Orange Alert

A&S Congratulates Syracuse University Humanities Center’s Student and Faculty Fellows

The 2020-21 cohort of fellows explored a diverse scope of humanities research.

May 11, 2021, by Diana Napolitano

Each year, the Syracuse University Humanities Center supports outstanding faculty and graduate student research with a range of highly competitive fellowships. This year, research took on a range of topics, from the legacy of the Fifteenth Ward in the city of Syracuse to the symbolism of a 1940s Hollywood icon to expressions of grief.

What do they all have in common? Shining a new light on contemporary issues or age-old questions surrounding the human experience. Find out more about the fellows and each project.

Faculty Fellows: Spring 2021

Up to four faculty fellowships are awarded each spring (three from the College of Arts and Sciences—with one for research that directly relates to the Humanities Center’s annual Symposium theme—and one from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs).

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Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson, associate professor of philosophy

Humanities Center Fellow

Project: The Politics of Terrorism: Political Violence and the Challenge of Liberalism

After a series of high-profile instances of white supremacist and misogynist violence in the United States, calls to identify such acts as terrorism have surged in national public discourse. Government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security have begun to apply the term “terrorism” to what they describe as a set of new threats posed by homegrown violence. This project examines the arguments of proponents and critics of this recent policy change.

View a video about Professor Erlenbusch-Anderson’s project.

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Azra Hromadžić, associate professor of anthropology

Humanities Center Fellow

Project: “We will not give up Una!” Riverine Citizenship and the City in Love with the River in Bosnia & Herzegovina

In 2015, Bihać, a northwestern Bosnian “City in Love with the River,” witnessed a spirited political protest. Thousands of people got together to object to the city’s decision conceding to a Russian-Bosnian Energy Company to build a dam on the city’s river Una. Armed with love for the river, protesters achieved a significant outcome—pressured by the people, the government reversed its decision to grant the concession-- the only reversal of a city government’s decision in its postwar history.

View a video about Professor Hromadžić’s project.


Will Scheibel, associate professor of English

Humanities Center Fellow

Project: Out of a Misty Dream: Gene Tierney, Female Stardom, and Hollywood’s Homefront

The star of Laura (1944), Leave Her to Heaven (1945), and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Gene Tierney was one of Twentieth Century-Fox’s major contract players. She was also one of the first celebrities in the U.S. to undergo treatment for mental illness publicly. This project argues that her films expose social imaginings of women as passive objects of beauty, and that her star image in the war and immediate postwar U.S. makes an active, dynamic female presence visible.

View a video about Professor Scheibel’s project.

James W. Watts

James W. Watts, professor of religion

Humanities Center “Symposium” Fellow

Project: Imagining the Economics of Jubilee: Utopia Before and After Utopias

Watts’ career-long research on the biblical book of Leviticus now moves to chapter 25, which contains utopian legislation for resetting agriculture, land transactions, and slavery every 50 years, or the “Jubilee” year. Later Jewish and Christian traditions have often used the Jubilee as a symbol of release and freedom. Yet the distinction between native and foreign slaves, freeing the former but not the latter in the Jubilee, has been used to justify racialized chattel slavery. Watts’ explores some of the social effects—both oppressive and liberating—of envisioning economic futures based on a utopian vision of the past.

View a video about Professor Watts’ project.

Humanities Center Dissertation Fellows, 2020-21

Each spring, up to two Humanities Center Dissertation Fellowships are awarded to students completing dissertations in an eligible Ph.D. program in the College (English, Philosophy, Religion, and The Writing Program).

These one-year awards come with a stipend and office space.


Carolyn Garland

Ph.D. Candidate, Philosophy

Dissertation: The Metaphysics of Grief

This project provides a literal understanding of the common expression of grief that in losing a loved one, the bereaved loses part of herself. Call these ‘grief utterances.’ They are commonplace. Yet, few have considered the extent to which a philosopher’s toolbox, well-equipped with notions like parthood and persons, can help examine these utterances.

View a video about Garland’s project.

Alex Hanson

Alex Hanson

Ph.D. Candidate, Composition and Cultural Rhetoric

Dissertation: Not Appropriate for Children: A Look at Composition Practices and Rhetorical Strategies of Single Moms in Academia

Hanson explores how single mothers in higher education across geographic locations, academic ranks, disciplines, and identities build support systems and draw on rhetorical strategies derived from their embodied knowledge to survive and navigate in academia. This dissertation argues that higher education needs to make shifts to better support single mothers, thereby benefitting others who are marginalized due to race, class, gender, and ability.

View a video about Hanson’s project.

Humanities New York Public Humanities Graduate Fellows, 2020-21

A joint initiative between the Humanities Center and the Central New York Humanities Corridor, these year-long fellowships are supported in partnership with Humanities New York. Two are awarded each spring and involve training in public scholarship methods and partnering with a community organization. Applicants must be enrolled as graduate students in a humanities discipline at select New York State institutions.

Dana Olesch

Dana Olesch

Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology

Project: Community Dynamics in Contested Spaces: Documenting the Legacies of the Fifteenth Ward in Syracuse, New York

The destruction of Syracuse’s Fifteenth Ward persists in the living memory of many residents today. This area in the heart of the city housed a variety of multiethnic and multiracial communities throughout the first half of the twentieth century, only to be systematically destroyed by urban renewal projects leading to the construction of Interstate 81 in the 1960s. Olesch intends to create an interactive online platform designed to analyze, disseminate, and preserve the history of the area, and is working with the Southwest Community Center and the Board of Frumah Packard Cemetery.

View a video about Olesch’s project.

Evan Starling-Davis

Evan Starling-Davis

Ph.D. Student, Literacy Education

Project: Hidden Fragments: XR technologies as a critical tool to nullify the phenomenon of spirit-murder

This interdisciplinary project both conceptualizes and explores extended reality (XR) technology at the intersection of Afrosurrealism and other Black Speculative Arts, as a pathway for Black healing, literacy motivation, art engagement, learning, and developing “critical play theory.” Starling-Davis questions why the Arts—and the benefits of art-influenced literacy—are still widely inaccessible to Black and Brown communities in Syracuse. Honoring the art-activism devised from the (re)emergence of the ‘Freedom School’ via The Community Folk Art Center, Starling-Davis embarks on a quest to incite liberatory and alternative learning processes of Black communities, their histories, and their literacies. This Afrosurrealist voyage—through digital and analog curations—aims to create narrative bridges between arts centers, city school district youth, and the local community.

View a video about Starling-Davis’ project.

Located in the Tolley Humanities Building, the Humanities Center cultivates diverse forms of humanities scholarship, sponsors a range of dynamic programming and partnerships, highlights the humanities as a public good, and underscores the relevance of the humanities for addressing enduring questions and pressing social issues.

Media Contact

Diana Napolitano