Introducing New Mellon Research Initiatives for 2015-2016

The two new Mellon Research Initiatives, launching in fall 2015 and set to run through 2017-2018, are Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds and Comparative Border Studies. Both of these groups promise exciting investigations of the intersection between physical space and culture.

Each group has spent the summer developing new websites to showcase their work and activities:

The co-directors of Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds are Bettina Ng’weno, Associate Professor in African American and African Studies, and Smriti Srinivas, Professor in Anthropology. They are excited to welcome a Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor who joins the initiative for a two-year term. Neelima Jeychandran has a Ph.D. in Performance and Culture from UCLA and arrives from Kerala, India, where she has been working on a museum exhibit and continuing her research on issues regarding memory and heritage in Kerala.

An opening symposium entitled “Indian Ocean Imaginaries” officially launches the Initiative on October 16. Featuring invited researchers and participants from across campus, three ocean-faring panels treat topics as varied as spiritual devotion, Women’s Football, and the poetry of the coastal Indian state of Gujarat. Capping the day’s events, a roundtable facilitated by Neelima Jeychandran will bring faculty and graduate students together to explore new methodological directions within Indian Ocean Studies.

Robert Irwin and Sunaina Maira, Professor of Spanish and Professor of Asian American Studies respectively, are co-directors of the Comparative Border Studies Research Initiative, and welcome Maurice Stierl as the group’s Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor. Stierl obtained his doctorate at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. He was previously an Associate Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study and a Teaching Fellow at the Politics and International Studies Department in Warwick.

The first year of Comparative Border Studies is organized around the theme “Human Rights, Citizenship, and Racialized Belonging.” On Friday, November 13, a Roundtable on Borders, Rights, and Resistance will include scholars, activists, students, and artists to reflect on key questions and problems posed by the Initiative. In the fall and winter quarters, graduate courses offered by Stierl and the co-directors of the Initiative will probe resistance and human rights as transnational sites of inquiry.

The Mellon Research Initiatives have proved to be a unique and vibrant place for intellectual inquiry here at UC Davis. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, each initiative is envisioned as an intense and ongoing exploration of a particular topic through seminars, colloquia, and public conferences.

–     Michael Accinno, DHI Graduate Student Researcher and Ph.D. candidate in Musicology