The H. Axel Schupf ’57 Fund for Intellectual Life supports the Senior Sabbatical Fellowship Program, which increases tenured faculty members’ salaries for one semester of leave from 80 to 100 percent. The fellowships are competitive, and they are awarded by the dean of the faculty and the Committee of Six once their recommendations are approved by the president and the trustees. The following are summaries of the 2019–2020 fellowship recipients’ research projects.

Elizabeth Aries, Clarence Francis 1910 Professor in Social Sciences (Psychology)
Research Project:  The Role of Race and Class in the Transition from College Graduation to Age Thirty

Professor Aries conduced a longitudinal study of fifty-eight students, both black and white, affluent and lower-income from the class of 2009 at Amherst College.  She examined the challenges they faced due to their race and class over their four years on campus, and the extent to which they learned from being part of a diverse student body (Aries, 2008; Aries, 2013).  Fifty-six of those students graduated from Amherst College.  Professor Aries re-contacted these graduates twelve years after they matriculated to the college and invited them to take part in a follow-up study.  Participation in the follow-up study involved completing an online survey and a one-and-a-half- to two-hour interview. Forty-three (77 percent) of the potential participants completed both the online survey and the interview, forty-five (80.4 percent) completed the survey only.  The objective of Professor Aries’s sabbatical research is to understand two main aspects of participants’ lives from graduation to age thirty.  First, she will examine the influence of race and class in the reasons why participants chose the jobs or internships they did; in any barriers to success they may have faced in the workplace; in the choice of current work places, neighborhoods, and friendship circles; in graduate school attendance; and in establishing long-term commitments to romantic partners and careers.  Second, Professor Aries seeks to understand the ways in which lower-income students, both black and white, are bridging the world they now live in and the world of families, friends, and home communities.  She will look at whether participants have returned to home communities. She will also examine difficulties participants may face maintaining relationships with family and friends from home; how participants cope with those differences; and whether participants have become bi-cultural, changing themselves to fit in either world.

John-Paul Baird, Professor of Psychology (Neuroscience)
Research Project:  Optogenetic Methods in the Analysis of Feeding Behavior

Professor Baird will use new optogenetic methodology to explore the role of specific brain circuits in the control of feeding behavior.

Robert Benedetto, Professor of Mathematics
Research Project:  Arboreal Galois representations and non-archimedean dynamics

A dynamical system is a quantity or collection of objects that constantly changes its state according to some rule or law.  For example, weather patterns and the atmospheric rules that govern them form a dynamical system; the motion of the planets of our solar system, and the gravitational laws that guide them, form another.  Professor Benedetto studies an abstract kind of dynamical system where the objects belong to a number-theoretic realm known as a non-archimedean field.  Meanwhile, the rule governing how the objects change is given by a polynomial or, more generally, by a rational function.  During the spring 2020 and fall 2020 semesters, he plans to study several open problems in the theory of non-archimedean dynamics.  In addition, he will work on other problems in the related area of
arithmetic dynamics, known as arboreal Galois representations, or Galois actions on dynamical backward orbits.

Ellen Boucher, Associate Professor of History
Research Project:  Be Prepared: Empire, War, and the Risk Imagination in Modern Britain

We live in exceptionally risky times. At least, that is the impression most people receive from the headlines today. Nuclear war. Terrorism. Mass shootings. Rising seas. Natural Disasters. Stories about these and other crises dominate our media on a daily basis.  Although it is debatable whether the twenty-first century is necessarily riskier than earlier eras, the effect of this constant coverage is to personalize risk.  Calculations of risk used to be something that mainly concerned analysts, actuaries, and state officials, but today we have all become risk assessors.  Men, women, and children must make decisions about the potential of various risks to affect their lives.  They devise strategies for containing the damage of potential threats—from stockpiling food to creating a family emergency plan—or they proudly defy the recommended advice of risk experts.  In sometimes unconscious, sometimes visceral ways, visions of risk have shaped our experience of the modern world.   The problem is, we know little about how the modern risk imagination has developed historically, or how that past continues to shape popular politics and cultural mentalities.  Scholars of risk usually take a top-down approach, focusing on economic models or modes of governmentality. Yet this perspective tends to tell the story of risk with the people left out.  Professor Boucher’s project, on the other hand, will take a ground-up approach.  She will explore how ordinary Britons envisioned, and sought to prepare for, the risks of empire, war, and everyday life from the Victorian era through the present.  In this period, she argues, risk and preparedness became critical battlegrounds.  Men and women were not the passive recipients of risk discourse, but instead articulated distinct visions of personal and social responsibility in risk management.  As vigilance and protection emerged as modern ideals and fundamental to British identity, debates about risk served to reimagine the relationship between the self and the state in a period of dramatic social and political change. These debates can inform how we think about—and respond to—the array of risks confronting our societies today.

Sara Brenneis, Associate Professor of Spanish
Research Project:  I Was in Mauthausen: Carlos R. del Risco Relates Exclusively for Arriba his Seven Years of Adventure in Exile:” A Study, Critical Edition, and Translation

Professor Brenneis’s study, critical edition, and English translation of “Yo he estado en Mauthausen” (1946) explores why this foundational work has been overlooked and argues for its inclusion in the canon of concentration-camp literature.  In her objective interpretation of Carlos Rodríguez del Risco’s memoir, she also delves into the collective agony of the Spaniards in the Nazi camp Mauthausen, relations among non-Jewish and Jewish targets of the Nazis, the inner workings of the Nazi camp system from a prisoner’s perspective, and how World War II and the Holocaust are remembered in Spain.  She will contextualize this text utilizing contemporary historical sources, making it more accessible to scholars and lay readers.  Her project will open a new avenue of study of non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust for scholars outside of Spain.

Gregory Call, Peter R. Pouncey Professor of Mathematics
Research Project:  Arithmetic Geometry and Arithmetic Dynamics

Professor Call will study the number theoretic, algebraic, and geometric properties of elliptic curves and K3 surfaces using explicit formulas for canonical heights and canonical local height pairings.  He will investigate recent conjectures about the behavior of the degrees of families of algebraic functions.

Nusrat Chowdhury, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Research Project:  Moving Documents: An Ethnography of the Bangladeshi Passport

The Bangladeshi passport, at once a legal and political artifact and a national fetish, occupies an abject status, globally speaking.  As one of the lowest ranked passports in the world, it is a documentary equivalent of the country itself.  This “abject-object” takes on different potencies as the politics of its acquisition looks very different from the standpoint of rural Bangladeshis seeking one to migrate for work, generations of minorities who are legally “non-citizens” and therefore without passports, or immigrants who are eager to give up their “green” passports for foreign ones.  According to Professor Chowdhury, studying the history and circulation of the Bangladeshi passport, from its early days to its most recent machine-readable form, one can trace a history of the ongoing tensions around national belonging in postcolonial, and increasingly global, South Asia.

Nicola Courtright, William McCall Vickery 1957 Professor of Art and the History of Art
Research Project:  The Paradoxical Queen: Marie de’ Medici and the Art of Authority

Professor Courtright contends that Henry IV of France crafted a place for his consort at his side in the structure of governance in order to lend her authority after his death, despite a fierce, culturally embedded distrust of women in charge during the early modern era.  He visibly elevated Marie de’ Medici as his partner, not only in his public statements and political acts, but also in powerful imagery created for royal residences.  Encompassing first the little-studied and now greatly altered architecture, decoration, and gardens that Henry added to the favorite royal château of Fontainebleau and then the much-studied dowager queen’s Luxembourg Palace, Professor Courtright’s book demonstrates the spatial and conceptual expansion of the king’s concept of powerful union with the queen.  This adamant promotion of the queen suggests greater legitimacy for the widowed Marie’s later patronage, when the hand of the queen in shaping royal imagery becomes discernible, for the art she commissioned originated in a once-validated expression of royal authority. This project calls into question conventional ways of regarding gender and rule that overestimate the extent of singular male authority, and shifts our conception of statecraft at other European courts, perhaps even throughout European history.

Solsiree del Moral, Associate Professor of American Studies and Black Studies
Research Project:  Street Children, Crime, and Punishment in Puerto Rico, 1940-1965

“Street Children, Crime and Punishment” is the first historical study of street children and incarcerated youth in post-World War II Puerto Rico.  Children in jails and correctional schools suffered from overcrowding, lack of sanitation, poor hygiene, insufficient food, prolonged solitary confinement, physical abuse, and sexual violence.  They were imprisoned without due process and housed in underfunded and poorly staffed institutions that lacked basic educational and rehabilitation programs.  While scholars characterize the post-World War II era as a time of economic growth, industrialization, urbanization, and social mobility in Puerto Rico, these national narratives of progress omit the lives of working class and poor children.  Professor del Moral’s manuscript, titled “Street Children, Crime, and Punishment,” corrects the record by examining the lived experiences of the street children and youths (ages eight to eighteen) who were incarcerated in correctional schools, jails, and prisons in a period of rapid modernization. At its core, this project explores the effects of Puerto Rico’s mid-century modernization and the resulting penal system from the perspective of those who bore the brunt of it: street children and incarcerated youth.  The book contributes to the growing literature documenting the rise of carceral states throughout the Americas and, specifically, to the experiences of Latinx children and youth in correctional institutions.

Jeffers Engelhardt, Associate Professor of Music
Research Project:  Sounding Religion | Voicing Estonia

The first part of Professor Engelhardt’s project is to complete his second monograph, titled “Music and Religion,” which was commissioned and is under contract with Oxford University Press in the Theory in Ethnomusicology series.  The second part is to continue ethnographic fieldwork on his next large-scale project, titled “Voicing Estonia.”  Professor Engelhardt will make two or three trips to Estonia over the course of the 2019–2020 academic year (one in connection with a short-term visiting appointment at Tartu University) to attend to the ethnographic parts of his project on voice, race, nation, and citizenship in Estonia that he has been working on for the better part of a decade.  He will complete two journal articles by August 2020 that will eventually become part of a book.

Vanessa Fong, Professor of Anthropology
Research Project:  Childbearing Decisions among China's Single-Child Generation

This project examines how, why, and to what extent young adult Chinese only-children’s preferences for the number of their children change in response to their changing circumstances as they marry and have and raise children.  Professor Fong will conduct longitudinal surveys and interviews among young adults that that she has been following since 1998, when they were middle-school students in Dalian City, Liaoning Province, China.  These individuals will be age thirty-four to thirty-eight in 2020.  This project will compare data collected from the individuals when they are childless newlyweds, and parents of children at age one and four, and of children who are in first grade.  Professor Fong will examine changes in their experiences of work and marriage and in some cases birth of a first child, and how these changes affect their childbearing choices. The young adults in this study were themselves born under a one-child policy, which began in 1978 and continued in cities such as Dalian until 2014, when the Chinese government began allowing all singletons (only-children) in most parts of China, including Dalian, to have up to two children.  Professor Fong will examine how and why couples chose to have one, two, or no children. While they face many of the same conflicts between work and family life that reduce fertility in other countries, interviewees’ choices have been uniquely influenced by their own experiences as part of a singleton generation that grew up with the expectation (reinforced by increasingly unaffordable costs of education, childcare, housing, and healthcare) that even one child costs a lot of time and money to raise, two children are barely affordable, and three or more children would be unaffordable, and that all but the wealthiest mothers, as well as fathers, must work full-time just to afford these costs. This project will contribute to understandings of mechanisms underlying changes in fertility preferences and how these changes affect fertility outcomes, which, it is hoped, can help inform policy and practice in China and worldwide.  It is also hoped that the study will help answer questions about what changes in policies, cultural norms, family dynamics, and demographic patterns might increase or decrease fertility and parents’ tendency to want more or fewer children.

Jonathan Friedman, Professor of Physics
Research Project:  Forbidden Transitions and Clock Transitions in Molecular Nanomagnets

Professor Friedman will carry out experimental and theoretical studies of quantum phenomena in molecular nanomagnets to explore the viability of these systems for use in quantum computation. The research will focus on the study of so-called forbidden transitions between energy levels that can occur when the levels approach each other. Working near an “atomic-clock transition,” a kind of forbidden transition, Professor Friedman and his research group will study how this transition increases the time over which a quantum state can be preserved and, thereby, quantum information retained.  The group will endeavor to understand the mechanisms by which quantum information is lost and explore various techniques for improving the coherence time in these systems.

Frederick Griffiths, Class of 1880 Professor in Greek (Classics)
Research Project:  Libya and Egypt in Apollonius Rhodius’ "Argonautica"

The aim of this project is the revision of a major article (on navigation and cult in the epic) and of a shorter article (on Pindar and Aeschylus in the epic), and preliminary work on a major article on Book Four of the epic as a foundation tale for Greek claims on Libya (Africa) as incorporating the myths and practices of both Greek and Egyptian cult.

Maria Heim, Professor of Religion and Elizabeth W. Bruss Reader
Research Project:  A Treasury of Classical Indian Emotion

Professor Heim will spend spring 2020 finishing “A Treasury of Classical Indian Emotion,” which is a collection of entries on emotion terms in three languages, Sanskrit, Pali, and Prakrit, from ancient and classical India.  It includes passages and discussions about emotions, feelings, sentiments, and other phenomenological states from a huge range of literary and philosophical texts.  It engages current work on the study of emotion and brings insights and experiences from classical India to the discussion.

Hannah Holleman, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Research Project:  Visions and Victories toward Socio-Ecological Change (working title)

This book-length project leads directly from Professor Holleman’s previous work, which was published by Yale University Press under the title Dust Bowls of Empire.  It builds on previous social movements scholarship, and theoretical work regarding possibilities for social change in our era of extreme ecological and social crises.  It is very much inspired by the ongoing efforts of sociologists to “envision real utopias” and imagine “total liberation.”  It asks: Given our understanding of the social drivers of socio-ecological harm, what do real alternatives look like?  Where do we see their development today?  In other words, the project addresses what is perhaps the most significant question of our era for scholars in the environmental social sciences: What can we do to meaningfully address the primary socio-ecological challenges of our era?  The original empirical research is focused on case-studies chosen for their salience for theoretical development and the practical insights they yield.  It involves both historical research and contextualization, interviews with movement participants, documenting the diverse “visions” energizing movement strategies and goals (as presented by participants, in movement documents, artwork, music, performances, etc.), and political economic analysis.  The project starts with outcomes, for example, El Salvador becoming the first country in the world to ban metal mining in 2017, and explains how and why this was possible and what it helps us understand in terms of future possibilities.  Three to five case studies will be included in the final project, as well as discussion of how international examples might inform, and help us contextualize, U.S.-based movements for social and ecological change.

Scott Kaplan, Professor of Computer Science
Research Project:  Efficient Memory Hierarchy Analysis for Real Workloads

Professor Kaplan will explore the range of possible arrangements and tradeoffs in the design of memory hierarchies in computer systems. What configuration of memory devices yields the best performance per dollar, or per watt?  How large should the RAM be, and of what type?  The solid-state storage device? The hard disk?  How sensitive is a computing workload’s performance to this configuration? How are the sizes, performance, and costs of these devices changing over time, and what are the best likely configurations in upcoming years?  How much will the results depend upon the patterns of memory use exhibited by a particular workload?  Professor Kaplan will develop tools and analytic models to answer the questions and project likely trends and opportunities in computing memory hierarchies.

Tanya Leise, Professor of Mathematics
Research Project:  Examining the Circadian Clock in Multiple Species

The circadian clock governs the 24-hour cycles of behavior observed in most organisms on Earth, and is genetically programmed.  While these daily rhythms can be entrained by the day/night cycle of the Earth’s rotation, they can continue indefinitely in the absence of time cues.  To gain insight into the important role of the clock in human health, collaborative studies will be undertaken examining circadian data from multiple species: Drosophila, mice, bears, and humans.

Anna Martini, Professor of Geology and Environmental Studies
Research Project:  Sabbatical expansion on three research fronts

The year-long sabbatical will allow for expansion in all three major areas of Professor Martini’s research. In understanding the processes that change gas compositional and isotopic values in the subsurface, laboratory bench-top experiments will be added to the extensive field work that she has done.  In Ireland, Professor Martini will prepare manuscripts for the projects completed, and develop a course based on the history and climate of western Ireland, proposed for fall 2020.  Finally, along the Connecticut River, she and her colleagues from the University of Massachusetts will continue to address the legacy pollutants that persist in our waterways.

Marisa Parham, Professor of English
Research Project:  Interactive Digital Scholarship Development Project

During this sabbatic leave, Professor Parham will continue to pursue several experiments in digital scholarly publishing.  The first project entails the development of interactive story formats that can meet current standards around citation and content-path retrieval, thus broadening the possibility of digital interactive storytelling as a mode for academic writing.  This leave will also support the early prototyping of augmented/virtual reality interfaces that will allow researchers to engage in interactive explorations of manuscript archives.  For a variety of reasons, manuscript archives cannot be touched by large numbers of people.  At the same time, tactility, coincidence, and serendipity are critical elements of the research and discovery process.  How might we use current digital technologies to bring bodies into contact with fragile materials, while at the same time also enabling new kinds of intellectual engagement?

Jessica Reyes, Professor of Economics
Research Project:  Envisioning Socially Just Lead Policy

A growing body of literature establishes that early life experiences and environments can be important determinants of later life outcomes.  At the same time, there is a clear consensus that in the United States opportunity and environment are unequally distributed—both socioeconomically and racially—in ways that create, perpetuate, and amplify inequalities. Professor Reyes’s scholarship has established and quantified the substantial societal costs of childhood lead exposure.  Over the years, her work has expanded to include public health and public policy engagement in many forms, including designing lead policy for Massachusetts, collaborating with the public health community to effect meaningful change, and formulating ideas about how we can translate research knowledge into equitable policy.  She plans to spend this sabbatical formalizing her thinking around a simple question with a complex answer: what should we do about lead?  With limited resources, it seems both efficient and equitable to start by focusing on public sources of lead in disadvantaged communities, which are often urban communities of color.  Structural environmental inequality means that reframing the focus to communities of disadvantage—to communities rather than individuals, to a public health frame rather than a patient health frame—seems to make sense as sound policy.  Professor Reyes hopes to spend her sabbatical formalizing the case for precisely how lead policy can be a pivotal element in addressing the environmental legacy of structural racism.

Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture
Research Project:  Two Book and Museum-Exhibit Projects: "A History of the Jewish People in 1001 Objects" and "What Remains: The Suitcases of Charles F., Patient at Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane"

The two projects are books that accompany museum exhibitions. The first is an exploration of Jewish life from biblical times to the present through 101 objects of material culture.  Each object is depicted in an image and accompanied by a 1,000-word meditation.  The second, done in collaboration with photographer Jon Crispin, is an investigation into immigration, mental illness, and institutionalization through items left behind by a patient at Willard Asylum in Upstate New York.

Martha Umphrey, Bertrand H. Snell 1894 Professor in American Government
(Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought)
Research Project:  Law and Loss: Mourning and the Legal Imaginary

Loss, fundamentally, is what generates calls for law and justice: when individuals or communities experience a loss of life, health, property, reputation, money, or safety, law is called upon to re-establish order and to compensate those harmed (insofar as it is possible to do so).  At the same time law generates loss: of freedom, property, standing, even sometimes health and life.  The theory behind Professor Umphrey’s proposed work, then, is that because of this fundamental relation between law and loss, the relation of legal subject to law will necessarily be caught up in the dynamics of mourning; that mourning processes demand and depend upon particular ways of framing, reconstructing, and letting go of the past; and therefore that the way law negotiates historical narrativity—telling juridified stories about both losses that have occurred in the past and losses that will have occurred in some future moment’s past—significantly affects law’s legitimacy and authority as it responds to the demands mourners make on and before it.  She will develop two projects: one, an article, on the affective and epistemological dimensions of drone strikes, particularly as they are represented in film and visual culture; and another, potentially a book-length study, exploring criminal trials as sites of mourning and the reconstruction, focusing specifically on the 1999 trial of Aaron McKinney for the murder of Matthew Shepard as a fulcrum to explore both the political and epistemological dimensions of law’s relation to loss.

Amy Wagaman, Associate Professor of Statistics
Research Project:  Improving Communication in Statistics and Data Science

It is an important time to be exploring how to improve teaching communication skills in statistics and data science. Communication skills are listed as fundamental skills in recent curriculum guidelines for these fields, yet statisticians are not necessarily aware of best practices for teaching them.  Professor Wagaman will further her work with collaborators (including one from Amherst’s writing center) about teaching writing in statistics, and educating statistical educators about how to write, refine, and give feedback for these assignments.  This work is based on previous teaching experiences, and an ongoing study assessing writing assignments in her courses.  She also plans to maintain other existing collaborations.