CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Five professors at the University of Illinois – Asef Bayat, Joy Harjo, Catherine Prendergast, Stephen Andrew Taylor and Deke Weaver – have been named 2014 Guggenheim Fellows. They are among 178 North American artists, scholars and scientists selected on the basis of achievement and exceptional promise from a pool of almost 3,000 applicants, according to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
Bayat is a professor of sociology and the Catherine C. and Bruce A. Bastian Professor in Global and Transnational Studies at Illinois. A native of Iran who taught at the American University in Cairo for 17 years, Bayat specializes in the study of social movements, urban politics and political Islam in the Middle East. His book “Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East,” first published in 2009, in some ways anticipated the popular movements that would bring about the Arab Spring in 2011. Since that wave of uprisings and revolution, Bayat has been active in following the ongoing changes in the region, last year publishing an update of “Life as Politics,” as well as editing the book “Post-Islamism: The Changing Faces of Political Islam.”
Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke Nation of Oklahoma, is a professor of American Indian studies and of English at Illinois, as well as an award-winning poet, composer, musician and author. Her teaching and research interests focus on indigenous literature, poetry, music and theater. She has published seven books of poetry and her honors include the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She also has released five albums of original music, including “Winding Through the Milky Way,” which in 2009 brought her a Native American Music Award for Best Female Artist of the Year. Her 2012 memoir “Crazy Brave” won the PEN USA Literary Award for best creative nonfiction. She will use her fellowship to complete her second memoir, “Songline of Justice.”
Prendergast, a professor of English and an affiliate of the Russian, East European and Eurasian Center, researches cultural contested terrain, such as anxieties over the global spread of English, arguments over grammatical correctness and battles over multicultural literacy in the wake of school desegregation. A Fulbright-Hays Research Award supported her work in Slovakia that resulted in her book “Buying Into English: Language and Investment in the Capitalist New World.” Her 2003 monograph, “Literacy and Racial Justice: The Politics of Learning After Brown v. Board of Education,” won numerous awards. She was named a University Scholar in 2008. Prendergast will use her Guggenheim Fellowship to complete her book, “Writer, Painter, Banker, Thief: The American Arts Colony in the Public Account.”
Taylor, a professor of music composition and theory, and the director of the Illinois Modern Ensemble, composes music that incorporates both art and science. His first orchestral commission, “Unapproachable Light,” was inspired by images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the New Testament. It was premiered by the American Composers Orchestra in Carnegie Hall. His chamber quartet, “Quark Shadows,” was commissioned and premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He uses live electronics, such as in “Sonic Hedgehog” for the Aletheia Duo, and collaborated with the band Pink Martini for its recently released album, “Dream a Little Dream,” featuring The Von Trapps.
Weaver, a writer, performer, video artist and new media professor in the School of Art and Design, is best known for “The Unreliable Bestiary,” in which he focuses on one endangered animal species for each letter of the alphabet and develops an interdisciplinary multimedia performance around that animal (though not in alphabetical order). He presented his second installment of the series, “Elephant,” at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival; his third, “Wolf,” premiered last September at the university’s Allerton Park. His work has been featured on PBS, Showtime, Channel 4 (United Kingdom), the New York Video Festival at Lincoln Center, the Chicago Humanities Festival, the Berlin Video Festival, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and many other venues around the world.
The Guggenheim Foundation has awarded fellowships annually for 90 years, and many of the 17,000 fellows have gone on to receive Nobel prizes, Pulitzer prizes, Fields medals and other international honors.