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Fall 2006 Faculty Research Award Program Awards
The following faculty members received funding awards in fall 2006 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. (Download as a word doc. )
Professor Ute Brandes
Department of German
Research Project: Publication Subvention for Volume II/4 of the New Anna Seghers Edition
Like Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht, Anna Seghers was one of the great figures of German modernism and a leading intellectual voice among émigré and postwar writers. As a leftist writer and German Jew, she went into exile in 1933, first to France, later to Mexico. In 1942 her antifascist novel, The Seventh Cross, was a bestseller in this country; a Hollywood film version directed by Fred Zinnemann starred Spencer Tracy, Hume Cronin, and Jessica Tandy. After the war she was widely read in German-speaking countries as well as internationally. To date her works have been read in more than forty languages. Brandes is currently editing two volumes of Seghers’s short stories from 1950 to1965, part of the twenty-five-volume Werkausgabe, published by Aufbau Verlag in Berlin. This textcritical edition assembles as editors the most important international Seghers scholars. The short stories in volume II,4 were written at the height of the Cold War in East Germany, a period notorious for censorship and self-censorship. Brandes’s editing and critical essays focus on restoring the original features of the texts and their variants, on their reception in East and West Germany, and on the aesthetic and political implications of certain narrative strategies that make Seghers’s works richly original.
Professors Cynthia Damon and Andreola Rossi
Department of Classics
Research Project: “See How I Rip Myself!”: Rome and Its Civil Wars
Civil wars, more than other wars, sear themselves into the memory of societies that suffer them, and each earlier civil war is present in some fashion in a society’s experience of successive conflicts. This is particularly true at Rome, where in a period of 150 years the Romans fought four epochal conflicts against themselves. Retrojections and echoes of these conflicts are to be found from Rome’s foundation to late antiquity and into post-classical receptions of Rome. Taking a broad view, this conference aims to address the cultural significance of civil war at Rome from a variety of perspectives. Why did the Romans subject themselves to civil conflict repeatedly over the long course of their history? How did the experience of civil war and, equally importantly, representations and memories of civil wars shape Romanness? We think these questions can be best addressed at the intersection of literary texts, documentary texts, and material culture. To this end, the conference will bring together historians, literary critics, archaeologists, and art historians to consider Rome’s civil wars. The conference organizers are Professors Damon and Rossi and Professor Brian Breed of UMass Amherst. It will be held November 10–11, 2007.
Professor Heidi Gilpin
Department of German
Research Project: Architectures of Disappearance
Professor Gilpin’s FRAP award will support continuing research for her book, Architectures of Disappearance: Movement in Performance, New Media, and Architecture, which is under contract with the MIT Press. This book draws on material and approaches from philosophy, cultural theory, and European movement performance to explore contexts in which movement is difficult to enact. Her research on the body in performance suggests that people generally feel comfortable representing dynamism, but they feel very uncomfortable enacting dynamism, or generating movement. Her research on recent forms of digital technology and architectural design, which employ tools of animation, motion capture, isomorphic and parametric strategies, as well as notions of emergence and indetermination, force, and dynamics, suggests that they too do not, in the end, enact dynamism. If anything, they seem to enact the disappearance of movement in the final work. Professor Gilpin addresses the work of a number of German, European, and North American choreographers, architects, and new media artists, and proposes a model for the development of a discourse to address the genre of movement performance and its multidisciplinary function in architecture and new media. She will travel to various theaters and architecture and electronic art studios in Germany, Canada, and the United States to gather remaining materials on the work of the artists, architects, choreographers, and performers discussed in the book.
Professor Martha Sandweiss
Department of American Studies
Research Project: Passing Strange: The Secret Life of Clarence King
Professor Sandweiss will use her grant to complete the archival research and help support the indexing for her forthcoming book, Passing Strange: The Secret Life of Clarence King. The book explores the double life of a prominent, white, nineteenth-century American scientist and writer who adopted a false identity to pursue a secret life with his black wife and their children.
Department of Fine Arts
Research Project: The Spanish Monster
Information to come
Professor Lucía Suárez
Department of Spanish
Research Project: Post Bridges: The Global Condition of Cubans Today
The co-edited (Ruth Behar and Lucía Suárez) collection, Post-Bridges: The Global Condition of Cubans Today, is a collection of essays, short stories, and art by prominent Cuban writers, scholars, and artists presently living in different diasporas around the world. Despite a huge literature obsessed with Cubanness as an essential state of being, little has been written about the increasingly dispersed nature of everyday Cuban reality. It is urgently necessary to redefine the range of Cuban experiences that have emerged from the diverse, often quiet, journeys and resettlements of Cubans internationally. In the last ten years Cubans have found their way to a wider range of cities all over the world. While Miami remains the classical Cuban hub, it is no longer the primary destination in the United States for the newest wave of Cuban immigrant writers and intellectuals. Back on the island, the weight of all these far-flung diasporas has made those who stay behind in Cuba feel as if they too have become unhinged. Under these circumstances, what does it mean to be Cuban today? Post-Bridges: The Global Condition of Cubans Today, written in the most unflinching of first-person voices, offers a chorus of responses.
LARGE GRANT AWARDS
Large grants are for more than $6,000 and up to 30,000.
Professor John-Paul Baird
Department of Psychology
Research Project: Nutrient Coding in the Caudal Brainstem
Obesity is a rising problem in our society. Any understanding of the neural underpinnings of food intake control requires a detailed characterization of the brain areas that monitor and control food intake and digestion. We lack knowledge of many aspects of these brain functions. For example, it is not completely known which areas of the brain are stimulated when nutrients are present in the gastrointestinal system, and, moreover, whether or how these brain responses vary by the types of nutrients ingested. Professor Baird’s study will complete an ongoing multi-phase project that uses functional neuroanatomical techniques to detail the responses of brainstem neurons after gastrointestinal infusions of foods of varied caloric and nutrient composition. The results should help to clarify how and where neural information related to satiety and the cessation of feeding is processed in the brain, and they could potentially inform ongoing research targeted to the treatment of obesity and other eating and metabolic disorders.
Professor Ethan Clotfelter
Department of Biology
Research Project: Behavioral and Neuroendocrine Consequences of Phytoestrogen Exposure
Plants produce compounds called phytoestrogens, so named because they are structurally similar to animal estrogens and exert estrogenic effects in animals by binding to estrogen receptors. Most phytoestrogen research has focused on their putative health benefits for humans, with relatively little attention paid to their role as environmental contaminants. Phytoestrogens are released from wood pulp mills, agricultural fields, and sewage treatment plants at levels that can adversely affect aquatic vertebrate populations. The specific aims of this project are (i) to further characterize the effects of environmentally-relevant concentrations of genistein, equol and β-sitosterol on aggressive and courtship behavior in a fish model system and (ii) to determine whether these behavioral effects are mediated by agonistic binding of estrogen receptors in peripheral tissues, such as the gonads, or in the brain. To do this, my students and I will measure relative gonad size, three indices of sperm quality, circulating levels of three sex steroids (11-ketotestosterone, testosterone, and 17β-estradiol), and rates of production and metabolism of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. This study will be among the first to integrate both proximate and ultimate approaches to studying the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals in a single species.
Professors Javier Corrales, Department of Political Science, and Steven Rivkin, Department of Economics and Daniel Altschuler ’04 (Oxford University).
Research Project: Does Parental Participation in Schools Make Parents More Civic? A Multi-year Study of Community-Managed Schools in Honduras and Guatemala
This study seeks to understand the impact of parental participation in community-managed schools in Honduras and Guatemala. Community-managed schools are public schools administered by local parents, rather than state-appointed officials. They constitute one of the most innovative experiments in public education worldwide. In Honduras and Guatemala, they were even more innovative because they were established in the most remote and poorest rural communities. Our project will be the first-ever scientific survey of parents involved in community-managed schools. Specifically, we will address the following questions: To what extent can community-based solutions address the paucity of educational institutions and opportunities for resource-scarce communities? Do newly involved parents become leaders in other spheres and organizations of civil society? What impact does parental participation have on student learning? What relationship exists between effective school management—as measured by student achievement—and the intensity and breadth of parental participation in other aspects of public life? How does one create two-way accountability, i.e., a simultaneous rise of parents exercising oversight of state services and state officials exercising oversight and support of parental participation? We will work with a local team of researchers, conduct field interviews, gather and analyze quantitative and qualitative data, and disseminate our findings. The Ford Foundation and the Tinker Foundation will provide additional funding.
Professor Manuame Mukasa
Department of Theater and Dance
Research Project: Dreamscape
Inspired by the tragic shooting of a young African American woman by the police, this groundbreaking hip-hop theater production uses acting, dance, DJing, and verse to depict a young woman’s struggle to find meaning in life under the shadow of death. Professor Mukasa will direct the production.
Professor Dominic Poccia
Department of Biology
Research Project: Tyrosine Kinase Regulation of Initiation of Nuclear Envelope Formation
Our work will focus on investigating the role of an enzyme which regulates how membranes fuse together to form a nuclear envelope. We have found that this enzyme (tyrosine kinase) adds phosphates to a second enzyme (phospholipase C) to activate it. This leads the second enzyme to produce a membrane lipid which makes membranes more easily fuse by disrupting their local structure. We hope to elucidate the complete signaling pathway which leads to formation of a functional nuclear envelope which encloses the chromosomes in cells and whose malfunction has been related to a diverse set of diseases including some forms of cancer, muscular dystrophies and premature aging. The grant supports a continuing collaboration with the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute.