UC Humanities Funding for Graduate Students in Flux

Although the popular DHI Dissertation Year Fellowships, funded through the UC Humanities Network, are in their last year, there are new opportunities for funding that encourage multi-campus initiatives and interdisciplinary engagement at the graduate level.

The UC Humanities Network has begun a new program to award funding for Multi-Campus Graduate Working Groups. In fact, UC Davis’s own Trisha Barua, a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies received funding in the inaugural round for a proposal titled an “Oakland School” of Urban Studies. The working group will bring together graduate students from across the UC to discuss representations of the city of Oakland and how an interdisciplinary approach can comprehend the multiplicity of factors that are (re)shaping the city in this post-recession period.

Multi-Campus Graduate Working Groups such as Barua’s allow graduate students still in the process of forming their dissertation projects to take advantage of their peers’ perspectives and knowledge across the UC system.

Other UC-wide opportunities available for graduate students include the Graduate Advisory Committee for Humanists@Work. Awardees of that competition will be announced later this quarter, and those selected will attend workshops on alt-ac careers as well as participate in event planning and logistics for the committee.

There is also an open application for the Humanists@Work Summer 2015 PhD Research Internship Program, due May 1, 2015. The intern will work in program development, communications, and event coordination, supporting UCHRI’s increased focus on alt-ac careers for humanities PhDs.

This academic year has seen the founding of these and other funding opportunities for graduate students in the UC system and the final cohort of Dissertation Year Fellows. This year’s fellows from UC Davis are Mark Dries, of the history department, and Heather Jennings, from the English department. Fellows receive a full academic year of financial support in recognition of work that promises to make significant contributions to research in the humanities.

Mark Dries’s project, “The Mercurial Menace: Health and Indigenous Labor in the Mercury Mines of Huancavelica, Peru 1570-1700,” examines how indigenous conceptions of health influenced the labor regime in the mercury mines of Huancavelica, Peru during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Dries has spent much of this past year on fellowship abroad, doing archival research in Huancavelica and Lima. This research has not only furthered his project, but complicated it in productive ways. His work in the archive at Huancavelica, for example, has produced documents that show “the participation of indigenous miners alongside Spaniards. The current narrative regarding the Andean population focuses on their victimization, but I’ve seen that that is not the whole story,” Dries explains.

Heather Jennings’s dissertation is titled “Speaking Flesh: Embodied Knowledge in Medieval Rhetoric, Pedagogy, and Performance” and uses cognitive theory, performance studies, work in pedagogical techniques, and knowledge of medieval grammar and rhetoric, bringing to light productive correspondences between premodern and postmodern theorizations of the mind, the body, and the performer.

This year on fellowship has allowed Jennings to manage a growing and changing archive of research materials. “I am showing how rhetorical texts spanning nearly two thousand years, as well as many other school texts, shaped medieval drama, which itself encompasses a varied corpus. Additionally, I have expanded my research to include medieval preaching manuals and sermons, which were more influential on dramatic content than I had originally realized,” Jennings says.

Both Dries and Jennings have found the time on fellowship particularly useful in connecting and collaborating with other scholars. Jennings says, “I have learned how dependent productive intellectual work is on conversations with others, so I have scheduled my work around regular discussions of my writing with other graduate students and my advisors, as well as participated in two conferences addressing medieval performance practices.”

Dries has found communication with scholars in other disciplines particularly helpful. He has participated in interdisciplinary conferences and has collaborated with a PhD candidate in anthropology, who has also worked with the archives near the mine.

– Katja Jylkka, DHI Graduate Student Researcher and doctoral student in English