Office of the Vice President for Research announces 2023 Arts and Humanities Research Support awards

The Office of the Vice President for Research is pleased to announce the awards for the sixteenth annual Arts and Humanities Research Support for research, creative, and scholarly projects.
The Office of the VP for Research has announced $189,530 of internal funding awarded to six Wayne State arts and humanities faculty.

The Office of the Vice President for Research is pleased to announce the awards for the sixteenth annual Arts and Humanities Research Support for research, creative, and scholarly projects. This internal funding opportunity supports projects that engage the arts, design, and/or humanities in carrying out the university's research mission and lay the foundation for further work beyond the award end date.

“I am pleased to announce that my office has awarded six Wayne State arts and humanities faculty a total of $189,530 for projects that investigate cultural expression through the humanities and/or the arts and design,” said Timothy Stemmler, Ph.D., interim vice president for Research. “All of the projects were carefully reviewed by external reviewers who are experts in the fields of our funded faculty, along with a team of internal reviews comprised of deans, department chairs, and directors of the relevant departments for this internal funding competition. The projects they recommended for funding all met the criteria of the program that aim to offer exciting outcomes in their respective fields.”

The awardees and their projects include:

Lauren Kalman, associate professor of art and art history, College of Fine, Performing & Communication Arts

For Holding…

For Holding… is a new creative research project that poetically explores feelings of loss of control, loss of human contact, the desire for human connection, and social dissonance. Professor Kalman will explore these subjects through the production of a series of performance videos of experimental glass blowing using specially fabricated bronze tools in the shape of her body. For this research she will fabricate bronze tools produce from castings of her body, which can be used like a puppet to hold, hug, and distort the glass vessels (reminiscent of domestic vases) while they are molten, leaving a precise indentation of her body. This process of embracing the glass will be documented as a video work. The research will culminate in a visual art installation comprised of performance videos, glass vessels, and bronze objects. The use of performative making documented through video and the incorporation of bronze tools for production as a component of the final exhibition of work are major innovations represented in this project.

Yunshuang Zhang, assistant professor, classical and modern languages, literatures and cultures, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

A Space of the Mind: The Literati Studio in Song Dynasty Literary Culture (960–1279)

Professor Zhang aims to create a six-chapter book, A Space of the Mind: The Literati Studio in Song Dynasty Literary Culture (960–1279). This study conceptualizes the porosity of a personal space from the perspective of this previously unexplored locus of the literati studio. Drawing upon a wide range of literary, historical, and visual sources, A Space of the Mind investigates the studio’s emergence as a personal oasis in Chinese literary culture from the tenth to the thirteenth century and the ways it became a stage on which to display literati selfhood, which marked the rise as well as the legitimation of the need for a personal space (even as distinct from the domestic) in China. As the first book in any language that examines the studio’s increasing prevalence and importance in literary configurations, this study contributes importantly to furthering knowledge about the fundamental cultural and literary transitions from medieval to early modern China.

Walter Edwards, professor, English, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

African American Vernacular English in Detroit: Linguistic, Sociolinguistic and pedagogical issues

Professor Edwards will create a book that will provide detailed analyzes of linguistic and sociolinguistic features of the African American Vernacular English (AAVE) spoken by residents of an east-side Detroit neighborhood circa 1989 with a view to demonstrating the linguistic systemicity of the variety. The book will also include discussions of pedagogical approaches to teaching classes that populated with AAVE-speaking students to provide instructors with excellent models of curricula and strategies that are successful in helping AAVE speakers to value their language, history and culture while learning to speak and write in Standard English.

Beth Fowler, associate professor of teaching, Irvin D. Reid Honors College

“Frances Williams Preston and Gender Politics in Popular Country Music, 1958-1986”

Professor Fowler will write an essay for an edited volume on gender, race, and class identities in the country music industry on Frances Williams Preston, the first head of Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)’s Southern regional office in Nashville in charge of country music performing rights. She will focus on the gender politics that Preston navigated within this field. Preston was chosen as the first head of BMI’s Nashville branch, an unusual accomplishment during the late 50’s, especially when middle-class white women were expected to prioritize domestic duties over career paths outside the home. Professor Fowler has found that Preston’s gendered performances within corporate spaces that were unaccustomed – and even hostile – to women in powerful positions helped to re-shape country music as “respectable” to middle-class consumers. While Preston mostly disavowed Second-Wave feminism, she anticipated and reflected new identities for women who began working in managerial and executive positions in greater numbers during and after the Women’s Movement.

Jessica Rajko, assistant professor, Theatre and Dance, College of Fine, Performing & Communication Arts

Embodied Archives: A Practice-Based Approach to Reengaging Dance/Technology Archives

Professor Rajko’s project has a particular emphasis on interrogating existing digital movement archives that analyzes the effects of geographic and cultural gatekeeping that repeatedly treats Euro-American concert dance aesthetics and methods as universally applicable across technology research. The project builds upon her existing research with a focus on dance and robotics. Leveraging an existing relationship with Brown University, she will have access to two Boston Dynamics quadruped robots named Spot. To address the project’s guiding question of whose embodied aesthetics are rendered computable and worthy of credits, she focus on the following research questions within the context of Boston Dynamics’s robotics system: 1) What dance practices and embodied aesthetics are already pre-programmed into the repository of available robotic movements? 2) How does the existing repository of robotic movement inform the design of new robotic gestures? 3) What forms of geocultural gatekeeping are already inscribed into Boston Dynamics’s software? 4) Who determines how pre-programmed movements are credited? 5) How do geocultural gatekeeping practices predetermine who feels invited to develop robotic movement? 6) How can this project’s research findings be embodied, reinterrogated, and presented as newly choreographed human and robotic movement and performance?

Samantha Noël, associate professor of art history, College of Fine, Performing & Communication Arts

Diasporic Art in the Age of Black Power

Professor Noël seeks to examine the impact of the Black Power Movement on visual art as it emerged in the political, historical, and social contexts of the United States of America and the Anglophone Caribbean in the 1960s and 1970s. In particular, she aims to identify instances in which the iterations of the Third World Left in the United States and the Caribbean crossed paths and determined a need for internationalism in black creative expression during the 1960s and 1970s that worked in tandem with the political radicalism of that era. Much of this culminated in these artists participating in Pan-African cultural festivals such as 1977’s Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture or FESTAC in Lagos, Nigeria or even connecting in initiatives such as the artists-in-residence program at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. These sites of connectivity in the African continent as well as in the United States and the Caribbean provided artists opportunities to think about the cultural and political intersectionalities of the African Diaspora as they manifested during the 1960s and 1970s.


Contact info

Julie O'Connor

Director, Research Communications
Phone: 313-577-8845