Three Arts and Letters faculty offered NEH fellowships

by Carrie Gates

Darren Dochuk

Three Notre Dame faculty members—Associate Professors Darren Dochuk, Karen Graubart, and Sean Kelsey — were offered fellowships last week from the National Endowment for the Humanities, continuing the University’s record success winning support for humanities research.

Faculty in Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters have won a total of 61 NEH fellowships since 1999 — more than any other private university in the country.

“Notre Dame’s remarkable success in earning NEH fellowships is the result of the outstanding quality of our faculty across a range of disciplines,” said John McGreevy, I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, “as well as an excellent support structure in the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts.”

Historian Darren Dochuk—who also received an NEH Public Scholar award—will spend the 2017–18 academic year completing his book project, Anointed With Oil: God and Black Gold in America’s Century, which explores the connections between religion and the U.S. oil industry.

Dochuk’s winning project was inspired by research he conducted in Texas and Oklahoma for his first book, From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism (Norton, 2011), which won prizes from the Society of American Historians, the American Historical Association, and the Organization of American Historians.

“It struck me that there might be something to say about how the oil patch has its own religious culture and by extension its own political culture,” Dochuk said. “Lots of oil men and women with wealth and power based on oil have shaped local religious institutions. The combination of that convinced me that there was a story to be told about the marriage of oil and religion in American life.”

Karen Graubart

Karen Graubart, also in the Department of History, will use her fellowship to finish her book, tentatively titled Republics of Difference: Religious and Racial Self-Governance in the Iberian Atlantic, 1400–1650.

The project examines how legal jurisdiction shaped the formation of ethnic and racial classification across the Iberian empire.

Graubart seeks to understand how two cities—Seville, Spain, in the 15th century and Lima, Peru, in the 16th–17th—dealt with populations whose differences in religion and race were often expressed through mechanisms of self-governance and dedicated neighborhoods. She is particularly interested in when individuals did or did not work through the institutions delimited for them.

“I am thrilled to have a year free of other obligations to complete writing my new book,” Graubart said. “I have spent a decade now compiling the sources and doing the historical analysis, and this fellowship year will allow me to bring the project to completion.”

Sean Kelsey

For his project, philosopher Sean Kelsey is exploring Artistotle’s concept of “soul”—what we would call life—as developed in his treatise On the Soul, and in particular, his account of what life is.

“Aristotle is not alone in asking this question, and his treatment of it does not occur in a vacuum,” Kelsey said. “He is aware that he had predecessors and devotes fully one-quarter of the De Anima to discussing their views. My interest is in Aristotle’s own problems, as these are revealed by his critiques of his predecessors.”

In Aristotle’s Soul: Essays on the Classical Scientific Treatise, De Anima, Kelsey argues that the problems Aristotle inherits from his predecessors are not problems of intentionality or consciousness, but rather the problem of objectivity—how they manage to discriminate accurately various features of their environments.

“Now that my ideas have taken shape, I am very grateful for the opportunity to set them down in writing and try them out before a larger audience,” he said.