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Announcing the 2019-20 Faculty Research Projects


Installation View, Anna Daucikova and Assaf Evron, FOR. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman.

News Summary

The Neubauer Collegium has selected seven new projects for 2019-20, deepening the breadth and depth of humanistic research collaborations at the University of Chicago.

The new projects build upon the Neubauer Collegium’s mission of bringing together researchers from different fields to find novel approaches to complex questions. The Collegium has sponsored dozens of projects through its first seven years, challenging assumptions, breaking down traditional barriers between disciplines, and deepening knowledge and understanding in a number of fields.

Launching July 1, the 2019-20 projects will be led by faculty members from across UChicago as well as partners at institutions in the United States and abroad. Research teams will come together at the interstices of the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, creating new forms of inquiry to address a wide range of challenges.

“These projects require collaboration among people who don’t typically work and think together,” said Prof. Jonathan Lear, the Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium. “I am struck by the creative energy of the faculty and by their commitment to reshape the way we approach questions of genuine significance. I am grateful, as ever, to the Faculty Advisory Board for the thoughtfulness and care they bring to the selection process.”

The Collegium has supported a total of 87 collaborative research projects led by 156 faculty fellows—representing all departments in the Humanities and Social Sciences Divisions, as well as nearly every other division and professional school at the University. Many projects have a global dimension, and sixty visiting fellows from 15 countries have joined these and other projects on campus.

Two of this year’s projects will enable research teams to build on efforts initiated in previous years. Engineered Worlds III: Terraformations is the concluding chapter in a multi-year initiative that aims to create new theories and methodologies to assess planetary-scale environmental problems. Anthropologists, historians, geographers and environmentalists will convene for a high-profile international conference to examine local and global responses to toxic exposure, marking the culmination of years-long research partnerships. As important, Terraformations will continue to foster a growing network of early career scholars working together to help define this emerging field.

will expand on a current project tracing the global spread of ideas that sprouted from the Russian Revolution of 1917, supplementing that work with non-Russian texts and a digital mapping of Chicago as a site of intellectual revolution. Sheila Fitzpatrick, the Bernadotte E. Schmitt Distinguished Service Professor Emerita of Russian History and the College, will return to campus in the fall of 2020 to participate as a visiting fellow.

The Experimental Monumentality project will sponsor the study of an exhibition in Moscow and a related workshop in Chicago, posing the larger questions of what to do with monuments of the past and how to build monuments for the future. The exhibition, to be held at the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture in Moscow, will include a reenactment of a performative monument built and destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. The construction, journey, exhibition and immolation of the monument will be filmed, and the video will be screened at a Neubauer Collegium workshop with artists and scholars.

In its call for proposals the Neubauer Collegium does not define themes for research, nor does it privilege specific modes of collaborative research. What is required is that a profoundly humanistic perspective be at the core of the research partnerships, and that each project be led by a member of the UChicago research community. This year’s response to the open call for humanistic collaborative inquiry included several projects that will explore the potential computation holds for humanistic research, including data visualization.

The CEDAR Project
is a three-year initiative to produce critical editions for the digital age. Six faculty members from four departments and schools, as well as scholarly advisers from other institutions, will identify common features of texts housed in a massive database developed by the Oriental Institute. By extrapolating common challenges philologists face and applying lessons learned across contexts, CEDAR will create descriptive, data-rich digital texts that can be used for many different purposes. The goal is to make these critical editions available to scholars as an open-access resource.

Practices of Emancipation
will use digital technologies to highlight data that tells us more about African-American military participation in the Civil War era. By integrating two databases containing the service records of the United States Colored Troops and “contraband camp” registers, the team will establish a searchable genealogical archive and detailed map tracing paths to freedom for hundreds of thousands of African-Americans. A series of colloquia will present opportunities to share early findings and identify opportunities for further research.

Computing power has quietly revolutionized the study of molecular science, but the literature on the historical development of molecular simulation is extremely scarce. The Molecular Dynamics project aims to contribute to this new literature, taking advantage of the opportunity to interview the field’s pioneers, as well as pre-eminent scholars, to start to identify and preserve relevant source material for an intellectual history of computational physics.

The Sastram project deepen reflection on the forms and intersecting histories of South Asian practices of knowledge. The project will bring together philologists, intellectual historians specializing in Sanskrit, linguistic anthropologists, historians of science and other specialists to consider how cultural norms and cognitive technologies functioned across an expansive range of historical and regional contexts in South Asia.