The University of Iowa

Stanley Graduate Awards: 2021 Winners

Ebenezer Aidoo
Destination: Kenya
Project Title: Mobile technology adoption and use in Africa: Assessing how Kenyans are accepting and using mobile technology in healthcare delivery

This study seeks to examine how Kenyans are adopting mobile technology in healthcare delivery. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on international travel, I will be working remotely for eight (8) weeks with DataDiggers Market Research LLC, to collect data from Kenya. DataDiggers are research experts with research partners in Kenya that can help provide me with the data needed to embark on this research without traveling to Kenya. Using the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology (UTAUT; Venkatesh et al., 2003), This pre-dissertation research will prepare me for my dissertation fieldwork as well as contribute to knowledge in the health communication scholarship. 

Keren Alfred
Book Arts
Destination: Jamaica
Project Title: Lacebark in Jamaica: Possibilities for Revival and Sustainable Use

My research will focus on expanding my knowledge of the lacebark tree (Lagetta lagetto) and the role it played in Jamaica. This tree has only been found in Jamaica, Cuba, and Hispaniola (the island divided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic), however most residents of those islands don’t know of its existence. My broader research goal is to sustainably harvest lacebark (the inner bark of the tree with fibers that can be teased apart to mimic lace), create art with it and to rediscover an aspect of Jamaica’s natural history that many are unaware of. By creating art, I want to learn the traditional methods of preparing and using lacebark and to share my work with other Jamaicans. My research will involve reading articles and books on lacebark (including reading some of the earliest written records of plant life in Jamaica from the 17th and 18th centuries), viewing collections in museums remotely and video calling with experts in the area of lacebark, natural history and textiles in Jamaica. 

Julián Bañuelos
Creative Writing/Poetry
Destination: Chile
Project Title: Las Cancioncitas and the Sonnet Through a Bilingual Lens

I am applying for the Stanley Graduate Award to conduct essential research for my thesis, a collection of poetry, in order to graduate with an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. The collection of poems is titled, Las Cancioncitas, which will be comprised of sonnets both in English and Spanish. The sonnet is a poetic form that has been around since the thirteenth century via the Italian sonneteers, and even still its appeal has lasted the test of time. Contemporary poets have since pushed the limits of what a sonnet ought to be and do. My collection aims to pay homage, break molds, and tell a love story through the lens of a bilingual being. I will work with two Chilean collections of poetry written in Spanish by Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral. Simultaneously, I will also be examining sonneteers of the English language from past and present. 

Ilana Bean
Nonfiction Writing
Destination: New Zealand
Project Title: Tuatara: The Sole Survivor of the Rhynchocephalia Order 

I am applying for the Stanley Award for International Research to research the evolution and conservation of the tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus), an animal found exclusively in New Zealand. The tuatara is a reptile that superficially resembles a lizard, but, importantly, is not one. Tuataras are the last remaining species from the taxonomic order Rhynchocephalia, a category of reptile that emerged around 200 million years ago, predating dinosaurs. I will investigate breaking research on the tuatara, and how it approaches questions regarding genomic data ownership and Māori perspective in ecology. I will also study the history and impact of tuatara conservation in New Zealand culture and ecosystems, how novel approaches led to the species’ survival, and how this knowledge can be used to combat the loss of biodiversity, both in New Zealand and globally. I will research these questions over a period of six weeks, from June 1st to July 13th. I will examine published papers, conduct interviews, search archives, and engage with physical representations of the tuatara. My background in biology, which includes a biology minor, and upper-level courses in genetics and ecology, informs my approach. This research will culminate in a 6,000 word essay. This will serve as the basis for my MFA thesis during my third year in the Nonfiction Writing Program, which will consist of a series of essays about animal science. This project will take place after my first year of my graduate studies. Because my work is heavily research-based, I will spend the time prior to my thesis conducting research necessary to write scientifically accurate essays. 

Adam Beaser
Creative Writing/Fiction
Destination: Hungary
Project Title: Art in Times of Crisis, An Ancestral Study in Hungary

I am an MFA candidate in Fiction at the Writers’ Workshop applying for a Stanley Graduate Award for International Research to spend four weeks conducting international research for a hybrid piece of fiction/non-fiction exploring artistic pursuit in the midst of personal and political upheaval. This will be examined through the lens of my maternal grandfather, who was a prodigy violinist in Hungary but had to escape with his mother as a teen during the Holocaust. My research will focus on the intersection of art and politics particularly in Transylvania, Romania and Budapest, Hungary, including at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, where my maternal grandfather studied violin. Before his death in 2015, my grandfather completed his memoirs of this time and my work will use this document to mix memory, history, and fiction.

Madison Bennett
Book Arts
Destination: United Kingdom
Project Title: Ultrathin Parchment Making

In Western Europe during the Middle Ages, before the advent of paper, scribes wrote on parchment that was so supple and durable, it could be repeatedly scraped down and written on again to create new texts. This process created a palimpsest, a manuscript that contains hidden layers of text. As a lettering artist, I have written on parchment in various ways for nearly a decade. I am fascinated by its unique ability to withstand multiple cycles of writing and scraping. Due to slowed demand over the last several centuries and mystery surrounding its preparation techniques, parchment as thin as the pages of medieval manuscripts is not available in the market today. This summer, I will prepare three calf skins, aiming to replicate the average thinness of a medieval manuscript page based on my own academic research in the University of Iowa’s Special Collections Library and under the guidance of the foremost parchment maker in the US. Ultimately, I will use these three pieces of parchment for my 2022 MFA thesis show, which will explore the concept of a contemporary palimpsest, an art object that contains several hidden layers.

Kyle Bikowski
Destination: Mexico
Project Title: Online Performances of Masculinity Among Mexican "Gaymers"

Masculinities are changing rapidly in Mexico. Yet little is known about the ways online interactions contribute to this process. This project will use digital ethnographic methods to investigate how Mexican “Gaymers” (gay video game enthusiasts) incorporate local and global ideologies of manhood, Mexicanness and sexuality into online performances of gender. It will reveal how these new ways of being men might challenge some, and reinforce other, hierarchies of manhood, race, and nationality. 

Ruthwika Bowenpalle
Creative Writing/Fiction
Destination: India
Project Title: Land is Wealth—A history rooted in bonded labor

Although monetary wealth is the primary interpretation of wealth and prosperity, land is a source of other types of wealth—the intangible currency tied to one’s heritage, family history, oral traditions, cultural practices as well as theological and societal structures. Societies and individuals have been historically motivated and continue to be motivated by the need to take possession of this land wealth, while simultaneously depriving those belonging to oppressed strata of society of the same right. The outlawed system of ‘vetti-chakiri’ or forced, bonded labor once practiced by feudal landlords in the Telangana region of India deprived the bonded classes of ownership and right to ownership of agricultural land, and therefore the multitudes of wealth(s) associated with land possession. As an MFA student in creative writing, I’m working on a historical novel set in Telangana, India. Set to be my graduate thesis, it explores the relationship between the landed, ancestral aristocrats and the indentured, bonded classes in Telangana’s agrarian regions in the 1950s and 1960s; an exploitative relationship that led eventually to a violent, armed communist struggle known as the Naxalite movement. The novel seeks to hold a mirror to the true natures of truth and humanity, exploring political, generational, and familial realms through the plot of two brothers born into the bonded classes, one of whom joins the Naxalite movement while the other attempts to escape his circumstances through access to educational opportunities. I’m applying for a Stanley Graduate Award for International Research to spend four weeks examining the links between land dispossession and the very human costs on those belonging to the bonded classes, within the context of the Naxalite move

Rajorshi Das
Destination: India
Project Title: Hierarchies in Publishing: Queer Narratives from India and Bangladesh in Print and Digital Media

I am applying for the Stanley Graduate Award (Fellowship) for International Research to access and experience queer literature emerging out of India and Bangladesh, with a specific focus on transnational publishing platforms in print and digital media. As a second-year PhD candidate in English, this will serve as a step towards writing the research article that is a required component of my comprehensive exam portfolio. This research is to be undertaken over a period of six weeks, between May and June 2021. It involves close reading of scanned copies of manuscripts and letters from the Hoshang Merchant papers, archived at Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University and accessing Dhaka-based digital platforms like Roopbaan magazine and Oboyob Diversity Circle oral history project. Merchant had edited India’s first gay anthology, Yaraana: Gay Writing from India (1999) which was published by Penguin Random House. In contrast to the visibility of Indian queer literatures in English that have found an international reading market, Bangladeshi queer writers and activists have been relying on digital platforms to create alternate spaces of storytelling in Bangla. In order to understand the regional and linguistic hierarchies of such literary productions in the two countries, I shall interview Merchant, Akhil Katyal, Joya Sikdar, and other activist-artists associated with such platforms. By doing so, I hope to set the ground for my doctoral research around the possibilities and limitations of queer narratives in South Asia.

Reid Dempsey
Literary Translation
Destination: Germany
Project Title: Translating Saša Staniši's Fallensteller (Trappers)

There is a tradition of multilingual writers from Henry James to Franz Kafka, Joseph Conrad to Orhan Pamuk who have chosen to write monolingually. As part of my MFA degree in Literary Translation, I am applying for Stanley funds to continue my research and translation of another such writer, the contemporary Bosnian-German novelist Saša Staniši. Staniši, now a citizen of Germany and the EU, was a refugee of the Yugoslav Wars and acquired German as a second language. Today he publishes only in that language, including his recent memoir Herkunft (Origins), winner of the 2019 German Book Prize. As a translator of Staniši, understanding the political and aesthetic significance of his decision to present a minority perspective in a majority language is of the utmost importance. Stanley funds would allow me to conduct remote research in international archives dedicated to migrant Yugoslavian experience in the summer of 2021 while continuing my translation of Staniši. The primary product of this proposal is a fifteen-page critical foreword to accompany my MFA thesis, a translation of Staniši’s 2016 short story collection Fallensteller (Trappers), a series of interlaced tales of contemporary multicultural Europe. This critical foreword is a required component of my thesis, and for readers it would contextualize Staniši and his language(s) in the history of Balkan migration to Germany; it would also allow me to critically interpret his work through a lens of multilingualism and language politics in the EU.

Michaeljulius Idani
Creative Writing/Fiction
Destination: Sierra Leone
Project Title: Unsettled Resettlement: The Lives of the Krio in Sierra Leone

The Stanley Graduate Award for International Research will afford me one month to conduct research focused on the lives of liberated Africans from around the world that were disposed in the Crown colony of Freetown, Sierra Leone after the British Empire abolished the Atlantic Slave trade in 1807. The liberated Africans that arrived in Freetown spoke different languages, worshipped different Gods, and practiced different customs, but quickly melded into a new people with a shared language called Krio. I will utilize the Liberated Africans Project, a free digitized repository of historical documents made available by a consortium of governments and research institutes, to learn about the history of the Krio people. This research will form the primary resources essential to my in-progress collection of short stories that will comprise my MFA thesis in fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where I am currently a first-year student.   

Rachael Maxon
Art History
Destination: Iran
Project Title: The Forgotten Archaeologists of Susa

In 1897, Jacques de Morgan and his team under the auspices of the French government began the systematic archaeological excavation of Susa, Iran. The excavation report published in the early 20th century describes only the quantifiable data regarding the rediscovery of some of the most notable works of Near Eastern art including the Hammurabi Code Stele, and the Stele of Naram-Sin. While the excavated objects themselves have made it to museums across the globe, the majority of the maps, photographs, personal notes, and correspondences of early archaeologists like Jacques de Morgan and Marcel-Auguste Dieulafoy are left out of these early reports. By removing these individuals from the narrative of the object, we are left with only part of its history, tantamount to divorcing the object from its context which drastically impacts our reading and understanding of the object in all respects. This project seeks to reintegrate the archaeologist into the history of the object and the site of Susa through the translation and analysis of the primary source material housed in the Bibliotheque nationale de France and the Academie de Beaux-Art that was not included in the archaeological reports. By reintroducing this material, the letters, notes, correspondences and other documents not fit for the official reports from Susa, we can better understand the objects themselves as well as their impact on Near Eastern art history and art collecting. 

McKenzie Toma
Creative Writing/Poetry
Destination: Romania
Project Title: Romanian Poet Ion Negoiţescu and Queer Literary Censorship in Communist Romania

I am applying for The Stanley Award for International Research to study the work and life of Romanian writer Ion Negoiţescu (1921-1993), one of the few openly gay male writers active in Romania during the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu (1965-1989). As an MFA candidate in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, this research will inform my thesis, a 60 page collection of poetry. Being a queer writer with Romanian heritage myself, my thesis will explore the history of dissidence, censorship and queerness as a form of political resistance, and be written in prose, free verse, and couplets. The anti-fascist nature of the poetry of Ion Negoiţescu coupled with him being openly gay resulted in his censorship, arrests, and imprisonment by Ceaușescu. By researching what, why, and how Negoiţescu wrote during this oppressive era, I will have an historically informed framework from which to write this collection of poems. I plan to use the digitized public archives at the Open Society Archives (OSA) at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary to do my research over the course of six weeks. This large repository of publicly accessible documents features Radio Free Europe (RFE) “Information Items” and “Situation Reports” describing the activism of this writer, the conditions of Jilavia Prison where Negoiţescu was held, and the state of literature and life in Romania during the rule of Ceaușescu.

Julia Wohlstetter
Creative Writing/Poetry
Destination: France
Project Title: Tracing Chris Marker's Epistolary Mode

I am a first year MFA student in the Writer’s Workshop applying for a Stanley Fellowship for International Research in order to spend four weeks researching the French cinematic essayist and audio-visual poet Chris Marker. Using Marker’s films as a point of departure, I will write a cycle of poems addressing the relationship between memory, time and the poem as archive. I will focus on such acclaimed master works as "Sans Soleil", "Le fond de l’air est rouge", "Si j’avais quatre dromedaires", "Loin du Vietnam", "Lettre de Siberie", and "Le joli mai", seeking to broaden my understanding of Marker’s epistolary approach to cinema, and assimilating material to be included in the poetry cycle I compose. I will also integrate my research into my MFA poetry thesis, exploring the emergence and flowering of documentary poetics in the twentieth century.

Zhen Zhang
Art History
Destination: China
Project Title: Research on the Catalog of Southern Song Academic Painting

My project critically assesses the Catalog of Southern Song Academic Painting (Nansong yuanhua lu, hereafter CSSAP), a Chinese art catalog from the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), edited by a member of literati, Li E (1692-1752). The CSSAP is of tremendous historical importance because it is perhaps the most comprehensive early primary source to describe academic painting from the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) in China. However, my project argues that many of the citations in the CSSAP are problematic. I show that in numerous cases Li E misquoted or intentionally altered the original sources he cited, resulting in the misinterpretations of those sources. Moreover, I demonstrate that Li E cited a number of other highly questionable sources, some of which might even be fabricated. Different from other art catalogs from that time, the CSSAP showed its preference to academic painting, paintings produced in the imperial painting academy, although this style was deemed to have lesser artistic value than literati painting, paintings created by scholar-amateur artists. By conducting a close reading of this book, I examine to what extent the CSSAP challenged the canon of Qing art and why it deviated from the mainstream at that time.

Hao Zhou
Cinematic Arts
Destination: Taiwan
Project Title: Moving Images: LGBTQ+ Taiwan

I propose to make a short-form film essay/documentary that explores Taiwan’s queer cinema of the past two decades. Consisting of film montages, interviews, and my narration, the film will make thematic connections among Taiwanese LGBTQ+ films, with a focus on queered notions of East Asian family, sexuality, gender, and politics. For the visual component, I will make montages of 10-15 Taiwanese LGBTQ+ films. These montages will be intercut with footage related to LGBTQ+ social developments in Taiwan as well as virtual interviews that I will conduct with relevant artists, activists, and scholars. I will carry out this project with guidance and participation from various (already secured) collaborators, such as the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival. The film’s aesthetic and scholarly development will be guided by faculty at UIowa’s Department of Cinematic Arts and the film scholar Dr. Chang-min Yu and colleagues at National Taiwan University. After completing the project, I will share the film via multiple platforms and institutions, including festivals, LGBTQ+ NGOs, universities, and streaming websites.