Katy Chiles, associate professor of English and affiliate faculty of Africana Studies, received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) fellowship for the 2018-19 academic year to support her book project, Raced Collaboration in Antebellum America. The project is the first comprehensive study of the crucial role collaboration played in early African American and Native American literatures.
“I look at the complexity of collaboration and the efforts of African American and Native American writers to produce texts within the violent systems of transatlantic slavery and settler colonialism,” Chiles says. “What creative ways or innovative techniques did they use to get their ideas into print? As it turns out, folks utilized a range of collaborate techniques that unsettle assumptions about the ways writers of color could collaborate.”
NEH underwrites hundreds of the nation’s most significant humanities projects through its fellowship program. In the 2018 funding cycle, only eight percent of the proposals received funding. Chiles’s proposal is one of the 74 fellowships awarded.
“I am lucky to have been awarded two NEH summer stipends previously, but to be awarded a faculty fellowship to further the NEH’s mission is humbling and overwhelming,” Chiles says. “It is also hugely important for the university. Humanities faculty winning notable external grants such as these will help us reach our goal of becoming a Top 25 public research university.”
In 2004, the UT Office of Research devoted staff to help faculty pursue NEH fellowships. Today, UT ranks ninth overall in number of fellowships received and fourth among public universities.
“This award is an impressive milestone in Professor Chiles’s distinguished career, and it reflects well on both the English department and UT,” says Allen Dunn, professor and head of the Department of English.
Chiles’s focus of study is early American literature and critical race theory – a field that includes a commitment to social justice. In her book, she will investigate the ways African American and Native American writers collaborated to speak out about the injustices they experienced.
“I sometimes hear that we study the past in order not to repeat it, but as scholars such as Christina Sharpe and Audra Simpson and writers like Toni Morrison and Joy Harjo have shown us, the ‘past’ of racial oppression in the country is not yet past,” Chiles says. “I hope that my work can help us both to understand race in early American literature more fully and to fight against racial injustice in the present.”