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Humanities

Sandra Blakely
Department of Classics
Great Gods of Samothrace

The mystery cult of the Great Gods of Samothrace flourished in the northeastern Mediterranean sea for nearly a thousand years, from the late 6th century BC to the fourth century AD. It promised initiates not a glorious afterlife, or a cosmic vision, but the very practical benefit that their ships would be safe at sea. In the book project for which I seek funding, I use ancient inscriptions, archaeological evidence, and myths to explore the hypothesis that the promise worked - the rites did create conditions for safer sea travel. My tools for this exploration come from anthropology, both its intellectual models and the most recent digital tools for modeling patterns of human communication, cooperation, and group formation. The importance of this project is not simply one ancient cult of initiation on a rocky Greek island, but the contribution to several larger issues which have particular importance in our university today: interdisciplinary projects; digital humanities; and investigations into what makes religions work for cultures, their worshippers, and their historical setting.

Judith Evans-Grubbs
History
Child Slavery in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

How common were child slaves in the late antique and early medieval world? How did a child become a slave, and what was the likely fate of such a child? An investigation of legal, documentary, ecclesiastical, and literary sources can shed light on an aspect of pre-Transatlantic slavery that has received little discussion - the existence of child slavery in the late Roman and medieval world.

This project studies the causes, dynamics, and sources for child slavery (i.e. those under 18, especially those below puberty) between c. 400 - 1450 CE. My inquiry spans the years from the end of the Roman Empire (which saw extensive legislation on the enslavement of children) to the later Middle Ages, when domestic slavery, including child slavery, saw a revival among the elite in cities of the Mediterranean (in Italy, Spain, and Dalmatia). The primary focus is on the period 400-900, during which time the western Roman Empire disintegrated and was replaced by Germanic "barbarian" kingdoms in Europe and North Africa (and ultimately, by the Islamic Caliphate in North Africa and Spain). I seek course release for 2 courses in order to complete an article on Child Slavery for the Cambridge World History of Slavery (vol. 2) and an article on medieval sale contracts of slave children.

Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi
Art History
Mapping Senufo

When applied to the arts, the Senufo label appears to facilitate classification of objects from West Africa. Scholars have long agreed on the inadequacy of such labels, but the labels still endure. Mapping Senufo experiments with methods to analyze historical time- and place-based data in order to recover specific information and push beyond limiting categories. An award from the University Research Committee will support critical archival research and open-access online publication of “Mapping Senufo Unbound” as well as prepare for expansion of the digital publication to encompass additional archival data and analysis. Eventual creation of a French version of the open-access publication will make it more readily available to scholars and other interested people in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Mali, three francophone West African nation states where communities identified as Senufo are concentrated.

Dilek Huseyinzadegan
Philosophy
A Systematic Approach to Kant's Political Philosophy

This grant will provide a course release for the Fall semester of 2016 in order to support the completion of my first monograph, A Systematic Approach to Kant's Political Philosophy. I will be completing the full draft in the Spring of 2016 and revising it in light of reviewer comments during the Fall of 2016, from September to December. In this book, I offer a novel interpretation of Immanuel Kant’s political philosophy, arguing that his true contribution to political thought must be understood in terms of its orientation toward the material elements of politics— namely, historical, cultural, and geographical circumstances—rather than being reduced to a variation on the theme of an ideal theory of liberal cosmopolitanism. Thus I show that current scholarship on the subject is dangerously insensitive to cultural and historical differences and that this lack of sensitivity has led to a failure both to properly understand Kant’s political project and to demonstrate its contemporary relevance. In this way, my manuscript simultaneously amends a serious failure in the dominant interpretation of Kant’s political philosophy and promotes a lively conversation between contemporary Kant studies and political theory.

Jeffrey Lesser
History
Bad Health in a Good Retreat: Life and Death in the “Worst” Neighborhood of São Paulo, Brazil

Bom Retiro was (and is) a small neighborhood in the huge megalopolis of São Paulo, Brazil. Filled with small factories and warehouses, the working class neighborhood has been populated since the end of the 19th century by immigrants, migrants from the impoverished Brazilian northeast, and Afro-Brazilian descendants of slaves. While the cultural backgrounds of the immigrants have shifted (from Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese Catholics in the early 20th century to East European Jews in the mid 20th century to Chinese, Korean and Bolivian immigrants today), the neighborhood has always been viewed internally and externally as one where health (in the broadest sense of the word) is precarious. “Bad Health in a Good Retreat” analyzes the public’s health by focusing on one square block of lower Bom Retiro from about 1900 to the present. My data, from a number of different types of sources, will allow me to analyze the stories residents tell about how to avoid water born diseases and about state imposed campaigns of social control against crime to dengue. The project takes advantage of new digital methodologies that allow me to map the public’s health and how that same public has thought about health over time.

Valerie Loichot
French and English
Water Graves: The Unritual in the Caribbean and the U.S. Gulf South (2005-2015)

Water Graves reflects on the absence of funeral rites, a phenomenon I call unritual, in places linked to the African Diaspora, such as the Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. My book explores literary and artistic representations of drowned enslaved Africans, Haitian refugees, and victims of Katrina. Above all, it shows how poetry, prose fiction, art installations, and mixed-media creations can provide rituals for the forgotten dead. Poets, artists, and mourners have long remembered the deceased via water. My book, however, provides fresh insights by revealing the connection between different art forms, between artistic and sacred gestures, and between arts and the environment. Artists I analyze, I argue, develop a practice of an "ecological sacred," by constructing sacred objects and rituals, and by illuminating the connection among humans, coral, swamp, sea, salvaged window frames, or even archival legal proceedings. Water Graves focuses on our contemporary time: 2005-2015. It starts with Hurricane Katrina, which revealed to the world the relationship between meteorological disaster, poverty, and race discrimination. Having lived in Louisiana for five years, I was struck by Katrina's televised spectacle of exposed floating bodies and felt the urge to write on the phenomenon in this book on disaster art and literature. While Water Graves is not a political treatise, it shares the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement by showing that, in death, as well as in life, all humans deserve dignity; a dignity that art and poetry have the power to offer.

Carol A. Newsom
School of Theology
Moral Agency and the Creation of an Introspective Self in Second Temple Judaism

The standard histories of the western introspective self (e.g., Taylor, Foucault) typically begin with Greek thought, not with early Jewish accounts. And yet, the early Christian theological/philosophical discourse that established the contours of the Western self were heirs not only to the Greek philosophical traditions but also to the writings and symbolic worldviews of Israelite and early Jewish traditions. In recent years, scholars of antiquity have re-opened inquiry into the various ways in which the self was envisioned and became a focus of attention. And yet, the pre-Rabbinic Israelite and Jewish sources have largely been overlooked in these discussions. This appeared to be a reasonable exclusion, in that the Israelite conceptions of the self, like those of the Homeric Greeks, tended to be psychosomatic anthropologies lacking in the features of introspection, self-reflexivity, and inner conflict that are the hallmarks of the later Greco-Roman and Christian discourses of the self. But it overlooked the dramatic developments of Second Temple Judaism (late 6th cent. BCE to 1st cent. CE). With the final publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls it is possible to trace a significant, parallel but largely independent development of distinctive forms of an emerging introspective and self-reflexive self in Second Temple Judaism that contributes to the discourse of the self in early Christian writings. My project attempts to fill this lacuna in the scholarly accounts by giving a detailed account of the development of the introspective self in Second Temple Judaism.