Mellon Foundation's Prestigious Sawyer Grant Goes to UMass Faculty

Banner from the World Studies Interdisciplinary Project
Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A team of interdisciplinary scholars from the College of Humanities and Arts, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Commonwealth Honors College has received the prestigious John E. Sawyer Seminar Grant for the comparative study of cultures from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their project “Beyond Medieval and Modern: Rethinking Global Paradigms of Political Economy and Culture.” This is the first Mellon Sawyer Seminar grant awarded to the University, and is particularly prized for its generous support of multi-institutional and interdisciplinary faculty collaboration on university campuses.

Awarded $175K, the team, led by Laura Doyle (English) and Mwangi wa Gĩthĩnji (economics) and including Joselyn Almeida Beveridge (English), Annette Damayanti Lienau (comparative literature and Honors College), and Johan Mathews (economics and history), will use the funds to appoint a postdoctoral graduate fellow and award two dissertation writing fellowships as well as to convene a series of seminar meetings on their topic. During academic year 2015-16, the seminar team will host leading scholars from the U.S. and abroad who bring a long-historical, global and postcolonial orientation to their research. Together with local scholars they will investigate the implications of recent world historiography for analytical paradigms in the Social Sciences and Humanities. 

The team was organized under the auspices of the World Studies Interdisciplinary Project (WSIP), a faculty research and reading group co-directed by Doyle, Joye Bowman (history) and wa Gĩthĩnji. In the past two years WSIP has held several events including an inaugural conference in 2012 on “Empires Economy and Cultures Before and after 1500: Implications for Global and Post-Colonial Studies.” More information on WSIP and future updates on the seminar may be found here

The Mellon Foundation's Sawyer Seminars program was established in 1994 to provide support for comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments. The seminars, named in honor of the Foundation's long-serving third president, John E. Sawyer, have brought together faculty, foreign visitors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students from a variety of fields mainly, but not exclusively, in the humanities and social sciences, for intensive study of subjects chosen by the participants. This program aims to engage productive scholars in comparative inquiry that would (in ordinary university circumstances) be difficult to pursue, while at the same time avoiding the institutionalization of such work in new centers, departments, or programs. Sawyer Seminars are, in effect, temporary research centers.