Tonio Andrade, PhD


The Dutch East India Company: A Global History, 1602-1799

I’m applying for a URC grant to complete a book entitled “The Dutch East India Company: A Global History.” The Dutch company is overshadowed in the literature by the English East India Company, but it was in many ways more significant, especially during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It has been called the “first great modern corporation,” the “flagman of the first modern economy,” and the “first multinational,” and its dramatic expansion created unprecedented new connections between maritime Asia and Europe. In the past, the company has often been examined primarily as a European innovation, a projection of early European modernity into a less advanced Asia. My project emphasizes the Asian context, showing how the company became dominant not just because of its unprecedented structure, its links to the first capitalistic economy (The Republic of the United Netherlands), and its powerful military capabilities, but also - and most importantly - because it inserted itself into a long-standing Asian trading networks and built partnerships with Asians and Africans. Drawing on new perspectives in global history, Asian history, and the history of imperialism, it focuses on the company’s uneasy and sometimes violent interactions with powerful Asian organizations such as the Japanese shogunate, the Zheng family empire of China, the maritime state of Gowa, and the Sultanate of Banten, among others. My plan is to complete a draft of the manuscript during the grant period. The book is under advance contract with Alfred A. Knopf.

Mónica García Blizzard, PhD


Neorealism and Mexican Cinema

Scholars have long observed the impact of neorealism (a style of filmmaking that emerged in postwar Italy and aspired to represent social struggle ethically) on the evolution of Latin America cinema. While the existing scholarship highlights how neorealism influenced the directors of Argentine third cinema, Brazilian Cinema Novo, and Cuban imperfect cinema (Schroeder Rodríguez, 2016), Mexican filmic production has largely been left out of the conversation (Giovacchini and Sklar, 2012; Brancaleone 2020 and 2021). That is in part because no comparable oppositional filmic movement emerged in Mexico, and because of Italian cinema’s position within Film Studies as an indispensable contributor to motion picture history, while the discipline tends to cast the Mexican filmic tradition as both peripheral and nonessential.

“Neorealism and Mexican Cinema” addresses the paucity of scholarship on the relationship between the influential neorealist movement and Mexico’s filmmakers and audiences. Juxtaposing two film traditions that are rarely put into conversation, this innovative project explores the ways in which Mexican and Italian productions take similar approaches to representing marginality and the underbellies of their respective “economic miracles.” Furthermore, this project utilizes print materials like Mexican and Italian film magazines of the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s, as well as various archival collections in Italy, Mexico and the U.S. to illustrate how neorealist Italian films were received in Mexico, the extent to which some Mexican films where interpreted as akin to neorealism in Italy, as well as the correspondence and collaborations among some Mexican filmmakers, Italian neorealist directors, and the movement’s proponents.

Adriana Chira, PhD


In the Plantations? Shadows: Black Peasants and Land Ownership by Possession in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Spanish Equatorial Guinea, 1850-1950

This comparative project explores a mode of land tenure that rural communities transitioning from slavery to freedom relied on to tackle food insecurity and racialized dispossession between the 1850s and the 1950s: direct land occupation without title. To this day, occupation continues to be common across former regions of the Spanish Empire where the legal framework had offered protections. My project focuses on Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Spanish Equatorial Guinea, leading cash crop producers for the world markets during the period under research. It explores the legal tactics through which land occupants living along the margins of agricultural corporations protected access rights. Historians who have approached possession have looked at national legal frameworks. Through comparison, my work bridges between locales with shared Iberian legal legacies in order to understand why possession has been such a resilient practice within such spaces even after the demise of the empire. Understanding communities organized around possession can help us re-think hegemonic narratives that tie economic justice to secure private property rights. Development advocates have blamed socio-economic disempowerment on weak property rights. Occupants allegedly cannot leverage their property as collateral, have little incentive to improve holdings, and because of the informal nature of their tenure might be prone to extortion. But possession does receive some protection in legal systems still bearing an Iberian imprint, which means that land occupants often act legally or in legal gray zones. My work suggests that it is popular litigation that has shaped legal frameworks around occupation.

Clifton C. Crais, PhD


Born in Blood

Born in Blood explores the violent making of the modern world that witnessed the emergence of humans as a global geophysical force. The book overturns many of the common arguments on what is called the Anthropocene, the geological Age of Man. These invariably are Eurocentric and rarely if ever explore the role of violence in the rise of anthropogenic change. Born in Blood concentrates largely on histories unfolding outside of Europe, and how violence against humans and non-humans reshaped the world and were inextricably bound with developments scholars usually describe as the Industrial Revolution. I demonstrate how the period roughly from the middle of the eighteenth century to 1900 was shockingly violent, indeed the most violent in the history of our species. I call this period the Mortecene—the Age of Killing.

The now vast literatures on the Anthropocene also tend to treat humans as an abstraction and avoid discussions of politics such as the development of states and empires. Born in Blood recounts how the combination of killing and commerce as industry and trade exploded culminated in the great political convulsions of the time. Anthropogenic change and the creation of a new world order became inextricably interlocked, completely redrawing the world’s political map by the end of the nineteenth century. Politics made global warming permanent. URC funding will support completion of three chapters on these political crises and completion of the entire book.

Christina E. Crawford, PhD


Atlanta Housing Interplay: Expanding the Interwar Housing Map

Atlanta was the site of both the first New Deal neighborhood clearance project in the United States, in 1934, and of America's first completed—though segregated—federally-funded public housing: Techwood Homes (1936, for white families), and University Homes (1937, for Black families). These projects, composed of low-slung brick apartment buildings set in footpath-crossed open spaces, became models for American public housing in the years following ratification of the National Housing Acts of 1937. Through a detailed investigation of Techwood and University, this research seeks to expand the interwar architectural map to establish Atlanta’s role as a clearinghouse for European social housing ideas, and as the site of the earliest home-grown housing precedents. While Techwood and University have drawn the attention of policy historians, this project is the first to consider these twinned white and black New Deal housing sites together as works of architecture. Atlanta Housing Interplay will be a printed and open access historical monograph accompanied by an already-extant digital public history project. It tells American public housing’s origin story through intense focus on a single city—Atlanta—while it also pulls back to uncover the transnational networks with in which this Southern US city became productively entangled. Through a detailed investigation of Techwood and University, Atlanta Housing Interplay investigates how architectural ideas and forms travel and transform—in this case across the Atlantic, across Atlanta, and across the US.

Eric L. Goldstein, PhD


Turning a Page: Jewish Immigrants, Reading, and the Contested Promise of a Mass Society

This study documents how Eastern European Jewish immigrants to the United States between 1870-1930 created the world’s first mass-market for Yiddish newspapers, books, and periodicals. Unlike anything existing in the era’s European Jewish centers, this vibrant culture of print in Yiddish reflected the new educational and cultural opportunities offered by America’s democratic, market-driven setting to humble arrivals with little previous experience as readers. At the same time, this expanding marketplace of Yiddish print materials posed serious challenges to traditional Jewish cultural norms and authority structures, igniting battles over the content and control of cultural production and raising questions about whether a separate Jewish cultural sphere could persist in a free society where English was the dominant language. While exploring these major transformations in Jewish culture and identity, Turning a Page also uses the particular story it tells to examine broader questions about the nature of mass culture in the United States: Does it empower the common person and ameliorate class boundaries, or does it reinforce hierarchies of status and privilege? Does it nurture an informed and responsible citizenry, or do its commercial aims undermine the efficacy of an educated public sphere? Does it promote diversity and advance the expression of discrete ethnic, racial, and religious identities, or does it coerce consumers to conform to the patterns of a single “dominant” culture? As a result, the project offers not only a new interpretation of modern Jewish culture, but also provides a corrective to over-simplified and ideological portraits of American mass society.

David B. Gowler, PhD


Parables and Social Justice: Howard Thurman’s Enduring Legacy

This book project stems from research for my 2018 book, Howard Thurman: Sermons on the Parables, in which I discovered that the Prodigal Son and Good Samaritan parables are foundational to Thurman’s life, thought, and his approach to racial and social justice. For example, Thurman believed that the Good Samaritan parable demonstrated that the transformation of society ultimately depends on the transformation of individual human beings who should then create a “beloved community” dedicated to social transformation in response to human need. With Thurman as a starting point, I will expand these insights (not published in my previous book), including my study of these parables and representations of them in visual art, and apply them to social justice issues today, including restorative justice, racism/discrimination, immigration, and issues of wealth/poverty. Thurman is perhaps best known as a mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but he also provided much of the theological foundation for the Civil Rights movement. Thurman contended that an existential encounter with Jesus’s teachings includes a profound moral obligation to reflect, decide and act accordingly, whether by working for civil and human rights, promoting justice in the midst of oppression, offering sanctuary to refugees fleeing oppression, seeking peace among those who advocate for war or, in the words of Jesus, proclaiming good news to the poor, release to the captives, liberation of the oppressed, and loving the “stranger” (e.g., in the Good Samaritan parable). This book will explore how the parables in text and image demand those responses.

Jehu J. Hanciles, PhD


A Study of the African Immigrant Contribution to American Religious Life and the Implications for Understanding New Trajectories in American Christianity

The impact of post-1960s immigration on American Christianity and religious life will likely be more extensive than the previous, predominantly European, wave that peaked about a century ago. In both cases the vast majority of new immigrants are Christian. But the current wave of immigrants is more numerous, more diverse (in terms of national origin and religious traditions), overwhelming non-white, and more connected to global networks. Scholarly assessment of the long-term religious contribution of new Christian immigrants is limited. Yet, the substantively Christian character of America’s new immigrants has a significant bearing on analyses of America’s shifting religious landscape, including ongoing changes in religious belonging and how faith traditions contribute or respond to major developments in American society. African immigrants constitute a small but rising segment of this current wave. Despite limited scholarly attention, their growing presence and ministries factor in the browning of American Christianity (its decreasingly white character) and add new elements to debates around assimilation, racial justice, and the nature of the black Church. This project, which builds marginally on my 2008 study, investigates how African immigrants and their immediate descendants are contributing to transformations in American Christianity at a time of major transitions, including long time decline in White Christianity, resurgent Christian nationalism, growing religious pluralism, extensive demographic change, and spirited debate about America’s global influence. The research plan incorporates an appraisal of select Christian movements on the African continent (with energetic international reach) and a survey of up to 100 African immigrant congregations in the U.S.

Paul Kelleher, PhD


Extraordinary Feelings: Sympathy and the Literary History of Disability

In Extraordinary Feelings: Sympathy and the Literary History of Disability, I trace the concept of sympathy across the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and across a variety of philosophical and literary texts. How, I ask, is the moral power attributed to sympathetic feeling fashioned through literary and philosophical representations of mental and physical disability? How and why do the historically marginalized lives of the disabled become an essential element in Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment conceptions of sympathy and the ethical conduct that (ideally) follows from the experience of fellow-feeling? My overarching claim is the following: sympathy and disability, in their respective ways, have been understood as experiences defined by the problem of access. Sympathy grapples with the challenge of how we access and share the thoughts and feelings of other individuals; disability grapples with the challenge of how we fully access and engage with the world in which we live. But by reading sympathy and disability together, I reveal the extent to which their complex interrelations have shaped the ways that we imagine and strive to enact various forms of intellectual, moral, emotional, and bodily accessibility. At the same time, I am dedicated to critiquing the ways that the conceptual and figurative relationship between sympathy and disability has been used to devalue and denigrate atypical minds and bodies—that is, to deny atypical minds and bodies full and equal access to so-called “normal” human sociability.

Maria R. Montalvo, PhD


Sarah Connor: An American History

Sarah Ann Connor: An American History is a historical monograph that focuses on the life of a woman of color by the name of Sarah Ann Connor. In closely examining Sarah’s efforts to escape enslavement, secure her freedom, profit from the business of slavery, accumulate capital, and locate her family, I interrogate the possibilities, limits, and shifting meaning of freedom in the United States over the course of the nineteenth century. By asking what freedom meant and could mean to Sarah Connor, I aim to compose not only an intellectual biography of Sarah but also a cultural history of how the political economy of the nineteenth-century United States shaped and constrained the possibilities and limits that surrounded women of color over time.

With a URC Award, I will write three chapters of the book that center Sarah Connor’s life in New Orleans before the American Civil War. This project will contribute to important conversations surrounding the meaning of freedom in pre-and post-emancipation United States as well as the relationship between archival production and power.

James H. Morey, PhD


The Prick of Conscience Window

A church in the city of York, England, contains one of the most remarkable stained glass windows to survive from the fifteenth century. Fifteen panels represent one of the most widespread motifs in medieval ecclesiastical literature: the fifteen signs before Doomsday. This window is unique in having captions, in Middle English, that are quoted from a poem entitled the Prick of Conscience, an 8,000-line poem dating from the mid-fourteenth century that outlines the means by which one may avoid damnation and achieve salvation. My project is to align the 120 manuscript witnesses of the poem with the surviving text from the windows. Over the past six years, on multiple research trips, I have consulted 85 of the 120 manuscripts. My goal is to examine the remaining 35, including the 24 in England I have not yet seen. With a complete database of readings, I can reconstruct the caption readings with the highest possible degree of certainty.

Chris Suh, PhD


East Goes West, Back to East: The Korean American Diaspora in the US-Occupied South Korea, 1945-1948

Focusing on a group of Korean Americans who returned to their ancestral homeland during the US military occupation of South Korea (1945-1948), this book project explores questions of race, diaspora, and US-East Asia relations during the age of global decolonization. These Korean Americans found themselves in a difficult situation. On one hand, they were able to return because the Allied victory in World War II ended Japan’s colonial rule of Korea (1910-1945). On the other hand, they returned as interpreters and advisors to the US military government (1945-1948), which was established in the southern half of Korea upon the war’s end because US leaders believed that Koreans were not ready to govern themselves. Neither Koreans in Korea nor the US military regime trusted them. Unable to overcome this predicament, most of these Korean Americans came back to the United States, where they spent the rest of their lives permanently as members of the Korean diaspora.

Rather than seeing the immediate post-World War II years in the Pacific as a prelude to the Korean War (1950-1953) fought between communists and anti-communists, as most existing works do, my project will reorient the scholarship to investigate how the process of decolonization in Korea contributed to the formation of a Korean American identity and, at a more ambitious level, helped shape US policy towards the decolonizing world.

With the support of the URC-Halle award, I will conduct research in South Korea to make significant progress on this project, which will become my second monograph.