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U-M professors win Guggenheim Fellowships for research

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Five current and one retired University of Michigan professors were among 180 winners of the Guggenheim Fellowships, which are awarded annually for distinguished achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment.

The U-M fellows and their projects include:

  • David Caron, professor of French and women's studies, "Tact and HIV disclosure."
  • Holly Hughes, associate professor of art and design, theatre and drama, and women's studies, "Let Them Eat Cake."
  • Shinobu Kitayama, professor of psychology, "Cultural Neuroscience: Bridging Natural and Social Sciences."
  • Tomoko Masuzawa, professor of history and comparative literature; "A history of biblical studies and the 19th-century academy."
  • Elizabeth Sears, the George H. Forsyth Jr. Collegiate Professor of History of Art, "Warburg Circles: towards a cultural-historical history of art, 1929-64."
  • Richard Tillinghast, professor emeritus of English; Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland: poetry


The 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship winners include artists, scholars, and scientists selected from more than 3,000 applicants for awards totaling more than $7.1 million.

"We are proud that our faculty members have received this honor," said Provost Teresa Sullivan. "This national recognition of faculty in fields including performance art, psychology and the humanities is a clear indication of the strength and diversity of the work undertaken at the university."

Caron will spend his time next year working on his book on tact, HIV and questions raised by disclosure. "Receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship is making me feel both excited and very honored," he said.

For Hughes, her fellowship supports "Let Them Eat Cake," an interactive performance piece which stages the debate on gay marriage, created in collaboration with Megan Carney and Maureen Angelos. The piece will premiere in Ann Arbor in October starring U-M students, with a performance in New York City and a national tour pending.

"To receive this prestigious award for work that engages with LGBT issues is a tremendous honor and a validation," she said. "I'm deeply humbled and grateful to the Foundation and to the many friends who have supported my work over the years."

Using the fellowship to write about the monograph on cultural neuroscience is on Kitayama's agenda. The goal, he said, is to present a theoretical framework for understanding the interconnectedness among culture, mind/brain, and evolution/genetics, without privileging any of them.

"I believe that the new field of cultural neuroscience will provide biological sciences with a much-needed concept of context," Kitayama said, "(and) offer a new set of empirical anchors to social and behavioral sciences to go beyond the traditional dichotomies between mind and body, social and physical, and culture and nature."

Masuzawa's project?and possible book title?is "The Promise of the Secular: William Robertson Smith and the Historical Constitution of Biblical Studies." It examines the legacy of the 19th-century biblical and Arabic scholar, who was put on a protracted heresy trial for his publication, and whose work became the basis of some of the most controversial aspects of Durkheim and Freud, two renowned "secularists" of the 20th century.

"I hope to use the Guggenheim Fellowship in a future year, as I will be finishing the project and perhaps launching on another," said Masuzawa, who will be a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton (School of Social Science) for the academic year 2010-2011.

This future project will likely explore further the interrelation among the Biblical, Arabic, and Orientalist scholarship, considered in the context of the emergent institution of "research university" in the 19th century, she said.

"The recognition that comes in the form of fellowship awards is of course most welcome personally, and I should be glad also if it can contribute in a small way to the visibility of this scholarship more generally," she added.

Sears said the fellowship will provide her with the resources, and the time, to prepare a book on an intellectual movement rooted in the work of the seminally important art historian Aby Warburg (1866-1929) and to examine the operation of international academic networks in the mid-twentieth century.

"The fellowship comes at the perfect time, and I am enormously grateful to the Guggenheim Foundation," said Sears, who will be a resident for the year at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts in Washington D.C.

Since 1925, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has granted more than $281 million in fellowships to more than 16,900 individuals in the United States and Canada.