Curtis wins IU Presidential Arts and Humanities Fellowship

Indianapolis — Edward Curtis is one of eight Indiana University faculty members who have been awarded the inaugural IU Presidential Arts and Humanities Fellowship in 2022. The program aims to accelerate and amplify the work of outstanding IU faculty poised to become national and international leaders in their fields.

The first cohort of fellows includes Heather Akou, Edward Curtis, Stephanie DeBoer, Robert Horvath, Lasana Kazembe, Rowland Ricketts, Sergio Ospina Romero and Uranchimeg Tsultem. Their research and artistic activities range from fashion to media studies.

“Congratulations to the inaugural Presidential Arts and Humanities fellows who exemplify the top researchers and artists in their fields,” IU President Pamela Whitten said. “We are proud that they represent Indiana University’s stellar arts and humanities community and we are committed to supporting their collaboration and scholarship.”

Each recipient will receive $50,000 in funding to support their research or creative project, participate in professional development and collaborate with other faculty. With this funding, fellows are expected to make significant scholarly and creative advancements in their field, collaborate with each other to improve their work and be recognized as leaders in the arts and humanities by the university.

“The Presidential Arts and Humanities Fellows Program is dedicated to supporting people as much as projects,” said Ed Dallis-Comentale, associate vice provost of arts and humanities at IU Bloomington. “The combination of funding and professional development support, in the form of grant writing, publicity, networking and other essential areas, advances the whole scholar and boosts his or her entire career. Everyone in this group is primed to advance their career in significant ways, and we are eager to help move that process forward.”

IU Research sat down with Curtis to discuss the importance of the IUPAH cohort. For him, it is a resource to connect with other academics which will allow the reconstruction of scholarly communities that have been disbanded during the pandemic.

Question: What are your career goals? 

Answer: My career goal is to work with Arab, Black and Muslim American communities to create knowledge that transforms what we know about our shared past, knowledge that also changes the way we imagine what’s possible in the future. The knowledge products I create range from traditional scholarly books to film and digital archives.  

Q: What is your greatest achievement as a scholar? 

A: For me, it’s my 14 edited or single-authored books. As a kid, I remember wondering whether I was smart enough to write a book.   

Q: What are your research interests? 

A: Broadly speaking, I am interested in Black studies, Islam, U.S. history and Arab American studies. I began my career in the 1990s as a researcher on the history and practice of Islam among African Americans in the United States, and later expanded to include Africana religions and Muslim American studies more generally. In the last couple years, I have worked on Arab American history and life.

Q: What do you see as the importance of this fellowship and related project? 

A: This fellowship is especially important in an historic moment of atomization. The pandemic accelerated the fraying of scholarly community, and this fellowship program works to counter that trend by building us back up. Being part of a cohort is the main attraction of this fellowship. I imagine that it will shape—maybe reshape—the project I have proposed: to write a comprehensive history of Arab America.