Current Themes and Calls for Research Proposals

Our 2016-17 Research Theme


Applications Due: Friday, April 29, 2016

What are the unique powers of the humanities? What does humanistic inquiry require and what does it manifest? 

Tenured and tenure-track faculty at CSULA are invited to submit proposals for two different fellowship programs:

1) A NEW PROGRAM: ACP Working Group Fellowships and

2) ACP Individual Fellowships.

While individuals may apply for both, only one fellowship may be accepted.

Projects may take the form of meta-level articulations of the stakes and state of the humanities as a field of intellectual practice, or may propose specific research projects that illustrate the power of humanistic inquiry in American cultures and communities. 

This year’s theme asks questions including, but not limited to, the following:

  • What are the specific explanatory powers of the humanities?  What questions are they uniquely capable of posing?  What knowledges, narratives, and actions can they bring about?
  • In what specific ways can the theme be theorized? What are the stakes of the humanities, or of a particular line of inquiry within them, in all senses of the word? How and to what effects are the humanities a ballast, a support, a marker of borders, a risk, a reward, and/or an interest in a shared undertaking?
  • Where is the cutting edge for humanistic study today?  What pressing issues, current and historical, demand the attention of the humanities in studying American cultures and communities?
  • How are humanities-based forms of knowledge production similar to and/or different from other forms of knowing and doing? To what effects?
  • What structures – networks of information and knowledge, linguistic and communicative practices, social forces, patterns of production and consumption, and so forth – do the humanities bring into being?
  • What conditions, both material and epistemological, hinder and/or promote humanities-based inquiry and to what effects?
  • What alternative conceptualizations of community do inquiries in the humanities manifest?
  • How can work in the humanities promote a rethinking of the work of the University?
  • What intersections between scholarly knowledge, cultural performance, pedagogical innovation, and/or civic engagement do the humanities enable? 


NEW PROGRAM: Interdisciplinary Working Group Fellowships

The ACP seeks to strengthen the humanities by bringing together colleagues from across campus for discussion of and critical reflection on important issues in public and intellectual life. These fellowships seek to nurture and inspire our scholarly, pedagogical, and creative activities in the humanities through the exploration of shared interests, themes, methodologies, and/or projects. To this end, the ACP is instituting a new program in which fellowships up to $250 will be awarded to fund informal, interdisciplinary working groups in the humanities. Money may be used to support a reading/writing group; to fund working lunches, workshops, meetings, or off-campus fieldtrips; or to pay for other relevant expenses. If your working group is especially fruitful and leads to further plans and projects, future funding may be available.

To apply: Send a letter of interest explaining 1) the theme of your working group and a description of the issues and questions involved, 2) the name of the primary organizer of the group and a list of members and their affiliations, and 3) a description of the kinds of activities you expect your group to undertake with a list of itemized anticipated costs.

Working Group Requirements:

  • Groups must meet at least three times during the academic year.
  • Funds must be spent on joint activities. This program is meant to support collegial activities of faculty members.
  • Funds must be spent and receipts submitted by May 1 of the academic year awarded.
  • The working group organizer is responsible for the management of these funds.
  • By June 15 of the year awarded, the organizer will submit a report of the group’s activities to the director of the ACP.

Individual Fellowships

Up to three fellowships will be awarded. Preference will be given to proposals that best demonstrate a nuanced engagement with and interrogation of the theme in innovative and meaningful ways. One of the three fellowships, the Bailey Fellowship, is for an original project that applies this year's research theme to African American communities and/or individuals and preferably involves archival materials.

The program welcomes proposals from the arts that can be presented in a lecture/recital. All proposals, however, must include a research or analytical component based in the humanities. Each fellowship awards 3 units of release time and a $500 stipend for a student assistant or other project-related expenses.

Application materials consist of a two-page curriculum vitae, a 500-word research proposal, and a projected budget for research-related expenditures (up to $500). Proposals should explain the relevance of the proposed project to this year's research theme and the originality and significance of the research. Fellows must present their research at the ACP's Spring 2017 symposium.

Application Materials

Please submit an electronic copy of your application to
Dr. Maria Karafilis
Joseph A. Bailey II, M.D. Endowed Chair of American Communities
Director, CSULA/NEH American Communities Program
Dean’s Office, College of Arts and Letters
MUS 228

The submission deadline for the 2016-2017 fellowships is 5pm, Friday, April 29, 2016. Contact Dr. Maria Karafilis with any questions (



Our 2015-2016 Research Theme:


The 2015-16 American Communities Program theme is designed to deepen our understanding of the construction and perpetuation of American identities, cultures, and communities through humanities-based inquiry. In particular, this year’s theme asks us to consider how research in the humanities can help us analyze the artifacts, structures, practices, and ontologies that make various forms of relation possible and meaningful.  In other words, through what means are relations between bodies, species, objects, ideas, and/or communities mediated, managed, forged, and/or foreclosed? What bases for relations are relevant to particular American communities? How are relations imagined, manifested, and represented and to what effects?

We invite proposals from tenured and tenure-track faculty at Cal State L.A. that engage questions including, but not limited to, the following:

· material culture and the function of objects in mediating relations or rendering them visible/invisible
· the temporal and/or spatial dimensions of relations
· innovative methodologies that explore relations such as Border Studies, New Mobility Studies, and Food Studies, as well as evolving theories of relation in discourses such as aesthetics, ontology, and Marxist or psychoanalytic theory
· political treaties, contracts, gifts and promises, and other codified or informal acts of obligation; sovereignty, citizenship, privacy, treason, terror, and betrayal
· particular aesthetic forms and modes of representing affinities and connections whether material and embodied or linguistic and referential
· power relations, force, and violence; a-relationality
· pedagogical possibilities informed by the ethics of relation
· new conceptualizations of American communities in relation to global or hemispheric contexts
· intersubjectivity, permeability, attachment, and theories of the self



Our 2014-2015 Research Theme:  The Biological Century

Each year, the American Communities Program hosts a fellowship program and a year of thematic programming orbiting a set of central, grounding questions.  This year's theme, “The Biological Century,” explores some of the interfaces between science and technology, the body, social power, and economic and aesthetic productivity.  We wish to build on Michel Foucault’s account, now almost four decades old, of a modern world governed by converging technologies of biological and political control; these biopolitical mechanisms, he argued, were intended to regulate such concerns as birth and death rates, the spread and treatment of disease, and the life and vitality of entire populations.  Since Foucault’s initial inquiries, theorists of biopower have applied his concepts broadly to various ways in which forms of life themselves are governed, managed, stimulated, and even created by power.  Recently, the mapping of the human genome, the capitalization of affect, the haunting prospect of bioterrorism, and various crises in bioethics have led some thinkers to regard this as “the biological century.”  Our theme responds to that characterization, and to the imperative to understand the creative practices and critical discourses that address the biopolitical foundations of American identity and community.    

Tenured and tenure-track faculty at CSULA are welcome to submit proposals for humanities-based inquiry responding to questions including, but not limited to, the following:

  • How do contemporary understandings of the human body – and of larger collective bodies – reflect the application of political and cultural power? To what extent do new frontiers in reproductive rights, genomics, and medicine reflect biopolitical imperatives?
  • What forms of authority – medical, technical, managerial, legal, etc. – emerge as crucial for biopolitical regulation?  What interventions can such authority make in the name of life and health?
  • In what ways do metaphors such as those of immunity, pathology, addiction, vitality, and virality structure our existence?  Via what creative forms and genres might the arts represent and exploit contemporary biopolitical transformations?   
  • What are the impacts of new means of registering living memory through the interface between humans and digital technology?  How does living in a world of digital immediacy change our conceptions of memory, time, agency, and futurity?
  • How have categories of race, ethnicity, and gender been transformed by new kinds of biological belonging?  What conditions have enabled the appearance of new bio-social collectivities?  How might notions of the nation-state, or of “American community,” be transformed by these developments?
  • What explanatory force do philosophical accounts of biopolitics and biopower – such as the divergent understandings proffered by thinkers such as Agamben, Esposito, Hardt, and Negri – offer for contemporary cultural analysis? 
  • How have new biotechnological thresholds opened up possibilities for capitalism?  In what ways does our age of pharmacological or affective capitalism perpetuate, or deviate from, Fordist industrial models? 
  • How have new theories of the posthuman transformed both ways of life and ways of knowing our world?