Stanford humanities scholars awarded grants from American Council of Learned Societies

ACLS LogoThe American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), a consortium of 74 scholarly organizations in the humanities and humanistic social sciences, has awarded six fellowships and one grant to humanities scholars at Stanford University for the 2016-17 academic year.

Each year, the ACLS awards fellowships and grants to about 300 U.S.-based scholars working across humanistic disciplines. Awards in 12 categories go to faculty members, postdoctoral scholars and doctoral students who specialize in topics ranging from American art history to Chinese studies. Whether humanities scholars or social scientists, what unites award grantees is a humanistic and qualitative approach to their research.

Stanford’s DANIEL EDELSTEIN, a professor of French and Italian, received an ACLS Digital Extension Grant for a data integration tool he and his team are creating for the Humanities + Design lab. KATRINA KARKAZIS, a senior research scholar based in the Center for Biomedical Ethics, received a ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship. Doctoral candidates MORGAN DAY FRANK, WILLIAM E. SHERMAN, ALEXANDER STATMAN and KATHRYN TAKABVIRWA won fellowships that provide a year of financial assistance to complete their dissertations. SYDNEY SKELTON SIMON received a fellowship to work on her dissertation in American art history.


Data visualization

Daniel Edelstein (Photo credit: L.A. Cicero)
Daniel Edelstein (Photo credit: L.A. Cicero)

Edelstein’s team includes NICOLE COLEMAN, staff director of the Humanities + Design lab, which is housed in the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA); ETHAN JEWETT, a Portland-based developer; and EETU MÄKELÄ, a researcher at Aalto University, Finland. They are building an interface into Palladio, a bundle of data visualization tools that will enable humanities scholars to map social networks. The interface, named Fibra, will allow humanities scholars to pinpoint relationships between data and metadata on a scale smaller than conventional data visualization applications can accommodate.

“There are tons of out-of-the-box social network data visualization tools, yet almost all of them are designed to work with large data sets by using algorithms,” said Edelstein, noting that his team will “reverse this idea by working with smaller batches of data and allowing users, rather than algorithms, to think through them.”

With Fibra, scholars will be able to import and analyze data into personal accounts, as well as reconcile them against authority files that collate known information about a historical figure – BENJAMIN FRANKLIN’s contacts in France, for instance – and account for spelling variants across regions and languages. Edelstein uses the example of a researcher trawling through integrated datasets to reconstruct the social network of 17th-century philosopher JOHN LOCKE based on his Travels in France (1675-79). The result would be a composite map of the social ties Locke forged on his journey, available for researchers to explore and tailor to their inquiries. Fibra will come as a welcome relief to humanities scholars accustomed to rummaging through clunky digital archives or rejiggering data visualization tools designed for social scientists.


The cultural life of testosterone

Data also play a vital role in T: The Unauthorized Biography, a book project between Karkazis and REBECCA JORDAN-YOUNG of Barnard College that won an ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship for the upcoming academic year. For both scholars, T, or testosterone, is a molecule so freighted with cultural baggage that the science around it has split across several social and philosophical fault lines. Begun in 2011, their joint inquiry into the cultural life of testosterone draws on a unique combination of molecular biology, anthropology, philosophy and history. T will knit each of these topical strands into a biography that resists disciplinary classification.

Dissertation fellowships

Of the 65 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships conferred, four went to Stanford doctoral candidates entering their final year of study. Fellowships went to Frank (English), whose dissertation is titled Schools of Fiction: American Literature and the Modern Educational System, 1880-1920; to Sherman (religious studies) for Mountains and Messiahs: Revelation, Language and Afghan Beginnings; to Stanford Humanities Center fellow Statman (history) for A Global Enlightenment: History, Science and the Birth of Sinology; and to Takabvirwa (anthropology) for On the Threshing Floor: Roadblocks and the Policing of Everyday Life in Post-Crisis Zimbabwe. Simon (art and art history) received the Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowship in American Art for Harry Bertoia and Postwar American Design Culture.