Tri Delta Awards 2015-16 National Humanities Center Fellowship
Trident | March 11, 2016

In 1988, to celebrate our centennial anniversary, Tri Delta awarded an endowment to the National Humanities Center, the only major independent institute for advanced study in the humanities in the United States. The endowment would fund two fellowships per year and, in line with our Purpose, help broaden the intellectual lives of its recipients.

In 2015-2016, the fellowship was awarded to Dr. Akinwumi Ogundiran, professor of Africana studies at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and chair of the Department of Africana Studies, and Dr. Thomas Brown, professor of history at the University of South Carolina.

Here’s what they had to share about their research projects.

Dr. Akinwumi Ogundiran:

What are you working on at the National Humanities Center?

I am writing a book on the impact of the first phase of global economy on Yoruba Civilization (West Africa) ca. 1550–1830. Broadly, I am trying to understand what happens to an autonomous society’s principles of social valuation when it becomes part of expanded fields of interactions that are governed by new rules of exchange. I want to understand what happens to the society’s internal constitution, how does it translate the new experience into practices of meaning, and what cultural forms are thereby produced? Efforts have been made to answer aspects of these questions for Early Modern Europe and the Americas but not for Atlantic Africa. I plan to use my Delta Delta Delta fellowship to complete a book manuscript on this topic.

What does this fellowship mean to you as a scholar?

This fellowship gives me the time to focus primarily on this project. It means I have the uninhibited time (away from teaching and other administrative duties) to think, read, analyze my data/sources and write. The opportunity for clinical concentration is allowing me to fulfill my ambition to write what I call a “total history” where the boundaries between many humanistic and social science disciplines are collapsed. The book will place Africa at the center of the global history of the modern world — that is as a co-originator of modernity rather than seeing Africa as a periphery of it. Our commitment to globalization and diversity indeed calls for truly global ways of understanding the past and the present in order to chart better directions for an improved future

Dr. Thomas Brown:

What are you working on at the National Humanities Center?

I am completing a book entitled “The Reconstruction of American Memory: Civic Monuments of the Civil War.” The book examines memorials dedicated across the North and South from the 1860s into the 1930s. These works range in scale and ambition from mass-produced soldier statues to the Lincoln Memorial. I do not focus on the proliferation of monuments in the national battlefield parks established in the 1890s, except insofar as those monuments influenced community initiatives. After an introductory overview of antebellum patterns of commemoration, the chapters of the book look at the emergence of the soldier monument, models of citizenship and leadership in Civil War monuments, visions of victory, and the ways in which a half-century of Civil War remembrance shaped American understandings of World War I.

How and when did you first become interested in your subject matter?

After my family moved to the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., when I was in elementary school, we made trips into town almost every Sunday to explore the many tourism sites. My siblings and I were fascinated with the many statues and other monuments scattered throughout the capital, apart from such grand works as the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, and I fondly recall scurrying across streets to find out what memory each monument was trying to preserve. The project began in earnest shortly after I completed my dissertation, subsequently published as “Dorothea Dix, New England Reformer” (Harvard University Press, 1998). I had walked past Memorial Hall at Harvard many times since my undergraduate days, and it finally occurred to me that the building must have an interesting story behind it. The research spun off a variety of essays and edited books over the years as I expanded my focus. After I began teaching at the University of South Carolina my national study of monuments came into competition with a local study of Civil War memory in my new home, which I eventually finished first and published as “Civil War Canon: Sites of Confederate Memory in South Carolina” (University of North Carolina Press, 2015). I am now delighted to be able to concentrate fully on completing the project that I began so long ago.

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