(Photo: John de Dios/UANews)
(Photo: John de Dios/UANews)

Two UA Researchers Named Guggenheim Fellows

Julia Clancy-Smith and Ander Monson, faculty members in the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, are among the 173 people to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship. This year's class of fellows is a diverse group of scholars, artists and scientists.
April 13, 2017
Julia Clancy-Smith
Julia Clancy-Smith
Ander Monson (Photo: Cybele Knowles)
Ander Monson (Photo: Cybele Knowles)

University of Arizona professors Julia Clancy-Smith and Ander Monson are among the scientists, artists and scholars from the United States and Canada to receive a 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship Award.

Clancy-Smith, a Regents' Professor in the Department of History, was awarded her Guggenheim in the field of intellectual and cultural history. Monson, an associate professor in the Department of English, received his fellowship in the field of general nonfiction.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation approved awards of 173 Guggenheim Fellowships. This year, nearly 3,000 people applied for the competition, which honors those in their respective fields on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise.

"These artists and writers, scholars and scientists represent the best of the best," Edward Hirsch, president of the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, said in a statement.

Since 1925, the foundation has granted more than $350 million in fellowships to more than 18,000 individuals. Some have gone on to be named Nobel laureates, poet laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, and recipients of numerous other nationally and internationally recognized awards.

"Each year since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has bet everything on the individual, and we're thrilled to continue to do so with this wonderfully talented and diverse group," Hirsch said. "It's an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do."

Clancy-Smith will use her fellowship to complete the monograph "From Household to Schoolroom: Women, Gender and Education in North Africa, Europe and the Mediterranean, c. 1900-present."

"This is a really unexpected turn of events and a good lesson: I had started the application years ago, got discouraged, put it aside," Clancy-Smith said. "On the very last day for submission last summer, the very last hour, I summoned my courage and hit the send button."

Clancy-Smith researches and teaches about modern and early modern Africa and the Middle East. She has authored and co-authored several award-winning books, including "The Modern Middle East and North Africa: A History in Documents," "Mediterraneans: North Africa and Europe in an Age of Migration, c. 1800-1900" and "Rebel and Saint: Muslim Notables, Populist Protest, Colonial Encounters (Algeria and Tunisia, 1800-1904)." She is currently completing a co-authored text, “North Africa: From Carthage and Queen Dido to the Arab Spring.”

"From Household to Schoolroom" follows extended families over several generations to explore such issues as: resistance to, and acceptance of, girls' education; the diverse spaces of learning; debates over curriculum deemed appropriate for the "feminine condition"; friendships and feuding; and colonial and missionary policies versus practices.

"Research on girls' actual encounters with the classroom is noticeably wanting," Clancy-Smith said. "The history of young women as actors, agitators and self-advocates for access to literacy remains a slim volume."

For her book, Clancy-Smith investigated a variety of primary sources, including family correspondences and archival documents, from three continents and conducted interviews with women of different religious traditions, social rank and nationalities as they remembered household dynamics and their own experiences as students, teachers or both.

The book includes such characters as Tawhida Ben Cheikh, the first Muslim female physician, who enrolled in the colonial "School for Muslim Girls" in Tunis at the urging of her illiterate mother, and Evelyne Serfaty, a Jewish girl in Casablanca, who was barred from the classroom when Vichy laws were imposed upon Morocco. 

"These snapshots of individuals as students, teachers and family members encapsulate my book's imaginative approach to colonial education," Clancy-Smith said.

Monson is editor and publisher of the journal DIAGRAM and the New Michigan Press. He is the founder of the website Essay Daily and the author of six books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. He has received numerous awards, including the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize and the Annie Dillard Award for Nonfiction.

He will use his fellowship to work on a book of essays on "Predator," the 1987 science-fiction action film, as a filter for exploring American gun violence, masculinity, homoeroticism and "the not inconsiderable beauty of Arnold Schwarzenegger,” said Monson, who also directs the UA's MFA program in creative writing.

The inspiration for Monson's work on "Predator" originated during a tragic chapter of Tucson's and the nation's history. Waiting for news after the attempted assassination of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Monson found himself playing the first-person shooter video game "Fallout 3." Startled by the "disturbing contrast between the news and the game on my television screen," he wondered: "How did I get here?"

Monson has since become obsessed with rewatching "Predator," poring over the 1987 action film frame by frame, "in part because of its spectacle and in part in wonderment at the whole genre of cartoonish, hypermasculine action films that tracked my youth, growing up in remote Upper Michigan."

Monson is exploring what such movies reveal about America's penchant for guns and gun violence. "What does it mean that a generation of American men like me grew up watching these strange, homoerotic, ultraviolent action films?" he asked. "And what can watching a film about a man-hunting alien tell us about what men are?"

He notes that "Predator" is one of only two films to feature two future U.S. governors — Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura — which "tells us that the film means something beyond what we think it does."

Monson also notes that the nation's fascination with "Predator" is not yet done. Dozens of novels, video games and comic books in the franchise have been released, along with a series of "Predator" and "Alien Vs Predator" movies. The latest sequel to the film is scheduled to be released in 2018.

"So, I'm writing a book about watching 'Predator' and trying to use it to illuminate and disambiguate a few of the many strands of our present weird culture swamp," Monson said.