Profile photos of Marit MacArthur, Emily Merchant and Marian Schlotterbeck
Pictured, from left: Marit MacArthur, Emily Merchant, Marian Schlotterbeck.

Three UC Davis Faculty Members Receive National Endowment for the Humanities Grants

A science historian studying the complex history of sociogenomics, a historian revealing the lives of Chilean children during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, and a researcher chronicling the performances of contemporary Black women poets are among this year’s UC Davis recipients of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Emily Merchant, associate professor of science and technology studies; Marian Schlotterbeck, associate professor of history; and Marit MacArthur, University Writing Program continuing lecturer and performance studies faculty affiliate, received grants between $30,000 and $60,000 for their projects.

The grants are part of an overall funding initiative of $33.8 million that went to 260 humanities projects across the country. 

Marit MacArthur

Continuing Lecturer, University Writing Program
Faculty Affiliate, Performance Studies

Award: $30,000

Headshot of Marit MacArthur

A poetry scholar and researcher in digital voice studies, MacArthur will use her $30,000 fellowship to complete an e-book with co-author Howard Rambsy II, a professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. “Listening to Black Women Poets in Mainly White and Mainly Black Rooms” will explore the performance styles, content, poetic form and point of view in recordings of 303 poems by 101 Black women poets, from Margaret Walker to Amanda Gorman.  

“This book will treat poetry as the oral form it is,” MacArthur said. “Norms developed by elite white male authors, often favoring subdued performance styles and apolitical content, have historically constrained Black women poets. Spoken Word poets who excel in slam competitions have been marginalized by scholars and the publishing industry. So we are studying Spoken Word poets alongside well-published poets who have received literary prizes.”

The groundbreaking digital publication will incorporate audio clips and playable screencasts of sound visualizations, applying slow listening methods that MacArthur developed with UC Davis Professor of Neurobiology Lee M. Miller.

“This fellowship feels like a reward for all the effort I’ve put into interdisciplinary, collaborative research and a recognition of its value,” MacArthur said. “I’m so grateful to have the dedicated time to write.”

Emily Merchant

Associate Professor, Department of Science and Technology Studies

Award: $60,000

Profile photo of Emily Merchant

A historian of science and technology in the 20th and 21st centuries, Merchant studies the development of quantitative human sciences and technologies of human measurement. Merchant will use her $60,000 in funding to continue work on her book project “The American Pursuit of Intelligence Genes, 1908-2022.”

“It is so encouraging to receive NEH support for this project, which I hope will help Americans understand and critically evaluate the claims scientists make about how genes influence intelligence, educational attainment, and socioeconomic status by tracing the eugenic history of these claims from the importation of the first intelligence test to the United States in 1908 to the most recent genome-wide association study of educational attainment in 2022,” Merchant said.

Since 2020, several scientific fields and organizations have apologized for their role in advancing eugenics and scientific racism. According to Merchant, similar reckonings have not occurred in behavior genetics (the subfield of psychology concerned with the biological inheritance of intelligence) or sociogenomics (efforts by social scientists to identify the genomic correlates of education, income, and other social outcomes). Her ultimate goal is to deter eugenic implementations and racist interpretations of research in behavior genetics and sociogenomics, which has been used for eugenic and racist purposes repeatedly over the past 110 years. 

“This is an important piece of U.S. history and the history of science that has not yet been told, and I am honored that NEH has recognized its value and urgency,” Merchant said.

Marian Schlotterbeck

Associate Professor, Department of History

Award: $60,000

Profile photo of Marian Schlotterbeck

A historian of modern Latin America, Schlotterbeck will use the $60,000 NEH grant to complete a book manuscript titled “Making Neoliberal Citizens: Childhood in Pinochet’s Chile.” The book will chronicle the lives of children who came of age under General Augusto Pinochet’s rule, from 1973 to 1990. 

“The majority of Latin America’s disappeared are adults, whose activism in the minds of military generals marked them as subversives who must be excised from the body politic,” Schlotterbeck said. “Children, in contrast, became a target population for an altogether different approach.”

In this book project, Schlotterbeck argues that military rule in Chile transformed children’s everyday lives by inserting a market logic into the primary institutions that shape children as subjects: families and schools. In doing so, the Pinochet regime socialized a generation of young people in the habits and values required by the free market.

“I’m thrilled to receive this award from the National Endowment for the Humanities because it serves as an affirmation of the critical importance of studying children as historical subjects. Childhood history has for far too long been on the margins of the historical profession,” Schlotterbeck said.

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