UChicago graduate students continue to lead nation in prestigious Fulbright-Hays awards for international study

Seven University of Chicago graduate students have been awarded Fulbright-Hays Fellowships to continue their doctoral research abroad, continuing the University’s distinction of leading the nation in the number and dollar amount of Fulbright-Hays awards.

“The research that our graduate students conduct is valuable not just within academia, but as a bridge between the United States and our neighbors,” said Deborah Nelson, deputy provost for graduate education. “These awards recognize our students’ contributions, and will augment their research and exposure to the common concerns of all of us as citizens of the world,” she said.

The Department of Education administers the awards to help the nation develop capability in areas of the world that are not usually found in the curricula at American colleges and universities. Such areas include Africa, Asia, the Near East, Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America. 

This year’s awards are noteworthy since government funding for the program has been cut in half over the past few years. The number of Fulbright-Hays awards given to students fell from 142 in 2010 to 80 this year. Nearly 10 percent of this year’s nationwide Fulbright-Hays recipients were from UChicago, reflecting the University’s consistent leadership in scholarly fields that benefit from study overseas.

Antje Postema, a PhD student in Slavic Languages and Literature, is among this year’s winners. She will use her award to return to Bosnia and Herzegovina to research how the civil war in the 1990s affected the region’s people and their culture and how those observations help frame memories of the trauma. This project has taken her to libraries and archives across Bosnia, where she has found amateur films, journals and magazines that were created during the civil war. She has also observed how commemorative ceremonies and memorials add to the narratives about the war, and complement or challenge the stories in texts and films.

“Spending four months here has made me aware of how much my research will benefit from additional time in the country,” Postema said, after being reached in Bosnia, where she is finishing the first phase of her fieldwork. The award will give her a stipend to return to Bosnia for six months next year.

“Being in the field is crucial. I have access to a wide variety of materials from Chicago, but the sources here in Bosnia will help me write a much more thorough dissertation,” she said.

The Graduate Student Affairs office offers extensive support in shepherding students who are interested in the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad grants through the application process.

Applying for the grant was especially difficult with the uncertainty in government funding this year. After finding out that the program would continue in 2013 with a reduced budget, students had to scramble to meet a short deadline. “We had to put the application together in a couple of weeks,” Postema said.

Specialists in the Graduate Student Affairs office helped students focus their statements and streamline their applications. “I couldn’t have done it without their help,” she said.

Each of the UChicago fellows, their country and field of study, and research topics are:

  • Zebulon Dingley, Anthropology, Kenya: “Of Bond and Boundary—Kinship and Ethnicity on the South Coast of Kenya”
  • Christopher Dunlap, Brazil, History: “Scientific Communities Nuclear Energy and the State in Brazil and Argentina”
  • Carlos Grenier, Turkey, History: “The Yazicizades—Sacred Knowledge on the Early Modern Frontier”
  • Eric Hirsch, Peru, Anthropology: “Investing in Indigeneity—Development Financial Citizenship and Selfhood in Andean Peru”
  • Jose Perez Melendez, Brazil, History: “Colonization Companies and the Making of Imperial Brazil”
  • Antje Postema, Slavic Languages and Literature, Bosnia and Herzegovina: “Claimed Experience—Narrative and the Shaping of Social Memory after Trauma in Bosnia”
  • Joshua Solomon, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Japan: “Knowing the Stench of the Earth—Counter-Narratives of Local Furusato From Tsugaru”