killing fields. Seeing what George Kennan called the twentieth century’s “seminal catastrophe” from an environmental perspective illuminates the global dimensions of the conflict. Understanding how warfare and energy extraction coevolved over the course of WWI helps explain the intersections of armed conflict, human victimization, and environmental exploitation today.

Associate Professor, History, Rhodes College  -  Green and Grim: A Global Environmental History of the First World War
For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2018-2019

Andreá N. Williams
Andreá N. Williams  |  Abstract
Amid modernization and expanding opportunities for women in the early twentieth-century United States, unmarried women became frequent subjects of public debate with audiences fretting over their sexuality, safety, and independence. “Unmarried Miss-fits” tells the story of how single African-American women were specific targets of these concerns, as their race, gender, and marital status marked them as “misfits” within a society that valued married white Americans as model citizens. Drawing from literature, performance, medical discourse, and historical archives, this project traces how unwed African-American women provoked and resisted claims that their unmarried state posed a threat to the well-being of black families and US society. Grounded in black feminist theory and the emerging field of singleness studies, this project reveals how marital status impacts crucial matters of everyday experience, including how one imagines home, work, sex, belonging, and the future.

Associate Professor, English, The Ohio State University  -  Unmarried Miss-fits: Single Women and Twentieth-Century Black Culture
For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2017-2018

Kareem Khalifa
Kareem Khalifa  |  Abstract
This project develops and defends a new philosophical account of scientific explanation. Contrary to the dominant alternatives, the primary function of explanations is neither the representation of causal mechanisms nor the unification of scientific knowledge. Rather, explanations enable the expression of certain rules of scientific inference—they make scientists’ ways of reasoning explicit. This account is broad enough to cover the diversity of explanations spanning the social and natural sciences. It also has implications for explanations’ role in inductive inference, the social dimensions of knowledge, and science’s prospects of accurately representing the world.

Associate Professor, Philosophy, Middlebury College  -  Explanation as Inferential Practice
For residence at the Institute for Liberal Arts at Emory University during academic year 2019-2020