Social Scientists Top the List of this Year's Fulbright-Hays Fellowship Winners

Christopher Weber
Photo Credit: 
Chris Dunlap

The University of Chicago has once again topped the list of winners for the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad fellowship. These prestigious, highly competitive grants, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, support up to 12 months of travel and research by young scholars. Of the University’s seven winners this year, five come from the Division of Social Sciences.  

Christopher Dunlap of the History Department is preparing to head to Argentina and Brazil in January. There he will use archival research and oral histories to investigate how scientists influenced their countries’ nuclear policies. Most Latin American countries signed a nuclear nonproliferation agreement in 1967.  Argentina and Brazil did not, even though they never pursued atomic weapons. “Their reasons have always been something of a mystery,” Dunlap explains. “My hypothesis is that the scientific community played a major role in the debate.”

In a few weeks, historian Carlos Grenier will depart for Istanbul, Turkey, where he will examine the writings of the Yazicizades, a family of scholars from Gallipoli. Their works of religious and philosophical instruction, written between 1400 and 1465, were popular in the Ottoman Empire and played a large role in shaping conceptions of faith and science that endure to the present. “The fifteenth century in this region,” Grenier explains, “is dramatically under-studied despite its essential role in ushering in modern Sunnism and Shi'ism.”

Already settled in Peru, anthropologist Eric Hirsch is exploring how indigenous culture, once considered a liability, has become an asset for grassroots entrepreneurs. For instance, residents of the Andes' Colca Valley have organized to promote quinoa as a staple for health-conscious Americans and Europeans. Similarly, community members have formed small touring companies and rebuilt pre-Hispanic settlements. Hirsch will complete an ethnography of such identity-based initiatives. “With the help of new kinds of development investment, Colcans are putting their heritage to work to both relieve poverty and enter into the national economy,” says Hirsch. These initiatives “reframe development as a means of restoring the past.”

Two other fellows, Zebulon Dingley of the Anthropology Department and Jose Perez Melendez of History, are deep into their fieldwork. Dingley is in southern Kenya examining kinship networks. Melendez is researching the role colonial companies played in nineteenth-century Brazil.

The ambitious research these students are doing is unique—they are funded to study cultures and regions that are relatively unexplored in the classroom. Mario Small, Dean of the Division of the Social Sciences, acknowledges that much of this research might not be possible without the funding. “The Fulbright-Hays award support the continued efforts of our graduate students to tackle ambitious, challenging projects across the globe.  The continued success of our students is a testament to their dedication to the pursuit of knowledge wherever it takes them,” says Small.


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