Two College faculty members win Guggenheim fellowships

Studies of marriage arrangements in Kenya and legal and political culture in the trial scenes of medieval narratives have landed two Emory College faculty members prestigious fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

The Guggenheim fellowships were awarded to Corinne Kratz, assistant professor of African Studies and anthropology, for "Discourse, Performance and Cultural Philosophy: Arranging Okiek Marriage in Kenya"; and to Stephen White, professor of medieval history, for "Imaginary Justice: Legal Culture and Politics in Old French Trial Scenes."

In her proposal, Kratz explains that the social relations and identities that shift at the beginning of a marriage are negotiated and contested in different arenas in different societies. Those shifts are defined through particular cultural notions of identity, personhood, morality and society.

"Studies of marriage in Africa," Kratz explained, "have rarely concentrated on the cultural experience, philosophical underpinnings, discourse or performance of marriage negotiations. They have typically looked at marriage in terms of alliance and descent, divorce or bridewealth exchange."

Kratz said her study will broaden conventional anthropological concerns through attention to how issues of alliance and descent are addressed, expressed and juggled; how bridewealth is negotiated through poetically persuasive argument; and performance strategies.

Kratz's analyses of Okiek marriage will result in a book titled Looking for the Hairless Cow.

In his study of how disputes, law and adjudication were represented in 12th- and early 13th-century French literature, White analyzes 10 different trials in eight major texts and discusses at least seven other texts. He also considers records of historical cases, including accounts of disputes that were settled without resort to adjudication.

"Besides reinterpreting several major works of Old French literature," White wrote in his proposal, "my study questions the view of legal and literary historians that during the late 12th and early 13th centuries, first English law and then French law were rapidly modernized."

To complete a book on this topic, White said he will need to do further research on methods of settling disputes in late 12- and early 13th-century France and England, and consult manuscript versions of several texts. "By supplementing my own preliminary study of how historical disputes (especially those involving homicide and treason) were handled, I can develop a clearer picture of how authors and audiences would have viewed imaginary trial scenes," White wrote. "For the purpose of interpreting those scenes, it will also be important, in several cases, to determine how much these scenes vary and how they vary in different versions of the same narrative."

White and Kratz are two of 158 scholars and artists chosen from 2,791 applicants to receive fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation this year. The awards total $4.5 million.

--Dan Treadaway

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