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NEH Awards Summer Stipends to Two Lewis & Clark Faculty Members

April 03, 2019

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has just recognized the work of not one, but two L&C faculty members. Both James F. Miler Professor of Humanities and Professor of Philosophy Nicholas Smith and recently tenured Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Jessica Starling have been awarded 2019 NEH Summer Stipends. They are only two of four faculty members in Oregon to secure this 2019 award.

This acknowledgment is incredible because this grant program has only a 9% funding rate. In the last five competitions, NEH received an average of 834 Summer Stipend applications per year; this year they awarded 82 grants. Winning these very competitive $6,000 awards is even more noteworthy because faculty members with tenured or tenure-track positions who teach full-time at institutions of higher education must be nominated by their institutions to apply; each institution of higher education in the United States and its jurisdictions may nominate only two faculty members each year. Each application undergoes extensive peer review and must be recommended to the National Council on the Humanities; final decisions are made by the NEH Chairman.

The NEH Summer Stipend program supports individuals pursuing advanced research that is of value to scholars and general audiences in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. Recipients must work on a humanities project for a period of two months, and usually produce articles, monographs, books, digital materials, archaeological site reports, translations, editions, or other scholarly tools. Both Drs. Smith and Starling will spend the upcoming summer working on their respective projects, as follows:

Dr. Smith will spend the summer completing a full draft of his book for publication, Socrates on Knowledge, Virtue, and Happiness. This eight-chapter book, in part, will argue a new interpretation of Socratic virtue: finding happiness through honing a set of practical skills. As such, while the scholarship will be particularly valuable to those studying Plato and Socrates, Dr. Smith’s research and analysis will ultimately make Socratic philosophy both more appealing and accessible to non-academics. Dr. Smith has completed most of the theoretical work for this book; his final work this summer will allow him to submit this book—his 24th–to a major academic publisher in Fall 2019. It is worth noting that this Summer Stipend is Dr. Smith’s second grant from NEH in the past five years: he led a Summer Seminar on Socrates at Lewis & Clark in 2014. More about Dr. Smith’s work is available here.

Dr. Starling will conduct research for two articles this summer, which will ultimately culminate in a full-length monograph, tentatively titled, Leprosy, Social Work, and Ethical Praxis in Contemporary Japanese Buddhism. In premodern Japan, leprosy or Hansen’s disease was seen as a morally culpable condition, the result of past karmic misdeeds. In the early twentieth century, the scientific discourse of contagion added another layer to its stigmatization. When Japan repealed its forced-isolation policy in 1996, the “problem” of leprosy shifted instead to confronting and atoning for many decades of state-sponsored discrimination against those suffering from the effects of the culpable bacteria. There is now a strong Buddhist presence at a number of leprosaria that were constructed by the Japanese state during the 1930s and 1940s, where a waning number of elderly leprosy survivors still reside. Dr. Starling’s latest NEH award will support her travel to Japan to conduct ethnographic research at several leprosaria in Okayama, Tokyo, and Okinawa, where she’ll attend gatherings and interview informants. As previously announced, this is Dr. Starling’s second grant in 2019 (so far); she has been remarkably successful in securing external funding for this project.

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