The Humanities Research Center would like to congratulate Professors Winnie Chan, Ryan Smith, Faedah Totah, and Nicole Myers Turner on their selection as Humanities Research Center Residential Fellows for Spring 2019. Each year this program gives four faculty who are working on related issues or topics release from teaching responsibilities for one semester so that they can focus on their individual research projects and at the same time engage regularly with each other. Next year’s fellows describe their group topic, Boundaries, Belonging, and the Spatial Turn in the Humanities, as follows:
The recent spatial turn in the humanities challenges the temporal as the privileged mode of humanistic inquiry. Geolocated data and tools such as Geographic Information Systems have revolutionized scholars’ ability to generate maps, thereby stimulating new interests in landscape, networks, and place-making strategies across disciplines. Our proposed work for the Humanities Research Center Fellowship shares this commitment to employing space as a category of analysis and interrogation. Specifically, we seek to explore belonging and place-making for groups that fall outside the national imagination. As political, social, and economic constraints marginalize different ethnic and racial groups in the nation, we shift the frame of reference to show how such marginalized groups have used spatial practices and geographical imagining to situate themselves in the world and challenge external, time-bound forces.
The spatial scope of our projects spans local, national, and international reaches, from the nineteenth century to the present. Our studies uncover dynamic processes of identity formation in space enacted by Palestinian refugees in the Jewish Quarter of Damascus, by freed people in postbellum Virginia, by migrants from the peripheries of Empire in contemporary Britain, and by preservation activists in Richmond. In so doing, we ask: how have imagined spaces had real effects on social and political cohesion? How have narratives of nationality shaped the landscape? How can attempts to mark space make and unmake social relations, such as race? What are the advantages of using the frameworks of space and place, of maps and location, to locate identity? What are the challenges for disenfranchised groups in creating homes in the nation and for scholars who study their efforts?
This will be the fifth group of faculty to benefit from this program. A call for a sixth round of applications will go out in the late fall.