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2021 Grant Recipients

Universal Basic Income

Juliana Bidadanure, Philosophy


The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed large social inequalities and deep fault lines in America’s patchwork social protection system. This context has spurred an explosion of new interest in Universal Basic Income (the somewhat radical idea of granting all members of a community regular cash with no strings attached) and other unrestricted cash programs, including through the stimulus check payments program, the expansion of the child tax credit, and the recently created Mayors for Guaranteed Income network. This context offers a new window of opportunity to deepen our collective understanding of the potential of recurring unconditional cash payments to foster a more equitable society. Political philosopher Juliana Bidadanure and her team at the Stanford Basic Income Lab will work as part of the newly created Guaranteed Income Community of Practice to examine which types of cash transfer programs are best suited specifically to the post COVID-19 recovery of individuals, households and communities and how these can fit as part of a broader package of benefits and services. To this purpose, they will host a workshop bringing together researchers from a range of disciplines with mayors and city administrators, experimenters and other practitioners in the field. 

The Changing the Human Experience grant will also support Bidadanure and her team in their design of an online dashboard to present data on community level indicators across the various cities implementing basic income and guaranteed income pilots. A partnership with the Center for Guaranteed Income Research, the aim of the project will be to visualize the promise (and limits) of direct unconditional cash for building thriving, healthy communities.

Recovering Shared Sacred Sites: Re-mapping Religious Pluralism Across the World

Anna Bigelow, Religious Studies 

In order to imagine a future in which people of all religions and none can coexist, we must have a more robust documentation of the various formations of peaceful and prosocial interreligious exchange that have existed and continue to thrive even in these polarized times. In particular we are concerned with the many sacred sites that were and still are shared by diverse religious communities and individuals all over the globe. Though conflicted and contested sites receive the most sustained attention from the media and policy analysts, our research shows that this is not the norm either historically or currently. This project aims to produce a multi-media visualization of shared sites including an interactive map, database of resources, video and photographic documentary projects, and narratives of interreligious accommodation, engagement, and devotion.

Imagining Adaptive Societies

James Holland Jones, Earth System Science; Margaret Levi, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Political Science

This project uses speculative fiction to help us imagine adaptable societies able to respond to the major challenges of our age. How do we imagine novel social arrangements that allow us to thrive sustainably in an environment of greater equity? Speculative fiction provides a remarkable set of tools for exploring such complex systems. The world-building of a novel-length treatment of the implications of climate change, for example, provides the space to explore what these consequences might be for the Earth, for social, political, and economic structures, and for the lived experience of people. There have been efforts to treat speculative fiction from the perspective of literature or social activism. This project is unique in its effort to intentionally bring critical social-science expertise into dialogue with contemporary speculative fiction writers who specifically explore the social consequences of change. Of particular interest to our exploration of adaptations to social, economic, and environmental crises are the works by Black and Indigenous authors and the sub-genre of Climate Fiction (CliFi). The project will culminate in a workshop featuring speculative-fiction authors and social scientists hosted at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University. 

Recovering the University as a Public Good

Emily J. Levine, Graduate School of Education; Mitchell Stevens, Graduate School of Education; and Caroline Winterer, History

As we recover from the particular challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the general challenges of eroding public faith in American universities, our interdisciplinary group of researchers argues that now is the time to ask—and answer—a bold question: what is the contribution of U.S. universities to the public good today? Universities must now reckon with many grievances, from student debt to the failure to equip students with relevant skills. But these are shortcomings of the private benefits of higher education. We believe there must be a simultaneous rebuilding of what higher education offers as a public good. Our team will stage a conversation highlighting how post-crisis periods have historically provided opportunities to rearticulate public valuesand how Stanford might do so going forward. Our interdisciplinary work will position Stanford as a national and global leader in a vital and timely conversation about the future of the university as a public good.

Aftermaths of Enslavement: Curating Legacies Publicly

Grant Parker, Classics ; Krish Seetah Anthropology

As an initiative in commemorative justice, this project seeks to better understand enslaved pasts via two paths: (a) by curating materials that advance scholarly research but are not easily available, using technologies that promote access and utility; and (b) by developing learning materials, including a film, for schools and popular audiences, in collaboration with heritage professionals and teachers. We focus on the Indian Ocean World to enrich global and comparative frameworks for the study of enslavement. A pilot project involves Trials of Slavery: selected documents concerning slaves from the criminal records of the Council of Justice at the Cape of Good Hope, 1705-1794, edited by Nigel Worden and Gerald Groenewald (2005). These texts will be mined for geographic, demographic and other data, so as to create interactive maps that reveal spatial relations around enslavement. Trials of Slavery provides a unique opportunity to reconstruct enslaved lives in ways that are rarely possible in the Indian Ocean World, which is much less studied than the Atlantic. Though there have been several recent books and articles on unfree labor in the Cape there are currently no detailed maps of Western Cape sites of bondage. 

Auralizing the Medieval Image: Music, Architecture, and Art at Conques

Bissera V. Pentcheva, Art & Art History Department, Stanford University

This project is a collaboration among an art historian (Bissera Pentcheva, Art History), a composer of choral music (Laura Steenberge), a singer (Argenta Walther), an electrical engineer (Jonathan Abel, CCRMA), and a filmmaker (Duygu Erucman). We aim to recover the medieval ritual and re-animate the art and architecture of Conques, a ninth-century site, which became a major monastery in the eleventh and early twelfth century and participated in the Reconquista of Spain. We will do this by transcribing, performing, and “auralizing”—imprinting a live performance with the acoustic signature of particular space—the music in its original acoustics and visual setting. 

At the core of this multidisciplinary research is the reconstruction of the sensorial environment in which medieval Christianity functioned and the use of digital technology to expose modern audiences to its historical sensory reality. Why is chant important for the understanding of the medieval art, architecture, and ritual? There is a profound interconnection between singing and the visual arts. Until this time, the music for the Office of Ste. Foy has never been explored in its capacity to narrate the life of the saint, to elicit emotion and spiritual transformation, and to open the eyes to the subtleties of the architecture and material images. Chant created icons of sound. Transcribing and recording the music and then auralizing it in the acoustic signature of its original place and using the medium of film to put together the aural with the visual enables us to explore how the medieval ritual created a sensorial knowledge of God.

Informal Political Representation and the Recovery of Public Trust

Wendy Salkin, Philosophy

While we as a public have lost trust in our formal political institutions, we have at the same time come to be all the more invested in and dependent on our informal political communication with one another: Bereaved families use COVID-19 obituaries to disseminate public health information. NBA players shape pressing discussions of racial justice in the United States. At the center of this informal political communication are informal political representatives. Ubiquitous and influential, informal political representatives speak or act for others despite never having been elected or selected by means of formal, systematized election or selection procedures. 

Whether spokespersons, movement leaders, organizers, or everyday folks, informal political representatives are crucial for the public expression of the interests of many, particularly marginalized and oppressed groups. They represent both within and beyond traditional political fora—some testify before Congress, others before Twitter. Informal political representatives like Black Lives Matter, Tarana Burke, and Greta Thunberg give voice to the perspectives and interests of groups long silenced. Although unelected, informal political representatives can have significant power to influence how those they represent are regarded by a wide variety of audiences. Informal political representatives may even help us recover public trust in our formal political institutions by themselves becoming members of those institutions, as when Black Lives Matter activist Cori Bush was elected to represent Missouri’s First Congressional District. This project examines the roles that informal political representatives may play in recovering public trust in both our formal and informal political institutions

Mourning after COVID, in Art and Politics: The US, France, and Italy

Laura Wittman, French and Italian 

In the US, France, and Italy (my countries of study), medical professionals expect a second "pandemic" of grief in the wake of Covid-19, since so little mourning has been possible. Comparing these cases, and diverse communities within them, I investigate the connection between grief and recovery. While US media have downplayed the gruesome reality of Covid deaths, in part due to censorship, in France and Italy the popular press has had more scope to express private grief in public. In all three nations artists have stepped in to bridge the gap, and I explore how. In the past, such as after WWI, failure to grieve together was linked to political polarization and totalitarianism. My project shows that today, how we grieve is a utopian blueprint for the community we want to inhabit in the future.