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.

Please note: affiliations shown are as of time of award. Please click on fellows' names for current information.

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

Helena de Bres
Helena de Bres  |  Abstract
Humans often tell stories about themselves to themselves and to others. This two-part project explores this distinctive human habit. The first part is a set of academic articles addressing the subject of personal narration from within ethics and philosophy of literature. In ethics, it examines the idea that telling a story about one’s life can make one’s life more meaningful. In philosophy of literature, it discusses several neglected conceptual and evaluative questions about the “literary face” of self-life narration: memoir and personal essays. The second part is a collection of interlinked essays on what makes for a meaningful life. The essays combine recent research in analytic philosophy with personal narration, using the style and structure of literary nonfiction.

Associate Professor, Philosophy, Wellesley College  -  The Story of My Life: Personal Narration, Meaning in Life, and Literary Nonfiction
For residence at the Department of Philosophy at Stanford University during academic year 2019-2020

Heather Hurst
Heather Hurst  |  Abstract
Archaeological excavation at San Bartolo, Guatemala, revealed an elaborate artistic program devoted to Maya mythology and a large corpus of hieroglyphic texts painted in a chamber ca. 100 BC. However, the in situ murals buried within the pyramid are only part of the story: the site once contained many more paintings, but these artworks were broken into fragments and concealed by the Maya. This project moves beyond iconography and integrates archaeological evidence and material analysis to consider the murals as potent objects that produced knowledge, but also required them to be destroyed. “IDEAS in Cultural Heritage” pairs a book project that reveals the missing chapters of an epic Maya narrative of creation rendered on the fragile plaster walls at San Bartolo, with a public heritage effort addressing factors that threaten their continued preservation and scholarship. In its dual focus, the project inspires broad discovery of the murals’ cultural legacy.

Associate Professor, Anthropology, Skidmore College  -  IDEAS in Cultural Heritage: Preserving Maya Murals through Imaging, Documentation, Education, Access, and Sustainability
For residence at the Department of Anthropology at Yale University during academic year 2018-2019

Solsiree del Moral
Solsiree del Moral  |  Abstract
“Street Children, Crime, and Punishment” is the first historical study of street children and incarcerated youth in post-World War II Puerto Rico. Children in jails and correctional schools suffered from overcrowding, lack of sanitation, poor hygiene, insufficient food, prolonged solitary confinement, physical abuse, and sexual violence. They were imprisoned without due process and housed in underfunded and poorly staffed institutions that lacked basic educational and rehabilitation programs. While scholars characterize the post-World War II era as a time of economic growth, industrialization, urbanization, and social mobility in Puerto Rico, these national narratives of progress omit the lives of working-class and poor children. “Street Children, Crime, and Punishment” corrects the record by examining the effects of Puerto Rico’s midcentury modernization and the resulting penal system from the perspective of those who bore the brunt of it: street children and incarcerated youth.

Associate Professor, American Studies and Black Studies, Amherst College  -  Street Children, Crime, and Punishment in Puerto Rico, 1940-1965
For residence at the Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean & Latin American Studies at the University of Connecticut during academic year 2018-2019

Victoria Langland
Victoria Langland  |  Abstract
This project examines the history of breastfeeding in Brazil from the late nineteenth century to the present. Understandings of this seemingly natural practice underwent enormous transformations in this period, moving from being considered menial labor, routinely displaced onto enslaved women of color, to being lauded as a uniquely fulfilling experience of motherhood, deserving of legal protection. “From Wet Nurses to Milk Banks” traces changes in infant feeding practices as well as transformations in the ways in which people constructed, challenged, and redefined the meanings of breastfeeding, breast milk, and maternal and infant health. This project thus uses breastfeeding as a lens onto broader transformations in ideas about gender, race, labor, the body, motherhood, and public health.

Associate Professor, History and Romance Languages and Literatures, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  From Wet Nurses to Milk Banks: A History of Breastfeeding in Brazil
For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2018-2019

Katherine Epstein
Katherine Epstein  |  Abstract
This project looks at an important but understudied case in the history of the “state secrets privilege.” Formally established in 1953, this privilege allows the US government to refuse to disclose information in judicial proceedings that it claims would compromise state secrets and thereby enables it to withhold information from scrutiny. By examining a little-known case from the late 1930s involving computers and defense contractors, this project shows how the concept of state secrets became embedded in US law and policy earlier than is recognized and with ramifications that persist to the present day. Moreover, it reveals how the concept of state secrets was bound up with a significant episode of international technology transfer that hampered scientific and technological cooperation between the United States and Great Britain at the start of World War II.

Associate Professor, History, Rutgers University-Camden  -  State Secrets: Computers, Defense Contracting, and the Origins of the National-Security State
For residence at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies during academic year 2018-2019

Melissa Y. Mueller
Melissa Y. Mueller  |  Abstract
“Sappho and Homer” investigates the complex emotional and aesthetic terrain of the oral-poetic song culture within which Sappho responded to Homer. Like all poets in archaic Greece, Sappho was steeped in Homer’s story world. Yet, scholars typically frame the relationship between them as competitive and antagonistic. This project argues that rather than seeing in Homer a competitor, Sappho seeks to extend and expand upon the fictional worlds of Homeric epic. Engaging the emotions, characters, and plot of epic, she signals their “reparative” and healing role within her lyrics. Giving ample attention to the newest poems, the project not only presents a different side of Sappho’s artistry but also engages recent work on reading practices, affect, and aesthetics.

Associate Professor, Classics, University of Massachusetts Amherst  -  Sappho and Homer: A Reparative Reading
For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2019-2020

Paul Fyfe
Paul Fyfe  |  Abstract
This project looks to nineteenth-century intersections of literature and media to write a long history of the digital humanities, reaching back to the 1840s when many of its methodological and material preoccupations arose. Using a range of transatlantic, literary, and journalistic writing, “The Age of Transmission” demonstrates how Victorian engagements with media shift already defined many of the terms for contemporary digital interpretive practice. Victorian exemplars also recover emphases that the digital humanities needs fully to restore, including critical attention to the materiality of transmission, the ethics of mediation, lost approaches to visualization, and the historiography of data.

Associate Professor, English, North Carolina State University  -  The Age of Transmission: From Victorian Media Cultures to the Digital Humanities
For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2018-2019

Omar Rivera
Omar Rivera  |  Abstract
This manuscript is an intercultural philosophical analysis of conceptions of space in the European and Andean philosophical traditions, which studies Andean space in relation to the Quechua concept of “Pacha.” It uncovers a lineage of Andean indigenous space-based knowledge and memory expressed aesthetically, from pre-Columbian Inca stone architecture, through colonial paintings and rituals, and continuing in twentieth- and twenty-first-century Andean photography and landscape painting. This lineage manifests a conception of space that is organized according to elemental orders—earth, light, and water in particular—that underlies social forms, and is not human centered. This aesthetic analysis includes a critical dialogue with Martin Heidegger’s and Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological conceptions of space and with current work on the aesthetics of liberation from Latin America.

Associate Professor, Philosophy, Southwestern University  -  Stonelight: Phenomenology, Hermeneutics, and Architecture from Nuestra América
For residence at the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) at the University of Texas, Austin during academic year 2018-2019

Lily Geismer
Lily Geismer  |  Abstract
“Doing Good” examines the promotion of market- based solutions to problems of social inequality, particularly by the Democratic Party, and historicizes the emergence of the larger ethos of “doing well by doing good.” It explores how this approach represents continuities and changes in liberalism and how it contributed to the contraction of the social welfare state. The project addresses this question through a wide range of policies and programs that came to fruition during the Clinton era. It ultimately aims to complicate and challenge prevailing ideas about neoliberalism and show how the Democratic Party and its allies have both embodied and influenced the pervasiveness of individualist, market-oriented, and entrepreneurial-minded ideology in American policy and society.

Associate Professor, History, Claremont McKenna College  -  Doing Good: Public Policy and the Market from the Great Society to the Clinton Foundation
For residence at the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at the University of California, Los Angeles during academic year 2020-2021

Lorelle Semley
Lorelle Semley  |  Abstract
While Bordeaux easily evokes images of wine, bourgeois wealth, and stunning architecture, a forgotten history of race and labor also shaped the city. The vigorous role of the city’s merchants in the Atlantic slave trade is now acknowledged, but Africans and Antilleans—enslaved and free—also have resided in the city since the eighteenth century. In addition to performing labor in homes or in shipping, they lived as artisans, students, and artists, sometimes forming families or building other relationships. Piecing together waves of movement and settlement in the city and region, this project reveals how Africans and Antilleans figured in histories of merchant capital, transnational networks, and notions of citizenship and belonging. Given present-day immigration debates, people of color appear in this story as they rarely have in Atlantic history—as a force in the making of a French city, the nation, and its empire.

Associate Professor, History, College of the Holy Cross  -  Bordeaux, Forgotten Black Metropolis
For residence at the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration at Yale University during academic year 2020-2021

Malick W. Ghachem
Malick W. Ghachem  |  Abstract
How was Haiti first subjected to the demands of the global economy? The rise of the large-scale sugar plantation complex followed a struggle for power during the 1720s between white colonists (led by women and vagabonds) and the French Indies Company. Hostility to the Company’s monopoly over the French slave trade brought planters, anxious about the price and availability of West African captives, to the brink of treason. This resistance transformed Haiti from a set of loosely connected settler communities into a cohesive, plantation-driven polity willing and able to assert the supremacy of planter interests over all others. The revolt opened the French slave trade to all comers and made Haiti into the ruthlessly aggressive plantation machine that dominated the world’s sugar, coffee, and indigo markets for decades to come. Meanwhile, Jesuit missionaries and maroon slaves moved to stamp the emerging plantation order with their own versions of Haiti’s future.

Associate Professor, History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology  -  In the Name of the Colony: The Revolt against the Indies Company in Haiti, 1720-1725
For residence at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study during academic year 2018-2019

Mitra Sharafi
Mitra Sharafi  |  Abstract
Between 1840 and 1947, a wave of treatises and institutions emerged to detect crime in South Asia. India’s new experts in poison, blood, forgery, and explosives were supposed to cut through the perjury and forgery of “mendacious natives” to extract objective scientific truth in the service of a neutral vision of justice. However, the new forensic science invited increasingly complicated and conflicting answers to the questions, “what is truth?” and “what is justice?” This study of the history of forensic science in colonial India reveals that a system initially structured along fault lines of racial difference morphed into a site for competing conceptions of truth and justice among men of science and of law, both British and Indian. It explores both the opportunities for adaptation, on the one hand, and the curtailment of complexity, on the other, that accompanied forensic knowledge production in the colonial setting.

Associate Professor, Law, University of Wisconsin-Madison  -  Fear of the False: Forensic Science in Colonial India
For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2020-2021

Victor Goldgel Carballo
Victor Goldgel Carballo  |  Abstract
This project draws together novels, plays, legal documents, caricatures, and other visual materials to analyze the different ways of actively “not-knowing”—including tact, hypocrisy, and cynicism—that underpinned whiteness in nineteenth-century Cuba. While racial passing is generally understood as a divergence between the private and public identities of a given subject, the Cuban case foregrounds the importance of situations in which this divergence was willfully ignored, and in which white identity was not invalidated by the perception of the “fraud” that made it possible. Passing-as-open-secret, this project shows, became a way to reconcile the preservation of racial divisions, on one hand, and the widespread and often successful strategies of blanqueamiento (whitening), on the other. As a result, this context saw the constant negotiation between two seemingly contradictory ideas of race: as genealogical/biological fact and as fiction.

Associate Professor, Spanish and Portuguese, University of Wisconsin-Madison  -  Passing as Open Secret: Race and Fictions of Identity in Nineteenth-Century Cuba
For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2019-2020

Robyn C. Spencer
Robyn C. Spencer  |  Abstract
“To Build the World Anew” explores how and why the struggle for Vietnamese independence became a rallying point for grassroots Black activists based in the United States who were part of the freedom struggles of the 1950s-1970s. Despite the constrictions of Cold War anti-communism, anti-imperialism took root in radical Black activist networks as a distinct strand of Black internationalism and the draft centered Vietnam as a site of resistance. Black antiwar activists created dozens of vibrant organizations that critiqued the war in print culture and music, and formed alliances with activists in Cuba, Sweden, and North Vietnam. The organizations they created had a pivotal impact on the larger antiwar movement and influenced activists like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Their activism highlights the permeability of borders between the various social movements of this period and reshapes the history of the Black freedom struggle.

Associate Professor, History, City University of New York, Lehman College  -  To Build the World Anew: Black Liberation Politics and the Movement against the Vietnam War, 1950-1975
For residence at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science during academic year 2020-2021

Katherine Grandjean
Katherine Grandjean  |  Abstract
On paper, the American Revolution ended in 1783. But for some, it continued. This project investigates the violent legacies of the revolution, especially in the southern borderlands of the early republic. It follows the lives of two brothers from North Carolina, who experienced some of the worst violence of the war as boys and, later in life, became killers. Micajah and Wiley Harpe committed dozens of murders across Appalachia in the 1790s. Using memoirs, oral histories, folklore, genealogy, and insights from psychology and criminology (as well as traditional historical documents like court records), “In the Kingdom of Devils” revisits the Harpe murders in order to explain how the United States’s founding moment left behind so many violent, alienated men.

Associate Professor, History, Wellesley College  -  In the Kingdom of Devils: The Harpe Murders and the Legacies of the American Revolution
For residence at the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute during academic year 2018-2019

Jennifer Utrata
Jennifer Utrata  |  Abstract
The growing support of grandparents for their adult children and grandchildren constitutes an important but undertheorized form of social inequality in American family life. How does this “third shift” of carework centered on extended kin support across households reflect social inequality while also serving as a way for families to manage inequality? Demographic and cultural trends surrounding longevity, paid work after retirement, exorbitant childcare costs, and increasing levels of insecurity in family life have led to an underexplored reliance on grandparents, especially for childcare, with differing effects by race and class. Using interviews with intergenerational dyads (grandparents providing childcare and adult children relying upon this grandparental assistance), this project explores cultural meanings of grandparental support across households. Advancing our knowledge of age relations, the project illuminates both inequalities among families as well as complex intergenerational power dynamics.

Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology, University of Puget Sound  -  Carework’s “Third Shift”: Grandparental Support and Family Inequality
For residence at the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology at the University of Washington, Seattle during academic year 2018-2019

Udi Greenberg
Udi Greenberg  |  Abstract
This project explores a dramatic transformation in European thought and politics: the sudden end of animosity between Catholics and Protestants. In the 1930s, church leaders, missionaries, and politicians suddenly began to advocate for interconfessional cooperation, which culminated in the formation of powerful pan-Christian parties and organizations after World War II. Using a wide array of sources, this book investigates how transformations in global politics—especially the rise of Nazism, the unfolding of the Cold War, and the process of European decolonization in Asia and Africa—sparked this change. It shows how fears of secularism led Catholics and Protestants to view each other as vital allies in what they envisioned as a global intellectual and political campaign to defend the Gospel. Through this story, this book examines why religious pluralism in postwar Europe simultaneously expanded tolerance (among Christian communities) while it continued to marginalize other minorities.

Associate Professor, History, Dartmouth College  -  Religious Pluralism in the Age of Violence: Catholics and Protestants in Twentieth-Century Europe
For residence at the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion at the University of California, Berkeley during academic year 2019-2020

Louise E. Walker
Louise E. Walker  |  Abstract
This project analyzes conflicts over economic justice in Mexico from the eighteenth century to the present. It examines how middle-class people navigated the changing legal rules and moral norms for borrowing and lending money in colonial courts, in the chambers of nineteenth-century judges, and in today’s Credit Bureau. It reveals that the everyday practices of ordinary people—rather than top-down policy—drove most economic change and shaped the emergence of capitalism. The long-term approach connects the late colony with the recent past to unearth the continuities, changes, and recurrences in the history of capitalism and economic life.

Associate Professor, History, Northeastern University  -  Economic Woes: Debt and the Ethics of Capitalism in Modern Mexico
For residence at the American Antiquarian Society during academic year 2019-2020