NEH grants to support IU historians’ book projects

Indiana University Bloomington historians Kaya Sahin and Ellen Wu can dive into new research projects in 2015 thanks to fellowships awarded last month by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Each was awarded $50,400 through the NEH Fellowships for University Teachers program. Theirs were among 233 NEH grants, totaling $17.9 million, announced in early December.

Kaya Sahin

Kaya Sahin

Sahin, an assistant professor in the Department of History in the College of Arts and Sciences, will carry out a project titled “Ottoman Public Ceremonies, 1520-1566.”

He describes it as the first step of a book-length study examining how the Ottoman Empire created various types of public ceremonies to convey specific messages and reach particular audiences. A goal of the project is to discuss ways in which people and groups interacted with governmental authorities in societies that lacked mass communication and formal political representation.

Sahin is a scholar of the early Ottoman Empire and the author of “Empire and Power in the Reign of Süleyman: Narrating the Sixteenth-Century Ottoman World.” He was co-organizer of an October 2014 conference at IU Bloomington that explored the Sunni-Shia conflict in the aftermath of the confrontation between the Ottoman and Safavid empires in the 1514 Battle of Chaldiran.

“When I look at the list of the NEH grant recipients, I see a tremendous wealth of individuals and institutions who work to better understand the human condition, preserve the cultural legacy and establish bridges to the future,” he said. “I feel honored to be a part of such a distinguished cohort.”

Wu, an associate professor in the Department of History, will work on “Asian Americans in the Age of Affirmative Action,” a book project that will provide a fresh look at the nation’s racial order and political alignments since the civil rights era.

Ellen Wu

Ellen Wu

The research will explore three “unprecedented challenges” in contemporary America: the rise of affirmative action and other policies to promote racial equality; growing immigration from Asia to the U.S.; and increasing economic competition between the U.S. and Asian nations.

“The NEH funding will be crucial to supporting the necessary archival research for my book,” said Wu, whose 2013 book “The Color of Success” describes the transformation of Asian-Americans from threat to model minority. “More broadly, I am heartened that Americans continue to recognize the importance of the humanities for addressing our collective conditions — past, present and future.”

The December NEH grant announcement also included nearly $400,000 for IU to develop a software tool that will assist in the long-term preservation of valuable university audio and video collections; and $50,400 to Shane Vogel, associate professor of English at IU Bloomington, for a book project on the cultural history of the 1950s calypso craze.

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