Johns Hopkins Gazette | April 13, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 13, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 30
Six Krieger Faculty Named Guggenheim Fellows

Prestigious award based on distinguished achievement and exceptional promise

By Amy Lunday

Six faculty members in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences are among the 180 artists, scholars and scientists who have been named 2009 Guggenheim Fellows by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Chosen from nearly 3,000 applicants from the United States and Canada, the fellows were appointed on the basis of distinguished achievement and exceptional promise for future accomplishment. The grant period is the 2009-2010 academic year.

The new fellows are Amanda Anderson and Richard Halpern, both in the Department of English; Veena Das, in Anthropology; Barbara Landau, in Cognitive Science; Theodore Lewis, in Near Eastern Studies; and Robert Moffitt, in Economics.

"The Guggenheim is one of the most prestigious fellowships awarded in American academia, especially in the humanities and social sciences," said David A. Bell, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and dean of the school's faculty.

"This year the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, which has fewer than 300 tenured and tenure-track faculty members, won as many Guggenheims as all but one other university in the United States, including five awards in the humanities and social sciences," Bell said. "This is a truly extraordinary achievement, which testifies to the exceptionally high quality of our faculty, to the vitality of the intellectual life on our campus and to Johns Hopkins' leading role in the entire spectrum of American academic research."

The Guggenheim Fellowship recognizes scholars of various ages and interests. The foundation considers applicants in a wide variety of fields, from the natural sciences to the creative arts, including physical and biological scientists, social scientists, scholars in the humanities, writers, painters, sculptors, photographers, filmmakers and choreographers. Since its establishment in 1925, the foundation has granted more than $273 million to nearly 16,700 people. The foundation is not releasing the amount of the grants this year, but the average last year was $43,200. Because the purpose of the program is to help provide fellows with blocks of time in which they can work with as much creative freedom as possible, grants are made freely with no special conditions attached to them, and fellows may spend their grant funds in any manner they deem necessary for their work.

Amanda Anderson is the Caroline Donovan Professor of English Literature and chair of the department. She specializes in critical theory and 19th-century British literature and culture. "My project reconsiders the relation between liberal aesthetics and philosophical liberalism, focusing on the way that a dialectic of skepticism and hope characterizes both traditions," Anderson said. "I will spend the grant period in Baltimore, researching and writing."

Veena Das is the Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology and chair of the department. She has worked intensively on questions of violence, on the relation between philosophy and anthropology, and on urban health. "My project is entitled 'Entangled Identities: Muslims and Hindus in Urban India,' in which I will be engaged in analyzing the production and circulation of various kinds of texts in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Bengali in low-income neighborhoods in Delhi," Das said. "Departing from the usual tropes of syncretism or hybridity, I ask how political theologies are evolving within specific local ecologies and what possibilities these might hold for what I call 'an agonistic belonging to a plural society.' The Guggenheim Fellowship will enable me to complete writing this book. I will be in Delhi, Paris and Baltimore for the duration of the fellowship."

Richard Halpern is the Sir William Osler Professor of English and director of undergraduate studies for the department. His research interests include Renaissance literature, Shakespeare, science and literature, and critical theory. "My project, titled 'Eclipse of Action: Tragedy and Political Economy,' examines the challenges for stage tragedy posed by the rise of a capitalist economy and its values," Halpern said. He will spend the Guggenheim year researching and writing in New York City.

Barbara Landau is the Dick and Lydia Todd Professor and chair of the Department of Cognitive Science. Her work focuses on language learning, spatial representation and the relationships between these foundational systems of human knowledge. "The fellowship will allow me to work full-time during my sabbatical this coming year on a book that illuminates the nature of spatial knowledge in people with an unusual genetic deficit that results in severely impaired understanding of space," Landau said. The book, she said, will be titled 'Gene, Brain, Mind and Development: The Puzzle of Williams Syndrome' and is under contract with Oxford University Press. "I'll be spending most of the year here at Johns Hopkins but will also be traveling a bit to work with colleagues who specialize in the nature of human spatial knowledge," she said.

Theodore Lewis is the Blum-Iwry Professor and chair of the Department of Near Eastern Studies. He is a Semitist, a biblical scholar and a historian of religion specializing in the religions of ancient Israel and Syria in the Late Bronze and Iron ages. In addition to the texts of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament), he works with alphabetic cuneiform texts from the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit. "During next year, I will be researching and writing a volume on Ancient Israelite Religion for the Yale Anchor Bible Reference Library series," Lewis said. "For the most part, I will be staying in Baltimore locked away in my study so that I can write, write, write."

Robert Moffitt is the Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Economics. His areas of specialization are labor economics, econometrics, public economics and population economics. He also holds a joint appointment in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Information about how Moffitt will use his fellowship was not available at press time.


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