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. 

Bryan Alkemeyer
Bryan Alkemeyer  |  Abstract
How has the Enlightenment “discovery” of great apes eclipsed prior concepts of humans and animals? While simians intrigue early moderns, they believe other creatures pose stronger challenges to human exceptionalism. Elephants have reason; pigs evince a disturbingly human-like internal anatomy; honeybees cooperate better than citizens; horses embody enviable nobility. Drawing on each creature’s natural history, tales of metamorphosis adapting Plutarch, the locus classicus for anti-anthropocentrism, challenge philosophies of human uniqueness from the sixteenth to early eighteenth century. Subsequently, these metamorphoses are supplanted by human-ape miscegenation tales, which inaugurate modern speciesism, sexism, and racism. Reevaluating humanist and Enlightenment legacies is urgent for a multispecies future.

Associate Professor, English, The College of Wooster  -  Before the Primates: Metamorphoses, Miscegenation, and Speciesism, 1550-1750
For residence at the Department of English at the University of California, Los Angeles during academic year 2019-2020

Eva Mroczek
Eva Mroczek  |  Abstract
“Out of the Cave” is a history of the very idea of textual discovery. The famous story about the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls by a Bedouin shepherd in a desert cave is not isolated. Its contours are basically true, but it stands in a tradition that dates to antiquity, spanning the boundary between premodern religious mythmaking and modern scholarship. Identifying the discovery narrative as a durable genre of historical and theological discourse—both in and about Jewish and Christian texts—this project illustrates how such stories are sites where basic problems of the historical and religious imagination are worked out. It reveals that tales of textual loss and recovery lie at the heart of how ancient and modern people understand the survival of the past and its incursions into the present, and asks what happens to tradition in light of belated discoveries of hidden knowledge—unknown scriptural pasts.

Associate Professor, Religious Studies, University of California, Davis  -  Out of the Cave: The Possibility of a New Scriptural Past
For residence at the Huntington Library during academic year 2019-2020

Michael S. Brownstein
Michael S. Brownstein  |  Abstract
Epistemic tribalism dominates political discourse about issues of the utmost importance—climate change, the role of a free press, civil liberties, economic distribution, and more. That is, instead of evaluating whether public policies are backed by solid evidence, political leaders and their constituents evaluate whether a policy coheres with their own group’s goals and values. The consequences of epistemic tribalism are wide-ranging, well-documented, and dire. “Detribalizing Epistemology” investigates the nature of epistemic tribalism and effective techniques for combating it.

Associate Professor, Philosophy, City University of New York, John Jay College  -  Detribalizing Epistemology
For residence at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences during academic year 2019-2020

Jennifer Christine Nash
Jennifer Christine Nash  |  Abstract
“Black Maternal Politics” explores post-2000 performances of black maternal citizenship in the United States, emphasizing that crisis discourse has become the primary lens through which black mothers are imagined and represented. The first half of the book explores how medicine has constructed black mothers’ bodies as sites of crisis, with new and sustained public health attention to black women’s lower breastfeeding rates and to black maternal and infant mortality. The second half of the book examines how black mothers have represented themselves and their children—in literary and visual forms—in relation to the idea of black maternal flesh as the site of racial crisis. Ultimately, this project asks how black mothers wage political work through crisis discourse and at the same time upend notions of their bodies and children as in crisis.

Associate Professor, African American Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies, Northwestern University  -  Black Maternal Politics
For residence at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study during academic year 2019-2020

Tamara T. Chin
Tamara T. Chin  |  Abstract
Today, the Silk Road is invoked as an interconnected antiquity before globalization. This book approaches the Silk Road as a modern idea—one of several conceptual frameworks and rhetorical tropes of China’s connected history that emerged during the century spanning new imperialism and the Cold War, from ca. 1870 to ca. 1970. Against a dominant trend during this period of partitioning antiquity into distinct civilizations and languages, some scholars and writers pursued premodern connections. The historical imagination of an interactive ancient Afro-Eurasia took on new importance in two sets of interdisciplinary conversations, one between Chinese and non-Chinese classical/antiquarian traditions in Europe, India, and East Africa, and a second between classicists and economic geographers who sought to historicize modern connectivity, e.g., railways. These far-flung literary, economic, and political debates over the meaning of ancient contact and exchange continue to shape the ways scholars narrate the connected past.

Associate Professor, Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies, Brown University  -  The Silk Road Idea
For residence at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies during academic year 2019-2020

Thuy Linh Nguyen
Thuy Linh Nguyen  |  Abstract
The rise of the coal mining industry in colonial Vietnam often has been associated with the French economic presence and their drastic methods of exploitation. Beyond the confines of these French mining enterprises, coal mining gave rise to transnational economic links, fueled clandestine economic activities, and bound communities across the Chinese-Vietnamese borderland. This project offers the first full-length study of the coal industry with a focus on the role of non-state actors such as Chinese syndicates, migrant workers, local ethnic minorities, rebels, and other itinerant populations. Despite intense French surveillance, local Chinese, Vietnamese, and other ethnic groups carved out discreet spaces and self-sustaining systems that rivaled those of the formal mining economy. The history of coal mining therefore provides a new lens through which to explore the dynamics of colonial rule and the interplay of the local and the global, as well as the creation of important inter-Asian networks.

Associate Professor, Social Sciences, Mount Saint Mary College, NY  -  The Coal Mines of Vietnam: Mining, Landscape and Society, 1858-1954
For residence at the Council on Southeast Asian Studies and the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University during academic year 2019-2020

Paul C. Dilley
Paul C. Dilley  |  Abstract
This project offers the first study of ancient Christian comic texts, demonstrating their significance for late Roman society, particularly Alexandria and Egypt. It explores six biographies of monastic saints—including repentant prostitutes, adulterers, and cross-dressing abbots—that adapt comic routines from theatrical mime. These texts form a carnivalesque subgenre that engages with prohibited emotions and thoughts to address tensions in early monasticism. The goal is the reconstruction of an ascetic poetics, which draws on cognitive literary theory, to outline the therapeutic uses of laughter and comedy. The monograph will be supported by digital humanities projects: an online edition of the Greek “Life of Eupraxia” as well as manuscript co-transmission networks showing the reception history of these comic lives.

Associate Professor, Religious Studies and Classics, The University of Iowa  -  The Monastic Transformation of Graeco-Roman Popular Theater: A Corpus and Theory of Ancient Christian Comedy
For residence at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies during academic year 2019-2020

Ana Paulina Ochoa Espejo
Ana Paulina Ochoa Espejo  |  Abstract
States are running out of water, and the waters are rising. Natural resources and their management must be rethought. Today, water and other natural resources are controlled by states, the holders of territorial rights. Yet, states are often blind to complex environmental processes and how different cultures relate to them. Should only states have these rights? This project challenges two widely held assumptions: that territorial rights belong to states, and that these rights should be modeled on the individual right to private property. It turns instead to a neglected intellectual tradition: the derecho indiano of colonial Spanish America. In this tradition, it is not only individuals, peoples, or states, but also grounded communities—pueblos—that have territorial rights. This project examines and reinterprets the legal history of pueblos to illuminate the history of indigenous peoples’ land claims, and contemporary conflicts over natural resources.

Associate Professor, Political Science, Haverford College  -  Rights of Place: Territory, Property, and Jurisdiction in the Americas
For residence at the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania during academic year 2020-2021

Christopher A. Grobe
Christopher A. Grobe  |  Abstract
“Imitation Games” tells the conjoined cultural history of two experiments in the art of seeming human: realist acting and artificial intelligence. Since the late nineteenth century, realist actors have understood their own bodies as complex, responsive machines. Since the mid-twentieth century, roboticists and theorists of artificial intelligence have seen machines as actors playing at humanity. “Imitation Games” shows how intertwined these two histories are. Through new readings of classic texts in acting theory; through close study of plays, films, and TV dramas on technological themes; and through a performance-minded analysis of technological culture from the telegraph machine to the intelligent social robot, this book shows how people have fashioned “humanity”—onstage, onscreen, and in the engineer’s lab.

Associate Professor, English, Amherst College  -  Imitation Games: Actors, Robots, and the Art of Seeming Human
For residence at the Department of Theater and Performance Studies at Stanford University during academic year 2019-2020

Abayomi Ola
Abayomi Ola  |  Abstract
“Lines of Dissent” examines how the graphic medium of newspaper illustrations and cartoons functioned as tools of resistance against colonialism in Anglophone West Africa. The work focuses on images published in popular newspapers in Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone in the decades surrounding political independence, from 1950 to 1970. Both decades of uncertainty were defined by ethnic rivalries and turbulent anticolonial uprisings followed by waves of self-assertiveness in the national psyche of these countries. Despite its colonial origin, the newspaper was appropriated and weaponized by the new elites for anticolonial protests. While the visual artists documented social transformations and celebrated local heroism, they also demonized colonial power through illustrations. This study critically demonstrates the level of sustained opposition to British colonialism through analyses of newspaper images that bear storylines of development, personality cults, gender inequality, censorship, African diaspora connections, and other salient issues of social transformation and change.

Associate Professor, Art and Visual Culture, Spelman College  -  Lines of Dissent in Anglophone West Africa, 1950-1970
For residence at the Department of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Maryland, College Park during academic year 2019-2020

Daniel Hershenzon
Daniel Hershenzon  |  Abstract
Religious artifacts—Korans, Bibles, crosses, pictures of Christ and the Virgin, and relics—circulated in the thousands in the early modern western Mediterranean, crossing boundaries between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. This mobility was largely a byproduct of piracy, which between 1500 and 1800 was the fate of two to three million persons and intertwined Spain, Morocco, and Ottoman Algiers. This project argues that disparate religious artifacts trapped by the plunder economy acquired a common identity as contentious objects. As religious communities articulated conflicting claims over them in learned discourses and in practice, they became religious boundary markers, defining group membership and determining how these groups interacted with one another.

Associate Professor, Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, University of Connecticut  -  Captive Objects: Religious Artifacts, Piracy, and Slavery in the Early Modern Mediterranean
For residence at John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress in 2020-21

Bruno Perreau
Bruno Perreau  |  Abstract
Is there a way to recognize the presence of minorities without either absorbing them into the majority or defining them as special cases? Although rights are very important, they are not enough. Contemporary democratic systems need to recognize the minority dimensions in everyone. This project explores the many forms minority democracy already takes in France and in the United States—two cases that are often presented as opposites. It compares affirmative action programs, voting systems, and discourses on identity politics to examine how minority democracy could be improved and expanded.

Associate Professor, Global Studies and Languages, Massachusetts Institute of Technology  -  Minority Democracy
For residence at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences during academic year 2019-2020

Brendan Lanctot
Brendan Lanctot  |  Abstract
This project investigates how popular subjects saw and were seen in nineteenth-century Latin America. This question is fundamentally political, because the emergence of a modern visual culture coincided with the protracted disputes to establish stable republican governments throughout the region. Building on recent scholarship that emphasizes the participation of ordinary people in these processes, “Specters of the Popular” examines the production, transmission, and reception of images in a transnational context. It argues that new technologies, including lithography, photography, and the first motion pictures, helped conceive of an immediate bond linking the pueblo, or people, to sovereign power. The study of visual culture, in other words, makes visible the emergence of a modern political form that would later come to be known as “populism.”

Associate Professor, Hispanic Studies, University of Puget Sound  -  Specters of the Popular in Nineteenth-Century Latin American Visual Culture
For residence at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies and the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington during academic year 2019-2020

Julietta C. Singh
Julietta C. Singh  |  Abstract
“On the Verge” analyzes transnational queer and feminist engagements with the threat of human extinction through interpretations of performance art, sculpture, craft, video, film and literature. This diverse body of work offers surprising, counter-intuitive responses to our species extinction: While acknowledging the verge of human extinction as a moment of looming disaster, these artistic texts also represent this verge as an orientation and a vantage-point from which human life itself might be reimagined and reinvented as we face our own ends. Reading across this artistic archive and toward alternative styles of pedagogy, this project summons us to teach, learn, and live differently as ethical and political subjects on the verge of extinction.

Associate Professor, English and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, University of Richmond  -  On the Verge: Experiments in Extinction
For residence at the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Columbia University during academic year 2019-2020

Lital Levy
Lital Levy  |  Abstract
What did it mean to be a Jewish writer in nineteenth-century Odessa, Calcutta, Warsaw, or Tunis? How did intellectuals across such vastly diverse locales exchange ideas and impart shared visions of modernity to their readers? Exploring these questions through the prism of world literature scholarship, “Global Haskalah” maps the transversals of Jewish cultural modernity. The project is the first study of the Jewish enlightenment (Haskalah) to integrate Judeo-Arabic, Ladino, Hebrew, and Yiddish. It follows the transregional circulation of key literary texts and their translation into multiple Jewish languages, revealing patterns of reciprocal influence. Linking emergent Jewish modernity in East and West, the project forges a capacious and comprehensive understanding of the Haskalah as a global rather than European movement.

Associate Professor, Comparative Literature, Princeton University  -  Global Haskalah: Jewish Cultural Modernity, Translation, and World Literature
For residence at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies during academic year 2019-2020

Emily E. LB. Twarog
Emily E. LB. Twarog  |  Abstract
There is a long history of sexual violence against women in the workplace. This book is the first historical monograph to examine how women workers have resisted sexual harassment in service industry jobs: work that is gendered female, union and non-union, typically low-waged, and often requires some form of intimate labor between the worker and the recipient. It shifts the narrative from the victimization of women workers, and instead focuses on how women have demanded agency in their workplaces through public campaigns like the recent union campaign in Chicago to pass a panic button ordinance for hotel workers, and also through acts of micro-resistance that are often invisible to outsiders. Without understanding the historical nuance and the patterns of perpetration of and resistance to sexual harassment in the past, it is not possible to influence policy and movement building to end workplace sexual violence in the present.

Associate Professor, Labor and Employment Relations, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  -  Hands Off: A History of Sexual Harassment Resistance in the Service Sector, 1935-2018
For residence at the Newberry Library during academic year 2019-2020

Kristina I. Medina Vilariño
Kristina I. Medina Vilariño  |  Abstract
Hurricane Maria dramatically changed Caribbean Studies as a field. The everlasting debate regarding cultural identity among Puerto Ricans took a dramatic turn when media outlets like Facebook served as political platforms to move forward a collective and grassroots recovery project with multiple inlets and outlets. Their message took many shapes and tones, but mostly focused on stating that Puerto Ricans were worth saving by their political nation—the United States of America—because they are American citizens. Many effective initiatives in this crusade were artistic, as art became a vivid language for survival, recovery, and mourning. This project consists of an ethnography that investigates narratives and artifacts of colonialism, displacement, and belonging. “Narratives of Life” examines oral histories, literature, and visual art discussing the relationship between colonialism, diaspora, natural disasters, and cultural identity before and after Hurricane Maria.

Associate Professor, Spanish, St. Olaf College  -  Narratives of Life: A Post-Maria Intervention in Colonial Puerto Rico
For residence at the Hispanic Studies Department and the Humanities Department at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez during academic year 2019-2020

Christopher van den Berg
Christopher van den Berg  |  Abstract
“Critical Matter” offers a new theoretical framework for understanding the social and aesthetic stakes of literary criticism in Greco-Roman antiquity. While drawing on modern and ancient rhetorical and literary theory, this project also considers how literary criticism is inextricable from material contexts. References to objects and physical media crucially shaped the intellectual parameters of the critical tradition. The project considers as well how ancient critics relied on competing and evolving notions of cultural and political identity. Anxieties and tensions in how to define critical practice meant that its practitioners often appealed to the permanence or malleability of material culture as a means to anchor and to illuminate their views of literature and its cultural authority. Lastly, the project uncovers the ways in which ancient literary criticism was itself an artistic form that coopted the performative contexts of literature and its public stagings.

Associate Professor, Classics, Amherst College  -  Critical Matter: Performance, Identity, and Object in Greco-Roman Criticism
For residence at the Department of Classics at Princeton University during academic year 2020-2021

McKinley Eric Melton
McKinley Eric Melton  |  Abstract
“Claiming All the World as Our Stage” emphasizes the cultural and political resonances that link artists across temporal and geopolitical spaces to a twenty-first century poetics of resistance that is firmly anchored in a Black diasporan tradition of writing and performance. Foregrounding the work of poets who successfully negotiate both performance and publishing venues, and thereby trouble distinctions between the “page” and “stage,” this project also considers spoken word poetry as a distinct form with the field of Africana literature. Ultimately, this analysis of contemporary Black poetics challenges and disrupts the restrictive boundaries into which artists have been placed in order to articulate a fuller understanding of the contexts, contours, and consequences of their work.

Associate Professor, English, Gettysburg College  -  Claiming All the World as Our Stage: Contemporary Black Poetry, Performance, and Resistance
For residence at the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University during academic year 2019-2020

Wendy Warren
Wendy Warren  |  Abstract
This project seeks to complicate historical understandings of American freedom by focusing on an understudied form of unfreedom in colonial North America: imprisonment. That kind of bondage, common throughout the North American colonies, threatened the lives of every person within the colonial borders, even those whom scholars have taken to be “free.” Recovering the crucial role of imprisonment in the creation and solidification of colonial authority offers a story of penal continuity where many scholars have seen disjuncture. That continuity has relevance for critical prison studies today. Legal enslavement, the pillory, stocks, and public gallows, have been consigned to a past, now purportedly overcome. Prisons, however, are still part of the present. They have survived in large part because their history—their ties to an older, more barbaric past—has been erased. This project seeks to recover those ties and, in doing so, question the relationship between prison and modernity.

Associate Professor, History, Princeton University  -  The Carceral Colony: The Role of Prisons in the Making of America
For residence at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science during academic year 2019-2020

Gregory C. Mitchell
Gregory C. Mitchell  |  Abstract
Using performance studies approaches and ethnographic data gathered over a six-year period in Rio de Janeiro, as well as supplemental interviews and participant observation in four other World Cup and Summer Olympic host countries, this research project analyzes patterns of violence against sex workers in the periods preceding these mega-events when alliances of police, missionaries, and anti-prostitution groups worked together to take over, develop, and gentrify red light areas and “rescue” sex workers. Studying the formation of this rescue industry reveals how new and spectacle-driven systems of governmentality are emerging that are best understood as “parastatal” rather than neoliberal, and how co-opted discourses of human rights and sexual exploitation collaterally damage vulnerable groups.

Associate Professor, Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Williams College  -  40,000 Missing Girls: Moral Panics, Global Sporting Events, and the Spectacle of Sex Trafficking
For residence at the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies at Princeton University during academic year 2019-2020