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Release: Immediate

UI International Programs wins $50,000 Ford Foundation grant

IOWA CITY -- A $50,000 grant from the Ford Foundation will allow University of Iowa professors in South Asian Studies and in African Studies to begin erasing the lines that have traditionally been drawn between individual branches in "area studies."

The UI is one of 30 institutions to receive funding under the foundation's "Crossing Borders: Revitalizing Area Studies" program.

Michael McNulty, associate provost and dean of International Programs, says the program is part of an effort to help area studies scholars begin to broaden their research and intellectual interests. "The 'area studies' rationale grew out of the logic of the Cold War era," when the government needed scholars to be experts on specific areas of the world, he says.

Now that the barriers of the Cold War have been broken down there and social and cultural information flows more freely from one nation to another, scholars need to broaden their studies to look at the ways in which societies are affected by the influences of surrounding nations.

"We will continue to have grounded study in one area," McNulty says, "but scholars need to know how other areas impinge on that."

This time of transition also has implications for graduate training, he says, since professors schooled in the original area studies model are now charged with teaching a new way of thinking to a new generation of scholars.

"This grant will help us bring together faculty and student for research that is both cross-national and interdisciplinary," McNulty says.

International Programs has planned two projects to complete with the Ford Foundation grant. One is a year-long series of events including visits to Africa and India and coordinated conferences on "Diasopras and Exchanges across the Indian Ocean." In the second project, "Indian Films and Filmmakers beyond the Subcontinent," South Asian Studies, African Studies, and film studies scholars will explore the activity of directors of South Asian origin who work in multiple locations and address different audiences, yet still maintain native connections.

Allen Roberts, a UI professor of anthropology who will participate in the projects funded by the Ford grant, says the projects will give scholars the opportunity to study long-ignored aspects of the historical and cultural influences and links between India and eastern Africa.

"There is a very long-standing and justified interest in the U.S. and elsewhere regarding the trans-Atlantic diaspora," Roberts says. "But much less attention has been paid to the eastern African diaspora that has connected people across the Indian Ocean for centuries. Eastern Africans may have more in common with people of the Indian Ocean rim than with western Africans."

Other faculty members involved in developing the winning grant proposal include: Virginia Dominquez, of the department of anthropology; Paul Greenough, of the department of history; Kathleen Newman, of the department of Spanish and Portuguese; and Jael Silliman of the department of women's Studies.

The Ford grant is for one year, but those who were awarded grants this year will be invited to prepare a second proposal next year in a $350,000 multiple-year competition to select a smaller number of schools to continue the development of their pilot programs, McNulty said.

UI International Programs, which consists of a number of offices, centers, degree programs, academic programs, research projects and services. Organized under the associate provost and dean for international programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and community and promote global scholarship, research and teaching.