Welcoming the 2024–25 Huntington Research Fellows

Posted on Tue., May 28, 2024 by Susan Juster
An image of a large white building and seven headshots of people.

This year, The Huntington has awarded long-term research fellowships to 13 individuals, including (from left) Serena Zabin (Carleton College), Jonathan Hsy (George Washington University), writer and historian Megan Kate Nelson, Susan Amussen (University of California, Merced), Nayan Shah (USC), Alison Hirsch (USC), and Susan Scott Parrish (University of Michigan).     | The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

The Huntington annually welcomes approximately 150 long- and short-term research fellows, selected through a competitive peer-review process that provides $1.4 million in awards. These fellows are among the roughly 2,000 scholars who come from around the world each year to conduct academic research in The Huntington’s collections. Their fields of study include history, literature, botanical science, art history, and the history of science, technology, and medicine.

I am delighted to report that this year The Huntington has awarded long-term research fellowships to 13 individuals who will be in residence for the full academic year and 120 short-term fellowships (for between one and five months), as well as six travel grants for study in the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Peru, and eight exchange fellowships to sister institutions in the U.K. and Ireland. (See the full list of 2024–25 Huntington fellows.)

The 2024–25 cohort of long-term fellows features scholars who work across the globe in multiple disciplines, from the late medieval period to the present. Their subfields include Spanish colonialism, early modern patriarchy, Chinese imperial gardens, Asian American visual studies, the relationship between intelligence testing and eugenics, women novelists, and Nahua maps, to name just a few.

One of the long-term fellows this year is Jonathan Hsy, professor of English at George Washington University, where he is affiliated faculty in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the Sigur Center for Asian Studies. His work often asks how critical theory and cultural analysis reshape understandings of language, gender, and identity. Hsy is the author of Antiracist Medievalisms: From “Yellow Peril” to Black Lives Matter (Arc Humanities Press, 2021) and co-editor of A Cultural History of Disability in the Middle Ages (Bloomsbury Academic, 2022).

As the 2024–25 Molina Fellow in the History of Medicine & Allied Sciences at The Huntington, Hsy will explore autobiographical writings by medieval authors who were blind or deaf, along with contemporaneous works addressing restricted mobility, chronic illness, and aging. His current book manuscript, Crafty Mobilities: Disability, Life Writing, and a Global Middle Ages, will integrate his own historical research on lived experiences of disability with scholarship in contemporary disability studies.

Hsy writes in his proposal that he will address key figures in Western literary history—Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, Margery Kempe, and Thomas Hoccleve—and such underappreciated European authors as Teresa de Cartagena, a medieval Spanish nun and mystic whose works were influenced by her experience of becoming deaf as an adult. Just as importantly, he will examine well-known medieval authors from Africa and Asia who have not yet been analyzed through the framework of disability, including the Maghrebi Muslim pilgrim-explorer Ibn Battuta and male and female Chinese literati poets of the Tang and Song dynasties.

Hsy—drawing upon materials from across The Huntington’s collections of medieval manuscripts, early printed books, and materials related to the history of science, technology, and medicine—will examine how authors in the Middle Ages cast their lived experience of disability as a source of knowledge, intellectual growth, and artistic creativity.

Another long-term fellow this year is Alison Hirsch, associate professor of architecture at USC and director and founder of the university’s Landscape Justice Initiative. A landscape historian and designer whose books and publications primarily focus on urban landscapes and spatial politics, Hirsch was the 2017–18 Prince Charitable Trusts/Rolland Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome. She directed the Landscape Architecture + Urbanism program at USC from 2019 to 2023. As the 2024–25 Shapiro Center for American History & Culture Fellow at The Huntington, Hirsch will continue her multiyear research on the working landscapes of California’s Great Central Valley.

In her proposal, Hirsch writes that during her fellowship year she will work on her book-in-progress on the Tulare Lake Basin, the lower third of the Great Central Valley and a hydrological system that defines a cultural history of California. The drained and diverted Tulare Lake haunts the basin with its periodic reemergence. After 14 atmospheric rivers hit California in March 2023, the lake reappeared and continues to exist today, provoking fascination with its past, when it was the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. It has sparked projective narratives about its future existence and the existence of those who call the lake home.

Hirsch’s book, tentatively titled The Other California: Land, Labor, and Liberated Futures along Phantom Shores, provides a cultural and environmental history of the violence and vast inequality created by 150 years of capitalist agriculture, as well as a story of resistance and how land-based practices of insurgent cultural expression have set the foundation for more just futures.

Hirsch plans to consult a wide range of materials in The Huntington’s Western American History, California, and Maps and Atlases collections, including resources on water and infrastructure development during the settling of the West, the California Farmworker Collection, railroad and mining collections, and collections of photographs. She will also examine maps to trace geographic histories of the Trans-Mississippi West and California, as well as the exploration and transformation of Tulare Lake.

Hirsch and Hsy were among 434 applicants who competed for fellowships at The Huntington this year. Four peer review committees judged the competition: one to consider the applications for yearlong residencies in the humanities; one to evaluate grant proposals in the history of science, technology, and medicine; and two to evaluate applications for short-term fellowships.

The scholarship carried out in The Huntington’s reading rooms results in academic monographs and articles, bestselling and prizewinning books, acclaimed documentary films, and many of the history and social studies texts used to educate the nation’s schoolchildren. The Huntington also disseminates research through an extensive program of academic conferences, workshops, seminars, and lectures. Five invited distinguished fellows will offer public lectures this fall and next spring in Rothenberg Hall: Susan Amussen (University of California, Merced), Megan Kate Nelson (writer and historian), Susan Scott Parrish (University of Michigan), Nayan Shah (USC), and Serena Zabin (Carleton College). We encourage you to attend these lectures in Rothenberg Hall and hear them speak about their exciting research.

Susan Juster is the W.M. Keck Foundation Director of Research at The Huntington.