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4 Professors Awarded Guggenheim Fellowships

4 Professors Awarded Guggenheim Fellowships

Sanjay Subrahmanyam, who holds the Navin and Pratima Doshi Chair in Indian History and is founding director of the UCLA Center for India and South Asia, received a fellowship to support his research on French perceptions of Asian culture.

By Suzy Strutner for The Daily Bruin

Four UCLA professors were recently awarded Guggenheim Fellowships, a mid-career award given for exceptional scholarship or creativity in the arts.

Sanjay Subrahmanyam, who holds the Navin and Pratima Doshi Chair in Indian History and is founding director of the UCLA Center for India and South Asia, received a fellowship to support his research on French perceptions of Asian culture.

One of 180 fellows, Subrahmanyam was chosen from a pool of 3,000 applicants as someone who has already contributed to his field in a notable way.

He joins the ranks of previous winners such as photographer Ansel Adams and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Subrahmanyam focuses on the 17th century, when French travelers published scores of books documenting their experiences in Asia. His research examines these books and dissects the methods by which travelers formed their perceptions of Asian cultures.

These travelers encountered only a small sampling of the Asian population and used specific social categories to describe them, Subrahmanyam said.

His research will determine how these descriptions served to influence the French public’s opinion of the Orient.

In October, Subrahmanyam will travel to France to complete his research, which he will compile into a book. His wife Caroline Ford is also one of this year’s Guggenheim fellows and will be researching in Europe at the same time.

“It’s very rare,” Subrahmanyam said of receiving the fellowship in the same year as his wife. “I think the Guggenheim fellowship is the most prestigious one in the United States, and I’ve never heard of a husband and wife receiving it at the same time.”

While the Guggenheim Fellowship celebrates work in a variety of topics from physics to film, many of the UCLA fellows happen to work in the field of history.

“(This) reflects excellence of historical studies at UCLA and I think it reflects the excellence of the individual winners whose research is innovative and groundbreaking,” said David N. Myers, chair of the history department.

Similar to Subrahmanyam, Ford’s work focuses on French history, while fellow winner Stephen Gardbaum is working on a book about constitutionalism.

“I think we’re in a moment in our lives when we desperately need historical knowledge to inform contemporary debate,” Myers said.

Fellowship recipient Brian Copenhaver also spoke of the award’s prestige in the academic community.

“I’ve received quite a few fellowships, but none like this,” said Copenhaver, who holds UCLA’s Udvar-Hazy Chair of Philosophy and History and directs the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Copenhaver’s research breaks down the process by which pictures came to be used in literature during the late 1500s and early 1600s.

Copenhaver said that prior to the invention of the printing press, authors likely did not use pictures to explain concepts because it was difficult to print large quantities of images without distorting them.

“We take it for granted that pictures in our textbooks serve to explain complex concepts,” Copenhaver said. “The question is: How did people come to use pictures in an explanatory way?”