A research project at Whitman College to identify sustainable peace strategies for Uganda is among those selected to receive endowed funding this spring, along with five other major research projects proposed by teams of Whitman professors and their students.

It recently was announced that the proposals will receive the help they need through funds established by Whitman alumni: The Dublin award and the Abshire awards.

“These projects indicate the remarkable breadth as well as depth of the scholarly work in which Whitman faculty and students are currently engaged,” said Timothy Kaufman-Osborn, Whitman’s provost and dean of the faculty. “We owe a considerable debt to the donors whose gifts furnish ongoing support for these endeavors.”

The Uganda project, proposed by Bruce Magnusson, associate professor politics and student Claire Lueneburg ’10,  will receive the Dublin award, which was established in 2003 by Trustee Kari Glover ’72 and her husband, Thaddas L. Alston, to support scholarly or creative work relating to multiculturalism in the U.S. or abroad. It is named for the late Adam Dublin’96, in memory of his positive spirit and commitment to diversity as a Whitman student.

The other research proposals are recipients of Abshire awards, established in 1981 by Alfred D. Abshire ’45, in memory of his wife, Sally Ann, give students an opportunity to conduct and present research in collaboration with professors. The awards are given each semester to a number student/faculty teams. Whitman professors who have a need for assistance and/or research in their scholarly pursuits are to choose truly excellent students and then involve the student intellectually and not merely as a tool for mechanical kinds of research. Student Abshire scholars, assist their professors for up to eight hours per week and may earn up to $800 for the semester.
The recipients of spring 2010 Abshire awards are:

• Shampa Biswas, associate professor of politics, and  Zahi Zalloua, associate professor of foreign languages and literatures, with Ali Edwards ’10 and Tristan Grau ’11 – The team will edit the proceedings from last year’s “Torture and the Human Body” symposium held at Whitman, which will be published by the University of Washington Press. The February symposium, “dealt precisely with the pressing issues surrounding the question of torture, seeking alternative and innovative ways to imagine and understand torture and its traumatic effects on the human body…,” according to the research team’s application. The symposium’s panel included three scholars and authors: Mark Danner a contributor to The New Yorker and author of “Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror”; Darius Rejali, author of “Democracy and Torture”; and Stephanie Athey, an associate professor of English at Lasell College, who has published articles on representations of torture and writer of a book in process, “Torture’s Echo: News, Memoir.”

• Jennifer Gee, visiting assistant professor of biology, with Juliet D’Alessandro ’10 – “Examining the Origin and Maintenance of Species.” In the research application, Gee explains that her ongoing research “examines the origin and maintenance of species, in particular, the processes that make lineages distinctly different in their ecology, genetics and behavior. Explaining what causes this variation is at the heart of understanding biodiversity and ultimately, understanding how we can preserve it.” The Abshire project is to be an extension of her past research of California and Gambel’s Quail hybridization, this time focusing on a “natural experiment of possible episodic hybridization in the Walla Walla Valley between California and Gambel’s Quail, which were each introduced to the Walla Walla Valley around 1920.”

The data gained “are not only important for our theoretical understanding hybridization, but it would help inform Washington State agencies in the consequences of game bird consequences and as such, thesis research may potentially shape wildlife management policy.”

• Julia Ireland, assistant professor of philosophy, with Galen Phillips ’10 – “Given Life: Arendt, Butler and the Politics of Non-Violence.” The team aims in part to research, discuss and distill philosophers’ work on the issues of  “ ‘life,’ ” and ‘politics’ and the role that life might play (necessarily plays?) in developing a non-violent politics…,” according to the team’s Abshire application. Ireland, who has been researching the work of  political theorist Hannah Arendt, states she wants in this Abshire project to “extend a line of questioning that began with my ‘Torture and the Body’ presentation for the Global Studies Symposium … In doing research for that presentation I became interested in contemporary theorizations of the category of ‘life’ (embodies human existence) in relation to violence and terror. This violence includes suicide bombing, torture, indefinite detention, and civilian deaths.” Ireland states that, “This new theoretical emphasis on the category of life is surprising, as biological existence has been philosophically understood to lie outside of the political, which is specifically the realm of human action. Seen from this perspective, the sheer givenness of life is something non-human — it is neither that which human beings have made nor what concerns their actions…” The team will focus on the work of Arendt and Judith Butler, their seemingly different understandings of the category of “life,” and the team will attempt to find, among other things, an answer to the question, “What theoretical resources might each offer to the other in better conceptualizing a politics of non-violence?”

• Suzanne Morrissey, assistant professor of anthropology, with Dena Popova ’10 – “Changing Birth Practices and Indigenous Identity in Andean Ecuador – A Documentary Film Project.” This project, a continuation of a previously funded project, will further explore an evolution, using “interviews and collected documentary materials to present the story of indigenous women — nurses, midwives, mothers and doctors — who are at once active participants in a thriving indigenous movement, which includes a conscious return to traditional medicine practices, and making new choices about how and where to give birth as they become more aware of and gain access to new biomedical technologies,” according to the team’s Abshire application. The film project will look at such dynamics as changes in laws regarding midwifery in Ecuador and changing roles and responsibilities of men in pregnancy and childbirth — and how “Indigenous identity is no longer tied only to ‘tradition’ but is constructed within a framework of modernity that includes changing gender roles, access to higher education, shifting definitions of family, attention to global markets and opportunities, and emerging choices surrounding lifeway decisions.”

• Matthew Reynolds, assistant professor of art history, with Sydney Stasch ’10 – “Post No Bills: Selections from the Jack Freimann Poster Collection.” Jack Freimann, a long-time director of Harper Joy Theatre, began collecting and hanging movie posters and playbills in Harper Joy Theatre in the 1960s to help impress upon students the importance and magnificence of theater world-wide as an art and as big business and a legitimate career field. Freimann retired years ago and is a working actor in New York, but the posters keep coming, from him as well as traveling students and faculty. With no room left at the theatre, hundreds are now stored in Cordiner Hall. This team is taking on the curation of some of them and developing an exhibition to be held at the college’s Fouts Center for the Visual Arts in time for the April theater reunion and Freimann’s return to campus. Five students are writing essays, “the basis for the didactic text and other promotional materials used in the exhibition,” according to the team’s Abshire application. They are also “undertaking additional research related to the collection, writing new informational text, planning the exhibition layout, organizing documentation and archival materials, installing the posters, etc.”

— Virginia Grantier