Current Themes and Calls for Research Proposals

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?

The Fellowships

Up to three fellowships will be awarded to applicants who engage in humanities-based inquiry. Special consideration will be given to proposals that meaningfully incorporate student research or that suggest potential for catalyzing campus-wide and community conversations. 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 8 units of release time and a $750 stipend for a student assistant or other project-related expenses. Fellows will participate in a Fall 2014 roundtable discussion and must present their research at the ACP's Spring 2015 fellows symposium.

Application Materials

Application materials consist of a two-page curriculum vitae, a 500-word research proposal, and a projected budget for research-related expenditures (up to $750). Proposals should explain the originality and significance of the project, as well as its relevance to this year's research theme.    Applicants are welcome to direct questions to ACP Director Andrew Knighton at

Please submit four hard copies of your application to:

Dr. Andrew L. Knighton
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 2014-2015 fellowships is noon, Friday, April 25, 2014.