The Library's Office of Scholarly Programs has announced the awarding of grants for the second Mellon Foreign Area Fellowship competition. The postdoctoral fellowships, made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, were designed to support research that uses the Library's unrivaled foreign-language and area-studies collections. The fellowships will help less well-established American scholars as they embark on a second major research topic following their dissertations.
Stipends of $3,000 per month, for periods of five or six months, were awarded to Charles Causey, Xiaomei Chen, Theodore Cook, Mary McMaster, Monica Ringer, Kathleen Smith and Robert Stone.
"These fellowships provide needed support to promising scholars at an important time in their career development," said Prosser Gifford, director of the Office of Scholarly Programs. "They also promote use of the Library's rich cultural resources, assembled from around the globe, while at the same time they strengthen American expertise to interpret foreign-language materials," he added.
Having fellows in residence at the Library also enhances the knowledge and skills of the Library's own staff in the latest research trends and topics. Aside from sharing interpretive knowledge of the Library's collections, each fellow will present a seminar to share insights and experiences with an invited audience of Library staff and Washington-area specialists.
The Mellon Foreign Area Fellowship program began in January 1997. For this second year of competition, more than 300 inquiries about the program were answered and nearly 70 applications were received by the Library's Office of Scholarly Programs. "As in the first year, the awarding of this year's fellowships continued to be quite challenging," Mr. Gifford observed, "because the quality and variety of applications made the selection formidable." Nearly all applicants presented qualifications and proposals worthy of serious pursuit and support. "We continued to find ourselves wishing that we had the resources to fund many more worthy projects," Mr. Gifford said.
All applications were first reviewed in the Office of Scholarly Programs for basic criteria, such as American citizenship or residency, a Ph.D. and appropriate career level. They were then evaluated by noted scholars in the various fields and by Library specialists. Applications were then grouped into area of language specialty or geographic region or both and carefully reviewed by specialists familiar with both the subject matter and the library resources proposed for use. Then, a collective review of the highest-rated projects from all regions was made, followed by the final determination of the awards. Along with such critical factors as the originality and significance of the proposed project, the degree to which the foreign-language resources of the Library of Congress would be used was also considered. The selected applications were deemed to propose research that embodies most fully the purposes and goals of the program.
- The research project of Charles Causey (University of Texas, Austin), "Tales of Tanah Batak: A Proposal for a 'Collaborative Ethnography, '" examines one of Indonesia's more numerous ethnic groups, the Toba Batak of North Sumatra. With relatively little written about them in English, the Toba Batak are usually depicted as a somber, culturally conservative and tradition-based people when they have been described at all. This depiction was contrary to Mr. Causey's field experiences as an anthropologist. His proposed work will incorporate a variety of voices and viewpoints based on materials written by Western anthropologists and travelers, by non-Batak Indonesians and by Toba Batak themselves.
- Xiaomei Chen (Ohio State University, Columbus) will be working on the subject of contemporary Chinese drama. "Acting the Right Part: Cultural Performance in Contemporary China," investigates the relationships between self, subject, agent, state-building and national "others" in the production and reception of drama from the period of the Cultural Revolution to that of post-Mao China and how it provides a link to other aspects of Chinese culture. Ms. Chen, who understands Chinese drama as an extended form of political drama, will focus on how the principals act the "right" part, both on and off stage, for reasons of personal survival.
- Theodore Cook (William Paterson University, Wayne, N.J.) will work on "The Japanese Soldier's Experience of War, 1937-1945: Violence, Citizenship, and the Individual in Modern Japan's Lost War." Mr. Cook will examine the experiences of individual Japanese soldiers during the wars launched first with Japan's invasion of Manchuria in 1931, in China after 1937, and in Southeast Asia and the Pacific after 1941. He hopes to determine what the experiences meant to the soldiers themselves, their families, their survivors and their country's conception of war and national service.
- A reconstruction of Rwandan history is the goal of Mary McMaster (Castleton State College, Castleton, Vt.), through the linking of language and an understanding of archaeological evidence. "Toward a Reconstruction of the Rwandan Past in the Wider Context of Great Lakes History" is Ms. McMaster's project. In earlier work, she demonstrated that when a people adopt a new language, they carry over specialized vocabulary if the new language does not have sufficient terminology. She hopes to use historical linguistic methods to trace the history of a people in a crucial region, by synthesizing archaeological and documentary evidence with language.
- Monica Ringer (independent scholar, Rockville, Md.) will be studying an important Middle Eastern literary source in order to understand the problems of modernization in Iran during the 19th and early 20th centuries. "The Nineteenth Century Iranian Safarnameh as a Mirror of Change" is Ms. Ringer's project. Travel literature is usually a rich source for the study of cultural interactions. With regard to Middle Eastern perceptions of Europe, textual analysis of the unique genre of safarnameh (travel literature) serves as a window into Iranian beliefs concerning the advisability, or even desirability, of adopting European institutions.
- Kathleen Smith (Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y.) intends to study how, and to what effect, collective memories are being mobilized in contemporary Russia to support different political enterprises. Her project, "Mythmaking in the New Russia: Constructing a Usable Past After Communism," will examine how collective memory affects election campaigns, legislative battles and court cases as well as public art, urban landscapes and holiday celebrations. Ms. Smith hopes to supplement her field work with an analysis of current Russian periodical literature. She will be surveying coverage of specific case studies in such areas as Russian architecture, politics and history.
- Seeking to cast Spain's second imperial century, the 17th, in a new light, Robert Stone (George Washington University, Washington, D.C.) will be working on "Images of the English in Seventeenth Century Spain." By concentrating on the Spanish image of 'European Others' during an era of intense colonial competition and a rising threat to Spanish hegemony posed by England, Mr. Stone hopes to reveal much about the Spanish self-image as well as Spanish imagery of rival European peoples. With much of the focus in recent years centered around Spanish perceptions of indigenous peoples of the New World, Mr. Stone's project should reveal some of the interactions between propaganda and history, image and reality in a European context.
A third competition for Mellon Foreign Area Fellowships will be held again in late 1998, for the 1999-2000 academic year. Materials about the 1999 competition should be available by Sept. 1. For more information, contact the Office of Scholarly Programs at (202) 707-3302.