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Fourteen awarded fellowships to study cities

Matt Hanley, News Bureau
(217) 244-0470;

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Cities can be many things to many people:  They are centers of culture, architectural marvels and sometimes even catalysts of decay — in short, they capture the world at its best and at its worst.

For that reason, the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities chose “Cities” as its theme for this year’s Fellowship Awards.  The IRPH has named eight professors and six graduate students fellows from among more than 50 applicants who submitted a proposal relating to the theme. 

Faculty fellows and their projects:

• Sharon Irish, architecture, “Intimacy and the Monumentality in Urban Public Spaces.”  Before the cows dotted the landscape of Chicago, there were the boulders.  Suzanne Lacy, an urban artist, put 100 stones in strategic locations throughout the city, each with a plaque that described a woman who made a difference in Chicago history.  Irish, who worked with Lacy on the project, plans to look at the ways in which art like Lacy’s can contribute to people interacting and moving through cities.  Irish will then digitize some of her video and put the entire project either on CD-ROM or a Web page so that people around the world can learn more about art in a city.

• Craig Koslofsky, history.  “Experiencing the Night in German Courts and Cities, 1600-1800” explores the relationship between human beings and the concept of nighttime.  In particular, he will look at the ways in which the changing perceptions of night made a difference in the way Germans led their lives in the 17th and 18th centuries.

• Alejandro Lugo, anthropology.  “Urban Order, Death, and the Possibility of Counter-Surveillance in a Border City” traces the sexual assault and murder of 200 women in Juarez, Mexico, and the consequences of such widespread violence.

• Bill Maxwell and Joe Valente, English.  “Metrocolonial Capitals of Renaissance Modernism:  Dublin’s ‘New Ireland’ and Harlem’s ‘Mecca of the New Negro’ ” will systematically compare the many similarities between the literary movements of Ireland and Harlem.  Both fought prejudice and both occurred with minority urban areas as the center of the cultural movement.  Maxwell, who specializes in Harlem-era literature, and Valente, an expert in the movement in Dublin, hope to produce a book from their research.

• Robert Ousterhout, architecture.  “Constantinople and the Construction of Medieval Urbanism” will examine how Constantinople was distinct from its classical predecessor, Istanbul.  He has done extensive research about the Istanbul area, and hopes to show the character and transition of the city by looking at the surviving buildings.

• Helaine Silverman, anthropology.  “Urban Space and Place in an Imagined Past:  A Study of Tourist Cities in Peru” will look at the ways in which ancient Peruvian symbols are being used in contemporary culture.  For years people have said that the Nazca Lines of Peru have been evidence of extra-terrestrial visits or some other mysterious force.  Silverman thinks otherwise.  “The topic is important because the past is used, misused, represented and appropriated by different people and groups for a variety of reasons,” Silverman said.

• Mark Steinberg, history.  “St. Petersburg Fin-de-Siecle” will look at how Russian life was centered in this city.  “If Peter the Great built St. Petersburg as a window to the west, I am deconstructing St. Petersburg as a window into Russia’s complex life,” Steinberg said.

            Graduate student fellows and their projects:

            • Rebecca Bryant, musicology.  “Shaking Big Shoulders: Popular Music and Dance Culture in Chicago, 1910-1925” will look at how Chicago was influenced by dance and music and how the city has made its own unique contributions.

• Sace Elder, history.  “Murder Scenes:  Violence in the Public Culture and Private Lives of Weimar Berlin” will focus on the response to crime in Germany by the press, police and communities between the end of World War I and the rise of the Nazi party.  “There’s no one left to interview, but I found that crime reports – especially murder because it’s so extreme – is a way to get into the houses, neighborhoods and courtyards of this time period,” Elder said.

• Serife Genis, sociology.  “The Making of a Global City and Its Discontents:  Globalization of Istanbul and Changing Discourses on Squatters” will look at how Istanbul’s storied past will affect its role in the next millennium.

• Jane Kuntz, French.  “AuthentiCity:  Assia Djebar’s Women in Algiers” will examine writer and filmmaker Djebar, one of the most widely translated and critically acclaimed intellectuals of Algeria and the Maghreb.  “No sustained study to date, however, has undertaken to examine her oeuvre through the prism of one of the most frequently recurring objects of her imaginary throughout her writings thus far, the city of Algiers, which provides the setting of much of her work, ” Kuntz said.

• Shawn Miklaucic, Institute of Communications Research.  “Images of the Simulated City:  Virtual Real(i)ty, Sim City, and the Production of Urban Hyperspace” looks at the ways in which computer games like Sim City, which asks players to construct virtual cities, advocate a mindset about urban areas.  Some of these games are being used in educational settings.  Miklaucic hopes to critique the way the games represent race and other factors to schoolchildren.           

• Gretchen Soderlund, Institute of Communications Research.  “Sex Panics and City Papers:  ‘White Slavery’ and Journalistic Objectivity in New York, 1910-1920” will look at the way these events were reported in the mass media, and what role the media played in creating panics over sexuality.

Fellows are provided office space at IPRH.  Professors are released from teaching for a semester, and graduate students are given a stipend.