Scott Olson, a PhD candidate in anthropology at the UI, is the winner of a 2018-19 Research Grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Olson's research in Germany will focus on LGBTQ activists in Berlin, specifically the way German activists are creating transnational LGBTQ rights and justice movements through interpretations of queer history.
What excites you most about being able to work in Germany?
Germany has a fabulous and, I think, often misunderstood history—especially in the former East. Although my project isn’t historical specifically, it has a significant historical component. This really excites me because it offers the opportunity to really develop my thinking about this history that I find so fascinating. It means I’ll be able to more deeply explore archives and develop relationships with locals who have seen some of the important social and political shifts that occurred in Germany in the last century—an endeavor which wouldn’t be possible without year-long support from the DAAD. Funding for this kind of research is often only available for a few weeks at a time, so to be able to spend a full year working on a project I really care about is really a privilege.
How do you see this grant advancing your work?
Without this grant, my dissertation project honestly wouldn’t be possible. Not only does it enable me to live long-term at my field site without needing to find alternative employment, but it connects me with other young scholars at Humboldt University. This means I’ll be able to really focus my time and energy on this research without needing to worry about living expenses, and that I’ll have access to a community of people thinking and writing about similar topics; good ideas really don’t emerge in a vacuum, so having people I can talk to and work with while I’m gathering ethnographic data will be invaluable.
Are there any professors, or UI faculty you'd like to thank for their investment or support in the application process?
This list is really infinite—every friend, colleague, and family member I’ve shared my ideas with has helped me work through my ideas for this project! But I would especially like to thank my committee—UI Professors Emily Wentzell, Elana Buch, Ted Powers, Elizabeth Heineman and Grinnell College Professor (UI Alum) Brigittine French—for their thoughtful feedback on seemingly endless drafts, and for their constant emotional support and encouragement (especially in moments when my own confidence faltered). Dr. Karen Wachsmuth and the whole staff in the International Programs office has saint-like patience and has probably invested as much time in making this grant possible as I have, if not more. In this capacity, UI Professor Jennifer Sessions was also incredibly helpful and supportive in my initial thinking for this project, and I really appreciate all of her time, effort, and thoughtfulness working with me. The UI Stanley Foundation and Graduate & Professional Student Government have also played an important role in making this work possible because their funding of preliminary research got me thinking about everything that eventually became this project.
The German Academic Exchange Service, or DAAD, offers a large variety of study and research grants for highly-qualified graduate students of all disciplines to provide the opportunity to study or obtain a degree in Germany. The UI is a DAAD partner university that nominates priority candidates for the fall competition. U.S., Canadian citizens, and permanent residents are eligible. International students who have been enrolled at a U.S. university or Canadian university for at least two years may also be eligible. Students can find more information on the application process on the UI DAAD Study Scholarship and Research Grants page.