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Seven Duke Faculty Members Receive Inaugural “Explore” Seed Grants

The Office for Research & Innovation and the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies announce the recipients of the inaugural Explore seed grant program. Explore grants are open to all regular-rank faculty at Duke, and there is a preference for supporting work in the humanities, arts and interpretive social sciences. In this initial year, Explore will fund seven promising projects. 

Explore 2023 Recipients

Tracie Canada, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology

Integrating Tobacco Road Football, 1965-1975

This Explore grant will fund preliminary work for two projects. The first is a place-based study of the lived experiences of the Black football players who integrated teams at Wake Forest, NC State, UNC and Duke in the late 1960s. At the intersection of Black geographies and sport studies, this archival and oral history work will consider how race and place impact(ed) student experiences at historically white institutions of higher education. The second project is the Health, Ethnography, and Race through Sports (HEARTS) Lab. This Black feminist intellectual environment will bring together multiple publics who are both interested in an intersectional critique of sport and also invested in accessibly-written publications, public engagement and inclusive programming.

Shambhavi Kaul, Associate Professor of the Practice of Art, Art History & Visual Studies

The Swamp

The Swamp is a feature-length film about the environment, set against the backdrop of a cypress swamp. The film begins in the aftermath of a plane crash. The survivors of the crash are unable to survive the swamp that eventually envelopes and absorbs them. What seems like a scenario out of a horror film turns out to be something else; The Swamp tells a science fictional story in which humans and swamp become one. The audience is invited to speculate on existential questions regarding survival, stewardship and the environment.

Karin Shapiro, Associate Professor of the Practice in the Department of African & African American Studies

Forging a Philosophy of Health: Lessons From South Africa

This documentary examines a group of social medics who came to North Carolina from apartheid South Africa, bringing ideas that transformed social epidemiology and public health practices in the American South and beyond. During the 1940s and ’50s, the development of biomedicine and NIH funding led many in the U.S. to argue that illness should be tackled at the individual, biological level. Fleeing South Africa, these émigrés from rural KwaZulu-Natal brought an alternate framework, with a focus on the social, cultural and environmental impacts on health. This approach found especially fertile ground during President Johnson’s War on Poverty. Many of their early ideas — about the social determinants of health, the engagement of lay health advisors, and community-based participatory research — have become today’s watchwords in epidemiology and community health.

Harris Solomon, Fred W. Shaffer Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology

Adverse Events

Adverse Events is a pilot ethnographic study of medical error in India. The project’s core aim is to explore aftermaths of medical errors among providers, patients and advocates. The project will take shape in conversation with legal researchers in India, and ultimately will ground a global, comparative ethnographic project on shifting connections between law and medicine.

Augustus Wendell, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Art, Art History & Visual Studies

Computer Vision Drawing Machine

This project extends work on computer numerical control (CNC) drawing machines to include computer vision and temporal drawing logic. Computational methods compare the drawing subject with drawing progress and issue commands to a CNC mechanism to incrementally advance each drawing on a per stroke basis. The comparative logic at play in this decision-making centers issues of aesthetics and artistic decision making in computational processes.

Julianne Werlin, Bacca Foundation Associate Professor of Rhetoric, Culture and Society

Poets at School: English Poets at Oxford and Cambridge, 1500-1900

Co-Investigator: Andrej Svorencik (University of Pennsylvania, Economics Department)

Poets at School draws on university matriculation records and bibliographic databases to provide a complete list, for the first time, of poets who attended Oxford and Cambridge between 1500 and 1900. This project seeks to reconstruct the social and literary networks that first formed in the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, such as St. John’s College, Cambridge, in the 1590s, or Merton College, Oxford, in the Victorian era, to understand how the universities’ institutional culture shaped verse production and style over the long term. In addition, the project will analyze how the changing role of the universities in society, and their cycles of expansion and contraction, affected poetry in successive eras.

Sarah Wilbur, Associate Professor of the Practice of Dance

Prescribing Dance

The economically overburdened U.S. health care system, extended life expectancies for older adults, health worker attrition, and widespread care burnout are increasing opportunities for artists — not arts therapists — to participate in the rapidly expanding industry of arts and health. This project will support ethnographic field work for a book project, “Prescribing Dance: Sweating the Impacts of the U.S. Healthcare Industry on the Working Lives of Artists.” It is the first U.S. cultural labor study to pay close, body-level attention to arts and care work worlds in three “secondary” cities (Milwaukee, Providence and Durham). The feminist ethnographic approach situates care as the practical dimension of infrastructure, moving alongside arts and health funders, practitioners, administrators, and program participants as they variably “sweat” social and ethical responsibilities embedded in the invitation to “heal” through a prescription to get up and dance.

Main image: Tracy Canada, Shambhavi Kaul, Karin Shapiro, Harris Solomon, Augustus Wendell, Julianne Werlin and Sarah Wilbur; photo of Wilbur by Troy Blendell