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Humanities professors receive NEH funding

Friday, May 06, 2016

LAWRENCE — Two humanities faculty members, working in conjunction with the Hall Center Grant Development Office, received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Ani Kokobobo, assistant professor of Slavic languages and literatures, was awarded an Enduring Questions: Pilot Course Grant for $20,000 for “NEH Enduring Questions Course on Ethics and Community.” Erik Scott, assistant professor of history, was awarded a Summer Stipend of $6,000 for “Soviet Defectors and the Borders of the Cold War, 1945-1991.”

The Enduring Questions program supports a faculty member’s development of a new course that will foster intellectual community through the study of an enduring question. The course will encourage students and a teacher to grapple with a fundamental question addressed by the humanities and will join them together in a deep and sustained program of reading in order to encounter influential thinkers over the centuries and into the present day.

Kokobobo’s course will focus on the ethical boundaries of community. She will use canonical works of 19th century Russian literature and a broad body of philosophical works to consider the boundaries of the nation and communities under the auspices of the enduring question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Based on the belief that there is more to Russia than its aggressive foreign policy and recent propaganda, this enduring question and proposed course present a version of the country that can provide important moral lessons about community and social divisions for an audience of 21st century college students. Kokobobo recently led a trauma studies reading group at the Hall Center and was a Resident Research Fellow in 2013-2014.

The NEH’s summer stipends support individuals pursuing advanced research that is of value to humanities scholars, general audiences or both. Recipients usually produce articles, monographs, books, digital materials, archaeological site reports, translations, editions or other scholarly resources.

Scott will use his summer stipend to fund two months of archival work toward a book-length manuscript on Soviet defectors during the Cold War (1945-1991). The book focuses on Soviet defectors and the development of the Soviet border regime in particular but also considers how defection developed in other settings. It looks at how capitalist states facilitated the practice, even though they were not always sure what to do with defectors themselves, often viewing them as ideologically unreliable and psychologically unstable. Scott previously won a Hall Center travel award to conduct research and will be a Resident Research Fellow in 2016-2017. 

The Humanities Grant Development Office stimulates external grant and fellowship activities and enhances the quality of applications by KU humanities scholars. If you are a humanities faculty member interested in applying for research funding, contact Kathy Porsch at kporsch@ku.edu.


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The School of Languages & Cultures serves as a gateway to understanding the diversity of the world, through learning languages, literatures, and cultures, past and present. Through its research and teaching, the SLLC offers students opportunities for deep engagement with a wide range of languages, literatures, and cultures that provide the knowledge and skills to interact with and understand the world. The faculty and students who teach, research, and learn in the SLLC consider issues of diversity fundamental to all of our work. The study of others' languages, literatures, and cultures enables us to develop deep empathy and perspective informs the way that we approach issues before us, whether on a personal, local, regional, national, or global scale. Therefore take it as axiomatic that the SLLC stands for a campus that is committed to the meaningful sharing, contemplation, and discussion of ideas that emerge from multiple cultural perspectives and experiences. We continually rededicate ourselves to the principle of diversity. We strive to create an atmosphere where all students and faculty feel comfortable and welcome to express their views as well as work together to solve conflict. Further, we view our mission as a center of diversity on a flagship campus as requiring us to lead by example.

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