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Two Brown professors win Guggenheim Fellowship

Fellowship awarded to distinguished artists, scholars, cultural visionaries

<p>Each year, the fellowship goes to “distinguished artists, scholars, scientists, writers and other cultural visionaries” and includes funding for recipients to take a sabbatical to pursue an independent project. Courtesy of Rachel Hulin (left photo) and Laird Hunt (right photo)</p>

Each year, the fellowship goes to “distinguished artists, scholars, scientists, writers and other cultural visionaries” and includes funding for recipients to take a sabbatical to pursue an independent project. Courtesy of Rachel Hulin (left photo) and Laird Hunt (right photo)

Matthew Guterl, a professor of Africana studies and American studies, and Laird Hunt, a professor of literary arts, were among the 188 individuals selected from around 3,000 applicants for a 2024 Guggenheim Fellowship.

Each year, the fellowship goes to “distinguished artists, scholars, scientists, writers and other cultural visionaries” and includes funding for recipients to take a sabbatical to pursue an independent project, according to a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation press release.

In an email to The Herald, Guterl wrote that he was “shocked, thrilled and humbled all at once” when he received the news.

“I have long been inspired by the work of Christina Sharpe, Elizabeth Hinton, Christina Snyder, Tiya Miles and Ned Blackhawk,” all of whom are fellow 2024 recipients, he added. “It is an honor to be on the page with them.”

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Hunt told The Herald that he was in a state of “shock” and “surprise” when he found out he won the fellowship.

“It’s one of those things that people hope to have happen and almost never does, so it was a wonderful surprise,” he said. “It comes with a certain amount of validation, and it’s an honor to receive it.”

The application consists of four letters of recommendation, a career narrative, a research plan and, in many categories, writing samples.

Hunt, who has written multiple novels — including the National Book Award Finalist “Zorrie” — and short stories, said that he is interested in using the fellowship to write another novel set in the past.

Hunt said his works often “take up moments of challenging U.S. history.” But he wants to “try something new” this time — possibly by shifting his focus away from the United States.

“I'm still evolving the idea,” he said. “It will definitely require some on-site research, (for which) the fellowship offers support.”

Guterl also plans to write a new book, which is tentatively titled, “The Troubles: Civil Rights in America and Northern Ireland.” 

He wrote that he was inspired by the story of Bernadette Devlin, a political activist from Northern Ireland who toured the U.S. and met with Angela Davis while Davis was in jail. With this book, Guterl plans to investigate “the contradictions and consequences of an unusual and unexpected affiliation across the Atlantic, as a part of a history of human rights and race-relations.”

He said he also hopes to unsettle people’s “conventional understandings” of the struggles of African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. and the Irish Catholic minority in Northern Ireland.

“Much of my scholarly work is about civil rights and human rights, broadly conceived, and about the way that race shapes the alignment or misalignment of movements. So there is a continuation there, for sure,” Guterl added.

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