CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign anthropology professor Erin Riggs has been awarded a 2022 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.
Riggs is a contemporary and historical archaeologist with interests in welfare state initiatives, materiality, national belonging and displacement in the recent past.
“Congratulations to Professor Riggs on her NEH Fellowship,” Chancellor Robert J. Jones said. “Her selection for this prestigious award recognizes the excellence of her scholarship in her field, as well as the extraordinary level of humanities scholarship on our campus.”
The NEH awarded $28.1 million in grants for 204 humanities projects across the country, including 70 fellowships. The fellowship program supports advanced research in the humanities, and recipients produce articles, books, digital materials or other scholarly resources. NEH Fellowships are competitive awards granted to individual scholars pursuing projects that embody exceptional research, rigorous analysis and clear writing.
The NEH has received an average of 1,120 applications per year for fellowships in the last five rounds of competition, according to the NEH website. During that time, it awarded an average of 79 fellowships per year for a funding rate of 7%, making the fellowships among the most competitive humanities awards in the country.
Riggs’ book project, “An Archaeology of Refugee Resettlement,” considers events following the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan, focusing on how refugees in Delhi, India, have interacted with resettlement homes, dramatically altering and improving them to suit their unique goals and needs. Her research traces how individual household-level actions transformed the city. Rows of identical rudimentary housing units have become celebrated modern neighborhoods of high-value complexes. These material changes served to substantiate refugee communities’ new identities as citizens and enable them to obtain an impressive degree of social acceptance and material success.
Riggs’ research will result in an urban history of post-Partition Delhi told through maps, individual accounts and images of home spaces. This portrait of Delhi’s built landscape history challenges assumptions about the perpetual aid-dependency of refugee communities, the potential effectiveness of public housing and the mutability of national belonging.
The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency and one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States. It supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.