U.Va. Center Will Use Local Communities As Lens For Bigger Picture
Of Race, Gender And Nation
October 28, 2002--
Slices of a community’s “everyday life”
story that reveal a larger picture will be the focus of a new University
of Virginia research and teaching center devoted to new ways of
understanding concepts of race, gender and nationhood.
Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies
has received a three-year, $300,000 grant from the Ford Foundation
to establish the interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Local
Knowledge in the Construction of Race, Gender and Nation.
an innovative collaboration with independent, non-academic historians,
the center “will investigate new methods of scholarship with
the aim of illuminating – and potentially transforming –
relationships of knowledge and power,” said history professor
Reginald D. Butler, director of the Woodson Institute.
complex world of Jefferson’s Monticello plantation provides
one dramatic example of how race, gender, power and nation themes
may be studied in microcosm at a local level, with civilizations
of Africa, Europe and the Americas coming together.
center has developed out of a previous Ford-funded project, “The
Chesapeake Regional Scholars Summer Seminars in African-American
and African Studies.” That program led to increased exchanges
of ideas between academic and independent lay scholars in the region
and to increased sharing of African-American Studies resources among
large and small colleges and universities, Butler said.
and Woodson Institute associate director Scot A. French developed
a series of research questions about how concepts of race, gender
and nation might be understood at the local, “everyday”
level of experience. Among those questions:
is the role of lay scholars – the many non-academic historians
and genealogists who are often key resources for local communities?
How can new technologies – such as the Woodson Institute’s
innovative digital-history archives — make new scholarship
meaningful and widely accessible?
can a new interpretive model, linking local knowledge to national
discourses, transform teaching and research?
knowledge” includes a community’s own “understanding
of its social relations, past and present,” said Corey D.B.
Walker, director of the new center. It also involves “how
everyday people come to understand their position in the world and
how national identities are constructed in local communities.”
who holds a doctorate in American Studies from the College of William
and Mary and was a scholar-in-residence at the Woodson Institute
last year, has, for example, researched the long history of African-American
Masonic lodges in different communities.
first African-American social organization to spread nationwide
after the Civil War, Freemasons’ locally-based activities
reveal a much larger picture about citizenship, race, gender and
national belonging. A book Walker is finishing, “The Freemasonry
of the Race: African American Freemasons and the Struggle for Democracy
in America,” has been called a model for interdisciplinary
research on the relationship between the local and the national.
center has an ambitious research agenda, Walker said. “Instead
of responding to intellectual and societal trends, we want to challenge
existing intellectual boundaries and break new ground in developing
new ways of knowing, new communities of scholars and fresh approaches
to critical issues of public policy,” he said.
center has invited a diverse group of U.Va. faculty to participate
in its Faculty Fellows program. With research and teaching interests
related to the mission of the center, the fellows represent a wide
variety of fields including medicine, politics, anthropology, chemistry,
history and law.
with its research program, the center will develop new courses that
explore issues of gender, race and nation, sponsor research assistantships
and fellowships for undergraduate and graduate students, and create
new avenues for exchange and collaboration between academic and
lay scholars, Walker said. The center is also taking an active role
with the University’s partners in its new Southern African
initiative and with other international research centers and institutes.
center will officially mark its opening Nov. 14, when Duke University
literature professor Walter D. Mignolo delivers an inaugural lecture
on “Tomorrow’s Universities” at 7 p.m. in the
Dome Room of the Rotunda. At 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 15, U.Va. French
professor Kandioura Drame will join Mignolo in a public seminar
on the theme “Regimes of Knowledge and the Academy in an Age
of Globalization” in Newcomb Hall’s Commonwealth Room.
Geertz, Princeton University anthropologist and author of “Local
Knowledge: Further Essays in Anthropology,” will speak at
a center symposium in the spring.
additional information, see the Center for the Study of Local Knowledge
Web site at http://www.virginia.edu/cslk
For interviews or additional information, Corey D. B. Walker and
Scot French may be reached at (434) 924-3109.
contact: Bob Brickhouse, (434) 924-6856