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University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 1, 2005

UI Professors Win Stanley International Programs-Obermann Fellowships

Adriana Méndez Rodenas and Shelton Stromquist, both professors in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, have been awarded Stanley International Programs-Obermann Center Research Fellowships to conduct international research.

Méndez Rodenas, a professor of international studies and of Spanish and Portuguese and director of the Caribbean, Diaspora and Atlantic Studies Program, will travel to France. Stromquist, a professor of history and a Collegiate Fellow, will travel to Germany, England and Sweden.

These semester-long awards are given to select Obermann Center Scholars whose research focuses on international issues. In addition to receiving an award of $3,000 for travel and research support, fellows present their research at a public lecture and reception to be co-hosted by UI International Programs and the Obermann Center.

Méndez Rodenas will research the first part of a three-part project titled "From Paradise to Diaspora: Natural History in the Americas," which will show how the depiction of nature -- particularly of the tropical region -- forms an integral part of the discourse of nation and identity formation in the Americas. This part of the project will trace how the tropical zone has been imagined in the travel writings of early scientific explorers to our own day. Alexander von Humboldt's trek through the Orinoco and Amazon rivers influenced nineteenth and twentieth-century Latin American writers in their re-imagining of the Equatorial zone. Méndez Rodenas will study the rich collection of illustrated travelogues held at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and the Natural History Museum in London.

These images will be compared to modern and contemporary fictions depicting the lush jungle interior. In turn-of-the-century narratives of the Amazon jungle, Humboldt's imprint emerges as a gendered mythology of nature projected onto the primeval forest, as in "Green Mansions," a nearly forgotten novel by the Anglo-Argentine W.H. Hudson (1904). In the 1960s, major novelists of the Latin American "boom" subvert the metaphor of the "green house," pointing to a post-modern ecological crisis lamenting lost species of flora and fauna. 

Stromquist's research will become part of a comparative study of municipal labor politics in six countries -- the United States, England, Germany, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand -- from 1890 to 1920. He will scour the municipal archives of Manchester, Liverpool and Bradford in England; Frankfurt and Düsseldorf in Germany; and Stockholm and Växjö in Sweden. He also intends to take a two-week intensive Swedish language course to enhance his ability to work with the archival sources in Sweden.

"While a good deal of scholarship has focused on comparative political history at national and state levels, little attention has been given to the realm of city politics and the social context of a new labor and socialist urban politics that appeared during those years, Stromquist said. "`American exceptionalism' turns out to be even less useful as an analytical device at that local level."

These fellowships are supported by the Stanley-UI Foundation Support Organization, UI International Programs and the C. Esco and Avalon L. Obermann Fund.

The Obermann Center for Advanced Studies is dedicated to scholarship and intellectual exchange. Some Obermann Scholars work independently, stimulated by uninterrupted blocks of time and by informal conversation. Others work in close collaboration. Obermann Scholars have published numerous scholarly books and articles and have been awarded many external research grants and fellowships for projects begun at the center.

UI International Programs 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.

For more information on this award, contact Jenna Burns, assistant to IP Associate Dean Jane Desmond, at 319-335-0368 or Jennifer New, Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 319-335-4034,

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Lois Gray, 319-335-2026,; Program: Jenna Burns, 319-335-0368,; Jennifer New, 319-335-4034,; Writer: Po Li Loo