Newton International Fellowship Awards 2009

Funded by

Funding Source: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Core and Core +.

Dr Ariel Feldman  -  Israeli

Joshua and His Texts in Second Temple Times

NF090007            University of Manchester             £85,655.37

The main objective of this project is to explore the reception of the Book of Joshua in Second Temple literature with a particular attention to the relevant texts from the Judaean Desert. Such a study will enable the placing of the recently published Qumran texts within the general context of the Second Temple Jewish writings. Particular attention will be given to the exegetical traditions embedded in the sources, as well as to the interpretative techniques employed by them. Of special interest for this study are the various approaches to the Book of Joshua reflected in these texts. Thus, for instance, the Qumran texts to be considered include both writings originating in the Qumran community and those brought to Qumran from without. Moreover, it has been suggested that some of these scrolls belong to an intermediary category: they share some features of the sectarian ideology, yet lack the terminology peculiar to the sectarian writings (Dimant 2005). It will be of great interest for all concerned with the early history of biblical interpretation to compare the ways in which these sub-groups of texts treat the Book of Joshua. Such a comparison may shed further light on the relation between sectarian and non-sectarian biblical exegesis. Furthermore, it may provide the necessary data for a sociological analysis attempting to define how and why the figure of Joshua was used by the various communities, whose worldviews are reflected in these sub-groups of texts.

Dr Chukwuma Okoye  -  Nigerian

The Postcoloniality of African Theatre and Performance

NF090043            University of Leeds          £105,659.80

My major research objective is to produce a book on what I consider the truly postcolonial African theatre; that is, performances not just of 'unwritten' and marginalised dramas but more so of a wide range of popular non-dramatic, non-scripted and 'un-writeable' theatrical performances that are powered by, narrate and critique the anxious conditions under which the populace are constrained to exist; and to examine also the audiences whose anxieties witness and inform these performances. Examples of these forms include dances, music, mime, stand-up acts and several syncretist outings. One of the most popular and exciting of these postcolonial forms is the new Pentecostal evangelism which has blossomed into a vigorous theatrical art, stimulated obviously by the enervating concerns that mark the people’s everyday existence. This has spawned a class of charismatic pastors whose successes are clearly based on their mastery of the technologies of performance. It also brings back into the discourse the problematics of theatre and ritual relationship that engaged the critical interest of early African performance scholars, such as M. J. C. Echeruo and Bakary Traore. The research proposes to examine not just the literary, sensory and embodied dimensions of these performances but, more importantly, their physical, social and political conditions and processes of production and reception.

Dr Kirill Ospovat  -  Russian

Socializing Culture: Court Society, Patronage and Culture in Eighteenth-Century Russia

NF081624            Queen Mary, University of London           £59,727.96

In the proposed study I intend to discuss the social dimensions of knowledge and cultural production in post-Petrine Russia, chiefly at the court of the Empress Elizabeth (1741-1761). In the last decades scholars of early modern European cultural history have elaborated an interdisciplinary and internationally valid notion of court culture that ties cultural and intellectual production to the symbolic values and social existence of European courts. This perspective helped bring together subjects that traditionally belonged to several distinct disciplines – political history, literary history, history of art, history of science, etc. It is this general notion of court culture (which is only beginning to find appreciation among the scholars of Russian history) that I will dwell on in my analysis of Russian cultural life of the mid-18th century. I will view different cultural and intellectual practices – literary writing, writing of history, natural sciences -- as segments of a single cultural framework with a common social basis, namely, the imperial court and the court elite. I will demonstrate that the symbolic values of the elite governed the whole cultural field, at the same time constituting its unity and investing it with social prestige. In the 1730s --1740s “court society” had (re)emerged in Russia. One of the most important features of this social formation is recognized to be aristocratic leisure, which was instrumental for the collective self-constituting of the elite outside of service hierarchies. Court entertainments reinforced the group identity of “court society” and the values that underlined it, namely fidelity to the absolutist state and to the code of civil conduct. Court-sponsored cultural activities symbolically enhanced the stability of the Russian monarchy and the existing hierarchies of power.

Dr Nobuko Anan  -  Japanese

Playing with the West: Parody in Contemporary Japanese Women’s Performance

NF082398            University of Warwick    £84,349.85

My research explores parody and resistance in contemporary Japanese women’s theatre/dance troupes from 1990 to the present. I am interested in how their subversive performances challenge Japanese women’s quotidian performances in their everyday lives, constructed in relation to the dominance of Western/USA culture and to the modernist, nationalist, and masculinist construction of “the ideal Japanese female body.” I argue that these theatrical performances represent a distinctive form of Japanese feminism that defies standard characterizations. Using Western and Japanese theorists on mimesis and parody, the research suggests that these unconventional performances might offer Japanese women alternative definitions of both the self and the nation that are not tied to stale stereotypes prevalent in Japan and the West/USA.

Dr Yi-Xian Lin  -  Chinese

Early Glass and Pigments from Majiayuan Cemetery, Gansu, China

NF082445            University College London            £107,750.00                       

Objects made of glass and artificial pigments such as Chinese Blue & Purple have been found at numerous archaeological sites in China. However, serious scientific research into these materials in China began only c. 30 years ago. The early analyses have mostly focused on the qualitative or semi-quantitative description, only sufficient for a basic identification of material. More recently, analyses of trace and rare earth elements and stable isotopes have increased, particularly in Europe, identifying the provenance of raw materials and to reconstruct exchange networks for these highly mobile artefact types. We propose to examine numerous samples from a newly discovered cemetery in north China, containing a unique corpus of glass and vitreous materials. The analyses, to be done at the highly successful archaeological materials laboratory at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, will include a substantial number of samples from other sites, to answer questions about patterns of early glass and vitreous materials manufacture and exchange in early China.

Dr Guillaume Saint-Guillain  -  French

Identities, colonialisms and state transformations in the thirteenth century Mediterranean

NF082372            King's College London    £101,065.49

The 13th century in the eastern Mediterranean saw the transformation of state structures: the capture of Constantinople by crusaders in 1204 led to the fragmentation of the Christian powers in the area, stimulated transformations in the Islamic and Balkan worlds, and resulted in the colonisation of Greece and the Aegean islands by Franks and Venetians. This period is exceptionally difficult to describe, precisely because the major political and cultural groupings in the area became fragmented; but prosopographical analysis is particularly valuable for understanding these processes, as individuals increasingly acquire multiple political identities. A methodology which served for such a complex period might also serve in future for the study of other periods of fundamental transformation. My own research has focussed on Latin (Italian and French) sources for the same area in the same period, and I have come to make increasing use of prosopography. This proposal is to allow me to work with the team at KCL to achieve several direct objectives: 1. To publish a prosopography of the Aegean islands in the later Middle Ages, 2. To work on the society and prosopography of the Latin Empire of Constantinople, 3. From both projects, to contribute to a collective database project on 13th-c. Byzantine prosopography. 4 To that end, to promote international cooperation through a series of workshops.

Dr Ali Usman Qasmi  -  Pakistani

Exploring Pluralism in Islamic Traditions: The Shia Muslims of Punjab since 1857

NF082064            Royal Holloway, University of London     £99,843.59

This project aims to address this knowledge gap by focusing on the Shias of the Punjab from the late-nineteenth century to the present. It will illustrate the relevance of Shia Islam to South Asian Islam’s engagement with modernity, reform, rationality, the individual self etc… This should bring new insights to our understanding of the plurality of religious traditions within South Asian Islam and help to deconstruct the inhibitory notion of a monolithic Islamic tradition. In the period from the late-nineteenth century to independence the proposed study, while foregrounding the context of colonial Punjab, will analyze the dynamics of Shia Islam’s contribution to contestations, whether polemical, academic or political, between Islam, colonial authority and the concomitant effects of modernity. For this purpose, the study will focus on the beginnings of a formal Shia religious establishment, mainly in North India, and trace its burgeoning influence. Important here is the role played by Shia nobility in promoting a class of Shia scholars trained not in Najaf, Qom or traditional seats of Shia learning in North India but in Punjab-based madrasas which they patronized. The contribution of such families as the Qizalbash of Lahore will be taken as a case study. Research will explore the role of these Shia scholars in recasting the authoritative sources of religious guidance to ensure their compatibility with the prevalent Western notions of rationality. It will also demonstrate their attempts, complementing the efforts of their patrons, to enforce a uniform outlook among Shia Muslims in order to appropriate for themselves the right to petition to the colonial authority on behalf of their community, noting in particular the contributions made by various community welfare societies and political associations for this purpose. Post independence, the main focus of research will be on the strategic adjustments of Shia clerics and secular elites to ensure the preservation of their religious rights (and rites) in the overwhelmingly Sunni state of Pakistan. Shia concerns regarding such issues as permissions for taking out tazia processions during Muharram, the applicability of fiqh Jafaria as personal law for Shias, and a separate curriculum for religious studies in public schools will be studied to understand Shia responses to the workings of the ‘Islamic state’. Here, we shall pay particular attention the politics of control negotiated between the claimants to Shia representation and the state authorities regarding aspects of law, ritual performance and public policy.

Dr Huanguang Qiu  -  Chinese

The Economics of Biofuel Production: Social and Environmental Impacts in China

NF090081            School of Oriental and African Studies    £97,449.59

The scientific objective of this research is twofold. First, it will conduct an integrated assessment over the impacts of China’s biofuel development on agricultural prices, production structure and location, farmers’ income across regions and social groups, land use changes, intensification of fertilizer and pesticide use, and on lifecycle GHG emissions. In this way, it will provide information to policy makers and other stakeholders (especially to biofuel industry companies) in order for better informed decisions to be made. The choice of China is due to the following considerations. (a) China is one of the largest importer of fossil fuels in the world. An environmentally sustainable and rapid development of biofuels in China will also benefits UK, EU, and the world. (b) Geographic and social conditions in China are highly diverse, making it possible to compare the differences in social and environmental impacts under different local conditions. (c) China is facing the joint challenge of food security, energy security and environmental sustainability. Second, it develops innovative methods for full and consistent use of relevant data from both micro and macro sources and at multiple scales, to serve the purpose of making spatially explicit inferences and predictions without the sacrifice of important heterogenous information. There is a kernel based Support Vector Machine (SVM) method, which is a new generation learning system based on recent advances in statistical learning theory. Although SVM has delivered state-of-the-art performance in real-world applications such as Artificial Intelligence science, its applicability in socioeconomic analysis is still an open question. This research intends to fill this niche. The operational objectives of the research includes: 1) to identify the possible feedstocks and potential marginal land that can be used for biofuel production in China; 2) conduct benefit-cost analysis of biofuel production and characterize the farmers and locations with high potentials in biofuel feedstock production; 3) model social and environmental impacts of biofuel development and interpolate the results at the spatially explicit levels; 4) compare socioeconomic and environmental impacts of biofuel production under different scenarios, and consequently provide key policy suggestions.

Dr Fabiana Li  -  Canadian

Gold and Glaciers: An Ethnography of Equivalence and Incommensurability in the Global Economy

NF082019            University of Manchester             £50,590.32

In general terms the research aims to describe the cultural dynamics that enable the transnational circulation of gold, by establishing how equivalences are calculated, and by identifying the costs, claims, and responsibilities that are left out of these calculations (cf. Mitchell 2005). At a time when climate change and financial uncertainty have emerged as key issues of concern, Pascua Lama offers an opportunity to investigate the ontological politics of ‘gold’ in relation to an emergent global concern with ‘glaciers’ as indicators of climate change and as stores of live-giving water (see Orlove et al. 2008). Starting with accounts of how glaciers became embroiled in the controversy, I will track the ways in which diversity (across people and things, time and space) is managed, by observing which entities, persons and knowledges are made visible (cf. Strathern 1995), which are made compatible, and which are deemed incommensurable and excluded from efforts to create equivalence (see Povinelli 2001; Espeland 1998). The research will also track the diverse forms of measurement and of calculation that are mobilized in the controversy -from the mine site to related corporate offices, NGOs, and the headquarters of the World Gold Council- shedding light on how “resources” are identified and endowed with meaning.

Dr Alexandra Alvergne  -  French

Social Influence On The Diffusion Of Cultural Innovation: The Case Of Modern Contraception

NF082589            University College London            £101,873.35

Humans are exceptional in their ability to accumulate socially learned behaviour over generations, which may permit us to live in larger, and more complex societies than any other mammal species. How cumulative cultural evolution works has generated much theoretical debate for decades. A hotly debated issue concerns whether contemporary human cultures are constrained or directed by our biological evolutionary heritage, or if they are due to the emergence of cultural norms that might favour the group rather than the individual [1-6]. The relative importance of group versus individual-level effects is controversial, not least due to a lack of empirical evidence from “real world” settings on the way cultural traits are socially transmitted. For instance, gene-culture co-evolutionary theorists have argued that innate biases, such as to copy those in prestigious positions (prestige bias) or to copy the most common behaviour in your area (conformist bias), can lead to trends that reduce individual reproductive success: for example, if children hamper our ability to achieve wealth and status in the modern world, then copying the wealthy could lead to the spread of notions of low fertility [5]. Also, if conformist bias is strong enough, then groups can maintain different norms even if there is some intergroup migration, which is required if ‘cultural group selection’ is to operate, potentially leading to the evolution of group beneficial rather than individually beneficial behaviours [6]. To assess which models of cultural evolution are realistic, a key cultural change to study is the adoption of modern contraception. It gives a rare opportunity to assess how an innovation (that does not necessarily promote Darwinian fitness) is socially transmitted (i.e. kin bias, prestige bias, conformist bias or no copying involved) and to assess the level of selection that governs changes in cultural norms. As such, in the proposed fellowship, I aim to test the assumptions made by previous models on cultural evolution in studying the influence of social networks on patterns of cultural transmission. Using both an empirical and a modelling approach, I will investigate the social influence on the adoption of modern contraception in a rural Gambian community for which data are available over a period of 30 years.

Dr Arjan Schakel  -  Dutch

Regional reform and territorialization of party systems

NF090087            University of Edinburgh                 £69,537.30

The research concerns regional reform and its consequences for multilevel party systems. Three questions guide the research. First, does decentralization lead to changes in the party systems for national and/or regional electoral levels? Second, are regional parties the driver of decentralization reforms or do these parties emerge from and are they strengthened by decentralization reforms? Third, does the type (i.e. administrative, fiscal or political) and magnitude of decentralization reforms matter for subsequent reforms?

Dr Sonali Nag  -  Indian

Children at risk for reading difficulties in Kannada, an Indian alphasyllabary.

NF090070            University of York             £107,449.45

Despite rapid advances in the neuroscientific understanding of reading and reading disorders (dyslexia)(1) most descriptions of dyslexia focus on monolingual children who are learning in English or other European languages. Less is known about dyslexia in the non-alphabetic languages, and in multilingual children. Notably, there is little research in alphasyllabaries, such as Kannada, an Indian orthography which is the focus of the present proposal. Such research is timely for theoretical reasons and also because some of the largest child populations struggling with literacy are multilingual and doing so in the alphasyllabaries. We will classify the ‘at-risk’ children according to outcome at time 3 and compare retrospectively, affected, unaffected and control groups at times 1, 2 to identify precursors of reading difficulties in Kannada and English. To investigate the extent to which variations in developmental trajectories can be predicted from early measures of relevant cognitive variables we will use growth curve modeling and compare these models with conventional autoregressive models. For the intervention study, regression analyses using dummy coding will investigate the mediators of outcome and individual differences in response to intervention. We will use the DNA samples for testing for gene variants reported in monolingual, English speaking SLI and dyslexia cohorts.

Dr Christopher Olivola  -  American

From Fundamental Psychological Principles to the Valuation of Human Lives

NF082295            University of Warwick    £107,750.00

My goal is to further develop DbS and use its underlying principles to provide a parsimonious, process-level theory that can explain decisions about saving human lives. While DbS can explain how we evaluate relatively simple, abstract quantities such as money, time, probability (Stewart, Chater, & Brown, 2006), luminance, and colour (Howe, Lotto, & Purves, 2006), it remains to be seen whether it can also account for more complex, affect-laden outcome-magnitudes. Understanding the factors that drive decisions about human life has critical policy implications. DbS may explain why governments sometimes inefficiently devote too many resources to small-scale emergencies and too few to large disasters (in which each life is perceived as a “drop in the ocean”), and it may also suggest ways of minimizing these biases. Ultimately, identifying the cognitive processes responsible for our diminishing sensitivity to human life should help future generations of policy makers correctly prioritize their efforts to prevent epidemics, genocides and reduce the impact of natural disasters.

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