2021 IJRA Project Descriptions

In order to submit your UChicago-USussex IJRA Scholar program application, please identify which research project/mentor you would like to work with from the ten (10) projects listed below. If you are interested and qualified for more than one, please rank your top choice, followed by your second and third in your application. 


2021 UChicago-Sussex IJRA Project #1: "The politics of relatedness: queer kinship and assisted reproductive technologies", Research Supervisor: Dr. Elizabeth Mills, Social Anthropology/International Development

General description: Recent anthological research on ARTs have destabilized historic notions of biology, family-making and kinship, drawing science and technology into dialogue with queer theory, and particularly queer kinship. When first introduced in the 1980s, ARTs prompted energetic discussion and debate on the ethical, social and legal implications of these technologies. Rich ethnographic research and theoretical critique has followed the introduction and development of ARTs over the last three decades. However, there remains a palpable absence in anthropological studies around the intimacies of queer grief linked to ARTs and reproduction. The project will explore on ethnographic research that moves traces a global assemblage of ART, reproductive discourses, clinics, homes and bodies, with a focus on two interlinked aspects of queer grief entailed in this assemblage.  The first facet looks at the work of translation entailed in navigating (hetero)normative discourses that govern access to ARTs and reproductive spaces. The project will explore how access to ARTs and reproductive spaces reflect a predominantly (hetero)normative production of kinship. In order to access these technologies and spaces, queer-identified people are required to perform the work of translation to bend these heteronormative discourses and practices around ARTs into a shape that can better fit their own bodies and lives. 


2021 UChicago-Sussex IJRA Project #2: "Not Only Dressed but Dressing: Clothing, Childhood, Creativity", Research Supervisor: Dr Hannah Field, Senior Lecturer in Victorian Literature School of Media, Arts, and Humanities

General description: This placement involves research into childhood and dress in preparation for a new research network of the same name led by Field and Professor Kiera Vaclavik (Queen Mary University of London) and funded by the United Kingdom’s Arts and Humanities Research Council.Children’s dress is both a thriving industry and an inescapable part of the daily lives and experiences of children, parents, and caregivers worldwide. Costume is increasingly used in schools and museums as children dress up as fictional characters or historical figures and is also an ever more prominent part of the annual cycle with events such as World Book Day and Halloween. Value-laden and highly charged, children’s dress regularly occasions political and media debate. But it also has the potential to inspire creativity and wonder, and to offer insights into design practices as well as other times and places. We currently lack the methodological and conceptual tools to work with such a diverse and multifaceted phenomenon, to make sense of and respond to both historic and contemporary debates surrounding it, or to harness its full potential in museum and heritage settings. 


2021 UChicago-Sussex IJRA Project #3: “This is a womans minde”: The Life, Work and Political Rhetoric of Anne Dowriche," Research Supervisor: Dr Joanne Paul, Senior Lecturer, Early Modern History 

General description: Thirty years into the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a small book appeared in the London market. The frontispiece identified it as ‘The French Historie’ and noted that it was ‘published by A. D.’. Only when the reader perused the dedication in the first pages of the book did it become clear that ‘A. D.’ was in fact ‘Anne Dowriche’; they were reading one of the few sixteenth century books written entirely by a woman. Dowriche’s historical importance is significant: Dowriche was one of a few women in England to have published in this period, and one of a very few to publicly comment on contemporary political events. She is also one of the first English writers to draw on Machiavelli, and evidence suggests that she inspired both Marlow and Shakespeare. Nevertheless, there is no full critical edition of her most significant text, The French Historie (1589), nor a book-length study of her work. Few beyond niche academic circles are aware of her. The first objective of this project is thus to raise both scholarly and public awareness of her work and significance. 


2021 UChicago-Sussex IJRA Project #4: "Working with civil society and online health experts to enhance culturally sensitive communication for blood related health conditions", Research Supervisors: Dr Eziefula (Social Anthropology, Brighton and Sussex Medical School) and Professor Maya Unnithan (Medical Anthropology, Global Studies) 

General description: Dr Eziefula (Brighton and Sussex Medical School) and Professor Unnithan (Medical Anthropology, Global Studies) have been collaborating over the past two years in an international transdisciplinary research network on Narrating Blood, based at the CORTH research centre at the University of Sussex, for expanding public health expertise and knowledge of hidden blood conditions such as anaemia in LMIC countries Ghana and India. CORTH brings NGO collaborators together with academic partners to develop culturally sensitive policy-related interventions for reproductive health issues in low- and middle-income countries. In 2018, CORTH established the Narrating Blood network to develop effective health communication by converging medical, technical and social, culturally-sensitive methodologies that can help support community providers. Following the WHO initiative to target anaemia and maternal mortality, the focus is exchange of expertise and knowledge about less-visible, non-communicable blood-related determinants of morbidity and mortality. A specific aim of the existing network is to innovate, design and evaluate digital communication tools for health promotion and health care delivery on the topic of anaemia. The project includes working with NGOs and project partners in Ghana and India as well as with UK digital health experts to gather an organise information (academic, policy and NGO literature) and data on how to enhance the cultural sensitivities of digital apps and digital platforms used in the two countries. 


2021 UChicago-Sussex IJRA Project #5: "Improving access to integrated Sexual and Reproductive Health and Mental Health services among mobile populations", Research Supervisors: Priya Deshingkar, Professor of Migration and Development (Centre for Migration research) and Maya Unnithan Professor of Social and Medical Anthropology (CORTH research centre)

General description: Priya Deshingkar, Professor of Migration and Development (Centre for Migration research) and Maya Unnithan, Professor of Social and Medical Anthropology (CORTH research centre), have been awarded funding to pioneer an interdisciplinary international research network to address critical knowledge and evidence gaps around integrating mental health (MH) in the delivery of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services among mobile populations. There is mounting evidence that forced displacement and being undocumented can impact safe access to SRH services especially obstetric and neonatal care. Displacement and forced migration are extreme psychological stressors with likely impacts on perinatal mental health and postpartum depression increasing the incidence of maternal and infant morbidity and mortalities. Access to comprehensive and youth friendly SRH care (menstrual hygiene, sexuality education, STI testing) is also difficult. Depression and suicidal tendencies are prevalent among refugee and displaced populations especially in adolescents, making them more vulnerable to sexual violence. The links between SRH and MH have been researched in some contexts, but more work is needed to understand the cultural and geographical specificities of these connections to develop appropriate responses, responsive to the diversity of migrant health needs. The project includes working with NGO partners with expertise in health and migration research on vulnerable mobile populations in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Bangladesh to identify and share knowledge of successful and unsuccessful community interventions in the areas of sexual reproductive and mental health. It will develop partnerships and work conducted on combined research and intervention strategies to promote reproductive and mental well-being of vulnerable, mobile populations which face some of the most serious challenges of forced and undocumented migration.


2021 UChicago-Sussex IJRA Project #6: "Critical Race Theory and Female Voice in Early Modern England," Supervisor: Dr. Rachel Steiner, Department of English Literature, University of Sussex

General description: This project involves conducting a literature review of early modern and medieval (premodern) critical race theory, as it relates to the representation of female voice in sixteenth-century literature, specifically the voices of women of colour. The work stems from Dr Rachel Stenner’s research into the biblical Song of Songs (also known as the Song of Solomon), and its early modern reception. The Song is widely known to have as its central speaker a Black woman; this is one of several areas of the Song that caused controversy throughout the middle ages (another being its intensely erotic content). However, the influence of the voice of ‘the Shulamite’, as she is called, is unclear within early modern literature more widely. This is despite the Song being paraphrased as poetry several times during the sixteenth century (starting with William Baldwin’s amplification into 72 poems in 1549), and being widely influential in the civil war period of the seventeenth century. One of the broader aims of Dr Stenner’s research is to determine to what extent this lack of acknowledgement is a history of suppression, or owes to the deep familiarity in which biblical texts were held. It is Dr Stenner’s hypothesis that the voice of the Shulamite forms an early modern prehistory for the Black female speaker in English literature.


2021 UChicago-Sussex IJRA Project #7: "Wyndham Lewis: Editing a Controversial Modernist ‘Master’," Research Supervisor: Professor Sara Crangle, Department of English, University of Sussex

General description: Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957) was at the epicentre of the modernist movement in Britain. An avant-gardist, Lewis’s writing and painting pushed tirelessly against convention. T. S. Eliot famously described Lewis as “the greatest prose master of style of my generation”. Walter Sickert called him “the greatest portraitist of this or any other time”. In the 1910s, Lewis founded the Vorticist group in London, collaborated with Ezra Pound, and edited two volumes of the modernist journal, Blast. During this decade he also achieved his most stunning achievements as a writer of short fiction. Due to his reactionary politics and controversial anti-social behaviour, Lewis alienated himself from his modernist peers – James Joyce and Gertrude Stein among them – and became an outlier of the modernist canon. Lewis’s phenomenally experimental, satiric prose was celebrated by Fredric Jameson and Hugh Kenner, but he remains little-discussed in modernist studies. A new generation of scholars is redressing this neglect. A team of editors is currently producing the first complete edition of Lewis’s extensive writings for Oxford University Press. With the assistance of her PhD student, Byron Heffer, Professor Sara Crangle is editing two volumes of Lewis’s under-studied short fiction for this landmark edition, namely, Our Wild Body & War Fiction (1900-1918) and The Wild Body: ‘A Soldier of Humour’ and Other StoriesThe Wild Body is one of Lewis’s most superb texts, and has been unduly overlooked even by contemporary critics.


2021 UChicago-Sussex IJRA Project #8: "The Uses of Charisma: Exploring Our Relationship with Our Most Magnetic Idea," 

General description: ‘Charisma’ is one of the most magnetic but misunderstood of contemporary ideas. It is also surprisingly recent, only entering modern use following German sociologist Max Weber’s dusting off of an ancient theological term in the 1900s to talk about new forms of non-rational authority. Today, the term’s threadbare ubiquity obscures its centrality to both popular and scholarly models of human psychology. Dr. Tom F. Wright is a cultural historian based in the School of Media Arts and Humanities at the University of Sussex, who is fascinated by charisma as a concept and a word that has a complex rhetorical life of its own. He is excited to invite a University of Chicago Junior Research Associate to help him shape his research into charisma by developing a linguistic and historical research project and helping run and launch a new research website. His work on charisma has two strands. First, from a historical perspective, he is writing a book entitled Primitive Charisma, that asks what words and ideas filled the vacuum before charisma entered our vocabulary.  It offers a “rhetorical” pre-history of ideas about authority, leadership and crowds in British, American writing between 1750-1900, and aims to offer a new vocabulary through which we can grapple with twenty-first century populism and democratic crisis. However, Dr. Wright is inviting applications from potential Junior Research Associates to join him to assist with a second more contemporary strand to this project.  A research associate is sought to help set up and undertake research for a website called Charismologist. The website will showcase research on charisma, exploring the subtleties of the use of the idea in current usage. The aim is to deploy contextual corpus linguistics methods to understand the uses to which the word is put in contemporary political and cultural contexts in English language media over a 20 year period.