Seven Stanford University scholars have been awarded 2021 Guggenheim Fellowships. This prestigious honor recognizes mid-career scholars, artists and scientists who have demonstrated a previous capacity for outstanding work and continue to show exceptional promise.
This year’s fellows from Stanford are R. Lanier Anderson, Vincent Barletta, Enrique Chagoya, Lochlann Jain, Amalia D. Kessler, Daniel Mason and Jonathan A. Rodden.
R. Lanier Anderson is the J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor in the Humanities, a professor of philosophy and senior associate dean for humanities and arts in the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences.
Anderson’s scholarship examines the history of late modern philosophy and connections between philosophy and literature.
As a fellow, Lanier plans to write a book about Michel de Montaigne, the Renaissance French philosopher, and show how he engaged in philosophy not just as a theoretical enterprise but as a way of life.
“Montaigne lived through a time of intense polarization and civic conflict, and the equanimity he managed to achieve in the midst of that seems to me to have a lot to teach us in our own situation today,” Lanier said.
In particular, Lanier will focus on how Montaigne – the inventor of the modern essay – used this new format to practice philosophy. As Anderson described further: “Montaigne invented the form of writing known as the essay, and he used this ‘try-out’ mode of writing as a way of cultivating in himself the curious, questioning and reflective mode of living he associated with philosophy.”
Lanier, who has served in the dean’s office in the School of Humanities and Sciences for the past four years, said he looks forward to devoting his time to writing.
“I am really looking forward to retreating from that service – just as Montaigne did when he started to write – for a year of thinking and writing about what makes a life good and worth living,” Anderson said.
Vincent Barletta is an associate professor of comparative literature and of Iberian and Latin American cultures. His research and teaching focus primarily on medieval and early modern Iberian literature, especially texts associated with the Portuguese empire; Iberian Islam; classical reception; comparative literature; literature and linguistic anthropology; and literature and philosophy.
“I am happy to have received a Guggenheim Fellowship and very grateful to the friends, mentors and students who have helped to shape my work,” Barletta said.
As a fellow, Barletta plans to begin work on a book project devoted to Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) and culture in the crypto-Muslim communities of early modern Spain and Portugal.
“The century between the forced conversion of Iberian Muslims and their final expulsion – Christian converts or not – is a rich and compelling period of adaptation, negotiation and survival for these communities. Focusing on inherited and improvised legal frameworks, I hope to describe in some detail how Iberian crypto-Muslims structured their communal life, even at great personal risk,” Barletta said.
Enrique Chagoya is a professor of art and art history and a practicing artist. Influenced by his experiences living on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border in the late 1970s and also in Europe during the late 1990s, his artwork juxtaposes secular, popular and religious symbols in order to examine the ongoing cultural clash between the United States, Latin America and the rest of the world.
With his fellowship, Chagoya plans to develop new work related to social and racial inequality that the COVID-19 pandemic and protests following the death of George Floyd made painfully clear.
“Art may not save the world by itself, but it may help us to think more creatively and may help us fight for a better and more humanistic future with respect for the lives of our own and the life on the planet,” Chagoya said in his statement to the Guggenheim.
Chagoya is deeply committed to engaging the wider public on the social and environmental issues he addresses through his artwork and said he hopes to use his Guggenheim Fellowship to promote further dialogue with new audiences beyond traditional gallery and museum spaces.
“Now it is up to humanity, that means all of us, to participate in finding solutions to fix all of these grave issues if we want to survive as a species and save the planet’s wildlife and ecosystems,” Chagoya said.
Chagoya’s work can be found in many public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Metropolitan Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Cantor Arts Center and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Lochlann Jain is a professor of anthropology. Jain’s scholarship intersects between science and technology studies, history, political economy, gender and sexuality, biology and medicine. In particular, Jain’s work aims to unsettle some of the deeply held assumptions about objectivity that underlie the politics and history of medical research.
During the fellowship period, Jain plans to develop the concept of “The WetNet” which refers to fluid bonding among humans and animals in ways that create pathways for the transmission of pathogens. As Jain explains: “Specifically, I’m interested in the ways that human and animal effluvia have been exchanged in mid-century bioscientific practices such as blood harvesting and transfusion, and vaccine development and testing.”
Jain will elucidate this concept further by writing a rigorous history of the hepatitis B virus and the development of the first vaccine.
“I’m grateful to the Guggenheim Foundation for acknowledging this work and eager to be able to bury myself in the research and writing,” Jain said. “Thank you to my wonderful friends and colleagues.”
Amalia D. Kessler is the Lewis Talbot and Nadine Hearn Shelton Professor in International Legal Studies at Stanford Law School. Kessler’s research focuses on the evolution of commercial law and civil procedure, particularly the roots of modern market culture and present-day process norms.
“I’m deeply honored to have received a Guggenheim Fellowship and am very grateful to the Foundation for its support,” Kessler said.
As a fellow, Kessler will work on a new book project that reconceptualizes the origins of modern American arbitration.
As she described: “The United States is alone today in forcing millions of workers and consumers into binding, mandatory arbitration that prevents them from filing suit to vindicate their rights, often enabling large corporate interests to escape liability. Underlying this legal framework is the view that arbitration is necessarily a matter of private contract in which the government has no business interfering. I challenge this myth of private ordering, arguing that the turn to arbitration in the early 20th century was tied to state-building efforts designed to respond to the myriad challenges posed by the rise of modern industrial society, many of which – including a vast inequality gap – parallel those we confront today.”
Kessler is also the associate dean for advanced degree programs at the Law School and the founding director of the Stanford Center for Law and History. She will be a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences next academic year.
Daniel Mason is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford Medicine, where he works as an inpatient attending psychiatrist and teaches courses in the intersection of medicine and the humanities.
Mason, a fiction writer, is the author of four books, including The Winter Soldier (2018) and A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth (2020). His research interests include the subjective experience of mental illness and the influence of literature, history and culture on the practice of psychiatry.
“I’m delighted to have received the fellowship and am deeply grateful to be at an institution that values cross-disciplinary work. And it is an honor to be in the company of Stanford colleagues whose scholarship I so admire,” Mason said.
With his Guggenheim Fellowship, Mason will continue to work on a novel that examines the enduring influence of history, both human and ecological, on a group of characters living through a period of environmental change.
Rodden’s work focuses on the comparative political economy of institutions. His recent publications have examined the geographic distribution of political preferences within countries, legislative bargaining, the distribution of budgetary transfers across regions and the historical origins of political institutions.
“I am interested in the rise of the knowledge economy and the growing geographic concentration of prosperity, which have important political consequences that we don’t yet fully understand,” he said. “The changing geography of labor markets and associated political realignments are playing out differently in different countries.”
With his fellowship, Rodden will work on materials that further explore this cross-country variation.