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2023 Grant Recipients

The Changing Face of Chocolate City: A Qualitative Look at Race, Space, and Speech in Washington, DC

Nandi Sims (Linguistics)

Washington, D.C.’s historical reputation as a primarily Black city led to it being known colloquially as Chocolate City. About 20 years ago, the city’s population began to grow for the first time since the 1940s. With that growth came soaring housing prices and changes to the community outside of the control of the city’s original Black inhabitants. We aim to explore the linguistic effects these changes have had on this Black population via ethnographically informed fieldwork and narrative collection conducted by members of the community itself. We will (1) create a corpus of narratives related to community changes and use these narratives to (2) analyze linguistic changes apparent in the city.

The data for this project will be primarily collected by youth researchers at a historically Black public high school in D.C. via a program of our own design, which aims to introduce high school students to the academic research process and ethnographic methods. Under the guidance of academic researchers, the youth researchers will: (1) design a project related to changes in their community, (2) interview, take field notes, and qualitatively analyze the data to answer their research questions, and (3) write and publish their results in a public-facing forum of their choice (e.g., podcast, children’s book, magazine article, etc.). This design will provide us with a unique look at a D.C. community through the eyes of its members.

This dataset will subsequently be analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively by researchers here at Stanford for metacommentary on the changes that have occurred in the community and linguistic changes apparent in the speech of the recordings. The results of this analysis will shed light on issues related to the changing face of Chocolate City and, more generally, on the social and linguistic outcomes of intercommunity migration.

Ensonification of Temporal Data: Locating Meaning through Collaborative Performance and Listening

Nilam Ram (Psychology, Communication); Chris Chafe (CCRMA)

Musicians, artists, historians, designers, and data analysts share a common goal--we all seek to find meaning in data--whether through musical scores or numerical arrays.

In the social sciences, individuals’ real-world lived experiences are filtered through observational and survey research paradigms that extract specific features of lived experiences, convert them into numbers and letters that are collected into matrices, analyzed using mathematical machinery, and displayed using specialized graphs with circles and lines that vary in shape and size. In the musical arts, performers translate musical scores--specialized graphs with circles and lines that vary in shape and size--into sonic form that conveys and produces real-world lived experience for listeners. Sound is put into-- ensonifies--the notes on the page. Really good musicians imbue their performance of a composer’s notations with musicality that conveys some deeper meaning of the human experience. When done well, funky grooves compel us to dance and the blues conjure tears of heartbreak.

Threading together these two practices, this project initiates and refines a collaborative process for creating and performing musical scores made from longitudinal data. Working with percussion duo Robyn Schulkowsky & Joey Baron--world renowned performers of contemporary classical music and jazz--students and faculty with expertise in social science, music, and data analysis/computation explore the creative processes and new kinds of meaning evoked when they produce and listen to the sound and silence of data together.

Latinx Art Beyond Museum Walls

Rose Salseda (Art and Art History) 

The legacy of Latinx art is not centered at mainstream museums or galleries. Instead, this legacy lies at community centers, libraries, artist cooperatives, and other small grassroots initiatives, which have nurtured the work and unique needs of Chicana/o/x and Latina/o/e/x artists as a response to their historical exclusion at major art institutions. The drive to support Latinx art took off during the Civil Rights Movement and with the rise of student activism. In fact, beginning in the 1970s at Stanford University, students, staff, and faculty developed both formal and informal programs at the ethnic dorm Casa Zapata, the student center El Centro Chicano y Latino, and Green Library’s Special Collections to support art production, facilitate artist mentorship and networking, and build collections of art and archives. At the same time, artists and activists across the Bay Area founded collectives and centers, such as Galería de la Raza and Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana (MACLA), to support Latinx artists and their work. For nearly half a century, both campus and off-campus efforts have recognized the importance of Latinx art to the building of cultural pride, education, social justice movements, and liberatory futures.

Latinx Art beyond Museum Walls casts light on how small centers, untraditional art spaces, and grassroots organizations have made substantial and significant contributions to the art ecosystem, always having recognized the value in Latinx art even when their value as vital art hubs were often undervalued or overlooked within the art world and wider public. Latinx Art Beyond Museum Walls takes a multi-pronged approach to document and provide new resources on the dynamic Latinx art legacies that lie beyond traditional art institutions, convening stakeholders, educating the public, and facilitating stronger collaboration between Stanford and community-based programs across the greater San Francisco Bay Area.


New Civilizationisms 

Thomas Hansen (Anthropology); Haiyan Lee (East Asian Languages and Cultures & Comparative Literature); Lerone Martin (Religious Studies); and Serkan Yolacan (Anthropology)

In the past two decades, there has been a world-wide resurgence of discourses that define a people in terms of their unique civilizational identity and call for states to refurbish their timeless civilizational glory. These discourses, or “new civilizationisms” as we call them, both draw on and react against an older, Enlightenment-inspired, and Eurocentric notion of civilization. Thomas Hansen (Anthropology), Haiyan Lee (East Asian Languages and Cultures & Comparative Literature), Lerone Martin (Religious Studies), and Serkan Yolacan (Anthropology) are part of an international research network setting out to map the overlapping ecosystems of new civilizationism. We ask: How has talking about civilization instead of nation made authoritarian populism respectable again? Who are the originators of new civilizationisms and what political and intellectual resources do they draw on? How have civilizationist ideas ricocheted across the globe through new media technologies and platforms?

This ambitious, “big-picture” project will span multiple years and entail both scholarly and public-facing engagements. The former includes academic conferences, small working group discussions, and summer seminars. The centerpiece of our public humanities endeavor will be “The Civilizationism Project” website, a clearinghouse for multimedia resources designed to inform and engage the scholarly community, educational professionals, and the broad public.

Oceanic Imaginaries

Jisha Menon (TAPS), Grant Parker (Classics), Katherine Kuhns (Stanford Global Studies)

Ocean worlds make up more than 70% of our planet’s surface and tie together sprawling histories of empire, global capital, and migration. In an age of rising sea levels and heating ocean basins, the imperative to think with the maritime across disciplines, historical periods, and geographical regions is more urgent than ever. Oceanic Imaginaries serves as a creative commons for a wide range of specialist maritime projects currently underway at Stanford, led by faculty in Anthropology, Art History, English, History, TAPS, and the Doerr School for Sustainability. 

In partnership with the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA), this project will build a collaborative, interactive website that serves as (1) a digital showcase for maritime research active at Stanford, (2) an aggregator of public-facing forums and opportunities, and (3) a working bibliography for learning and pedagogical materials. Approaching the maritime as not only object but also as method of study, we aim to build an open-access platform that visualizes both the global scope and local specificities of oceanic projects. Ultimately, we seek new critical language and new frameworks of knowledge that attest to the importance of understanding the oceans socially, ecologically, climatically, culturally, and historically.

Public Knowledge Infrastructures of the Ocean: Beyond the “Two Cultures” 

Margaret Cohen (English); Fiorenza Micheli (Oceans)

The blue humanities and ocean sciences are burgeoning fields that have a great deal to offer each other. Humanists are increasingly drawing on science to understand the urgent material problems facing the oceans today that come from instrumental, capitalist, colonial relations with the marine environment and anthropogenic climate change. From the side of ocean sciences, the humanities study experiential knowledge of ocean environments and offer expertise in imaginative expression and communication strategies. Yet partnership is challenging, given the differences in methods and in knowledge expectations of our respective fields. 

Generated by conversations among faculty and graduate students at Stanford, our project will pursue how to use disciplinary methods and technical vocabulary to enhance each other’s research; how to shape a common framework for knowing the oceans; and how to translate that knowledge into material practices, a pursuit that will bring us all closer to ocean stewardship and sustainability. At the horizon, we aim to produce a proposal and blueprint for expanding the integrative field of Blue Humanities at Stanford, within the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability and across the University.

Religion, Ecology and Environmental Ethics: A Case Study for the Applied Humanities

Ariel Evan Mayse (Religious Studies)

Global climate change, visible in extreme weather events, loss of biodiversity, depletion of fisheries, prolonged droughts, mass extinction, and pollution of air, water, and soil, is the great moral and existential crisis of our day. Current attempts to address these dire existential problems have largely failed because they do not challenge foundational economic, social, and philosophical assumptions about humanity and our relationship to the natural world. Drawing upon a wide variety of religious traditions—including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, as well as Indigenous thought—this interdisciplinary project aims to construct an alternative environmental ethic, demonstrating the relevance of these sources for scholars, activists, advocates, and legislators. Our goals include: establishing an international working group of faculty members and graduate students; hosting conferences and symposia addressing real-world environmental questions/problems through an interdisciplinary lens; developing a podcast series; and drafting policy papers that offer advice to regulators at the local, state, and federal levels. 

This project, more broadly, represents a concerted effort to build the Applied Humanities. Recognizing that many of our graduate students will not find traditional jobs within the academy, and that many will actively seek employment in professions that engage directly with real-world problems, we believe that it is necessary to rethink the process of graduate education. Along with this practical consideration, we believe that humanities scholars have expertise that can be—and ought to be—shared with activists, regulatory advisors, community organizers, and governmental players of all levels. More than a justification for the continued existence of the humanities, the Applied Humanities paradigm suggests that scholarship in these fields can and must contribute solutions by applying theory to practice and engaging with the most pressing problems of our day.

Transregional Diaspora: Reconceptualizing Global Labor Flows Through the Lens of Bihar 

Roanne Kantor (English); Usha Iyer (Art and Art History); Parthapratim Shil (History)

According to a 2019 United Nations report, the Indian diaspora is the world's largest diaspora, with a population of 17.5 million. A major part of this diaspora traces its origins to a region of the Indian subcontinent that is now known as Bihar. Bihar is also one of the largest sources of internal labor migration within India. The “transregional” framework allows us to think together various scales—regional and global, rural and urban—and a rich range of historical, cultural, economic, and political narratives. The concept of diaspora illuminates interconnected stories of forced and voluntary migration through various stages of racial capitalism, and community identity and resilience.

The combined temporal and geographic scope of such a project requires collaboration across fields. This project therefore brings together scholars working in literature (Roanne Kantor), Art and Art History (Usha Iyer), and History (Parthapratim Shil). The exceptionally wide spread of Bihari labor means that this exploration must build new intellectual networks across otherwise siloed areas, including South Asia, the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Ocean, the South Seas, and the Caribbean, as well as “double-diaspora” populations that have since moved from these regions to the UK, the US, and Canada. In addition to this geographic breadth, a full understanding of the conditions of transregional diaspora requires delving into the last two hundred years of labor migration history. The project will shine new light on urgent social questions of economic and ethnic marginalization in this community, while developing insights that will be applicable to other transregional diasporic communities.