Histories of Darkness and Light, 2015-16
There are many associations with darkness and light in all cultures, yet their historic origins, implications, and evolution are less well known. The association of darkness with racial and ethnic prejudice is perhaps the most obvious, but its negative connotations are equally prominent in religion (the darkness of the universe before God created light in Genesis; the darkness of Hell; the witches’ Sabbath); astronomy (black holes); psychology (fear of the night, seasonal affective disorder; the dark side of personalities); anthropology (the use of black in funeral rituals); and medical science (the loss of consciousness and death). Conversely, light has often served both as a metaphor for virtue, success (“light years ahead”), and historical progress (“the Enlightenment”), and as a catalyst for social and cultural transformation (electrification). The Institute for Historical Studies’ theme for 2015-16 seeks to track the histories of darkness and light across time and cultures. The institute welcomes applicants from all fields of history as well as historically-minded scholars whose work can reveal the worlds imagined, created, or destroyed by the histories of darkness and light.
We invite applications for resident fellows at all ranks.
Capital and Commodities, 2014-15
For the Institute’s 2014–15 program, we invite proposals for research into the history of capital and commodities. The co-development of financial and ecological crises, the global proliferation of mass consumerism, and ongoing social and military conflicts over access to natural resources suggest the critical importance of historicizing the study of capital and commodities. Indeed, over the last several decades, historians have compiled an impressive body of work on the history of commodities and their production, circulation, uses, and cultural significance. Research into commodity chains has forced historians to consider questions of social identity formation and has invigorated analysis of systems of communication and representation. Historical studies have also revealed the impact of commodity production and consumption on natural landscapes and sociopolitical formations. Recent globalized economic crises have further helped focus scholarly attention on how commodity exchange and capital creation involve the conjunctural dimensions of history: credit booms and debt crises, cycles of inflation and deflation, economic growth (and its intellectual constructions) and limits to growth. In this vein, the Institute encourages analytical approaches that underscore the sociocultural, political, environmental and intellectual underpinnings of the history of capital and commodities. We especially welcome proposals that encompass broad timespans (including the medieval and early modern periods) and that reach across geographic areas and disciplinary boundaries.
Trauma and Social Transformation, 2013-14
Catastrophes-- whether war, genocide, mass rape, enforced disappearances, or environmental disasters --inevitably leave their mark on the social fabric. Civic trauma is an unavoidable, and yet little-explored, element and consequence of such tragedies. For the Institute's 2013-14 theme, we seek proposals that analyze trauma as a transformative historical experience for individuals, families, communities, and nations. Projects may include but are not limited to the suppression of trauma and processes of individual healing and collective transformation; the cumulative toll and intergenerational nature of trauma; trauma as a catalyst for geographic displacement, social reform, and political mobilization; varied cultural and historical understandings and representations of trauma; the fetishization and commercialization of trauma; and the methodological challenges of integrating trauma into historical analysis. Drawing from the fields of human rights, psychoanalysis, memory studies, sociology, anthropology, the cognitive and neurosciences, and semiotics, applicants are encouraged to employ interdisciplinary approaches to the historical study of trauma. From the testimonial to the theoretical, the medieval to the modern, and from the secular to the religious, we invite papers from across periods, sites, and historiographical traditions that foreground trauma as a frame for historical analysis.
Rethinking Diplomacy, 2012-13
For the 2012-13 theme, the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas Austin envisions a fundamental and substantive re-thinking of scholarly approaches to diplomacy as a worldwide, multi-disciplinary, historical practice.
Applicants should state unambiguously how they take a new and creative position vis a vis the individuals, communities, and states that have frequently defined the historical study of diplomacy.
We are particularly interested in exploring the meaning and practice of diplomacy in pre-modern times and non-Western societies and in a wide range of questions. How have different societies defined diplomacy? What were the underlining concepts of diplomatic engagement? In what ways was the practice of diplomacy gendered? What was the process by which one became a diplomat? Was statecraft clearly distinguished from actual diplomatic dealing or were the two synonymous? How have individuals and organizations conceived and practiced diplomacy in non-conventional sites and spaces?
This IHS project is part of a broader cross-campus initiative on "Rethinking Diplomacy" that also includes the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, the Department of Government, the Center for European Studies, and British Studies. Together, the IHS and the campus-wide initiative aims to interrogate, stretch, and ultimately re-shape the ways the relations between societies and their representatives are conceptualized.
Power and Place, 2010-2012
We find history in unexpected as well as expected places: Auschwitz, the White House, Machu Picchu, Maya Lin’s Vietnam memorial, lunch counters, slave ships, mosques, battlefields, department stores, laboratories, and rainforests. Each of these has meaning as a place that, in ways both instant and profound, evokes historical developments of the greatest importance. In exploring the relationships between “power and place,” we aim to map how places shaped the ways power has been exerted as well as to trace how power has shaped and transformed particular places.
In an era of accelerating globalization, both power and place remain central to the work of historians, and we seek to understand them as broadly defined and imagined concepts. Specific relationships of power, however broad, have been mapped, asserted, negotiated and contested in, through, and around particular places. Place can take many forms (nation-state, cities, institutions, architectural forms, or environments to name but a few), and provide spaces of exploitation, liberation, and conflict, sometimes simultaneously. Nations, institutions, communities, and peoples have confronted, been defined by, or instigated struggles over power, place, and, even placeless-ness. For the Institute's 2010-2012 theme, Power and Place, we seek proposals that analyze the complex interplay between power, place and history.
Global Borders, 2008-2010
From the dawn of history, we humans have defined ourselves with borders and boundaries: markers in space, time, identity, aspiration, imagination, and as many other realms as our hopes and fears have conjured or devised. We are who we are because of the lines we draw; and we always have been.
Drawing inspiration from Texas’s location along America’s southern edge, we seek to understand how borders that are intended to separate peoples, places, and categories also function as sites of crossing and mixing. Many other communities are shaped both by the borders that define them and by border crossings that sometimes pass through and that sometimes sink deep roots. Borders are often places of contested ownership but they can also nurture the interaction and mixing of disparate cultures and peoples. They can serve as potent reminders of how much the human race holds in common and that much about this world cannot be delimited by lines drawn on maps. We are interested in global border dynamics, whether of the Pacific world, Old and New Europe, North and South, or settler and indigenous communities in Africa, to name but a few.
We also seek to understand borders as conceptual, ideological, and often porous divides that maintain systems of difference and inequality. Borders frame social and cultural spaces where different intellectual concepts, artistic styles, aesthetic movements, academic disciplines, or mass media genres encounter one another and negotiate their differences. Broadly imagined borders are functions of environments, religion, mobility, markets, citizenship, and warfare. Crossing borders can illuminate the construction of nations, communities, and intellectual categories and suggest how differing histories might be conceived.