Three Scholars Win Fulbright Grants

Fellowships will support research on women in French architecture, conservation-resource rights tensions in South Africa, and the state of religiosity in India

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Three CHASS scholars have been awarded prestigious Fulbright U.S. Scholar fellowships.

RIVERSIDE, California – Three humanities and social science scholars at the University of California, Riverside have been awarded prestigious Fulbright U.S. Scholar fellowships that will support research on the role of women in 19th century French architecture, the relationships between conservation, law and resource rights in South Africa, and whether increasing socioeconomic development is causing a decline in religiosity in India.

The scholars are Heidi Brevik Zender, associate professor of French and comparative literature; Derick Fay, associate professor of anthropology; and Ajay Verghese, assistant professor of political science.

The Fulbright Program is the leading international education exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and people of other countries, according to the program’s website. The program, which awards approximately 8,000 new grants annually, was established in 1946 under legislation by Arkansas Sen. J. William Fulbright and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It operates in more than 150 countries.

Heidi Brevik-Zender

Heidi Brevik-Zender

Heidi Brevik-Zender will hold the 2017-18 visiting professorship at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where she will do research for a book project exposing the role of women in 19th century French architecture.

Technically, there were no professional women architects in France before the 20th century, Brevik-Zender said, as architecture courses did not open to women until the late 1890s.

“The fact that women were barred from professional architectural training programs prior to 1900 has meant that they are also missing from the current state of academic work on building history and urbanism in France during this period,” she said.“This scholarly gap is important to address because the 19th century was one of massive urban renewal and construction, culminating in the dramatic citywide expansionism called ‘Haussmannization’ for Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, who spearheaded the architectural modernization of Paris in the second half of the century.

“Through Haussmannization, cities grew into the urban centers that became foundations for the densely constructed, highly complex French metropolitan areas of today. The dearth of studies on female involvement in architecture during Haussmannization is thus especially problematic. It means that women’s influence in this lasting urban legacy has gone unacknowledged.”

19th century women working in a variety of creative fields enabled later generations to break through gender barriers and make their mark on architecture in the 20th century, Brevik-Zender said.

Brevik-Zender will be hosted by the French and Francophone Studies department in the School of Language, Literature, Music, and Visual Culture and will conduct research in the 19th century photography archives held in the university’s George Washington Wilson Collection.

Derick Fay

Derick Fay

Anthropologist Derick Fay will return to South Africa, where he has conducted extensive field studies since 1998, to investigate the relationships between conservation, law, and resource rights represented in the 2012 trial of three fishermen arrested in Dwesa-Cwebe Nature Reserve.

“The end of apartheid led to a dual transition in South Africa. On one hand, it led to policies of land reform aimed at transforming histories of exclusion and dispossession,” Fay said. “On the other hand, as part of its reintegration into the international order after decades of relative isolation, South Africa’s post-apartheid government entered into the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity and other international conservation agreements, and developed a range of policy frameworks to implement biodiversity conservation.”

South African conservation agencies have taken a hardline approach to enforcing these policies, which has frustrated communities adjoining protected areas and prompted new legal strategies. Legal Resources Centre (LRC), South Africa’s leading public interest law firm, employed one of these strategies in the defense of three local residents who were charged in 2012 with fishing illegally in the Dwesa-Cwebe Marine Protected Area (MPA), located in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province.

LRC’s novel legal argument: The men admitted guilt, but argued that their right to fish was regulated under a system of customary law and was an expression of culture, protected under the South African Constitution.

“This argument builds upon international precedents concerning the recognition of indigenous rights to natural resources, which have entered South African law through recent Constitutional Court rulings,” Fay said. The magistrate found the trio guilty, but suspended the sentence.

Fay’s project will explore how to integrate environmental protection with social justice, and strategies which activists, conservation authorities, and rural communities might employ to make conservation policies more accountable to people affected by them.

Ajay Verghese

Ajay Verghese

Political scientist Ajay Verghese will spend a year in India to determine if increasing socioeconomic development is causing a decline in religious belief but an increase in religious practice, a form of secularization that is distinct from the Western world.

“If this is so, this would mark a profound change for one of the world’s most religious countries,” he said. “This change could also have significant ramifications for politics, from support for religious parties to communal violence.”

Verghese will survey 3,600 Hindu and Muslim families about their religious beliefs, practices, socioeconomic status, and political behavior across three states with very different developmental and socioeconomic levels – Bihar, Gujarat, and Kerala.

In 2012, WIN/Gallup International ranked India as the 18th most religious country in the world. Since the implementation of economic reforms in 1991, the country has experienced rapid industrialization, urbanization, and expanding educational access, Verghese said. Perhaps as a consequence, the percentage of Indians who say they are religious has dropped from 85 in 1990 to 75 in 2015. Religious belief may be declining, but wealthy and upper caste Indians are surprisingly more likely to participate in religious activities than the poor and lower caste individuals. That is because religious practices in India reflect and enhance social rank, he said.

Verghese said his project will contribute to the study of religion and politics.

“Most studies of secularization focus on Christian- or Muslim-majority countries, but this project focuses on the understudied religions of South Asia, which are remarkably different from their counterparts,” he said. “For instance, Hinduism is a faith that has no founder, no central text, no hierarchy of priesthood, and is orthoprax (practice-based) rather than orthodox (doctrine-based). Similarly, Indian Islam is markedly different from Middle Eastern Islam, and it has absorbed many features of Hinduism. Our knowledge about how South Asian religious beliefs and practices influence politics is almost nonexistent.”

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