Current Awards


Research Grant:

Sarah Dees, Assistant Professor, Philosophy and Religious Studies
This project explores the museum exhibition of sacred objects over time, considering challenges and best practices for telling stories about specific religions and cultures for a broad public. Over a century ago, the Smithsonian Institution appointed its first Curator of Religion. This scholar was charged with creating museum exhibitions that would broaden public understanding of monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, the purview of this curator did not include any objects related to Indigenous traditions. Thus, a sharp divide was created in the context of the Smithsonian between Indigenous and monotheistic religions. The CEAH Research Grant will support the production of two related scholarly articles examining museum displays of religious objects. The first, a historical essay, will be aimed to an audience of scholars of religion. It will examine the history and legacy of the Smithsonian’s first Curator of Religion. How have museum spaces treated sacred and significant objects originating from different cultural groups? What broader ideas does the unequal treatment of objects convey to the wider public? Answers to these questions will be pursued through the study of historical manuscript materials from Smithsonian Institution archives. The second part of this project explores best practices for contemporary curators seeking to incorporate religious objects into their exhibits. The result will be an article focusing on contemporary museum practices aimed at Museum Studies scholars. This project represents a new stage in Prof. Dees’s research, which to date has focused on the history of museum research on Native North American religious objects.

Abby M. Dubisar, Associate Professor, English
Dr. Dubisar will conduct archival research in the Manuscript Cookbook Collection at Kansas State University and the Culinary Collection at Harvard’s Schlesinger Library, analyzing primary materials from the archives for her new book, Cookbooks as Civic Action: Food Rhetorics for Peace and Justice. Using rhetorical analysis, this book will demonstrate how cookbook authors, in addition to featuring recipes, use visual and written strategies to persuade readers to engage in civic action. The materials identified so far, published in 1968–2017, span two historical periods—a period of antiwar activism prompted by the Vietnam War and a period of critical response to U.S. politics and policies following the 2016 election—that led to the creation of socially engaged cookbooks. Between those two historical periods, cookbook writers address other social justice issues, such as promoting peace in the context of the “war on terror.” As a scholar in food rhetorics with 10 journal article or book chapter publications related to food in the past seven years, Dubisar will use this project to develop pedagogical materials for her classes on gender, rhetoric, and communication and enhance her scholarly reputation in rhetoric. As a Humanities Iowa speaker, Dubisar will present this research to public audiences around Iowa in talks at public libraries, nursing homes, and other venues where she is invited to speak. Thus, this research informs both academic and public audiences on how writers subvert the genre expectations of a cookbook by including both recipes and instruction for civic and political action.

Rachel Haywood, Associate Professor, World Languages and Cultures
Prof. Rachel Haywood’s project, “The Dawn of Genre Science Fiction in Latin America: Más All., GRD, and Crononauta,” forms a pivotal chapter of her second book manuscript, Latin American Science Fiction in the Space Age. The monograph will examine the history of the science fiction genre in Latin America from 1945 to 1969. It will demonstrate how Latin American writers have adapted science fiction to reflect their own realities: expanding the genre to include postcolonial perspectives from the margins of world power, calling into question the assumptions and interpretations of the predominantly Northern science fiction tradition, increasing the permeability of the genre’s limits, and engaging in national and global discourses on identity, history, politics, culture, and modernity. For the chapter completed during the award period, Haywood will study the full print runs of two pivotal science fiction magazines from Argentina and Mexico as well as multiple volumes from a pioneering Brazilian science fiction book series.These three publishing initiatives mark the dawn of the Golden Age of genre science fiction in Latin America, which witnesses a transition from a virtual monopoly of imported works to the emergence of a home-grown science fiction tradition. This project seeks to increase our understanding of science fiction in Latin America during this crucial time in twentieth-century history, thereby revealing a more complete and complex picture of the genre and of the region.

Luana Lamberti Nunes, Assistant Professor, World Languages and Cultures
This grant proposal seeks funding for a research project examining the linguistic consequences of the Atlantic slave trade on the formation of Helvécia Portuguese, an Afro-Brazilian dialect spoken in Helvécia, Bahia, Brazil. The study aims to address the gaps in language contact and Creole studies and contribute to a nuanced understanding of language formation in contexts of multilingualism. The project builds on the unique linguistic features of Helvécia Portuguese, resulting from the historical language contact between Yorùbá and Portuguese. Through extensive fieldwork in the summer of 2024, the researcher intends to investigate the origins of Helvécia Portuguese, the role of Niger-Congo languages in its formation, and the impact of sociohistorical conditions on language attitudes within the Helvécia community. The proposal emphasizes the need to avoid terminology rooted in colonialism and racism, presenting Helvécia Portuguese as a legitimate linguistic variety shaped by contact during its formative period. The intended fieldwork research would incorporate sociolinguistic interviews, linguistic questionnaires, and community observations, focusing on language attitudes and the evolving linguistic landscape, particularly among the younger population. The study's outcomes will contribute to the broader understanding of Afro-Iberian languages, challenge discriminatory terminology in linguistics, and shed light on the consequences of African slavery in Brazil on both societal and linguistic levels. Additionally, the project aims to strengthen connections between Iowa State University and scholars in Bahia, Brazil, fostering international collaboration and enhancing the university's global presence.

Hugo Salgado, Assistant Professor, World Languages and Cultures
Ini Tay Tinat ‘This Is What We Say’: Nawat Oral Literature as Told by Nawat Elders is a documentation project aimed at recording stories, poems, and songs from the last native speakers of Nawat, the critically endangered indigenous language of El Salvador. This is a task of the utmost urgency since there are less than 200 Nawat-speaking elders in El Salvador, all over the age of 60. The project will span 18 months, starting in June 2024, and will consist of four stages: gathering of Nawat oral literature, transcription and translation, analysis, and dissemination. The gathering stage will take place in El Salvador between June 20-July 21, and the subsequent stages will be completed from August 2024-December 2025. A total of 70 hours of Nawat oral literature will be recorded, transcribed, analyzed, and disseminated among the Nawat people and in conferences and journals specialized in indigenous languages of the Americas. The documented Nawat oral literature in this project and the traditional knowledge it contains has the potential to contribute to a wide range of disciplines in the arts and the humanities, including history, anthropology, indigenous studies, linguistics, folklore, and ethnomusicology. It will also provide linguists with an invaluable resource to better understand and describe the structure of the Nawat language. Finally, this project offers a way for the Nawat people who no longer speak their ancestral language to preserve their oral literature and to reclaim a heritage of traditional knowledge that has been historically denied to them.

Shenglan Zhang, Associate Professor, World Languages and Cultures
The non-alphabetic Chinese script can be challenging for Westerners not only due to its long historical evolution and unique features, but also because of its intricate and complex connections with Chinese society, politics, art, and culture. This book project, titled Into the Labyrinth of Chinese Script, aims to provide a comprehensive, in-depth, and lively account of Chinese script and to offer a comparative perspective for audiences in the West who are interested in understanding the complexity, richness, and impact of this writing system. This book consists of six chapters which explore a variety of interconnected topics. The first two focus on the origin, evolution, features, and different types of script. The third analyzes its use in different sociocultural contexts, borrowed and loan words from other languages, and cultural traditions and reverence surrounding any piece of paper with the scrip. The fourth chapter delves into how political forces have powerfully shaped the script into its current form. These include the impact of the First Emperor of China on the formation of script, efforts in the early 20th century to reform and discard the script, China’s script simplification process between 1950s and 1970s, and how it had overcome the challenges posed by the advent of typing in the 1980s. The fifth chapter focuses on artistic expressions involving Chinese script in daily life and the last chapter examines the global use of Chinese script – its historical and contemporary use in east Asia. The requested course release will allow drafting of two chapters: chapters 3 and 4.

Digital Scholarship Grant:

Sinem Sonsaat Hegelheimer, Assistant Professor, English
In this two-folded project, Dr. Sonsaat-Hegelheimer aims to synthesize non-native and native English speakers’ voices by using generative AI-powered speech synthesis. This kind of speech synthesis makes non-native English speakers’ speech sound more like a native speaker while keeping the original voice quality. This kind of synthesized speech for language learning purposes has been called to be the best voice, the “Golden Speaker” (Ding et al., 2019) that second language (L2) learners can practice with to improve their pronunciation in a target language. Traditionally, creating Golden Speakers required expertise in computer science, limiting accessibility to scholars and practitioners in humanities. With the advancement of generative AI now, scholars in humanities can also be involved in this endeavor and increase the accessibility and affordability of instructional materials that are developed for language learning. Dr. Sonsaat-Hegelheimer will use the synthesized voices created by generative AI for a pronunciation training intervention study to improve the comprehensibility and fluency of L2 speakers in academic environments. Comprehensibility (i.e., the ease or difficulty of understanding someone’s speech from a listener’s perspective) and fluency are vital features of speech for successful communication between speakers and also key factors in social judgements against non-native speakers. Therefore, leveraging generative AI technologies to develop accessible and affordable instructional materials for language learning is vital for promoting inclusive and bias-free communication within academic communities.

Symposium Grant:

Jeremy Best, Associate Professor, History
Genocide, ethnic violence, and brutal persecution are not spontaneous expressions of human evil. In Europe during the Holocaust, on the North American Plains during the nineteenth century, and in other ethnically and racially dynamic communities of North America, perpetrators and victims, collaborators and bystanders all participated in, or resisted, large-scale examples of violence. To understand the causes of such violence, Iowa State and partners will host a symposium designed to reconstruct these pasts, examine how they affect the present, and explore ways they can influence our research and teaching. Pathways of Persecution: Dispossession and Violence on the Great Plains is a symposium organized and supported by Iowa State, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), University of Northern Iowa (UNI), and other partners. The first day, at Iowa State, will feature classroom instructional visits, a pedagogical roundtable, and a moderated keynote panel for a campus and community audience. The second day, hosted at UNI, will feature morning workshops for teachers and a plenary panel on the practical challenges of teaching these topics. Pathways of Persecution is a dynamic opportunity to bridge the gaps between academia, community classrooms, and community needs. Iowa State will establish itself as an emerging center for understanding the historical and contemporary causes, effects, and costs of racial violence. With the support of a CEAH Symposium Grant, Iowa State can lead the way in the creation of new, enhanced regional collaborations. Grant support is intended exclusively for events at ISU and transport of participants to UNI.