Fall 2009 FRAP Awards

The following faculty members received funding awards in fall 2009 through the College’s Faculty Research Award Program (FRAP), which supports the research activities of all regular full- and part-time  tenured and tenure-track Amherst College faculty members. Since 2000, FRAP has been endowed by the H. Axel Schupf ’57 Fund for Intellectual Life.

Small grants are for $6,000 or less.

Professor Suzanne Dougan
Department of Theater and Dance
Title: HIV/AIDS Performances in South Africa 

The goal of Professor Dougan’s project in South Africa will begin with putting in place the framework of a program involving South African artists, universities, and public health professionals.  She will start at the University of Cape Town, where she will be working with members of the theater department on the artistic side of the project.  Later, she will be traveling to Pretoria and Durban, where she has arranged to meet with South African public health professionals engaged in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.  Building on these contacts, Professor Dougan hopes to lay the groundwork for an ongoing performance-and-public health curriculum that would eventually involve the collaboration of Amherst College students and their South African peers.

Professor Jeffrey Ferguson
Departments of Black Studies and American Studies
Title: Race and Rhetoric of Resistance (Lectures in India)

This award supported interterm travel to India to deliver a public lecture and to study nonviolence and affirmative action in preparation for a chapter on questions of violence in an upcoming book on African American resistance tentatively titled “Race and the Rhetoric of Resistance.”  Specifically, it facilitated the closer study of the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian sojourns of Martin Luther King and the African American theologian Howard Thurman.

Professor Sean Redding
Department of History
Title: Deaths in the Family: Violence in Rural South Africa, 1880-1990 

Professor Redding’s FRAP request was to support a project titled Violence in Rural South Africa, 1902-1987. The focus of the project is to understand the connection between overt political violence aimed at the white-controlled state in South Africa and violence within African society during the twentieth century.  Professor Redding’s research suggests that political violence and violence within families are more strongly connected, as both were often attempts to re-establish or reinforce a moral social and political order and as such were more than just reactions to segregationist and apartheid laws. What constituted a moral order, however, changed over the twentieth century, as Christianity became more pervasive and as people reconstructed their notions of “traditional” culture. In January through February 2010 Professor Redding will go to South Africa for four weeks to do archival research in Cape Town and Pretoria (two weeks in each location). The archives for the Cape Province (as it was called until 1994) are located in Cape Town, and she looked at administrative records and court cases concerning faction fights and the establishment of mission schools. Pretoria has the central state archives for the period after 1910, and she studied the records particularly for the Justice Department and the Native Affairs Department. In both archives Professor Redding found materials that related especially to the 1950s and 1960s. Those decades saw an attempt by the apartheid state to create a network of Bantustans (supposedly self-governing African states within the broader boundaries of South Africa) and to channel African political aspirations into these puppet regimes. The new legislation sparked a rolling revolt in the countryside, as rebels threatened chiefs and others who collaborated with the white state with death; at the same time and often as a result of political strife, different social and political factions within rural society clashed, sometimes violently. The state, meanwhile, used mobile police units and security police as blunt instruments to punish rebels and enforce the new political structures. These events all took place against the backdrop of the rapid decolonization of other African states—in some cases with the use of violence—that created its own set of political expectations.

Professor Wako Tawa
Department of Asian Languages & Civilizations
Title: Collecting Data for the Conference on Teaching Category Four Languages 

In preparation for the conference that Professor Tawa will host in the summer of 2011 with the support of the Arthur Davis Foundations, she intends to gather data on issues related to teaching category four languages (i.e., the most difficult foreign languages for native speakers of English) as foreign languages in the United States and in other countries. To date, no work has been done on this topic. The teaching of category four languages evolved much later than that of European languages such as French, Spanish, and German (all category one languages, the easiest languages for the native speakers of English). Much of the method and materials used to teach category four languages still comes from the direct application of teaching category one languages, and more and more scholars are recognizing that this practice is ineffective for teaching category four languages. The main purpose of this conference is to initiate conversations among language specialists of the category four languages. Professor Tawa plans to visit other East Asian countries such as South Korea and China while she is in Kyoto, Japan, from January to April 2010 as an AKP visiting professor. She will go to these countries in late- April and early-May, after her AKP obligations have concluded, and will discuss the issues of teaching category four languages with language specialists. She also intends to visit certain universities while in Japan and discuss the same issues with some language specialists. The results of data collected during this period will be shared at the conference that will take place in the summer of 2011.

Large grants are for more than $6,000 and up to 30,000.

Professor Sandra Burkett
Department of Chemistry
Title: An Efficient, Tailorable, Modular Route to Polymer-Clay Nonocomposites 

Hybrid materials that combine inorganic (mineral) and organic (carbon-based) components at the molecular length scale are appealing because of the potential for combining the unique properties of the different constituents, such as the hardness or magnetic properties of minerals and the flexible or moldable character of polymers (plastics).  In biogenic minerals such as bones, teeth, and shells, integration of organic macromolecules (proteins) at very low concentrations imparts remarkable enhancements in mechanical properties compared to the analogous non-biogenic calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate minerals.  In synthetic materials, a few weight percent of clay can enhance the mechanical strength, thermal stability, and barrier properties of a polymer if the individual, nanometer-thick layers of the clay are well dispersed in the polymer matrix.  Professor Burkett’s research develops a novel route to polymer–clay nanocomposites that uses synthetic zirconium hydrogen phosphate clays as substrates for the controlled growth of “brush” structures with polymer “bristles” of controlled length and packing density.  The resulting nanocomposites are of interest for their unique materials properties and as model systems for elucidating fundamental features of polymer–clay nanocomposite structure and polymer chain dynamics.

Professor Deborah Gewertz
Department of Anthropology
Title: The Noodle Narratives 

Professor Gewertz’s FRAP will enable the completion of a book about the “gastrologies” of instant—ramen—noodles.  These encompass gastro-geographies, who eats what, where; gastro-politics, who gets what food, from whom, under what circumstances, and with what consequences); gastro-identities, who becomes what by virtue of what is eaten, relative to others.  The gastrologies of instant noodles are interesting because instant noodles are ubiquitous—though eaten by differently located people, in different amounts, and for different reasons. They are, thus, a great unifier as well as differentiator.  Moreover, the linkages and disjunctions they effect play out within domains of contemporary concern: scientific food innovation and product development, international food marketing, human nutrition, environment sustainability, and relief feeding.  Instant noodles make a lot happen of sociocultural, economic, political, personal, and global significance.

Professor Jenny Kallick
Department of Music
Title: ARCHITECT: Enhanced CD Project: Music Drama in Three Scenes for Three singers, Nine Instrumentalists, and Electro-acoustics. Music by John Downey Jr., Jenny Kallick, and Lewis Spratlan on a Libretto by Jenny Kallick 

FRAP funding will support the creation of original materials for an enhanced CD release of ARCHITECT, produced by PARMA Recordings and distributed by Naxos. The opera’s re-imagining of architect Louis Kahn began with acoustic and visual materials collected during field research at Kahn buildings and the Roman ruins known to inspire him. The opera’s dramatic scenario embraces a mythic story telling of how ancient Rome might compel an artist’s creative journey.  The enhanced CDs will be available for download worldwide and will include a recording of the opera,  a complete set of performance materials, background on the making of the opera, and an original accompanying video —the primary project of this FRAP. The video unfolds the creative intensity of the opera’s characters by intertwining commissioned watercolors by Michiko Theurer ’11 with photographic and video materials collected during the project’s field work.

Professor Robert Sweeney
Department of Art and the History of Art
Title: Return to Tuscany: Confronting the Muse 

Professor Sweeney will be developing a series of paintings based on re-experiencing landscape sites in Tuscany that he has painted and which have been instrumental in informing his ideas about painting over the last thirty years. This will be his fifth painting campaign to the region since 1977. The literal description of the Tuscan landscape has been the least important aspect of the paintings he has done on site. Rather, the primary value has been the artistic metaphors that he has discovered that have transcended the motif and have driven his work as a painter as a whole.  He will now return to the sites in Tuscany that he realizes have served as his muse for most of his life as a painter. His goal is to continue to pursue uncovering the metaphorical seam that exists between the literal aspects of this landscape and the perceived evocative qualities of light, color, pattern, form, and space that manifests itself in the language of paint. Upon his return from an intense five-week painting campaign, he will spend the next year developing a series of large paintings that will explore the new artistic issues raised and driven by this confrontation with his muse. He can hardly wait to see what happens.