Seed support encourages innovative projects with a mission and scope similar to the Long-term Projects, but at an earlier stage. By awarding seed support to projects at the exploratory stage, the Neubauer Collegium facilitates and accelerates projects that promise to facilitate and strengthen ambitious humanistic inquiry.
2013-2014 Funded Seed PROJECTS
Current trends in post-colonial studies, indigenous archaeology, archaeological ethnography, and in the anthropology/history border-zone, indicate the emergence of an as-yet unarticulated new research orientation: the anthropology of history. This project, conceived in collaboration with Charles Stewart (University College London), engages faculty and visitors in anthropology, history, philosophy, and Divinity to synthesize and theorize the comparative ethnographic and historical study of the diverse means by which people gain knowledge of the past – matters of concern not only for numerous social science and humanities disciplines, but also for society more generally as the West begins to reflect upon the circumscribed operating sphere of its putatively universal truths and the concrete policy, legal, and cultural implications of acknowledging both non-Western historicizing practices and Western ways of relating to the past that do not conform to the standards or concerns of disciplinary history.
An exploration of how the methods of “big science” might elucidate and facilitate the humanistic understanding of music, speech, and other audio expressions, the one-year Audio Cultures of India project will deploy data mining and computational pattern analysis techniques common to the physical and biological sciences to produce a sound history of modern India. Drawing on vast digital corpora already hosted at the University of Chicago Library, this project will bring together faculty and students from music, anthropology, the Computational Institute, Argonne National Laboratory, and the Library to identify and experiment with new methods for using scientific technologies to process large digital humanities databases. The dense performative culture that characterizes India will receive special attention in an attempt to develop a comparative framework for understanding historical interrelations in the aural world – a sound history of modern India.
Bringing together historians, geographers, anthropologists, environmental artists, and security and science studies experts, the three-year Engineered Worlds project offers a significant re-theorization of security in light of the cumulative global environmental effects of industry. The impacts of human industrial activity – extreme weather, rising oceans, changing habitats, shifting food sources, and new health challenges – render problematic the longstanding nature-culture binary that has shaped science studies and cultural anthropology. To understand these impacts, we need new concepts of security that are adequate to the problem of a radically changing biosphere. Through a series of co-taught seminars with visiting scholars, a spring conference, and public arts exhibitions, this project considers how ecologies are “engineered” or “designed”, intentionally and unintentionally, by industrial practices, and focuses local and invited expertise toward the creation of a new critical theory that can address “post-nature” politics.
Global Literary Networks is a two-year digital humanities research project that examines the production, diffusion, and reception of literature on a macro-interpretative scale using tools of network analysis and network visualization. Combining large datasets, social scientific methods, and textual close reading, this project investigates the social dimensions of modernist literary history and aesthetics in the twentieth century by de-framing traditional literary categories – such as influence and dissemination – and introducing and adapting new categories from other disciplines. Using modernist poetry from the United States as the starting point, the project branches out to Japan, China, and Latin America to track the relation between modernist poetic activities in different national contexts. The project brings together theoreticians and technicians from literary studies, sociology, computer science, statistics, and visual design to explore new approaches to the analysis, preservation, and presentation of “big data”; new media platforms for processing, displaying, and disseminating digitally inflected work; and team-based scholarship.
This project aims to strengthen and consolidate an emerging program cluster on Health and Human Rights by engaging faculty in the humanities and the Pritzker School of Medicine to address fundamental questions underlying the notion of health as a human right. Many things have been claimed to be a human right, a claim that indicates great moral significance, asserts heightened stakes, and calls for swift and decisive remedy. But which elements of health and health care qualify as a human right? Philosophers and practitioners approach these questions from distinct viewpoints. This project seeks greater precision on the application of human rights concepts to health and health care, including a philosophically-grounded position on the question of who has the obligation to meet health care human rights.
Three decades of war and external pressure in Iraq have led to the decimation of its university system and its intellectuals. What does it mean to be a scholar at war? Is humanistic inquiry during wartime possible? How has this downfall of Iraq’s domestic university-level intellectual class – professors and university researchers – affected the country’s social, military, and political spheres? These questions form the core of a yearlong analysis of Iraq’s intellectual landscape since the start of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980, carrying the narrative through the sanctions period and 2003 invasion to the present day. The destruction of Iraq’s academic class has been an underreported yet grave phenomenon that holds serious implications for the country’s – and the region’s – future. This project represents an effort to capture this history through first-hand accounts, by interviewing Iraqi university professors and research in Iraq and in diaspora, to establish an audio archive of these stories at the University of Chicago Special Collections Research Center, and to publish an analysis on the demise of Iraq’s intellectual class.
The Voice – or simply voice – has been the vector of numerous questions, philosophical, theoretical, medial, and material, that have pressed on current-day disciplines in the humanities and social sciences such as performance studies, film and media studies, philosophies of language and the body, phenomenology, gender studies, psychology, literary studies, anthropology, biology, and neuroscience. Over the last twenty years, these questions have formed part of a broader tendency away from textual orientations and metaphysical philosophies toward the material and embodied nature of voice. They have also swept in new media and technologies that have profoundly affected artistic expression, our sense of living in our bodies, and our attempts to measure, fix and stabilize them. This project aims to refine a long-term research agenda that spans disciplines and arts practice to develop a new critical theory of the voice.
What are Arab Jewish Texts? Texts and Questions of Context
This project, organized by University of Chicago professor of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations Orit Bashkin in partnership with Walid Saleh from the University of Toronto, explores the ways in which Jewish political thought and literature were transformed in the medieval and modern periods as a result of their interactions with Muslim and Arab cultures. Organized around themes of the Arab Jewish imaginary, printed Arab Jewish cultures, and construction of the Arab Jewish self, the collaboration will engage historians and literary scholars, novelists, and poets from the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East for an intensive three-day conference in spring 2014 with the goal of publishing an anthology of translated and original works of literature by, and about, Jews who lived in Muslim societies, and to examine whether such a collection, and the categories the conveners propose, make sense in the state of the field of Middle Eastern studies today.
Emerging around a coalescence of research interests in the comparative economic analysis of historical societies from ancient times to the modern period, the project for a Working Group on Comparative Economics brings together faculty from Classics, Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, Anthropology, Economics, History, Political Science, and the Booth School of Business for a two-year program of activities. Monthly faculty meetings, quarterly visiting lecturers, and an annual conference will address themes of shared interest in comparative economics, including the structure of economic firms, taxation, long-distance trade, forms and uses of money, and the economics of slavery. Activities are designed to clarify conceptual and empirical issues in a way that will promote and enrich cross-disciplinary faculty research, and quickly disseminate results through e-publication of a new working paper series.
Working Group on Political Theology
Andreas Glaeser, Cliff Ando, Julie Cooper, Michèle Lowrie, William Mazzarella, John McCormick, Omar McRoberts, Paul Mendes-Flohr, Eric Santner, Lisa Wedeen, Eric Slauter
Scholarly literature suggests two reasons for the recent re-emergence of political theology across the social sciences and humanities, challenging what many thought was an outdated modality of inquiry. The first is a growing concern that the practical and theoretical subordination of politics to a service function for markets, which goes hand in hand with an isolation of individuals, deprives human beings of their potential to shape their future in collaboration with others. The second is a suspicion that the research orientation of much contemporary social science remains beholden to a positivist epistemology that can only describe and analyze what already exists and thus (at least unwittingly) supports the subordination of politics by underplaying the creative potential of human beings to reimagine more satisfying lives in the company of others. Political theology promises to address these concerns by wondering about the orientation of politics to guiding values, and by searching for enduring historical influence of theological ideas on political concepts and the formation of political institutions. This project brings faculty from classics, political science, sociology, anthropology, divinity, Germanic studies, and English together with invited visiting scholars for bi-weekly workshops to define and refine a coherent agenda for a long-term, trans-disciplinary research project on political theology.
A Worldwide Literature: Jāmī (1414-1492) in the Dar al-Islam and Beyond
This one-year seed project aims to develop and articulate a long-term research agenda that would fill a massive lacuna in modern scholarship on transformative intellectual trends in the post-classical Muslim intellectual tradition by studying the reception of the works of polymath ‘Abd al-Rahmān Jāmī (1414-1492), one of the most widely read authors in the Eurasian continent between his lifetime and the early modern period. Ambitious in its theoretical aims and grounded in creative philological approaches, this project endeavors to provide answers to crucial questions largely neglected by Islamic historiography. Seed funding will afford the principal organizers the opportunity to develop further programs that would bring visiting scholars to campus to catalyze a cross-disciplinary events and prepare a digital collection and searchable corpus of Unicode texts comprising Jāmī’s works along with the Indian commentaries published by Naval Kishore in the nineteenth century.
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