Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellows

The Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowships recognize humanities and social science faculty who teach at two-year institutions and their vital contributions to scholarship, teaching, and their communities. The awards are tailored to the circumstances of these faculty and support their wide-ranging research ambitions. Fellows may use the awards to pursue projects with a variety of outcomes, including articles, book chapters, or books; course materials; exhibitions; community or campus events; online resources; and more. This program is made possible through the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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. 

Sharon Avni
Sharon Avni  |  Abstract
“Hebraists by Choice” examines individuals who actively seek to learn, use, and promote modern Hebrew, a language few Jews in the United States read or speak, as a critical component of their personal and collective identity. Using biographical interviews, participant observation of Hebrew-speaking gatherings and festivities, and textual analysis of print and online publications, this project engages questions of diaspora, multilingualism, transnationalism, and identity at the nexus of two fields of scholarship—religion studies and linguistic anthropology—to examine how individuals mobilize modern Hebrew in its functional, ideological, symbolic, and moral dimensions to give expression to their American Jewishness.

Professor, Academic Literacy and Linguistics, City University of New York, Borough of Manhattan Community College  -  Hebraists by Choice: American Jews and the Mobilization of Modern Hebrew

Kerima M. Lewis
Kerima M. Lewis  |  Abstract
The project examines how enslaved Africans used arson to contest their captivity in colonial New England. The ambiguous nature of New England slavery, in which enslaved persons had rights to legal marriage, property ownership, legal protection, and literacy, in fact produced opportunities for them to set deadly fires. The project explores how circumstances of work led to fire setting; enslaved women engaged in arson when they grew desperate from isolation and constant surveillance, while enslaved men used their mobility as harbor workers and skilled laborers to plan joint acts of arson. Such flexibilities in the slave system allowed a small and dispersed slave population to set destructive fires. The project also discusses how whites, fearful of the blacks in their midst, reacted proactively by issuing laws and organizing private fire clubs.

Adjunct Faculty, Liberal Arts, Quincy College  -  Fires of Discontent: Arson as a Weapon of Slave Resistance in Colonial New England

Cinder Cooper Barnes
Cinder Cooper Barnes  |  Abstract
Two contemporary incarnations of African American cultural and anthropological vernacular traditions are embodied and symbolized in brick and mortar forms—the juke joint and the black church—which are respectively disappearing and evolving in black life in the United States. The non-traditional/non-academic vernacular traditions include the rhetorical forms that, as posited by Henry Louis Gates, are part of the oral tradition of black expression, while vernacular architecture is structured specific to a region’s culture/geography. The juke joint and black church demonstrate the richness of black life in the United States and its response to socio-economic change. The culture and politics surrounding these two institutions as living vernacular artifacts illustrate the roles that they play, and have historically played, in black Southern life.

Professor, English, Montgomery College  -  Jesus and Juke Joints: Exploring the Histories and Stories of Nontraditional African American Cultural Artifacts in the Digital Age

Karen Renee Miller
Karen Renee Miller  |  Abstract
This project demonstrates that early twentieth-century state-driven internal migration programs reshaped the human, natural, and political geographies of the southern Philippines under US colonial rule. They laid the material and ideological groundwork that allowed for later, larger migrations—both state-supported and privately initiated—that vastly shifted the demographics of the region, creating new inequalities that persist to this day. These migrations contributed to the sensibility that the state and private citizens could commit economic and physical violence against indigenous people with impunity, treating them as non-rights-bearing subjects. This project also analyzes indigenous critiques of the logics of dispossession and settler colonialism. It shows how these critiques help nuance our understanding of the Philippines’ colonial and postcolonial histories, as well as the history of US empire more broadly. It illustrates that struggles over ancestral lands in seemingly remote areas have had a significant effect on the shape of the nation.

Professor, Social Science, City University of New York, LaGuardia Community College  -  Interisland Migration, American Colonial Rule, and Indigenous Critique in the Philippines, 1913 to the late 1930s

Beth Baunoch
Beth Baunoch  |  Abstract
With 165 million listeners and 700,000 shows, podcasts have made their way into US mainstream media. However, research shows that only 18% of American podcasts have a non-white host, and only 22% are hosted by women. The field of media studies focuses upon representation and inclusivity because what we see in the media shapes who we think we are and who we believe matters. Therefore, discovering barriers to inclusive podcast content and determining how to overcome those barriers is crucial. The project’s goal is to use this analysis to create a podcast network to bring underrepresented voices to the forefront of this new media.

Assistant Professor, Communication & Media Studies, Community College of Baltimore County  -  New Media, Old Problem

William A. Morgan
William A. Morgan  |  Abstract
This project examines the internal/informal economy of Cuban tobacco slaves. This economy, predicated on independent/surplus yard production, represented the primary means for slaves to accumulate material wealth and served as a catalyst for initiating the process of coartación (legal self-purchase). It analyzes judicial records detailing the material possessions of the enslaved, as well as coartación filings/appeals to demonstrate how slaves interacted with, and at times manipulated, their environment. For many slaves, this economy guaranteed a measure of self-determination far removed from their imposed identity as enslaved laborers. This project specifically argues slaves used this economy to defy the traditional arrangements of power, thereby altering the “essential” narrative of enslavement.

Professor, History, Lone Star College  -  Tobacco as Freedom: Cuban Slavery and Self-Purchase in the Nineteenth Century

Shannon T. Bontrager
Shannon T. Bontrager  |  Abstract
This book manuscript examines how the middle class in the United States collaborated with elites to build an interwar transatlantic cultural memory of the Great War. Building upon the traditions emerging from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address that obligated the living to remember the dead, this collaboration realigned the relationship between the US citizenry and the government and built a Franco-American transatlantic community of capitalistic and democratic interests to withstand the spread of communism. These shared memories of the war dead traveled across oceans and borders, especially as the US government invested heavily in building cemeteries and monuments, funding pilgrimages, and sponsoring US businesses in France and throughout Europe. At the same time, this uneasy relationship was full of disruptions, particularly when Europeans and Americans felt that opposing governments did not always consider their respective memories or acknowledge their grief.

Associate Professor, Social Sciences and Education, Georgia Highlands College  -  The Affinity of War: Traveling Memory, the War Dead, and the American Empire in France

Ana Ozuna
Ana Ozuna  |  Abstract
This book interrogates historically specific variants that prompted indigenous and Black rebels to contest European domination during the first decades of the sixteenth century in the Spanish colonies of Hispaniola and Jamaica. Freedom fighters comprised of indigenous Tainos, continental Africans, and Iberian Blacks forged alternative social, political, economic, and cultural paradigms to disrupt the master-slave dialectic and thus debilitate the imperial enterprise. The interrogation of these emancipatory efforts intertwines the examination of maroonage, armed warfare, and everyday resistance as well as how emerging ethno-racial identity constructs informed this anticolonial struggle. Drawing on archival documents including colonial manuscripts, legal documents, official correspondence, plantation records and periodicals, this project demonstrates the transgenerational quality of the emancipatory principles generated by these sixteenth-century rebels, as their strategies continue to inform contemporary transatlantic struggles and galvanize present-day resistance movements.

Assistant Professor, Humanities, City University of New York, Eugenio María de Hostos Community College  -  Defying the Imperial Enterprise: Indigenous Freedom Seekers and African Rebels in Hispaniola and Jamaica

Emily M. Brooks
Emily M. Brooks  |  Abstract
“Gotham's War Within a War” explores how mobilizing the United States for World War II changed policing at home. It argues that city leaders who had fought to intensify anti-vice policing practices in the 1930s found new openings for these policies in the militarism that accompanied the war. The project, which is under contract with the University of North Carolina Press, examines policing in New York City from 1934, when reform mayor Fiorello La Guardia took office and named Lewis Valentine his police commissioner, to 1945, when both municipal leaders retired. The duo sought to expand the enforcement of prohibitions on delinquency, prostitution, gambling, and disorder in an increasingly interracial city. It was not until the mobilization for war, however, that these policing practices, which targeted New Yorkers of color and working-class women, met with success.

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Social Science, City University of New York, LaGuardia Community College  -  Gotham's War Within a War: Anti-Vice Policing, Militarism, and the Birth of Law and Order Liberalism in New York City, 1934-1945

Denise Rogers
Denise Rogers  |  Abstract
This project entails producing an Open Educational Resource (OER) textbook and an enhanced website, as well as curating exhibitions featuring the Mesa College World Cultures Collection. The project will include researching and cataloging pieces and producing OER materials to be made available to students within the Fine Arts, Black Studies, Humanities, Cultural Anthropology, and Women’s Studies departments, thus giving the students access to materials they otherwise would have to purchase. The project also involves curating exhibitions at Mesa College and within the San Diego community. Sharing the collection with the community will raise the level of awareness and appreciation for the rich cultural history of the people and art of Africa.

Professor, Fine Arts, San Diego Mesa College  -  African Visual Art and Culture: A Survey of the Mesa College World Cultures Art Collection

Ellen C. Caldwell
Ellen C. Caldwell  |  Abstract
This project analyzes the strikingly different illustrations and imagery used on Octavia E. Butler’s book covers for her best-selling novel “Kindred.” Over the past four decades, cover artists have focused on different angles of the novel, moving from depicting the protagonists’ faces and silhouettes, to their bodies, to fragmented parts of the body. Drawing on archival research from the Octavia E. Butler Archives at the Huntington Library, this project compares imagery on the book covers, tying them to the sociopolitical themes of the novel and to the times in which they were produced. Based on artist interviews and primary research, this project visually analyzes book covers, exploring imagery in relation to literary themes such as speculative fiction, language, and Afrofuturism. This project continues original research for a larger co-authored project with Dr. Christine Montgomery that began as a chapter for “The Bloomsbury Handbook to Octavia E. Butler.”

Professor, Art History, Mt. San Antonio College  -  Visualizing the Transhistorical Body on the Book Covers of Octavia E. Butler's “Kindred”

Laura E. Ruberto
Laura E. Ruberto  |  Abstract
This study uses the historical experience of the over 50,000 World War II Italian prisoners of war in the United States to consider ongoing concerns in the humanities about the relationship between identity, imagination, community, and war. Through documentation and analysis of the art and architecture made by Italian POWs held in the United States, this project considers how meaning is ascribed to the material world, especially during wartime. Of central concern is the role of creativity and personal expression during imprisonment and how the experiences of these POWs connects with the artistry and imagination among other wartime-interned communities. As such, this project sits at the junction of Italian diaspora studies, material culture studies, and studies on war and captivity.

Instructor (Associate Professor), Arts and Cultural Studies, Berkeley City College  -  War, Prison, and Artistry: Creative Expression and Material Culture of Italian Prisoners of War During World War II

Phuoc Duong
Phuoc Duong  |  Abstract
This project examines the instrumental role of Vietnamese youth in building civil society within a contemporary socialist nation-state. In contrast with the western view that liberal freedom is a necessary condition for building a vibrant civil society, Vietnam has increasingly concentrated on the voluntary labor of youth through their participation in youth unions, which drive state-sponsored social programs that focus on issues such as public sanitation, charity drives, and ending domestic violence. These programs not only replace the role of liberal private entities in producing civil society, but they also work to earn the public’s trust in the single party-state’s effectiveness in governing the country. Based on ethnographic data from fieldwork at a youth union in Da Nang City, this project seeks to expand understanding of how the volunteer labor of youth is instrumental in sustaining socialism.

Adjunct Faculty, Anthropology, San Bernardino Valley College  -  The Making of Civil Society in Contemporary Socialist Vietnam: Youth, Morality, and Collective Action

Edward Colin Ruggero
Edward Colin Ruggero  |  Abstract
Human beings experience time in multiple ways, at multiple scales, simultaneously. As a result, they regularly need to navigate intersecting temporalities. In the often unpredictable event times surrounding social movements, however, the challenge of temporal coordination becomes more complex and consequential. From the temporal demands of particular tactical choices, to the development of shared strategies and long-term visions of social change, movements present a range of daunting temporal coordination challenges. Combining ethnographic fieldwork and archival research, “Change Over Time” explores the dynamics of temporal coordination within past and present social movements in the US city of Philadelphia.

Assistant Professor, Sociology, Community College of Philadelphia  -  Change Over Time: Temporal Coordination in Social Movements

Samuel Finesurrey
Samuel Finesurrey  |  Abstract
The Guttman Community College Undergraduate Oral History Project explores oral history as critical pedagogy for working class and immigrant students: a vital practice in a city of widening inequality gaps and a nation strewn with anti-immigrant rhetoric. As a pedagogical tool, oral history has inspired a sense of historic curiosity in Guttman’s undergraduates, who gather and then study the testimonies of people in their own lives and communities. By producing, archiving, writing about, and performing oral histories, these community college students come to see themselves as producers and curators of historic knowledge. Further, the students’ work challenges the dehumanizing stories being told about their communities and injects intersectional narratives into contemporary and future discourses on immigration, class, gender and race. This fellowship supports the development of an archive of student-conducted oral histories and publication of an open-access edited volume by and for community college students.

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Liberal Arts, City University of New York, Guttman Community College  -  Chronicling New York City Journeys: Co-Creating an Oral History Archive with Community College Students at a Minority Serving Public Institution

Scott Samuelson
Scott Samuelson  |  Abstract
Given all that’s been written about Rome, it’s astonishing there isn’t a philosophical guidebook to the city. “Rome as a Guide to the Good Life” fills that gap by exploring how philosophers, artists, and travelers think about the Eternal City to envision what it means to live well. An eclectic guide to ethics, mixing theory and history, this book roots philosophy in the sites of Rome. What does it mean to see the Forum like Cicero or the Colosseum like Augustine? What does Raphael’s Loggia of Cupid and Psyche teach about love and the soul? What can be learned from the tombs of the Non-Catholic Cemetery about how to build a life? “Rome as a Guide to the Good Life” shows how sculptures, paintings, buildings, and piazzas can be occasions not only for history and beauty, but also for self-knowledge and happiness.

Associate Professor, Arts and Humanities, Kirkwood Community College  -  Rome as a Guide to the Good Life: A Philosophical Grand Tour

Libby Garland
Libby Garland  |  Abstract
This project explores the historical forces that have determined how the line between “refugee” and “not-refugee” gets drawn. It contends that US-based activists of the post-World War II decades played a crucial role in defining the meaning of “refugee” in ways that continue to matter deeply today. Most of these activists had long experience advocating for immigrants and refugees. Yet it was not until the postwar era, amidst shifting global and domestic political currents, that they helped win a measure of legal recognition for refugees. At the same time, advocacy on behalf of refugees was and remains a double-edged project, constructing a divide that separates “deserving” from “undeserving” migrants without calling the international border-guarding regime into question.

Associate Professor, History, Philosophy, and Political Science, City University of New York, Kingsborough Community College  -  Inventing the Refugee: US Activists and Refugee Policy, 1945-1965

Jill A. Schennum
Jill A. Schennum  |  Abstract
This research, based on a decade of ethnography in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, examines life narratives of steelworkers who entered the mill under industrial-era tenets and understandings of work and society. This view included strong unions, secure jobs, fulfilling solidarities, career options, and a faith in the value of productive labor for US society. These same workers lived through the long-term stresses of deindustrialization over a 35-year period, including downsizings, union concessions, departmental shutdowns, transfer to other mills, and the eventual bankruptcy of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The project examines how workers construct worldviews and a moral order rooted in these experiences, with the goal of turning dissertation research into a book.

Professor, Sociology, Economics, and Anthropology, County College of Morris  -  Bethlehem Steelworker Families: Reshaping the Industrial Working Class

Sean Gerrity
Sean Gerrity  |  Abstract
“A Canada in the South” examines representations of maroons—enslaved people who fled bondage and took refuge in remote places like swamps, forests, and mountains—in a wide array of mostly African American literary texts from the 1830s through the early 1860s. It seeks to understand how marronage as both discursive and material practice invites reconsiderations of commonplace notions of freedom and unfreedom as they have been tied to a sectional US geography and narratives of freedom via the Underground Railroad. In short, the project argues that literary representations of maroons offer glimpses into alternative, unexpected, radical forms of freedom in the processes of being and becoming that do not depend upon recourse by, or intervention of, official state apparatuses. Instead, marronage illuminates novel formations of Black community, sociality, mobility, and freedom.

Assistant Professor, English, City University of New York, Eugenio María de Hostos Community College  -  A Canada in the South: Maroons in American Literature

Debra Schultz
Debra Schultz  |  Abstract
“In the Footsteps of Emmett Till” supports a participatory action research trip with Kingsborough Community College (KCC) students to civil rights sites in Mississippi; an Emmett Till symposium at KCC and Till film preview with Brooklyn-based filmmaker Keith Beauchamp; and new historical scholarship on the politics of civil rights memory. The project is based upon a series of visits to Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and North Carolina, as well as interviews with “memory advocates” including Congressman John Lewis; Pamela Junior, Founding Director of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum; Lonnie Bunch, Smithsonian Institution Secretary and founder of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History; and Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and Montgomery’s new Lynching Memorial and Museum.

Assistant Professor, History, City University of New York, Kingsborough Community College  -  In the Footsteps of Emmett Till: An Intellectual and Experiential Engagement with Civil Rights Movement Legacies

Joel T. Helfrich
Joel T. Helfrich  |  Abstract
Since the 1870s, various government, military, mining, and scientific interests have used and abused Western Apache sacred ancestral lands. This book examines Apache struggles in Arizona for sacred places, namely Mount Graham and Oak Flat, both of which are ecological wonders. These are ongoing stories that continue to get played out in the present, yet have not received extensive scholarly study and analysis. These historic and continuing cases exemplify profound differences in worldviews, ways of knowing, values, and advocacy. Given the recent struggles to protect Indigenous lands from profit-driven environmental alterations, this book project is not only timely but also necessary.

Adjunct Professor, Anthropology, History, Political Science, and Sociology, Monroe Community College  -  The Sacred and Ecological: Mount Graham, Oak Flat, and Apache Struggles for Land, 1871-2021

Nicole M. Slovak
Nicole M. Slovak  |  Abstract
This project builds upon successful efforts to reconstruct burial assemblages from the archaeological site of Ancón, Peru—one of the largest pre-Columbian cemeteries in the Andes. The current research focuses on the Ancón collection currently held at the Field Museum in Chicago. This collection includes nearly 200 mummies from the Middle Horizon and Late Intermediate Period, from 600 CE to 1438 CE, and more than 1,000 artifacts. Excavated in 1891 and exported to the United States soon after, the Field Museum’s Ancón mummies have become disassociated from their grave goods and their broader socio-cultural contexts—an unfortunate and all-too-common byproduct of archaeological research carried out in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Through a combination of archaeological and archival research, this project completes the restoration of the Field Museum’s Ancón funerary assemblages, reestablishing critical aspects of identity to deceased individuals and improving the research potential of the Ancón collection for future scholars.

Professor, Behavioral Sciences, Santa Rosa Junior College  -  Reconstructing Ancient Andean Burial Contexts from Ancón, Peru: An Archaeological and Archival Approach

Thomas J. Kies
Thomas J. Kies  |  Abstract
“Resounding Strings” explores the practice of musical instrument making of the charango, a small ten-stringed lute, in Peru and Bolivia. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in three specifically targeted communities—La Paz and Aiquile, Bolivia and Cusco, Peru—the research uncovers how lives and livelihoods of artisans revolve around the production and sale of this unique stringed instrument. This project showcases the importance these luthiers have in the Andean region and also explores the ongoing evolution of their craft. Through the documentation of the musical instrument makers’ own narratives of their work practices, it asks: What does it mean to be a handcrafting artisan of the charango in this day and age? The luthiers’ workshops, while quite small in terms of square footage, are rich with ethnographic information and enable a place and space for situating the performative role that these artisans play within the cultural landscape of highland South America.

Instructor (Associate Professor), Social Sciences, Berkeley City College  -  Resounding Strings: Narratives of Musical Instrument Making and Aesthetics in Peru and Bolivia

Alejandro Wolbert Pérez
Alejandro Wolbert Pérez  |  Abstract
“Listening to Aztlán” examines the social world of the Texas Mexican musical genre known as conjunto. This project situates conjunto within the broader context of Mexican American cultural production, Texas Mexican popular music, and the shared histories of the US-Mexico borderlands. “Listening” traces the genre and its practitioners from the twentieth century to the present by examining interactions of power; expressions of identity; and constructions of race, class, and gender through movement (dance), performance (instrumentation and playing), and place (the dancehall or night club) within and around San Antonio and South Texas. Ultimately, “Listening” positions conjunto dance and performance as embodied forms of Xicanx thought and knowledge. In so doing, this work locates Texas Mexican popular music and cultural expression as an everyday act of resistance and reaffirmation.

Instructor (Associate Professor), Social Sciences, Berkeley City College  -  Listening to Aztlán: Music, Movement, Performance, and Power in the Conjunto Dancehalls of the Texas—Mexico Borderlands

Matthew Lau
Matthew Lau  |  Abstract
“A Contingent Destiny” is a general interest biography that redresses the untimely silencing of evolutionary theorist and activist Stephen Jay Gould’s voice at age 60 from cancer in 2002. Based on research in the Stephen Jay Gould Papers in Stanford University’s Special Collections, the project explores Gould’s eloquent criticisms of determinism in all its forms, especially racist and sexist theories of biological determinism, and his tireless advocacy for the concept of contingency as a source of both freedom and moral responsibility.

Associate Professor, English, City University of New York, Queensborough Community College  -  A Contingent Destiny: The Life and Times of Stephen Jay Gould

Midori Yamamura
Midori Yamamura  |  Abstract
This book examines Japanese contemporary art that negotiates and challenges the globally dominant cultural, economic, and political patterns encouraged by the West. The project frames art through the post-1980s generation that grew up in a materially saturated, urban-centered information society. Of particular interest are the unlikely ways consumerism got politicized by the communist entrepreneur Seiji Tsutsumi, the force behind the “Saison Culture” that introduced the original avant-garde, Russian constructivism, and other Utopian ideas to Japanese audiences together with nyûaka (post-structuralist) literature in the 1980s, which made artists more critically attuned. The book’s ultimate goal is to elucidate how contemporary Japanese artists responded to a series of natural and manmade disasters in the last 30 years, by incorporating homegrown principles into art in order to expand our understandings of the world.

Assistant Professor, Art, City University of New York, Kingsborough Community College  -  Japanese Contemporary Art after 1989: Emergence of the Local in the Age of Globalization