Proposal Development Grants 2021

Six research projects were awarded proposal development funding for work in May and June 2021.

Centering the Northern Frontier: Integrating Histories and Archaeologies of the Mongol Empire will integrate historical and archaeological scholarship through the concept of knowledge democracy as the team pursues a common interest in the Mongol Empire (c. 1162-1367), an era that is vast in geographical range and historical scope. The team focuses on the relatively unknown northern frontiers, by identifying the people, places, and practices that existed along the margins. The Mongol empire expanded rapidly from its center in modern-day Mongolia. While archaeological research has emphasized the excavation of the Mongol capital of Karakorum, as well as other centrally located cities and cemeteries, the archaeological map of the northern frontier has lacunae where patterns of human habitation, landscape use, and population are scarcely understood. Histories indicate that the heart of the empire relied on trade networks, it remains uncertain how peripheral groups took part in these networks.

Team members include PI Alicia Ventresca Miller (Assistant Professor/Assistant Curator, Department of Anthropology/Museum of Anthropological Archaeology); Christian de Pee (Associate Professor, Department of History); Bryan K. Miller (Lecturer, History of Art); Sangseraima Ujeed (Assistant Professor, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures); Pär Cassel (Associate Professor, Department of History); and Miranda Brown (Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Professor of Chinese Studies, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures).

Detroit River Story Lab is a transdisciplinary research and outreach initiative that leverages the sociocultural, historical, and ecological centrality of the Detroit River as a site for transformative public-engaged scholarship and teaching. Working from the premise that robust, place-based narrative infrastructure is vital to sustaining social and environmental justice efforts at the community level, the Lab cultivates local partnerships to co-produce and elevate historically nuanced and contextually aware stories that center the Detroit River in the lives and struggles of its adjacent communities. Inspired by the 1619 Project and its impact on national conversations, the Detroit River Story Lab uses an experimental approach centered on a situated, transdisciplinary attentiveness to place. The Detroit River occupies an originary vantage point for the project geographically analogous to the historical milestone of the White Lion’s landing in Jamestown: it is a hydrological feature which, despite long periods of neglect, remains a shaping force behind the history and culture of the region and a rich symbolic reservoir for the human communities that adjoin it.

Team members include PI David Porter (Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Department of English); María Arquero de Alarcón (Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning, Taubman College); Angela Dillard (Richard A. Meisler Collegiate Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies, DAAS, and in the Residential College); Melissa Duhaime (Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, EEB); and Rebecca Hardin (Associate Professor of Natural Resources, School for Environment and Sustainability).

Environmental Activism and Minoritized Languages on Social Media investigates how environmental activism and marginalized languages intersect in three distinct geographic sites – Cabo Verde islands, Nigeria, and Japan. In each site, populations are responding to the legacies of colonization and the impending risks caused by climate change. These coastal areas offer productive and provocative bases for comparative linguistic and sociocultural analyses. Specifically, the team asks the following research questions: How are environmental activists who belong to minoritized populations – those long silenced or rendered invisible – navigating the current climate crisis? How are these vulnerable communities using social media to amplify their voices in the environmental activism they are leading? By asking these questions, the team examines how speakers of marginalized languages are finding new footing to gain visibility and legitimacy. Among other practices, the team will consider the powerful role of memes in helping these environmental activists regain control of their land and natural resources.

Team members include PI Marlyse Baptista (Professor, Linguistics Department and Department of Afroamerican and African Studies); Omolade Adunbi  (Associate Professor, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies); Allison Alexy (Assistant Professor, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures & Department of Women’s and Gender Studies); Kenneth Mills (J. Frederick Hoffman Professor of History, Department of History); and Jennifer Nason (Linguistics and Economics Librarian; Collection Coordinator, Social Sciences and Undergraduate Library).

Making and Remaking the Northern Racial Landscape: the History of Segregation and Inequality in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor is a community-engaged collaborative research project on the history of racial segregation and African American community building in Washtenaw County, Michigan during the 20th century. Specifically, the team will study the histories of two small but distinct cities, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, across two historical eras. In many ways, the two cities are quite different. As the seat of the state’s flagship university, Ann Arbor is a college town with an economy rooted in education, healthcare and knowledge production. Ypsilanti, although the home of Eastern Michigan University, is an industrial suburb that more recently has undergone the aftereffects of deindustrialization and population decline. Even though Ann Arbor is the larger of the two cities, with a population two-to-three times the size of Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti’s black community has been and continues to be roughly double that of Ann Arbor. Still, similar policies and practices shaped the racial organization of the two cities over the course of the 20th century. This project considers the role of policymaking, public discourse and community organizing in the persistence of residential segregation and racially disparities in economic status, education, housing, and health in these two communities.

Team members include PI Matthew Countryman, (Associate Professor, Afroamerican & African Studies and History); Jennifer Jones (Assistant Professor, History and Women’s & Gender Studies); Michael Steinberg (Professor of Practice, Law School); Stephen Ward (Associate Professor, Afroamerican & African Studies and the Residential College); and Claire Zimmerman (Associate Professor, History of Art / Architecture Program).

Re-Connect/Re-Collect: Reparative Connections and Collections at the University of Michigan will develop alternative ways to represent and provide access to Philippine cultural heritage materials held by the Bentley Historical Library, the Special Collections Research Center in the University Library, and the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology. Recent work has raised the necessity of enacting reparative, decolonial approaches to the management, representation, and access of Indigenous collections, which are often owned or stored by cultural organizations like universities, museums, and archives. We have seen significant progress in centering Indigenous knowledge frameworks for North American Tribal collections, yet similar approaches are still missing for non-North American collections taken from former US colonial territories like the Philippines that are not covered by legal regimes. Decolonizing efforts must be continually examined collaboratively through critical analysis and dialogue involving scholars and communities. Scholars have recently promoted the “ethics of care” to redefine cultural work. Thus, reconceptualizing cultural heritage work from the perspectives of relationships—building where bonds do not exist or repairing when trust has been broken—has become a significant theme in archives and museum scholarship.

Team members include PI Ricardo L. Punzalan (Associate Professor, School of Information); Nancy Bartlett (Associate Director, Bentley Historical Library); Martha O’Hara Conway (Director, University of Michigan Library Special Collections Research Center); Kerstin Barndt (Associate Professor, LSA German Languages and Literature and Director, Museum Studies Program); Deirdre de la Cruz (Associate Professor, LSA Asian Languages and Cultures and Department of History; and Director, Anthropology & History Program).

Image: Maia Cruz Palileo. Amigo by Day. 2019. Oil on canvas 48 in. x 62 in.
Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago

Singing Justice: Recovering the African American Voice in Song confronts the crisis of racial injustice and its erasure of Black creativity by engaging Black song across the full breadth of U.S. history from the colonial era to the present, recovering voices that have been silenced while amplifying those of Black performers, poets, and composers in search of a deeper understanding of the Black experience. Because it puts emotion into conversation with the semantics of poetry and prose, song in its full range of styles and forms offers a powerful window into the ideas and passions of the historical and cultural past. It has been described as reading history through the “eyes of our poets and ears of our composers.” The team defines song broadly as words with music. This includes both classic song with poetry set to music by a composer, arias performed on the opera stage, popular music released on 45 rpm singles, parodies created by amateur lyricists, and folk song resulting from decades of improvisational community engagement.

Team members include PI Mark Clague (Associate Professor, Musicology, American Culture, DAAS; Naomi André (Professor, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, Residential College Arts, and Women’s and Gender Studies); Stephen Berrey (Associate Professor, Department of American Culture, Department of History); Caroline Helton (Associate Professor, Department of Musical Theatre); Louise Toppin (Professor, Department of Voice); and Thomas Hampson (Distinguished Visiting Artist, Department of Voice).