Proposal Development Grants 2020

Two research projects were awarded proposal development funding for work in May and June 2020.

The Ambivalence Project seeks to explore the status of “ambivalence” as an analytic concept, critical method, social diagnostic, skill or capacity, and/or political agenda. The team’s interest in this question is prompted by the increased invocations of ambivalence in feminist, queer, medical, and critical race studies over the past decade. Particularly apparent in the disciplines of psychology, healthcare, media studies, popular cultural studies, and literary studies across historical periods(from the fifteenth century to the present), recourse to a discourse of ambivalence appears to be central to contemporary analyses of affect, memoir, witnessing, racism, sexual pleasure, pornography, mothering, and abortion. Ambivalence—which refuses binary thinking and political polarization—has long been thematized in feminist scholarship.

This project will move across diverse fields of inquiry. The members of the multidisciplinary team are all feminists, but have been trained in diverse fields: literary studies (in different historical periods), psychology, history, African American Studies, and medicine. Team members work from different archives—from texts written in the medieval period to interviews with contemporary subjects with cancer— and use different methods: interviews, surveys, ethnography, close reading, historicism, psychoanalysis, queer theory, anti-racist critique, auto-ethnography, demography, and memoir.

Team members include PI Valerie Traub (Adrienne Rich Distinguished University Professor of English and Women’s Studies); Lisa Harris (Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical School); Sara McClelland (Associate Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies); Ava Purkiss (Assistant Professor of American Culture and Women’s Studies); Cathy Sanok (Professor of English); and Cecilia Morales (Engaged Scholarship Manager, Edward Ginsberg Center of Community Service and Learning).


Nubian Lives, Nubian Heritage: Conducting Reparative Research in Anthropology and Archaeology proposes to develop a better model for conducting anthropological and archaeological research in northern Africa. The team defines a better model as one that centers local communities in decision-making and encourages researchers to relinquish their conventional hierarchical modes of knowledge production in favor of more collaborative work. An equally important goal is to explore how the communities within which and alongside which we work can themselves shape research objectives and communicate their stories and experiences successfully to broader audiences. This is especially important given the recent extraordinary transformation Sudan is undergoing in the wake of its successful peaceful grassroots uprising against the country’s entrenched dictatorship.

Nubians are a part of that change, raising even more complex questions of how belonging, social memory and heritage can be mobilized to construct a more inclusive national imaginary even in unsettled times. The colonial histories of anthropology and archaeology continue in the essentially “extractive” fieldwork methods of these disciplines today. Whether about cultures past or present, research in these fields is oriented around creating knowledge about groups of people, cultural practices, or historical sites mainly to advance researchers’ own academic disciplines. In contrast, the Nubian Lives, Nubian Heritage team will explore how to do what they are tentatively calling “reparative research.” Reparative research aims to center fieldwork on collaborative and community-centered methodologies and dissemination strategies.

Team members include PI Yasmin Moll (Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology); Geoff Emberling (Associate Research Scientist, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology); Amal Hassan Fadlalla (Associate Professor, Departments of Women’s Studies and DAAS); Suzanne Davis (Curator of Conservation, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology); Janet Richards (Professor of Egyptology, Department of Middle East Studies; Curator for Dynastic Egypt, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology); Andrew Shryock (Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology); Howard Tsai (Lecturer, Program in International and Comparative Studies); and Michael Fahy (Lecturer, School of Education).