back to news July 10, 2012

ASC Faculty Group Receives $175,000 Mellon Foundation Grant

Brian Joseph, Distinguished University Professor of Linguistics, and the Kenneth E. Naylor Professor of South Slavic Linguistics, brought together a group of ASC faculty members to compete for—and win—a $175,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to organize a John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures.

The grant will allow participating faculty to organize a year-long series of events to take place in 2013-2014. These will focus on the intersection of language, politics, and human expression in the Balkans and South Asia--two critical geopolitical regions.

Getting the grant was a great coup for the group, which along with Joseph, consists of Theodora Dragostinova, history; Yana Hashamova, Slavic; Pranav Jani, English; Jessie Labov, Slavic; Scott Levi, history; Andrea Sims, Slavic; and Mytheli Sreenivas, history.

“The fact that Ohio State was invited to submit a proposal was itself a really big deal, “Joseph said. “This is not an open submission process. This is the first time that Ohio State has been invited and that invitation is significant. We join a roster of major, serious research universities at the international level.”

Joseph saw this as an opening to push South Asia studies forward as an academic program and to tie it into the India Gateway, which he said is “the only one of Ohio State’s international portals that does not already have a well-established academic program in place.”

Faculty collaborators believe the interplay of language, nationalism, ideology, and religion with literature, film, and other forms of expression in these regions will allow for a compelling, comparative approach to scholarship.

And, the juxtaposition of the Balkans and South Asia will offer academics and policy-makers a transnational perspective on the relationships between culture and politics.

“Ohio State has a long tradition in Balkan Studies,” Joseph said. “It is considered one of the best in the country.

“This Sawyer Seminar will draw on this historically strong program and take advantage of our rising program in South Asian studies. So this will involve a large number of faculty members across several departments and disciplines in these areas.”

The eight-member group involved in Seminar planning spans both regions and a variety of disciplines and departments. They bring a diversity and depth of expertise in cultural studies, film, history, literature, linguistics, and women’s studies.

The grant money will support a variety of opportunities to advance knowledge of comparative studies of these cultures, such as courses, meetings, and seminars; visiting scholars from around the country and the world; and creating positions for two doctoral fellows and a postdoctoral fellow whose research is related to the topic of the seminar and who will participate in seminar activities.

Organizers plan a website of resources and materials. The Sawyer Seminar Program will culminate in a conference in early autumn 2014.

The Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer Seminars serve, in effect, as temporary research centers; supporting comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments; bringing together faculty, foreign visitors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students from a variety of fields for intensive study; engaging productive scholars in comparative inquiry, while avoiding institutionalizing such work in new centers, departments, or programs.

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