Faculty, Library collaborate on Collegium projects

Library contributes expertise, collections, technology, and spaces to support Neubauer Collegium global, humanistic research

How can the methods of “big science” contribute to the humanistic understanding of music, speech, and other audio expressions? How will an online, interactive environment allow scholars to explore a complex corpus of texts?  What does it mean to be a scholar at war?

In a major milestone, the Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society at the University of Chicago has selected an inaugural cohort of 18 ambitious faculty research projects that tackle these and other complex questions through cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Through its research initiatives and robust program of visiting Collegium Faculty Fellows, the Neubauer Collegium will unite scholars in the common pursuit of ideas of grand scale and broad scope, making the University of Chicago a global destination for top scholars engaged in humanistic research while also pioneering efforts to share that research with the public.

Seethaphone label

Vairla (kamachu) maralukonnadira. [Bangalore, India]: Seethaphone, [n.d.] In Kannada language. Seethaphone Company made gramophone records popular and accessible to the middle classes through their very low prices. The company was in business from 1924-1957.

The Neubauer Collegium was founded in June 2012 and is named in honor of Joseph Neubauer, MBA’65, and Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer. Their $26.5 million gift to the University is among the largest in support of the humanities and social sciences in the institution’s history.

Together, the 18 projects engage teams of faculty from 17 departments in the humanities and social sciences, as well as the Chicago Booth School of Business, the Divinity School, the Law School, the Pritzker School of Medicine, and the Oriental Institute—teams of faculty who had fewer opportunities for serious, sustained collaboration before the establishment of the Neubauer Collegium. The University of Chicago Library is collaborating with faculty on three of these inaugural projects by providing staff expertise, access to current collections and resources, services as a repository, and technical support.

“The Library is proud to be collaborating with UChicago faculty and their international colleagues to support groundbreaking research and teaching efforts with worldwide impact,” says Judith Nadler, Director and University Librarian. “We’re very pleased to be working with faculty to develop cutting-edge technical approaches to advancing humanistic research.”

Further, the Library is supporting collaboration with the Neubauer Collegium by providing Regenstein Library’s Room 203 as temporary office space for the Neubauer Collegium, as well as five faculty studies for use by associated visiting scholars.

The three Neubauer Collegium projects that the Library is participating in directly include Audio Cultures of India: New Approaches to the Performance Archive; A Worldwide Literature: Jāmī (1414-1492) in the Dar al-Islam and Beyond; and Iraq’s Intelligentsia Under Siege: 1980-2012.


Audio Cultures of India: New Approaches to the Performance Archive

Principal Investigators

Philip V. Bohlman, Mary Werkman Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Music
Kaley Mason, Assistant Professor, Department  of Music
James Nye, Bibliographer for Southern Asia
Laura Ring, Cataloger and Assistant Southern Asia Librarian

Gramophone Co poster

A poster by the Gramophone Company from a private collection. Circa 1910s. Printed Calcutta?

Project Summary

An exploration of how the methods of “big science” might elucidate and facilitate the humanistic understanding of music, speech, and other audio expressions, the one-year Audio Cultures of India project will deploy data mining and computational pattern analysis techniques more common to the physical and biological sciences to produce a sound history of modern India. Drawing on vast digital corpora already hosted at the University of Chicago Library, this project will bring together faculty, students, and staff from music, anthropology, the Computational Institute, Argonne National Laboratory, and the Library to identify and experiment with new methods for using scientific technologies to process large digital humanities databases. The dense performative culture that characterizes India will receive special attention in an attempt to develop a comparative framework for understanding historical interrelations in the aural world—a sound history of modern India.

Library Involvement

Over the past few years the Library’s Southern Asia Department has developed a special collecting focus on early audio materials from the South Asian subcontinent. Previous initiatives have resulted in presentation of extremely rare audio recordings from the Linguistic Survey of India via the Digital South Asia Library as resources open for scholarly use at dsal.uchicago.edu/lsi/; presentation of The Record News at dsal.uchicago.edu/books/trn/; creation of a collection of early gramophone records at the Roja Muthiah Research Library in Chennai, India; and assistance in development of the Archive of Indian Music in Bangalore, India. In addition to collecting, preserving and providing access to its vast and growing collection of audio resources from India, the Library will maintain a website that will disseminate the results of two workshops associated with the project.

A Worldwide Literature: Jāmī (1414-1492) in the Dar al-Islam and Beyond

Primary Investigator

Thibaut d’Hubert, Assistant Professor, Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Project Collaborator

Alexandre Papas, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) / Centre d’Études Turques, Ottomanes, Balkaniques et Centrasiatiques (CETOBAC), Paris

Jāmī, Tuḥfat al-aḥrār

Courtesy of the BnF – Jāmī, Tuḥfat al-aḥrār, Bnf supp. persan 547, fol. 17.

Project Summary

This one-year seed project aims to develop and articulate a long-term research agenda that would fill a massive lacuna in modern scholarship on transformative intellectual trends in the post-classical Muslim intellectual tradition by studying the reception of the works of polymath ‘Abd al-Rahmān Jāmī (1414-1492), one of the most widely read authors in the Eurasian continent between his lifetime and the early modern period. Ambitious in its theoretical aims and grounded in creative philological approaches, this project endeavors to provide answers to crucial questions largely neglected by Islamic historiography. Seed funding will afford the principal organizers the opportunity to develop a coherent plan that would bring visiting scholars to campus to catalyze a cross-disciplinary conference and prepare a digital collection and searchable corpus of Unicode texts comprising Jāmī’s works along with the Indian commentaries published by Naval Kishore in the nineteenth century.

Library Collaboration

The Library’s James Nye and Laura Ring are collaborating with  Professor d’Hubert on the development of the online interactive corpus of Jāmī’s South Asian commentaries to support the teaching and research activities of the project. The corpus will include rare lithographed editions. Scans of the original books and searchable Unicode versions of the texts will be linked to assist scholars in studying the paleographic and codicological features of the originals, as well as other philological features highlighted by computer-generated analytical tools. Introductory notes on the value and nature of each text written by project participants will also be included.

Such an online, interactive environment will allow scholars to creatively explore a complex corpus of texts, the conventions of which remain to be systematically analyzed. It will also give project participants the opportunity to use their knowledge and skills to introduce the larger public to a highly codified, immensely rich, and barely known commentarial tradition.

The Library’s leadership of the Digital South Asia Library has provided a rich base of practical experience for collaborating in preparation of the Jāmī corpus. The Southern Asia Department’s close linkages with the British Library, National Library of India, and other international libraries holding early editions of Jāmī’s works will enable the collection of copies of all required texts.

Iraq’s Intelligentsia Under Siege: 1980-2012

Primary Investigator

Tom Ginsburg, Professor, Law School

Principal Research Assistant

Matthew Schweitzer, undergraduate, The University of Chicago

Project Collaborators

Iza Hussin, Professor, Political Science
McGuire Gibson, Professor, Oriental Institute and Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Saad Jawad, Senior Visiting Fellow, London School of Economics
Catherine Lutz, Director of the Costs of War Project, Brown University
Daniel Meyer, Director, Special Collections Research Center
Dahr Jamail, Producer, Human Rights Department, Al Jazeera

Project Summary

Three decades of war and external pressure in Iraq have led to the decimation of its university system and its intellectuals. What does it mean to be a scholar at war? Is humanistic inquiry during wartime possible? How has this downfall of Iraq’s domestic university-level intellectual class—professors and university researchers—affected the country’s social, military, and political spheres? These questions form the core of a yearlong analysis of Iraq’s intellectual landscape since the start of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980, carrying the narrative through the sanctions period and 2003 invasion to the present day. The destruction of Iraq’s academic class has been an underreported yet grave phenomenon that holds serious implications for the country’s—and the region’s—future. This project represents an effort to capture this history through first-hand accounts, by interviewing Iraqi university professors and research in Iraq and in diaspora, to establish an audio archive of these stories at the University of Chicago Library’s Special Collections Research Center, and to publish an analysis on the demise of Iraq’s intellectual class.

Library Contribution

Research undertaken by this project will create a broad-ranging body of historically important documentation. These unique materials will have continuing significance as a record of the experience of Iraqi intellectuals and as an invaluable resource for future scholarship and policy analysis. In order to preserve and extend access to the project’s original content, the Special Collections Research Center of the University of Chicago Library will house the printed transcripts of more than 100 oral histories collected from Iraqis and western policymakers. Special Collections will also accession and preserve in the Library’s digital repository the digitally recorded interviews and other electronic materials collected by the project.

Supplemental print and digital files documenting the development of the project will be added to this archive as the research and writing proceeds. Once the project’s programs and research are completed and the published book has been issued, the archive of the Iraqi intellectuals project will remain as a permanent historical resource. The personal narratives gathered from Iraqi professors and western officials will support investigations by future researchers, teachers, and students. In addition, these unique records will enhance the University’s Middle East collections, one of the premier collections in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies in the world, and facilitate collecting of additional materials on modern Iraq and the Iraq War.

Global Impact

“The Library is so many things for us at the Neubauer Collegium,” says David Nirenberg, Director of the Neubauer Collegium. “It is a beacon that attracts our fellows and collaborators from all over the world.  Its collections rank among our most important research instruments. And it is also a key partner in making the results of those researches available globally. How fitting that, throughout these first years of the Neubauer Collegium’s existence, we call the Library home.”

“The University of Chicago Library has long served as a meeting ground for international scholars,” says Nadler, “and participation in the Collegium allows us to continue this tradition of providing resources and spaces while collaborating in the development of new approaches to cross-disciplinary scholarship.”

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