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A Lens on the World: IDRF Photo Competition Winners

Aubrey Graham: Celebrating an Acquittal

The International Dissertation Research Fellowship program, supporting the next generation of scholars in the humanities and humanistic social sciences pursuing research that advances knowledge about non-US cultures and societies, presents the winners of the 2014 IDRF Photo Competition. IDRF fellows from the most recent cohort were invited to submit a single photo, a self-portrait, or a short photo essay conveying a sense of their IDRF-funded research and experience abroad. Two winners in each category were selected—one by IDRF fellows from cohorts spanning 2008 to the present, and the other by the SSRC Fellowships Office.

Aubrey Graham swept the fellow selections this year with photographs from her IDRF project “Implicated Images: Photography, Aid, and Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Her photo essay reveals two distinct photographic spectrums, the vernacular and the humanitarian, with her winning single photo, “Celebrating an Acquittal” (above), shot through barbed wire, presented in contradiction of "the way in which humanitarian images are visually constructed through policy and practice that rarely reflects documentary ‘reality.’” Graham’s self-portrait, with an elderly market woman, evokes those “who choose to self-represent in a way that highlights the negative aspects of their situations in relation to the possibility of aid.”

Tristan Brown: A City (Not) in Late Imperial China

The images awarded prizes by the Fellowships Office include a woman viewing a solar eclipse in Uganda, taken in the course of Julia Cummiskey’s research on “Knowledge Production in the African AIDS Epidemic: The Rakai Health Sciences Program,” and Elizabeth Cecil’s self-portrait with a Shiva priest at an eighth-century temple in the Indian village of Auwa, from her project “Mapping a Contested Landscape: Religion, Politics, and Place in the Making of Pasupata Identity.” Tristan Brown’s winning photo essay documents his journey (above) researching “The Western Muslim Frontier Corridor in the Making of Modern China,” an IDRF project that came out of his 2012 Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship.

In Council News

The 2014 recipients of the Albert O. Hirschman Prize, the SSRC’s highest award, have been announced: the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at MIT and the two scholars who codirect it and have crucially contributed to its founding and functioning, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. The prize will be presented at a lecture to be held in the fall.

The Abe Fellowship Program selected twelve US- and Japan-based researchers to receive Abe Fellowships for interdisciplinary projects on policy-relevant and contemporary issues with a comparative or transnational perspective. Four Abe Fellowships for Journalists were awarded, supporting international reporting on topics of pressing concern to the United States and Japan.

Measure of America launched NYC Data to Go, a project to create an interactive visualization tool that will map human need and well-being across the New York metro area. Consolidating federal, state, and local data in a single curated source, the mobile web app will transform isolated statistics into a holistic picture of life in New York City, borough by borough and neighborhood by neighborhood.

Measure of America codirector Kristen Lewis discussed the program's American Human Development Index, an alternative measure to GDP, with David Brancaccio on public radio's Marketplace and with the Des Moines Register.

The Forum on Health, Environment and Development (FORHEAD) released a report that aims to inform the development of a more integrated and problem-oriented research agenda to improve the food chain in China, from production to consumption. Food Safety in China: A Mapping of Problems, Governance and Research was drafted by China Environment and Health Initiative program director Jennifer Holdaway and former program officer Lewis Husain [PDF available].

The Drugs, Security and Democracy Program published the second in a series of DSD Working Papers on Research Security: Kimberly Theidon’s “‘How Was Your Trip?’ Self-Care for Researchers Working and Writing on Violence” [PDF].

The Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum’s DRC Affinity Group released a new paper that provides historical background on one of the oldest armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the FDLR (Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda), and offers policy proposals that could help to defuse this key source of regional tension: “FDLR: Past, Present, and Policies” [PDF available].

Laying groundwork for the new Measuring College Learning Project, the Education Research Program held initial conversations with faculty in sociology and in economics on ways to define and measure learning outcomes for undergraduates in their disciplines.

The Inter-Asia Program cosponsored with New York University a two-day “Workshop on Infrastructures of Empire: Mediated Activism and (Counter) Revolutions,” featuring a public plenary panel as well as conversations with filmmakers, including Wazhmah Osman, a Transregional Research Postdoctoral (2013) and IDRF fellow (2009), who screened her documentary Postcards from Tora Bora, a personal perspective on three decades of war in Afghanistan.

Transregional Research Postdoctoral fellow Darryl Li (2013) is blogging for the Middle East Research and Information Project as a guest editor, with an eye to the historical frame linking the Middle East and South Asia.

The SSRC Forum Reverberations, a project of the program on Religion and the Public Sphere, was nominated for a Webby Award in the Religion and Spirituality category.

From Our Forums

Kujenga Amani icon

At Kujenga Amani, Oluwatoyin O. Oluwaniyi looks for a way forward for Nigeria in a Mediation and Reconcilation series essay on post-amnesty reintegration and peacebuilding challenges in the Niger Delta region. Bill Knight considers “Replacing Boko Haram with an ‘Attractive Revolution,’” in the latest Vista piece exploring the future of African peacebuilding research and practice.

Reverberations icon

Sarah M. Pike checks out the growing ecstatic dance movement for Reverberations, with “Sweating Our Prayers in Dance Church.” New Directions in the Study of Prayer grantee Sanal Mohan shares a video interview with a 72-year-old native of Pariyaramangalam, India, who recalls prayers and prayer songs common to the Dalit Christian community in the early twentieth century.

The Immanent Frame icon

The Immanent Frame series on the future of Egyptian democracy continues with essays on the state as a de facto church, the elusiveness of political legitimacy, and how the Muslim Brotherhood became a target of the military government. James B. Hoesterey offers preliminary insights about the new US State Department Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives and its director, theology scholar Shaun Casey.

On Deadline

Korean Studies Dissertation Workshop
Applications Due: May 1