Radcliffe Institute Announces 2009-2010 Fellows and Their Projects

Fellows Range from Economists Developing a New Way to Evaluate Economic Policies and Actions to an Avant-Garde Visual Artist Working on Multimedia Art
May 22, 2009

Cheryl Klufio

Cambridge, Mass.—The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University has announced the women and men selected to be Radcliffe fellows in 2009–2010. These creative artists, humanists, scientists and social scientists were chosen for their superior scholarship, research or artistic endeavors, as well as the potential of their projects to yield long-term impact. While at Radcliffe, they will work both within and across disciplines.

The fellows include an astronomer searching for earthlike planets in Centaurus, a constellation neighboring Earth’s own solar system, and a visual artist and founding member of the international avant-garde Fluxus movement, who will explore multimedia works of art. There will be two thematic clusters: one in economics and another in mathematics. (Clusters are small groups of fellows who work collectively on a problem or set of issues.) The economics cluster will develop a new method to evaluate the ways changes in the economic environment affect the welfare of individuals, while the mathematics cluster will explore dispersive wave phenomena from a nondeterministic viewpoint.

There will also be a professor in residence. Joanna Aizenberg, the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at Radcliffe and the Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, joined the community of fellows in 2008–2009 and was part of a Harvard team that discovered a way to control the assembly of nanobristles into helical clusters––a breakthrough that has practical applications in energy and information storage, adhesion and other areas. Among the Radcliffe fellows again this fall, Aizenberg will continue to explore connections among engineering, physics, chemistry, biology and architecture through biomimetics.

“With great enthusiasm for the promise of the year to come, we welcome these distinguished scholars, scientists and artists to Radcliffe. We look forward to watching their work develop into exciting discoveries and to witnessing the meaningful collaborations they form with one another and with members of the Harvard and local communities,” said Barbara J. Grosz, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

A leader among the nation’s centers for advanced studies, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard annually hosts award-winning artists, academics and professionals, including musicians, mathematicians, filmmakers, anthropologists, biologists and writers. The 2009–2010 fellows were selected from 853 applicants from the United States and around the world.

Examples of fellows within each of four broad disciplinary areas (creative arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences) appear immediately below; a full list of the 2009–2010 fellows may be viewed here.

Creative Arts Fellows
Among the creative arts fellows is Alison Knowles, a visual artist and founding member of Fluxus––an international avant-garde movement established in 1962 that melds different media and disciplines, emphasizing frequently neglected elements as a basis for the creation and performance of art. Knowles created “The House of Dust,” the first computerized poem on record, for which she won a 1967 Guggenheim Fellowship; “The Big Book” (1967), a walk-in book with 8-foot pages, which toured in Europe; and “Bohnen Sequenzen” (“Bean Sequences”), a series of plays exploring the resonant sounds made by beans against hard surfaces, which won her a 1982 Karl Sczuka Prize for Works of Radio Art. Her unique installations, performances, prints, publications and sound work have been recognized with many other awards. Knowles’s Radcliffe project is titled Fluxus Around the Clock.

Leonard Retel Helmrich is a film director at Scarabeefilms (Netherlands) whose critically acclaimed documentaries about Indonesia have won him several international prizes. As the developer of single shot cinema (a theoretical perspective and practical technique involving long takes with a constantly moving camera) and the SteadyWing (a camera mount that enables greater stability and maneuverability while shooting), Retel Helmrich has taught workshops around the world. During his Radcliffe fellowship year, cosponsored by the Harvard Film Study Center, he will work on a documentary titled Position of the Stars, which reveals the effects of globalization, commercialization and the interpretation of Islam in Indonesia through the eyes of a 16-year-old girl.

Humanities Fellows
The humanities fellows include art historian Claire Roberts, the senior curator of Asian decorative arts and design at the Powerhouse Museum in Sidney, Australia, and a fellow at the Australian National University. Among Roberts’s numerous honors are grants from the Smithsonian Institution and the Australia-China Council, as well as multiple art-related Australian government appointments. Fluent in Chinese, she has edited or coedited several books and catalogs and curated many major exhibitions related to north Asian visual culture, including “The Great Wall of China” (2006), a joint project of the Powerhouse Museum and the National Museum of China, Beijing. At Radcliffe, Roberts will study the history of photography in China and the Hedda Morrison archive at Harvard-Yenching Library.

Ravit Reichman is an associate professor of English at Brown University. She is the author of The Affective Life of Law: Legal Modernism and the Literary Imagination (Stanford University Press, 2009), which examines the relationship between literature and law, with special emphasis on psychoanalysis and the traumas of the world wars. While at Radcliffe, Reichman will undertake the first book-length study of the ways in which literature and law jointly shape conceptions of property and the symbolism of property in 20th century society. Her book Lost Properties of the 20th Century will appraise the theme of loss in Modernism against the backdrop of shifts in the traditional legal concept of property from the end of World War I through the post-Holocaust era.

Science Fellows
Among the natural science and mathematics fellows is Debra Ann Fischer, a professor of astronomy at Yale University. As part of Radcliffe’s 2005–2006 Lectures in the Sciences series, Fischer gave a public talk on the formation and evolution of extrasolar planetary systems. Since 1997, she has participated in the discovery of more than 150 extrasolar planets––planets that orbit other stars. She serves or has served as the principal investigator on multiple projects, including the Lick Planet Search program, the Keck program to detect the presence of hot Jupiters (“N2K”), a multi-planet modeling project for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the CTIO program in Chile to search for earthlike planets around alpha Centauri A and B. For her Radcliffe project, titled Searching for Earths in the Alpha Centauri System, Fischer will write about the search for habitable worlds and life in the solar neighborhood.

Ben J. Green is a renowned mathematician and Herchel Smith Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University of Cambridge’s Trinity College. He calls his specialty “arithmetic combinatorics”; he studies questions that lie at the interface of combinatorics, number theory and analysis. Green’s contributions to the field of mathematics have earned him several awards, including a 2008 European Mathematical Society Prize and a 2004 Clay Research Award (an award that recognizes major breakthroughs in mathematical research) for his joint work with Terry Tao on arithmetic progressions of prime numbers. Through his Radcliffe project Discrete Rigidity Phenomena, Green aims to understand “approximate” structures in various parts of mathematics, how they relate to “exact” ones, and the implications of this relationship for number theory and other areas.

Social Science Fellows
The social science fellows include economists Jerry R. Green and Daniel Andres Hojman, who will form a cluster studying Choice, Rationality and Welfare Measurement at Radcliffe. Green is the David A. Wells Professor of Political Economy in Harvard University’s Department of Economics and the John Leverett Professor in the University. He was one of the originators of the theory of rational expectations and of a variety of concepts and methods in the economics of incentives and information. Hojman is an associate professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He has developed analytical models to study the role of social networks in welfare and inequality and examined the impact of corruption on political participation. While at Radcliffe, Green and Hojman will create a methodology to evaluate economic policies and actions that functions regardless of the rationality of the people whose welfare is being evaluated.

Nancy J. Smith-Hefner is an associate professor of anthropology at Boston University. A scholar of gender studies, linguistic anthropology, psychological anthropology and educational anthropology, Smith-Hefner has a special interest in Asians in America and southeast Asian Islam. Her research on Buddhism, gender and cultural adaptation among Khmer (aboriginal people of Cambodia) in the United States and her investigation of language socialization and linguistic identity among Tengger Javanese have been supported by many prestigious awards and fellowships, including a 2002 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. At Radcliffe, Smith-Hefner will complete a book titled Muslim Youth: Gender, Sexuality and Public Piety in Indonesia’s New Middle Class––a culmination of her nine-year study of Muslim youth in south-central Java that examines changing norms and practices of gender and sexuality within a setting of ongoing Islamic resurgence and sociopolitical transformation.

Now in its ninth year, the Radcliffe Institute’s highly competitive fellowship program has provided yearlong residencies to approximately 500 award-winning artists, scientists and scholars. Past fellows include biologist Susan Lindquist, whose discoveries about protein folding have profoundly affected our understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and mad cow and who recently won the prestigious Otto Warburg Medal; celebrated musician Mulatu Astatke, a composer, arranger and founder of a hybrid music form called Ethio Jazz that blends Ethiopian traditional music and Latin jazz; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz, who is also the author of several nonfiction books about history and travel; and defense lawyer Hauwa Ibrahim, a winner of many precedent-setting cases before Islamic Sharia courts who was honored with the European Parliament’s 2005 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

The 2010–2011 fellowship applications for creative artists, humanists and social scientists are due October 1, 2009; applications for natural scientists and mathematicians are due November 15, 2009. Materials sent by mail should be postmarked by these dates.

Applicants are evaluated at two levels of review. In the first level, two leaders in each applicant’s field evaluate and rank the applicant. The top applicants are then submitted to a fellowship committee, which selects the fellowship class.

For more information about the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship Program, please call 617-495-8212 or visit www.radcliffe.edu/fellowships. Media representatives seeking more information about the Radcliffe Institute or a Radcliffe fellow should contact Cheryl Klufio at 617-495-8608 or cheryl_klufio@radcliffe.edu.

About the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University is a scholarly community where individuals pursue advanced work across a wide range of academic disciplines, professions and creative arts. Within this broad purpose, the Institute sustains a continuing commitment to the study of women, gender and society.

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