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The National Endowment for the Humanities released its latest round of projects, which includes studies of the “history of French lesbian activism,” and $20,000 for a new college course on “questions about neighborliness.”
The projects are part of $21.1 million in grants announced this week for the federal agency’s “Common Good” initiative.
Tamara Chaplin, an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, received a $6,000 summer stipend for her project “Postwar French Media, and the Struggle for Gay Rights.”
The project is described as a “book-length study of the history of French lesbian activism since World War II.”
Chaplin’s areas of study include contemporary France, the histories of gender and sexuality, feminist and critical theory, and queer studies. She previously contributed to the 2011 book Orgasm without Limits: May ’68 and the History of Sex Education in Modern France.
Chaplin also previously wrote a journal article on “Cyberqueer History and Lesbian Identity,” that explored how lesbians came out on the Minitel, a pre-Internet online service in France.
Chaplin described the online service as a “utopian” idea that allowed lesbians to come out online.
“The Minitel made possible new forms of lesbian identity untethered to specific locations, organizations, embodiment, or proximity,” Chaplin wrote. “It also made possible unique ways of being ‘out of the closet’ in a virtual space that was at once private (experienced in the intimacy of home or office) and public (accessible to others and premised on representation and communication).”
“[T]he Minitel not only put a self-identified group of lesbian individuals into contact but also helped to construct a very specific incarnation of the social category—‘lesbian’—that it was deployed to support,” she wrote. “In so doing, it contributed to the emergence of an ‘imagined community’ characterized not by geographic proximity but by a level of social cohesion born of personal intimacy, common understanding, shared political vision, and mutual experiences of social exclusion.
“Utopian in conceptualization, in this particular iteration it was ultimately unsuccessful in practice,” Chaplin concluded.
The list of new National Endowment for the Humanities projects also includes funding for several new college courses, including $19,783 for the University of California, Irvine for a class to “explore the question of when war should end.”
Valparaiso University in Indiana received $20,000 to create a course on “questions about neighborliness.”
The University of Kansas received $19,999 for a college class on the “ethical boundaries of community,” while Boston College received $20,000 for a six-week seminar on “the meaning of work and leisure.”
The University of Rochester also received $19,341 for an undergraduate seminar on “what it means to die.”
Other grants included $6,000 to the University of South Florida for a cultural analysis of “conflict graffiti in Detroit and cities in the Middle East.”
Another $6,000 went to a professor at California State University for a book on “feminist activism and peace negotiations at the end of World War I.”
The agency called the latest round of projects “exceptional.”
“NEH grants bring the humanities to life for Americans by helping preserve valuable cultural resources, advancing research, and supporting films and exhibitions that communicate the lessons of history and culture to new audiences,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “We are pleased to announce our support for these 248 exceptional research, educational, preservation, and public programs in the humanities.”