WRITER: MARY GERAGHTY
CONTACT: LOIS GRAY
Iowa City IA 52242
Release: August 9, 1999
UI wins $350,000 grant to expand studies of foreign
IOWA CITY, Iowa The University of Iowa has
won a three-year, $350,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to expand and continue
its "Crossing Borders" program, designed to help professors and graduate students
who are already prepared to study one international culture to broaden their
research and intellectual interests to include a second area. The UI is one
of only 18 U.S. institutions selected by the Ford Foundation to receive one
of these three-year grants.
In the past, many scholars who studied foreign languages
and culture tended to focus on a single area. But in the post-Cold War era,
social and cultural information as well as powerful images and streams of
tourists and migrants flow more freely from one nation to another, and scholars
need to broaden their studies to look at the ways in which local and national
societies are affected by the influences of surrounding and even distant nations.
"The Crossing Borders Grant provides an opportunity
to rethink the ways in which scholars approach the study of 'areas' and the
nature of graduate training required for undertaking contemporary area studies,"
said Michael McNulty, UI associate provost and dean of International Programs.
"The Ford Foundation grant challenges institutions to find ways to 'revitalize
Area Studies' and to do so in a manner that might serve as a model for other
schools. I believe that Paul Greenough, the pilot project director, and his
colleagues have proposed an exciting and thoughtful program in response to
Interdisciplinary work will be at the heart of all
UI Crossing Borders research and training programs, with professors and graduate
students from anthropology, cinema and comparative literature, geography,
history, and political science participating, McNulty said.
"The Crossing Borders logic that underlies the Ford
grant is very well suited to the University of Iowa -- emphasizing the interdisciplinary
and international nature of research questions and encouraging work by multidisciplinary
teams of students and faculty," he said.
The Ford Foundation grant to the UI is being matched
by more than $650,000--principally in the form of graduate assistantships
for 20 students--from the Graduate College, the College of Liberal Arts and
UI International Programs. UI faculty members involved in planning the graduate
training part of the project include: Ken Cmiel (history), Virginia Dominguez
Vicki Hesli (political science), Rebecca Roberts (geography),
and Steven Ungar (cinema and comparative literature), and Deans McNulty, Raul
Curto (Liberal Arts), Elizabeth Swanson (International Programs), and Sandra
Barkan (Graduate College).
The UI began its "Crossing Borders" project in 1997
with an initial grant of $50,000 from the Ford Foundation. The UI focused
on bringing together South Asian studies and African studies scholars to study
the ways in which Indian and East African peoples and cultures have influenced
each other across the Indian Ocean.
The next phase of the project will continue in this
vein with cross-area and interdisciplinary graduate training, seminars, and
conferences. Faculty members and graduate students will travel to India and
East Africa to study the inter-cultural influences and migrations firsthand
and to meet with professors there.
A new aspect of the Crossing Borders project will
include the United States in the concept of "area studies," acknowledging
the efforts of scholars around the world who pursue American Studies. Some
of those American Studies scholars, including two from Hyderabad, India, will
visit the UI as part of its annual International Forum for United States Studies
program during the spring 2000 semester. Dominguez and UI professor Jane Desmond
(American studies) will direct this portion of the Crossing Borders project.
Finally, UI professor Michaeline Crichlow (African-American
World Studies) will contribute to the project by examining ways in which Indian
and African culture is preserved and altered among Caribbean settlers from
those areas. She and her students will examine what happens to cultural identity
when people are moved under the sway of global capitalism to strikingly different
locations. Crichlow and her students will collaborate with researchers in
Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Haiti to study topics related to the African-Indian
diasporas in the Caribbean.
"Crossing Borders phase one demonstrated that there
is on our campus a sizable but pent up interest among the internationalist
faculty to retrain themselves in aspects of foreign areas that connect with
expertise they have already acquired," said Greenough, a UI professor of history
and South Asian specialist. "It also demonstrated that graduate students in
certain disciplines like history, geography, and anthropology are already
out ahead of the faculty in identifying important issues of culture, politics
and economics that arise at the borders or frontiers between adjacent nations,
peoples or ecologies."
"Stage two is very ambitious in terms of its educational
goals," Greenough said. "The Ford Foundation supported pilot project envisions
a new kind of organized graduate training in international studies, one in
which students learn two research languages, benefit from a number of new
graduate courses, get to travel with faculty and on their own to a series
of sites in linked foreign settings, and eventually develop dissertation proposals
that will depend on those languages, courses and travels. While such research
has happened here and there before, no university has attempted to train students
to do it systematically."
For more information, contact Greenough at (319) 335-2222
or (319) 335-2825.