skip navigation

OVPRED/HI Seed Money Award Recipients – 2017

“Prophecy, Retrospection, and the Writing of Portugal”

Henry Berlin
Romance Languages & Literatures

This project examines key moments in Portuguese history when prophecy, its interpretation, and its recontextualization and rewriting became ascendant themes in literary and political discourse. From thirteenth-century insult poets who decried racial ambiguity as a sign of the Apocalypse to a late-twentieth-century feminist poet challenging the Salazar regime, from the first archbishop of Goa to a seventeenth-century Jesuit writing the History of the Future in his jail cell, and from the lyric visions of a sixteenth-century shoemaker to their reimagining by Fernando Pessoa, my transhistorical and transnational reading – of texts produced from the thirteenth to twentieth centuries in Portugal, Brazil, and India (Goa) – will show how prophetic discourse occupies a space between dominant and marginalized identities, imperial aspirations and resistance thereto, and cultural conservatism and innovation.

“Living with Artificial Intelligence”

Tero Karppi
Media Study

The development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is progressing rapidly and the expectations are that these technologies will bring changes to our society. Currently, these technologies are being introduced in fields such as military, financial markets, healthcare, and home. In this project, I will map the different AI applications sold for home use. Using the framework of cultural techniques, I will explore how artificial intelligence is marketed and applied in the home environment. A proposition for this project is that we need to understand AI not only as technical systems but also as a social technique capable of transforming the home into a specific techno-social environment. This change has impacts and challenges ranging from issues related to privacy to the overall constitution of the social, which after AI includes both human and non-human actors who have particular modes of agency.

“A Study of the Conflicts and Contestations between Historic Preservation, Religious Cultural Heritage and the Practice of Religion”

Ashima Krishna
Urban and Regional Planning

The practice of preserving sites of historical, cultural and archaeological significance has been in existence for centuries, having evolved in different ways, and within various geographical contexts. Many of the historic sites that are designated and/or preserved across the world are religious in nature, and most commonly include temples, churches, mosques and synagogues, as well as the natural sites and landscapes often deemed sacred by native and tribal communities. The same is also true for historic sites within the United States. An examination of preservation principles in the US and their impact on the practice of religion within these historic places of worship, however, is conspicuously missing from current discourse. While recent scholarship has criticized international preservation principles for ignoring local traditions and practices, the impact of preservation principles on religious practices and places of worship is not clear either internationally, or within an American context. This research project will therefore broaden the understanding of how places of worship and the religious practices and liturgical rituals within them are affected both by acts of preservation, and the ordinances, legislation, and principles that currently guide the practice of historic preservation within the United States.

“Resisting the Nation: ‘Africans,’ Rights Struggles and Citizenship in Post-Emanciation Cuba”

Dalia Muller

“Resisting the Nation: ‘Africans,’ Rights Struggles and Citizenship in Post-Emancipation Cuba” examines how “Africans” in Cuba engaged with, endeavored to shape, and resisted the discourses and practices of citizenship in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The letters and petitions submitted to U.S. military and Cuban state officials between 1900 and 1902 by self-identified Africans reveal the determination of Afrodescendants in Cuba during the first years of the twentieth century to retain not only their distinct cultural traditions, but also to craft a political status of their own making. By refusing Cuban nationality and in some cases Cuban citizenship, and instead embracing and insisting on an “African” political identity, certain groups of Afro-descendants in Cuba endeavored to secure a status of what we might today think of today as permanent residency. These individuals were not interested in repatriation to the African continent, yet they also refused assimilation. Instead, they looked for a third way, one that would enable them to stay in Cuba and attain and secure certain rights while defending their right to remain irreducibly foreign. I contend that the affirmation of non-belonging and nonassimilation on the part of Cuba’s “Africans”, emerges as a significant and powerful act of resistance when placed in a longer historical context of continuous efforts on the part of Spanish colonial officials, U.S. imperial authorities and Cuban political elites to de-Africanize Cuba between the 1880s and 1910.

‘”A Secret Worth Knowing”: Living Mad Lives in the Shadow of the Asylum’

Michael Rembis

“A Secret Worth Knowing” is a book length project that makes interventions into multiple
bodies of literature, including US history, women’s and gender history, the social history of medicine, and disability and mad studies. In the book, I look at life writing produced by women and men living in the United States from the 1830s through the 1940s, who considered themselves, or were labeled, “insane” or “mad.” To date, we have a growing body of excellent institutional histories that explore everything from commitment and diagnosis, to the therapeutic encounter, institutional life, employment trends of inmates, gender and family life of inmates, and rates of release (or retention, as the case may be). Yet the primary subjects of these discursive and institutional practices remain largely absent from the historical record. Historians dismiss as “inflammatory” and “unreliable” any type of written account produced by women and men who assumed a “mad identity” – if even temporarily – during their lifetime. This project fundamentally alters our perspective on this past by placing mad people at the center of the analysis and focusing on their lives outside of, or in the shadow of, the asylum.

“Dictator’s Children: Schooling, Repression and Protest in Pinochet’s Chile”

Camilo Trumper
Transnational Studies

Building on the experience of investigating the practice of political citizenship in the face of state terror and taking advantage of newly accessible archival and digital collections, this second book project pivots to explore childhood, schooling, and activism in Pinochet’s seventeen-year military regime in Chile. “Dictatorship’s Children: Education, Repression and Protest among Youth in Chile” places a granular investigation of young people’s response to bodily discipline and state terror at the center of a broader exploration of the textured experience of everyday life, silence and activism in dictatorship. Placing the schoolhouse at the center of political history, it considers a range of previously untapped archival sources to illuminate the history of childhood, adolescence, education, and politics, and highlight young people’s efforts to re-build vibrant public spheres in schools, streets, and shantytowns. This study, which has already received generous support from the Baldy Center and the National Endowment of the Humanities, is particularly important in light of the contemporary student movement in Chile, whose participants allow the lessons of hte 1980s to inform their complex, intersectional critiques of the legacies of military dictatorship, the privatization of education, and economic inequality.


The seed money award program provides awards of up to $5,000 for long-term projects, with the goal of generating applications for outside funding within two years of the start of funding.

For more information about the program, click here.

Upcoming Events