About the Arts & Humanities Initiative (AHI) Program
Examples of successful proposals (HawkID and password required)

October 2020 AHI Awardees
March 2020 AHI Awardees

The Office of the Vice President for Research is proud to present the March 2021 Arts & Humanities Initiatives (AHI) Program Awardees:

Roxanna Curto, Associate Professor, Departments of French and Italian, Spanish and Portuguese
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant

The Female Athletic Body in the Writings of Suzanne Lenglen and Simone De Beauvoir

An AHI Standard Grant would facilitate the completion of my current book project, Writing Sport: The Stylistics and Politics of Athletic Movement in French and Francophone Literature, which examines aspects of physical culture—such as exercise and sports—in 20th and 21st-Century literature from Europe, Africa and North America, including texts about the Olympic games, tennis, the Tour de France, hockey in Canada, Senegalese wrestling, and soccer. It is the first comprehensive critical study of the representation of sport and physical culture in literature from the French-speaking world. Although I have written approximately half of the manuscript, I will need to travel in order to finish it, especially with regard to Chapter Three, “Serving like a Girl: Tennis and the Politics of Gender in the Writings of Suzanne Lenglen,” and Chapter Four, “Hiking as Physical Existentialism in Simone De Beauvoir.” Funds from an AHI award would provide me with the opportunity to conduct a one-month trip to England and France in late December 2021 and early January 2022, in order to further my research on these chapters by visiting key sites, museums and archives. During the first part of my trip, I would spend two weeks consulting archives on Lenglen in the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and Kenneth Ritchie Wimbledon Library outside of London. I would then go to Paris where I would continue my study of Lenglen by visiting the Tenniseum at Roland Garros (site of the French Open), which focuses on the history of tennis in France, as well as the École Normale Supérieure to further my research on De Beauvoir. For the last part of my trip, I plan to travel by train to spend a week in Marseille, where De Beauvoir held her first teaching position after graduating from the ENS. During my time in Marseille, I would retrace all of the steps that De Beauvoir describes in her memoirs in order to gain insight into her thoughts, as well as try to find and document photographically some of the locations on her hikes that she mentions specifically.

Sabine lz, Associate Professor, Department of German
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
Gypsy Vengerka

Prof. Gölz will use AHI funding to defray travel and living expenses for herself and her crew to film four concluding interviews for her new documentary film titled "Gypsy Vengerka." The film tells the story of two Russian Romani guitarists who are the last carriers of a guitar tradition that reaches back to the 19th century, was transmitted orally through two centuries, and now faces extinction. The title alludes to the musical piece central to their repertoire. Based on footage collected over two decades, the film portrays the musicians from a personal and human perspective, and explores what makes their exciting music so unique. It also addresses the discrimination that the Romani people (often mislabeled "Gypsies") have faced throughout their long history. Originally from India, they first appeared in Europe in the Middle Ages, and almost immediately became targets to Europe’s earliest expression of racism, “anti-Gypsyism.” Their history includes 500 years of slavery in Romania -- a fact that is practically unknown -- and virulent discrimination and repression persists in many European countries to this day.

“Gypsy Vengerka” will be the first documentary in any language on the life and work of the Russian Roma. It aims to draw attention to a little understood form of racism, educate the public about it, and to present members of this group from an intimate and human perspective.

Filming will take place in Germany, Switzerland, and the US between July and September 2021. The film will be completed by the end of the year 2021, to be premiered at the University of Iowa in spring 2022. After that, submissions to film festivals internationally will begin. Given that there are very few intelligent and compelling films about the Roma, and given that discrimination against them is a burning political issue in a great many European countries, we expect that the film will achieve considerable international prominence.

Julia Leonard, Associate Professor, UI Center for the Book
Arts & Humanities Initiative Major Project Grant
UI Center for the Book Digital Book Art Collection

The Book Art Digital Database works to describe artist books and other book art materials held in the UI Special Collections. This collections are important to scholars and artists alike not only for the narrative content, but also for the artistic characteristics, form or structure, and the materials used to the create the works. These aspects do not appear in the basic catalog information and the books and objects are held in closed stacks which makes access and knowledge of the collection difficult. This database involves examining and describing these items including a number of criteria; bibliographic, artists and other makers involved in production, materials used (handmade papers, paints, ink, etc), processes employed (papermaking, digital printing, printmaking, gold tooling...), the structure or form of the object, and finally, a brief narrative description and accompanying photographs. Much of this work is underway. We propose for this project to 1) build the search engine that will make searching accessible and wide-ranging; and a website to hold the database, a thesaurus of terms employed, essays on aspects of the book arts illustrated by materials held in the collection, and a discussion/blog post for ongoing critical dialog, and; 2)begin a collaborative effort with participating special collections libraries in which data can be shared for the books and objects held in common in both collections. Links to the UI database would be added to catalog records at participating libraries. This will result in much greater access to these remarkable materials than is currently available. Book scholars and book artists will have the means to research numerous collections and find information on the various materials as preliminary research that can be followed up by visits to the physical collections to further that research. The impact of this project will be multi-pronged, enhancing research abilities for scholars of the book arts, make available information on the collections for curators and those wanting to mount exhibits, serve as an educational and inspiring tool for artists and craftspeople engaged in these fields, and build a network with libraries across the country who have significant holdings in the book arts.

Alfred Martin, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
On the Black Hand Side: Black Fandoms and Cultural Politics

On the Black Hand Side: Black Fandoms and Cultural Politics is a booklength study of Black fandoms. The book project uses 100 in-depth interviews with Black fans of a wide range of media including the Black ballerina Misty Copeland, the films The Wiz and Black Panther and The Golden Girls. On the Black Hand Side deepens my theorization of Black fandoms via what I am calling the 4 C’s of Black Fandom: Community, Comfort, Class and Cachet. Community is organized around the notion of interpretive communities, particularly in Jacqueline Bobo’s theorization of their operation among Black women. Comfort engages the idea of comfort food. On the one hand, food metaphors are often attached to television viewing; some say they have a television-watching diet or that they “binged” a series over the weekend. Other the other hand, comfort food is often described as something that engages nostalgia and sentimental affects. Class not only references socio-economic status but is also concerned with Black taste cultures. Building on Patricia A. Banks’ work about art, identity and the Black upper-middle class, I deploy her theorization of Black cultivated consumption as a kind of consumption “rooted in a desire to respond to and rectify legacies of Black marginality as well as continuing Black inequality.” Lastly, cachet refers to Black fans’ realization of Black consumer spending power as an agent of industrial change. Each axis of the 4 C’s forms the basis for one of the chapters of On the Black Hand Side. Upon completion, the book will be the first book to engage in-depth interviews with Black folks about their fannish practices.

Heather Parrish, Assistant Professor, School of Art and Art History
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
Fugitive Homing: A Collaborative Interactive Art Installation

Fugitive Homing is the current project in an ongoing art-social science collaboration between Heather Parrish, visual artist and Assistant Professor of Printmaking, and political geographer Dr. Leslie Gross-Wyrtzen entitled Working the Border. This collaboration, started in 2018,  uses the languages and methodologies of visual art and critical theory to explore the politics and aesthetics of borders and boundaries. For us this means exploring the boundaries of our disciplines as well as our multiple border ontologies. In political geography, borders are not just walls or fences, but political institutions that produce inclusions and exclusions throughout social space. Visual art can complicate the perception of borders as fixed, question their function as exclusive, and expose their permeability. We are interested in how such explorations can disrupt hegemonic binaries (such as included/excluded, mobile/immobile, art/science, citizen/alien, inside/outside) and foster new imaginings of the possible. It builds on the concepts of fugitivity and sanctuary asking: How can we think about boundaries as inscribing spaces of refuge and hospitality rather than unfreedom and immobility? Fugitive Homing weaves the discursive power of critical theory together with the tools of visual art -  materialized ways of imagining the other and envisioning otherwise - to invite unexpected networks of inter-connection and foster solidarity. It is an unambiguous response to the crucial nexus of crises challenging our society today. It uses the lens of border studies to meditate more broadly on traumatic forced flight, and the agential navigations necessary for a return to belonging. This project will culminate in an interactive art installation using translucent materials, video projection and sound. It will be exhibited at Yale University, hosted by Ezra Stiles College and the Urban Studies program at the Yale School of Architecture, in the Spring of 2022.

Jenna Supp-Montgomerie, Assistant Professor, Departments of Religious Studies and Communication Studies
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
Unnatural Networks: the Satellite, the Ocean, The Data, and the Scientist That Brought the Ocean Floor Into View

This project will trace the network of relationships among the ocean, the earth, the satellite, the data, the scientists, and the mathematical manipulation that produced the first map of the ocean floor based on satellite data. These relationships illustrate nature’s participation in technological networks and, in particular, the ocean’s activity conveying and obscuring what we can know about the seafloor. We will make use of exclusive access to the personal papers of William Haxby, the creator of the first satellite map of the ocean floor, to offer a robust illustration of the continuities and disruptions that produced this watershed event in our scientific knowledge of marine geography. This project will have three outcomes: (1)  an open-access website that renders these relationships in a visual, interactive form using new “story map” applications that are accessible and engaging to a wide public audience, (2) a series of public essays at popular academic blogs highlighting elements of the website to attract an international, multidisciplinary audience, and promotion of these essays through social media networks, and (3) an article for submission to a top-tier media studies journal that demonstrates how the ocean and new visualization techniques co-constituted scientific knowledge about the seafloor through relationships of connection and disconnection.