Spring 2006 Faculty Research Award Program Awards

The following faculty members received funding awards in spring 2006 through the College’s Faculty Research Award Program (FRAP), which supports the research activities of all regular full- and part-time, tenured and tenure-track Amherst College faculty members. Since 2000, FRAP has been endowed by the H. Axel Schupf ’57 Fund for Intellectual Life.

Small Grant awards

Large Grant Awards

Small grants are for $6,000 or less.

Professor Jay Caplan
Department of French
Research Project: Postal Enlightenment

Professor Caplan will describe the material conditions of letter-writing in the Enlightenment and consider how those conditions affected the way in which members of the “Republic of Letters” imagined each other and themselves. He will present these issues through the cases of Voltaire and Rousseau. Voltaire, for example, lived in a succession of places throughout his long life, all the while remaining at the center of European Enlightenment. At a time when national postal monopolies and postage stamps did not yet exist, he maintained a vast correspondence with persons all over Europe, from England to Russia. Professor Caplan plans to show how Voltaire’s letters (and those of his correspondents) reached their destinations, what itineraries they followed, and how long it took for the letters to reach their destinations. Today, everyone knows that the apparently instantaneous delivery of email leads users to adopt a style that is different from that of “paper” letters and to imagine themselves and their correspondents in new ways. Professor Caplan hopes to show how the material conditions of letter-writing in the Enlightenment influenced the ways in which people wrote letters and understood themselves at the time.

Professor Jamal Elias
Department of Religion
Research Project: Popular Religion and Visual Culture in Pakistan

Information to come

Professor David Hansen
Department of Chemistry
Research Project: A Catalytic Molecular Imprint for a Lactonization Reaction

Professor Hansen’s FRAP award will be used to study new strategies for the generation of organic, polymeric “molecular imprints” with improved—and novel—catalytic activities. The technique of “molecular imprinting,” which was pioneered by Klaus Mosbach and Günther Wulff, works as diagramed here:


The target molecule, known as the “template molecule,” is dissolved in a solution of (typically) methacrylate or styrene “monomers.” These monomers also contain chemical functionality that interacts with the template molecule. Formation of these bonds assembles the monomers around the template. The mixture then is copolymerized in with a large excess of crosslinker to yield a “rigid, porous lattice”—i.e., a macroporous plastic. The template molecule is then washed away from the polymer, leaving microscopic cavities (the “imprints”) that are electrostatically and geometrically complementary to the template molecule. The imprinted plastic is ground and wet sieved to yield the active polymer. Such imprints can show exquisite specificity for the template molecule. When an appropriately designed template molecule is employed, the resultant molecular imprints can also be catalytic, and over the past twenty years, numerous such reports have appeared. While a range of strategies has been employed, what is most striking about the catalytic imprints generated to date is the small rate-enhancements they typically effect. Although rate accelerations of over 100-fold are often seen as compared with the analogous reaction free in solution, accelerations of under 10-fold are usually observed when compared with control polymers (which are generated from the same cocktail of monomers and crosslinker absent the template molecule). The use of other materials for catalytic imprints has also been reported, but the rate accelerations observed are all quite modest. Professor Hansen’s research group will explore molecular imprints with three features intended to enhance the catalytic activity of the imprints obtained: One, each imprint will employ a covalent or “stoichiometric-noncovalent” bond between functionalized monomer and template; two, each will incorporate a nucleophile into the catalytic mechanism; and three, each will be generated using the technique of “precipitation polymerization.” Covalent and stoichiometric-noncovalent imprinting allow for more precise positioning of the template (and thus of the analogous substrate) within the polymeric matrix, while direct participation of a catalytic nucleophilic functionality—a mechanistic feature that can lead to huge rate accelerations in intramolecular model systems—should lead to enhanced rates. Finally, precipitation polymerization directly yields polymer beads that are uniform in size (with diameters of a micron or less) and that display higher affinity for template. If the approaches outlined do yield molecular-imprint catalysts with enhanced activities, then a general, inexpensive, and straightforward method for the creation of active catalysts will be at hand.

Professor Leah Hewitt
Department of French
Research Project: Marianne at the Movies: National Identity in French Films on the Occupation

When collective memory is a source of national debate, the public representation of history quickly becomes a locus of controversy and ideological struggle in the present. This has particularly been the case for France as it has continued to reimagine the murky, ambiguous past of the Occupation in film narrative. Professor Hewitt’s book project considers how the seemingly unending flow of French postwar films about World War II has articulated the ongoing crisis in French national identity. Her work focuses in particular on the ways postwar films construct French identity via a female icon-Marianne—who comes to embody the moral dilemmas of the past. Professor Hewitt will use her award to travel to Paris to obtain film stills from the photo collection at the Bibliothèque du film. The photos will be incorporated into her book.

Professor Nasser Hussain
Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought
Research Project: Colonialism after Globalization

If the last decade has witnessed the increasing intensification of the complex process called globalization, it has also prompted a parallel increase in protests, many if not most of which are articulated in a vocabulary of anti-imperialism. The Iraq war of 2003 seems only to have intensified such a critique, from popular protests (ant-war marchers carrying signs such as “No Empire of Oil”) to scholarly publications (for example, David Harvey’s The New Imperialism). This project begins by neither agreeing nor disagreeing with such an equation of globalization with imperialism, but rather takes this now common refrain as an invitation to revisit and re-examine the role of colonialism in the formation of the contemporary world order, an order which includes the process of globalization. The title of the project, Colonialism after Globalization, with its deliberate anachronistic and back to front quality, opens up the inquiry, forcing us to not only specify differences but also to ask theoretically what the present situation tells us about past historical formations. It is Professor Hussain’s contention here that globalization allows us to look back at colonial formations in order to specify what is specifically colonial about them. He takes a historical approach to the changing conceptions of conquest and control, free trade and global military power. In particular, he juxtaposes the present time with the latter half of the eighteenth century, because it is in that earlier period that we see a clear shift towards notions of national defense that are not just about protection of territories but a more global and diffuse interest in protection of trade routes. It is also at this time that the East India Company in particular extends its territorial control through the creation and use of ‘private’ armies as well as a strategy of gaining control of other sovereign states through the use of military assistance and advice. In other words, Professor Hussain begins with an inversion: He treats militarism as a business and reads global trade’s implication in a worldwide system of war and defense.

Professor Jill Miller
Department of Biology
Research Project: Phylogeography of southwestern US and Mexican Lycium californicum (Solanaceae)

Understanding genetic relationships among populations provides insight into historical evolutionary processes, and can test the effects of past climatic or geologic factors on population structure. Recently, Professor Miller and her research group have discovered that Lycium californicum, a species of wolfberry in the Tomato Family, has both hermaphroditic (male and female function within the same flower on a plant) and dimorphic (the separation of male and female function on separate plants) populations across its range in southwestern North America. They have also demonstrated that dimorphic populations are polyploid, a mutation in which the entire chromosome complement is duplicated, whereas hermaphroditic populations are diploid. The purpose of the proposed research is to develop novel genetic markers that will be useful for phylogeographic studies in this species. This work will elucidate the number of times polyploidy and dimorphism have evolved in concert, as well as, investigate gene flow between populations of different ploidy levels. In addition, it will be the first phylogeographic study of a plant in understanding the geological history of the Baja California peninsula.

Professor Susan Niditch
Department of Religion
Research Project: Hair in Ancient Israel: Pictorial Evidence

Hair plays an integral and intricate role in the way human beings represent and identify themselves in cultures, both ancient and modern. Professor Niditch’s monograph on hair in ancient Israel, to be published by Oxford University Press, will contribute to a deeper understanding of Israelite culture as expressed, shaped, and reinforced in images of hair, a complex symbol drawn from the body. This FRAP award will allow Professor Niditch to visit museums that house specific pieces of ancient Near Eastern art depicting the hairstyles of ancient Israelites and their neighbors. These collections also include artifacts such as hairpins and filets, examples of material culture relevant to this new study of hair in the Hebrew Bible.

Professor Monica Ringer
Department of History
Research Project: Intensive Turkish Language Course

Professor Ringer will undertake an intensive four-week Turkish language training course at Ankara University’s Tomer language institute in Turkey while she is on sabbatical in 2006-2007, in order to begin research using Turkish language sources. In the twentieth century, Turkey and Iran seemed to be on similar political and social trajectories: both had embarked on authoritarian top-down modernization projects, pre-Islamic based Nationalisms, state-sponsored cultural projects of westernization, and intensively imposed secularization of the legal and educational systems. As part of the program of secularism, both societies also began rethinking the role of religion in a secular context. Religion thus was rearticulated in terms of both belief systems and practice in order to be compatible and supportive of the new social, cultural and political goals that were considered “modern.” However, Turkey and Iran presented very different contexts in which these cultural, political and institutional objectives operated. Turkey, for example, had a much longer history of modernization and secularization projects and a powerful state apparatus with which to enable change from the top down. Iran began the process much later than did Turkey, and did not enjoy as powerful a central state with which to promote change, with the result that change was not only later in commencing, but the process itself was slower with fewer results and less momentum. Another important difference was the relative weight of their respective religious minority populations. Turkey had institutional and historical memory of the large numbers of minorities (largely Christian and Jewish) that formed part of the Ottoman Empire. Consequently, they inherited the Ottoman rationale for secularism which was premised on the importance of inclusion of all “subjects” regardless of religious identity for the purposes of preventing separatist movements. Iran, unlike Turkey with the Ottoman legacy, had few religious minorities relative to Ottoman Empire/Turkey (Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians) and so had not considered them as powerful, potentially dangerous subjects when formulating their own rationale for secularism. The issue of religious minorities in the Iranian case did not emerge until after the Iranian state actually adopted a secularizing agenda, rather than having been a major part of its rationale for doing so as in the Turkish case. Religious minority-state relations and their connection to Iranian nationalism and rethinking the role of Islam in a “modern” and secular state and society therefore present very interesting differences in the Turkish and Iranian cases – differences which will more fully illuminate the variety of rationales for secularism and the ways in which religious minorities were conceptualized as “citizens” in Turkey and Iran.

Professor Christian Rogowski
Department of German
Research Project: The ‘Colonial Idea’ in Weimar German Cinema

Professor Rogowski’s project concerns the colonialist dimension of films produced in Germany during the Weimar Republic (1919-1933). After the defeat in World War I and the loss of Germany’s overseas territories (in Africa, China, and the Pacific), the German colonial lobby embarked on a multifarious campaign to reach out to a mass audience, in books, the press, public commemorations, exhibitions, and parliamentary debates, as well as film. An overheated German film industry churned out scores of popular genre films in exotic settings that, as some critics have argued, can be read as symbolically laying claim to countries and cultures over which Germany had lost her influence. Action/adventure dramas and costume extravaganzas can be said to contribute to the compensatory effort to rehabilitate Germany, and her imperial and colonial aspirations, on the world-political stage. After the Locarno Treaty of 1925, when the ban on filming in the former colonial territories was lifted, there was a veritable explosion of travelogues and non-fiction films voicing nostalgia over the loss of colonies. Yet by the early 1930s, even as colonial advocacy groups and right-wing extremists continued to press the colonial cause, it would appear that Germany’s colonial claims were no longer a pressing issue for mainstream German culture, as the country found itself in the throws of soaring unemployment, political violence, and domestic instability. At the same time, it is the Weimar period that saw the formulation of the concept of Germans as a nation without adequate living space, a notion formulated in the Hans Grimm’s best-selling novel, Volk ohne Raum (People without Space) of 1926. The novel’s advocacy of the notion that Germans would find the rightful space for self-fulfillment in the vast, “empty” wilds of colonial Africa found considerable sympathy with the Nazis. Thus, there is a complex, and often convoluted, nexus between popular notions of race and space as formulated by colonial interest groups in the Weimar period and the racially and geopolitically motivated imperial aspirations of the Third Reich. Professor Rogowski explores the ways in which Weimar cinema, beyond its art house masterworks, encompassed popular genre and documentary films that played an important part in helping form and perpetuate notions of race and space that were to have disastrous implications.

Professor Kevin Sweeney
Departments of History and American Studies
Research Project: Material Life in New England, 1630-1820

Professor Sweeney will use his FRAP grant to pay for the creation of maps to illustrate Material Life in New England, 1630-1820, which is to be published by the University of Massachusetts Press. The eight essays in this volume examine changes in domestic architecture, public architecture, graveyards, and domestic furnishings in rural New England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Some of these essays have been published previously and are being revised; others were written especially for this volume. The eight maps paid for by the grant are designed to be integral parts of the essays’ exposition and analysis. One map will provide an overview of towns in western New England; two maps will show the distribution of different types of domestic housing at two points in time; and another will plot the locations of mid-eighteenth-century mansion houses. Another map will show the locations of seventeenth and eighteenth-century town houses while a companion map will document the erection of town houses in Massachusetts during the early nineteenth century. An additional map will show the distribution of gravestone materials and the locations of seventeenth and eighteenth-century quarries and a final map will plot the movements of gravestone cutters during the eighteenth century.

Professor Paola Zamperini
Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations
Research Project: Forbidden Games. Gambling, Gender and Desire in China, Past and Present

In this book project, Professor Zamperini will analyze fictional and non-fictional representations of gambling in a variety of pre-modern and modern sources. She has already begun working on depictions of gamblers in late imperial Chinese fiction, as well as early cinematic depictions of women addicted to gambling, in an effort to unravel the developing narratives about consumption, gender and desire. In a second moment she wants to expand the spatio-temporal scope of this query to contemporary practices and representations, dealing, just to mention a set of very interesting contemporary sources, extensively with the Hong Kong kungfu-comedy The God of Gamblers and all its sequels. If her research shows it feasible and meaningful, she would also like to expand the geographical boundaries of the query from mainland China to depictions of overseas gambling in Chinese communities in North America. Gender is central to her research and it provides the crux of the transition from pre-modern to modern and contemporary sources by showing how shifts in social and political concerns are mirrored in the problematics attached to the gender of the gamblers.

Large grants are for more than $6,000 and up to 30,000.

Professor John Cheney
Department of Geology
Research Project: The Proterozoic Big Sky Orogeny in SW Montana

The overarching goal of this proposal is to test the hypothesis that the Big Sky orogeny is a regional event that effects a significant area of exposed Precambrian rocks in southwestern Montana and that this event is fundamental to the Precambrian assembly of North America. Professor Cheney and his research group have selected several lines of investigation that are all directed towards answering this fundamental question and which, they feel, will lead towards a new tectonic framework that explains the existing, structural, metamorphic, and geochronologic data. The critical missing piece is the incorporation of time into their findings. Absolute ages of metamorphic recrystallization will be established by in-situ - monazite chronology using the ion microprobe at UCLA. Recent advances in dating of monazite using the ion microprobe suggest that monazite inclusions within other minerals can yield accurate and precise (± 1.5%) ages of metamorphism. Professor Cheney and his group plan to analyze 2-4 grains in each of 10 samples from each of the four mountain ranges. The samples selected for age determinations will be a subset of the samples we are currently studying in order to determine their pressure-temperature evolution. This will provide a database of some ~ 150 new spot ages from geologically well characterized rocks that will provide the age(s) of monazite growth and thus constrain the timing along the pressure temperature path of metamorphism for each of the four mountain ranges.

Professor Whitey Hagadorn
Department of Geology
Research Project: Cambrian Sandstones: Insights into Prevegetated Shorelines and Hydrocarbon Reservoirs

The goal of Professor Hagadorn's research is to improve our understanding of the sedimentology and ecology of prevegetated sandy shorelines and to identify linkages between biological processes in such settings and the fabric of sandstones. In modern settings, the activities of microbial communities and horizontally burrowing animals strongly affect the potential of sandstones to preserve fossils and modify sediment fabric, fundamentally altering the potential of sands to house and transmit gas and fluids. Surprisingly, the effect of these processes on ancient sandstones is unquantified, despite the economic importance of sandstones as petroleum and groundwater reservoirs. To begin to address this knowledge gap, Professor Hagadorn and his students will examine the fabric of 500 million-year-old sandstones from Sonora, Mexico, and comparable strata from the St. Lawrence Lowlands of southern Canada. These rocks are superbly exposed, contain well-preserved microbial, burrowing, and soft-bodied fossils, and can be linked to subsurface petroleum and groundwater reservoirs via drillcore.

Professor Austin Sarat
Department of Political Science
Research Project: Cause Lawyers and Social Movements: Opportunities and Constraints

The last half of the twentieth century in the United States was, in part, a story of law’s role in movements for social change—from the struggle for African-American civil rights to efforts to secure equal rights for women, from the struggle to expand the reach of human rights to efforts to secure gay rights. In this story, cause lawyers played an important, though controversial, part. They pressed the claims of oppressed people and disadvantaged groups and reminded Americans of our shared aspirations and ideals. They used legal institutions to energize a political process which all-too-frequently failed to live up to those aspirations and ideals. In the most idealized version of this period of American history, litigation mobilized movements, informed the public about particular injustices, and re-framed political struggles. This version is replete with the vindication of lawyers who fought skillfully on behalf of what, at the time, seemed to be the most hopeless of causes. In previous research Professor Sarat has attended to the ways lawyers construct causes as well as to ways commitment to a cause challenges conventional ideas of lawyer professionalism. Here he moves from an analysis of causes to a concern with social movements and from studying the way cause lawyering articulates with the project of the organized legal profession to examining the explicitly political work of cause lawyers. In addition, while much of the existing literature on cause lawyers and social movements is based on case studies of single movements, his research seeks to compare four social movements—the movement to abolish capital punishment, the movement for African-American civil rights, the anti-abortion movement, and the so-called property rights movement. And, while most previous research has studied movements of either the left or of the right, his work will analyze both. For each movement he will do research on two national advocacy organizations and two lawyer organizations that serve the movement. In each of the advocacy organizations, he will conduct ten open ended interviews of between 1 ½ to 2 hours. His interviews will target leaders and activists as well as staff attorneys employed by the organization. In addition, he will conduct archival research in the records of those organizations in order to create case studies of the way those organizations have used lawyers at various times in their movement activities. In the lawyer organizations, he will also conduct ten open ended interviews, targeting lawyers with different levels of experience and different responsibilities in handling matters for the social movements they serve. Professor Sarat’s hope is to write a book based on this research in which he answers the following questions: How, when, and why have social movements used lawyers and legal strategies? Does their use of lawyers and legal strategies advance or constrain the achievement of their goals? How do movements shape the lawyers who serve them and how do the lawyers shape movements? Can lawyers maintain their professional identities and, at the same time, be movement activists? How have the relations of cause lawyers and social movements changed over the past twenty-five years in response to changes in prevailing political conditions?

Professor Ethan Temeles
Department of Biology
Research Project: Phylogenetic and geographic analyses of sexual dimorphism and co-evolution

Charles Darwin mentioned ecological causes (e.g., resource partitioning) as one mechanism that could result in the evolution of sexual dimorphisms in size and morphology, but unambiguous evidence for ecological causation of sexual dimorphisms has been hard to find. Professor Temeles’s studies of the purple-throated carib hummingbird, Eulampis jugularis, provide unambiguous evidence for ecological causation of sexual dimorphism owing to a close correspondence between the bill morphology of male and female hummingbirds and the morphology of the Heliconia flowers they visit. This project extends his research on sexual dimorphism and coevolution to the hermits (Phaethorithinae), one of two subfamilies of hummingbirds believed to exhibit little sexual dimorphism in bill morphology. Pilot studies indicate that many species of hermits exhibit sexual dimorphism in bill curvature, and that this sexual dimorphism is associated with use of heliconias, a group of plants known for their polymorphisms in floral characteristics. He will use a blend of museum and field studies to characterize the phylogenetic and geographic patterns of polymorphisms and coadaptation in this plant-animal association. The geographic approach developed here represents a novel method for studies of sex differences and feeding adaptation, and will contribute to our knowledge of how plant-animal associations develop across a geographic landscape.

Professor Wendy Woodson
Department of Theater and Dance
Research Project: Veronica’s Fold

Professor Woodson will use her FRAP award to create and produce a new multi-media performance project currently titled Veronica’s Fold. This project will result in a full-length piece that combines live performance, video, original music and an installation set design to tell a story of one woman’s unexpected act of compassion and the consequences that this act has on others. The story will not be told in a linear progression but will be revealed through the interaction of different characters who speak (both in live and projected ‘incarnations’) in poetic texts, gesture, movement and song. In addition to the live performance piece, Veronica’s Fold will also include a series of video/Web poems based on the same material that are made specifically for the Internet. At the center of Veronica’s Fold is an interest in how ideas about who we are, what makes us real, or authentic, have changed (or not) in this time when digital cultures and technologies permeate our lives and create worlds where it seems increasingly difficult to sort out the real and the virtual. Veronica’s Fold is a continuation of Professor Woodson’s research focusing on stories and images of reconciliation, mediation and translation. In addition, the project will allow her to continue to experiment with different interactions between live performance, digital technologies, and new media. The first workshop version of the project will be performed this summer as part of the Ko Festival of Performance in Amherst and feature professional actors and dancers from New York, Massachusetts, and Washington (some of whom are Amherst alumnae). Subsequent performances will be in Northampton, Washington, New York, and Australia throughout 2006-07.