WSU announces humanities fellows for 2015-16

Humanities-fellowsPULLMAN, Wash. – Three professors – representing history, philosophy and ethnic studies – have been selected as Washington State University humanities fellows for the 2015-16 academic year.

C. Richard King, professor in critical culture, gender and race studies; Claudia Leeb, assistant professor in politics, philosophy and public affairs; and Matthew Sutton, associate professor in history, were chosen based on research proposals they submitted to the Humanities Planning Group (HPG).

“We are promoting an appreciation for the breadth and depth of humanities and their critical role in understanding life and society,” said Christopher Lupke, chair of HPG and professor of cinema studies and Chinese.

Humanities research funding

Each of the three awards is accompanied by a $12,500 grant. The fellow designation and funding are intended to promote further research and encourage pursuit of greater, external funding for humanities research.

“The selection of these three proposals and scholars emphasizes the broad nature of the humanities,” Lupke said. “We’ve now awarded fellowships in all the humanities units at WSU.”

Other academic disciplines within the humanities include literature, ancient and modern languages, art history, classics and linguistics.

A committee of senior WSU scholars evaluated proposals and made recommendations to the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, which has sponsored the humanities fellows program since it was launched in 2014.

Public lectures to highlight fellows’ year

As a condition of selection, each fellow will deliver a free, public presentation during the academic year. A schedule will be announced in the fall and will be available at

King is an expert in indigenous culture. His research during the past two decades has sparked numerous conversations about use of American Indian mascots and popular representations of Native Americans. He is working on a book, “Playing with Indigeneity,” which offers a comparative assessment of racial play today.

His project will examine public performances of the qualities associated with and ascribed to indigenous cultures and peoples. It builds upon established scholarly discussions of “playing Indian” and the ways indigeneity, and enactments of it, matter. A monograph, to be published by the University of Toronto Press, will be among the key outcomes of King’s fellowship.

Leeb, who is trained in political theory and psychology, plans to complete a book during her fellowship. “The Tragedy of Silence: Guilt and Democracy” will analyze recent public controversies surrounding Austria’s hidden involvement in Nazi atrocities, as well as court documents of Austrian perpetrators, to answer the question of how perpetrating individuals and collectives deal with guilt.

It draws on Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno – 20th century political philosophers and theorists – to demonstrate that an adequate dealing with feelings of collective guilt resulting from a nation’s past crimes is necessary to create inclusive and functioning social and political communities in the present.

Sutton’s research focuses on the relationships among religion, politics and American culture from the late 19th century to the present. He draws from and addresses issues in history, religious studies, political science, American Studies and global studies.

His project, “Wild Bill’s Army of Faith: Religion and American Espionage in World War II,” attempts to tell the story of a small but influential group of missionaries and religious activists in espionage and covert operations employed by the U.S. government during World War II. Through never-before-seen archival materials, Sutton will reveal the significant roles these missionaries played in a book project his fellowship will help him complete.

Humanities in action at WSU

HPG is a group of faculty members who are working to create a Center for the Humanities at WSU. A proposal to the Faculty Senate is being finalized.

The group has sponsored a variety of events and initiatives on the Pullman campus. It is partnering with the Pullman and Whitman county libraries to sponsor speakers and conversations and has applied for a Humanities Washington grant to support community programming.