Orange Alert

Humanities Center Showcases and Supports Graduate Student Research

Grants and fellowships support work in: archiving Black literature; sharing stories through photographs; linguistic injustice; and borders in contemporary Indigenous and Latinx literatures.

Jan. 29, 2024, by Caroline K. Reff

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Tolley Humanities Building, right, home to the Syracuse University Humanities Center.

The Syracuse University Humanities Center, in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), offers key grants and fellowships to graduate students that allow them to advance their projects and share their ideas beyond the walls of the University. Two such opportunities include Humanities New York Public Humanities Grants and Humanities Center Dissertation Fellowships.

“Advancing graduate student research is so important. As the work of this year’s dissertation fellows and public humanities grantees amply illustrates, graduate students are pushing the boundaries of their fields and advancing the humanities in new ways for the 21st century,” says Vivian May, director of the Humanities Center. “Their projects explore how we think about transnational and cross-cultural solidarity movements to address legacies of settler colonialism; how we experience and navigate linguistic interactions; how we think about visual, photographic and historical archives — and address absences within them; and how we can use photography and literature to foster a positive transformation in ourselves and wider communities. We invite the broader community to join us for conversation and engagement with these cutting-edge scholars this spring.”

Humanities Center Dissertation Fellowship Recipients

The Humanities Center Dissertation Fellowships are competitive one-year awards in the form of stipends that allow the awardees, who are in their final year of their doctoral programs, to focus on completing their dissertations and immersing fully in their research without the demands of teaching. To be eligible, students must be completing dissertations in Ph.D. programs at A&S in English, philosophy, religion or in the Writing Program. (Deadline to apply for the next fellowship cycle is Feb. 9, 2024.) Selected fellows benefit from a support system within the Humanities Center, camaraderie with one another and the opportunity to present their work to an interdisciplinary audience.

The Humanities Center will hold a virtual Meet the Scholars Coffee Hour, where this year's cohort will engage in dialogue and Q&A about their respective projects on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at 10:30 a.m. To register, visit the Humanities Center web page.


Çağla Çimendereli

Ph.D. candidate, philosophy

Çağla Çimendereli’s dissertation, An Agency-Centered Approach to Linguistic Injustice [video], identifies a new aspect by adopting an existentialist approach to spoken language, shifting the focus from the goals of speaking to the act of speaking itself. As a native of Turkey, when she came to the U.S. for her Ph.D., she started noticing that occasionally using a foreign language for basic communication and academic discussion was quite different from existing in a foreign language while trying to be a free and authentic person. After discussing her experience with other nonnative speakers at the University, she realized there was a common lack of understanding of the phenomenon. Çimendereli noted that speaking a foreign language was often considered a privilege or additional power, and that linguistic norms and practices help determine what language is spoken, often oppressing nonnative speakers in ways that have been ignored. Her experiences led her to question how these two simultaneous modes in nonnative speaking can be reconciled, which became the focus of her dissertation.

“It seems clear to me that there are many people who experience agency-restrictiveness of nonnative speaking, but the traditional frameworks for understanding language speaking do not allow for open discussion,” says Çimendereli. “Exposing the structural/systemic aspects of these experiences helps those affected better understand that if they are feeling powerless and inauthentic, there are reasons, and that is not simply their own failure. I’m hoping to initiate a new way of discussing linguistic agency in philosophy, which I believe will better guide the linguistics justice debates in political theory, sociolinguistics and language education.”


Florencia Lauria

Ph.D. candidate, English

Florencia Lauria’s dissertation, Turbulent Landscapes: Reading the Borders of Contemporary Latinx and Indigenous Literatures [video], puts Indigenous and Latinx studies in dialogue by examining border narratives in contemporary novels and films. Her research looks at reading borders as sites of profound tension for Latinx migration and Indigenous sovereignty and addresses materials that range from novels and fantasy and science fiction to historical archives and climatology reports. The project examines settler colonial histories and environmental injustices in the Americas from Argentina to Canada. Her dissertation aims to refocus the conversations about Latinx and Indigenous contemporary literatures around borders that are not places for comradery and healing but instead unresolvable “unfriendliness” between contested positions. She poses what kind of shared political future is possible for migrant and Indigenous subjects given the turbulent landscapes in which they meet.

“Literature can highlight important inter- and intragroup relations, establishing common ground between different justice movements and providing avenues of collective resistance against colonial racial capitalist structures,” she says. “In some cases, it can also elude important differences between justice projects, such as land back campaigns or anti-deportation campaigns. My project is interested in challenging easy connection, which I argue do disservice to these relations in the long run. My hope is that by highlighting difference and non-equivalence, my work will contribute to more profound solidarities between justice projects.”

Humanities New York Public Humanities Grants Awardees

A joint initiative between the Humanities Center and the Central New York Humanities Corridor, these competitive grants are awarded by Humanities New York (HNY) to support publicly-engaged humanities projects that foster meaningful public partnerships and strengthen the role of the humanities across New York State communities. Recipients of the Humanities New York Public Humanities grants also have the chance to take part in various networking events and workshops designed to develop greater skillsets and expertise. (Deadline to apply for the next HNY grant cycle is March 31, 2024.)

The Humanities Center will host a virtual Meet the Scholars Coffee Hour, where this year's cohort will engage in dialogue and Q&A about their respective projects on Wednesday, April 10, 2024, at 10 a.m. To register, visit the Humanities Center web page.


Chelsea Bouldin

University Fellow, Ph.D. candidate, School of Education

Chelsea Bouldin, who was recently awarded an Imagining America (IA) Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) fellowship, was selected for a Humanities New York grant for her work, So be it; See to it: An Archiving Project. Bouldin’s interest in this topic comes from her understanding that elitist, exclusionary institutions often house the archives of public figures whose insights offer potential frameworks for a fuller understanding of people’s histories, present and future — something particularly true for marginalized communities with less access to these institutions and whose histories have been disproportionately subject to being erased from mainstream education. With this understanding, Bouldin has combined her work in archival research on Octavia E. Butler, one of the first African American female science fiction writers, with her commitment to public-oriented scholarship to explore how she could extend her project beyond academia to include public influence. Curating Butler’s work to form a Black women-centered community-based project in Syracuse, Bouldin aims to showcase how their respective histories in particular offer transformative tools to engage the present for those who have limited “windows and mirrors” to see themselves through literature.

“It is my deep hope that this project will impact my area of research by widening our consideration of archives as sites of epistemic resources and as a model of expansively ‘doing’ scholarship,” Bouldin explains. “I also hope this exemplifies the ways that singular academic projects can be creatively shared in a multiplicity of iterations across difference. This project verbalizes imagination, which is critical to my area of research.”


Caroline Charles

Ph.D. student, English/film and screen studies

Another Humanities New York grant was awarded to Caroline Charles for her project, Family Pictures Syracuse/Turning the Lens Collective. Charles’ inspiration comes from research done for her dissertation, Practices of Black Visual Archive in Film, which examines how Black filmmakers utilize archival materials inside their work, as well as from her work co-curating an archival exhibition, A Love Supreme: Black Cultural Expression and Political Activism of the 1960s and 1970s, inside Syracuse University Libraries Special Collections Research Center. As part of her dissertation research, she encountered the work of Thomas Allen Harris and his own community engagement project, which encourages local communities to share stories through their family photographs. This motivated her to collaborate with The Family Pictures Institute, as well as students and staff at Syracuse University, to create a Syracuse community-based project around family photographs. A native of Syracuse, Charles hopes her work might inspire others to do a dissertation project, thesis or other form of scholarly research that involves the greater Syracuse community.

“The photographs we take, display in our homes or keep in family albums are sites for public memory — windows into stories that too often go unseen and underwritten,” she explains. “My hope is that this project will allow participants to see the value in their own photo archives, and that will inspire the community to narrate the stories behind their photographs to ensure that our histories are not lost or overlooked. Finally, I hope that the project will be an opportunity to connect the community to our local archives and learn more about the services and resources they provide.”

Media Contact

Caroline K. Reff