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

March 2019 AHI Awardees
October 2018 AHI Awardees
March 2018 AHI Awardees
September 2017 AHI Awardees
March 2017 AHI Awardees

The Office of the Vice President for Research is proud to present the September 2017 Arts & Humanities Initiatives (AHI) Program Awardees:


Paul Dilley, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant

The First "Virtual Unwrapping" of an Ancient Codex through X-Ray Imaging

I propose to use X-Ray imaging and image-processing algorithms to “virtually unwrap” an ancient Coptic parchment codex of the Acts of the Apostles (Morgan manuscript M910), one of the earliest examples of this book of the New Testament, which is too fragile and damaged to open using traditional conservation practices. This multidisciplinary project which will break new ground both for the history of religions, because the manuscript is one of the earliest examples of the New Testament book of Acts, and for image processing in Computer Science, because it will be the first time that x-ray imaging is used to read an unopened manuscript in codex (standard bound book) format. I am collaborating with Brent Seales, Professor and Chair of Computer Science at the University of Kentucky, whom I met this January when he participated in the University of Iowa’s Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar, for which I am a co-PI; and we have secured the full support of the Morgan Library and Museum in New York, in particular Maria Fredericks, Drue Heinz Book Conservator, and Acting Director of the Thaw Conservation Center, after two visits in March and May 2017. We have arranged for imaging to take place at the Morgan between December 18-22; after this we will spend the months of January and February “virtually unwrapping” the codex, during which I will provide feedback on the correct placement of the recovered text on the “unwrapped pages,” effectively developing new techniques and strategies for imaging the codex format. Our research will result in two publications, one in a humanities and one in a science journal, to be drafted for submission between March and November 2018. We are committed to sharing our results with the public, and are in talks with various media outlets, including Dateline NBC, to cover the x-ray process. After our technique is developed, it will be directly extendable to other damaged books and manuscripts of major historical interest.

Meena Khandelwal, Associate Professor, Anthropology
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant

Forest and Fodder for Thought: Cooking Up Cooperation between Science and Humanities

While billions worldwide cook with biofuel this practice is linked to conflict both locally and globally: smoke causes sickness and fuelwood use is intertwined with climate change. However, harvesting wood offers socio-economic benefits to rural women already marginalized. For decades engineers and development experts in India have been trying to modernize rural cooking practices, but without success. I address this cycle of conflict by starting with a local problem in southern Rajasthan (India), then broadening the lens to examine the stalemate between solution-oriented applied sciences and critical theories in the humanities that attend to cultural context and reject simple solutions. Firewood is carbon and biofuel, but also community, commodity and identity. Based on my serendipitous collaboration with an engineer, I tell the story of forests, livelihood, gender and development in Rajasthan to both illustrate the research process and to show how solving the big problems of our day requires the humanities.

Lisa Schlesinger, Associate Professor, Theatre Arts
Arts & Humanities Initiative Major Project Grant

Iphigenia at Lesvos: Story of a Refugee

This proposal requests funding to produce Iphigenia at Lesvos: Story of a Refugee, a multidisciplinary theatre performance with dance, live music, and documentary film for a Partnership in the Arts production at the University of Iowa Theatres in 2018-19 season. The project will also be included in Hancher’s Embracing Complexity program which aims “to build textured knowledge of Islamic cultures, while creating a greater sense of empathy for the experiences of peoples of diverse racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.” Iphigenia at Lesvos: Story of a Refugee is a theatrical performance about the refugee crisis by four award-winning artists: filmmaker Irina Patkanian (Russia/USA), playwright Lisa Schlesinger (USA/Greece), director Marion Schoevaert (France, Korea, USA) and composer, clarinetist and Silk Road Ensemble member Kinan Azmeh (Syria/USA). It is the centerpiece of The Iphigenia Project, a multi-year series of multidisciplinary collaborations, begun in 2014, in response to this crisis and as seen through the lens of the Iphigenia myth. Adapted from Euripides’ Iphigenia plays, Iphigenia at Lesvos draws from the ancient Greek women’s lament in the Trojan War epics and from a Syrian funeral ritual in which young people who die before they are married are given the wedding they will never have in life. The play follows Iphigenia, a teenaged girl, and other women and children, through 2500 years of war zones in quest of a new ending of her story. The play aims to foster empathy, invoke conversation about cultural diplomacy and human rights, and, ultimately, inspire hope. While in residence in Iowa the artistic team will collaborate with students, staff and faculty in the departments of Theater Arts, Dance, Music, the Center for Human Rights, and Hancher on events such as a solo performance by Mr. Azmeh, screenings of “The Music of Strangers” about Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble and “Three Boats,” by Iowa Alum Irina Patkanian with and for diverse university and community audiences. Following the Iowa premiere, Iphigenia at Lesvos will premiere in New York City in 2019, followed by a national and international tour, produced by In Parentheses.

Christine Shea, Assistant Professor, Spanish and Portuguese
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant

Young Spanish-English Bilinguals in Iowa: Bilingual Linguistic Development in Small Towns

This project focuses on the linguistic skills of 4-5 year-old Spanish-speaking children growing up in small towns across Iowa. This population of learners is particularly interesting in terms of language development and language maintenance (i.e., intergenerational transmission) because the Spanish these young Iowans are exposed to is limited to their parents and immediate community members. Thus, it is possible that their speech perception and production abilities in Spanish are different from age-matched peers growing up in contexts with a wider variety of input. To test this, we will also collect data from a control group of agematched children from Mexico. We hypothesize that children exposed to a small number of different speakers will have different linguistic knowledge than children who interact with a large number of different speakers (for example, children growing up in Mexico). We will test this by means of a series of speech perception and production tasks carried out with the child participants. To understand the type of Spanish child participants are exposed to, we will also record their parents and ask them to complete a questionnaire detailing the linguistic experiences of their child. This study will provide a snapshot of Spanish as it is being transmitted from one generation to the next in Latinos communities across our state. Using this study as a baseline, it will be possible to characterize the Spanish that is spoken in Iowa and also identify how input from a limited number of speakers can influence linguistic development in children. This is one of the first studies to propose a controlled examination of the ‘state of Spanish’ in Iowa for young children about to start school and the Spanish that is spoken by their parents.

David Stern, Professor, Philosophy
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant

Project to Upgrade the UI Tractatus Map for Touchscreen Display and Further Development

The UI Tractatus Map, a website created by a Philosophy professor and two Philosophy graduate students in collaboration with UI Library’s Digital Studio, online since November 2016, has made a radical new version of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, one of the great works of analytic philosophy, available to a global audience. Our work to date shows how our online map of Tractatus and Prototractatus (an early version of that book) allows access to Wittgenstein’s thought in a new way. This is because the Map enables the reader to explore the crucial role played by the book’s unique scheme of numbered and nested sections and subsections. First, we propose to substantially upgrade this project’s display technology, so that it can be used on touchscreen devices. This involves redesigning the current browser-based site to develop a touchscreen-enabled version that can be used both on small mobile devices and as a standalone wall-size display in a public exhibition. Second, we will reconfigure the underlying databases, thereby enabling further development of a much more powerful and sophisticated version of the Map. This would involve integrating two separate and incompatible databases, one each for the Prototractatus map and the Tractatus map. Because each map was constructed separately from different sources, their underlying data structures are currently incompatible. In the future, we plan to develop tools that will allow us to dynamically connect, redraw, and rearrange those maps, comprehensively and clearly connecting the finished Tractatus with Prototractatus, its earlier counterpart. Strategic use of color coding will enable us to vividly display how these varied parts are repeatedly rearranged, numbered, renumbered, rewritten, and recombined. Before we can do this, the databases must be recompiled and reformatted so that they are compatible. The result will be a completely new graphic version of Tractatus with far-reaching implications for the interpretation of the text, and much greater visibility for the UI Map. These enhancements will also enable us to apply for external digital humanities development grants.