The Society for the Humanities Fellowships 2016-2017 at Cornell University, USA

Publish Date: Aug 19, 2015

Deadline: Oct 01, 2015

The Society for the Humanities Fellowships 2016-2017

The focal theme for 2016-2017 is “SKIN.” Six to eight Fellows will be appointed. Selected Fellows will collaborate with the Director of the Society for the Humanities, Timothy Murray, Professor of Comparative Literature and English and Curator of the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, an international research center on new media. The Senior Scholars in Residence will be Anne Cheng, Professor of English and of the Center for African American Studies, Princeton Univeristy, Mary Flanagan, Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities, Dartmouth College, Cristina Malcomson, Professor of English, Bates College, and Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design, Harvard University.

Focal Theme 2016-2017

The Society for the Humanities at Cornell University seeks interdisciplinary research projects that reflect on philosophical, aesthetic, political, ecological, religious, psychoanalytical, and cultural understandings of skin.  Thinking skin calls upon cultural horizons, religious traditions, flesh, haptics, signs, texts, images, biopolitics, screens, sounds, and surfaces.  From the earliest writings on medicine and religion to more recent theories of race, sexuality, gender, class, and ethnicity, how might thinking or making skin inform the global cultural experience from North to South, East to West, South to South?  We invite research projects across historical periods, disciplinary boundaries, geographic territories, and social contexts. 

For classical traditions, skin plays a role in representing the breadth of mythological empowerment, from Heracles’ lion skin in the Occidental classics, Amon’s blue skin in Ancient Egypt, to the skin-walker of Navajo culture.  Some applicants might consider religious and medieval traditions, such as how beliefs in spermatic skin differ with notions of newly made flesh.  Theoretical and philosophical approaches might dwell on skin as a fabric of the mind-body split and of the contrasts between tactility and opticality, in one context, or as the membrane of intersubjective and global connectivity, in another.  While psychoanalytic critics might theorize skin as the figure of touch, desire, trauma, and “the skin-ego,” theorists of affect and haptics might view skin in relation to contemporary configurations of sexuality, gender, queer and transgender studies, not to mention the discourse on aging.

We also would welcome biopolitical considerations ranging from the complex discussions of torture and subjugation to the discourses of race, eugenics, and genomics whose representations have been central to the histories of literature, art, theatre, screen arts, and music.  Architectural historians are likely to reflect on the skins of surface architecture.  Interdisciplinary scholars of the arts and technology might emphasize tattooing, technoskins, prostheses, and nanotechnologies. Scholars in the emergent field of “medical humanities” might choose to study questions of the complex place of skin in disease, contamination, and contagion, just as these same problematics are important in the history of travel literature, geopolitical tensions, and literary and artistic fascinations with the viral.

Thinking skin also opens the way to broad cross-cultural considerations of hermeneutics, epistemology, and social theory that are foregrounded by the challenges of digital culture.  Some scholars may embrace the opportunity to reflect on contrasts of skin or surface reading with traditions of depth in methodologies of criticism, and others might argue for the novel affirmations of surface afforded by digital touch, and mobile devices, connectivity, gaming, and mobile media.

The Society for the Humanities welcomes applications from scholars and practitioners who are interested in investigating this topic from the broadest variety of international and disciplinary perspectives. 

Cornell’s David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future co-sponsors one fellowship to support scholarly work addressing skin as it relates to energy, the environment or economic development. For more information about the Atkinson Center, please visit


Fellows should be working on topics related to the year’s theme. Their approach to the humanities should be broad enough to appeal to students and scholars in several humanistic disciplines.

Applicants must have received the Ph.D. degree before January 1, 2015.  The Society for the Humanities will not consider applications from scholars who received the Ph.D. after this date. Applicants must also have one or more years of teaching experience, which may include teaching as a graduate student.


The following application materials must be submitted via AJO fellowship #5588 on or before OCTOBER 1, 2015. Any other method of applying will not be accepted.

1. A curriculum vitae and a copy of one scholarly paper no more than 35 pages in length.

2. A one-page abstract in addition to a detailed statement of the research project the applicant would like to pursue during the term of the fellowship (1,000 - 3,000 words). Applicants are also encouraged to submit a working bibliography for their projects.

3.  A brief (two-page) proposal for a seminar related to the applicant’s research.  Seminars meet two hours per week for one semester (fourteen weeks) and enrollment is limited to fifteen graduate students and qualified undergraduate students.

4. Two letters of recommendation from senior colleagues to whom candidates should send their research proposal and teaching proposal. Letters of recommendation should include an evaluation of the candidate’s proposed research and teaching statements. Please ask referees to submit their letters directly through the application link. Letters must be submitted on or before OCTOBER 1, 2015.

To apply, go to:

For further information:

Phone: 607-255-4086

Awards will be announced by the end of December 2015.

Note: Extensions for applications will not be granted.  The Society will consider only fully completed applications.  It is the responsibility of each applicant to ensure that ALL documentation is complete, and that referees submit their letters of recommendation to the Society before the closing date.

The Society for the Humanities

The Society for the Humanities was established at Cornell University in 1966 to support research and teaching in the humanities. It is intended to be at once a research institute, a stimulus to educational innovation, and a continuing society of scholars. The Society and its Fellows have fostered path-breaking interdisciplinary dialogue and theoretical reflection on the humanities at large.


Fellows include scholars from other universities and members of the Cornell faculty released from regular duties. The fellowships are held for one academic year. Each Society Fellow will receive $50,000. Applicants living outside North America are eligible for an additional $2,000 to assist with travel costs.

Fellows spend their time in research and writing, participate in the weekly Fellows Seminar, and offer one seminar related to their research. The seminars are generally informal, related to the Fellow's research, and open to graduate students, suitably qualified undergraduates, and faculty members. Fellows are encouraged to explore topics they would not normally teach and, in general, to experiment freely with both the content and the method of their courses.

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