Congratulations to the 2017-18 Undergraduate Thesis Award Winners!
In the 2017-18 application cycle, submissions were so strong that Institute faculty offered a total of three prizes, as well as three honorable mentions, to recognize outstanding undergraduate theses dealing with topics related to the formation of knowledge. Full descriptions of the essays and photos of the winning authors will be available soon.
1st Place: "Clinical Concresences: Integration in Contemporary Chinese Medicine Gynecology" (Colin Garon)
Colin Garon’s “Clinical Concrescences: Integration in Contemporary Chinese Medicine Gynecology” (advisor: Judith Farquhar) draws from three months of ethnographic research in Beijing hospitals, alongside readings of contemporary Chinese medicine textbooks and other Chinese-language publications on Chinese medicine, in order to explore the integration of biomedical visual technologies and disease entities into the practice of Chinese medicine gynecology. Through a close analysis of the mechanics of clinicians’ translations between biomedical uterine growths and zhengjia, a classical Chinese-medical disease category meaning ‘concretions and conglomerations,’ Colin argues that the processes of condensation by which these masses form within the body operate also as a theory of integration as ‘concrescence,’ or novel coming-together, elaborated across historical, ontological, and practical planes.
2nd Place: "Self-Evidence: Mathematical Certainty in Early Modern Europe (1600-1750)” (Julia Tomasson)
Julia Tomasson’s “Self-Evidence: Mathematical Certainty in Early Modern Europe (1600-1750)” (advisors: Lorraine Daston & Andrei Pop) demonstrates that the definition of self-evidence changes over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Looking at the works and intellectual contexts of René Descartes, John Locke, Gottfried Leibniz, and George Berkeley, this thesis shows an evolution in the standards of self-evidence, in a meaningful “self” to whom these things are known, and in attributes of universality which were essential in the premodern period but lose their charm and claim by the middle of the eighteenth century.
3rd Place: “Learning to Read Persian After the Persianate: The Politics and Poetics of Classical Persian in Colonial Bombay, 1870-1900” (Darren Wan Jian Yong)
“Learning to Read Persian After the Persianate: The Politics and Poetics of Classicism in Colonial Bombay, 1870-1900,” by Darren Wan Jian Yong (advisors: Thibaut d'Hubert and John Woods), examines the reception of classical Persian texts and the construction of Persianate literary knowledge by way of high school textbooks that were published in late nineteenth-century Bombay. Once the language of law and governance in the Mughal court, Persian ceded the prestige it once enjoyed to English in the early nineteenth century. The revival of Persian as a classical language in Bombay’s government schools in 1870, then, may seem incongruent with institutional hostilities toward the language. Yet the vision of Persian literary history projected in government-sanctioned textbooks was an attenuated one. In particular, the framework of classicism remolded the process of reading and learning to read Persian, severing Muslim, Parsi, and Hindu students from their once intimate connection to the subcontinent’s Persianate past.
“An Inquiry Into the Politicization of Texts: The Piketty Contradiction and the Overlooked Relationship Between Neoclassical and Serial History” (Pablo Balsinde)
Pablo Balsinde’s “An Inquiry Into the Politicization of Texts: The Piketty Contradiction and the Overlooked Relationship Between Neoclassical and Serial History” (advisor: Robert J. Richards) discovers the role of disciplines in making or obscuring the transparency of works of scholarship. Thomas Piketty’s recent Capital in the 21st Century is most often read as a contribution to political economy in the vein of Karl Marx’s still more famous Capital. What the reading of this work as political economy obscures, however, is its debt to an entirely different intellectual undertaking, the “history of the long term,” deliberately short of dates and personalities, advocated by the Annales school of historians. Restoring the Annales background of Piketty’s work relieves the reading of the book of one of its major contradictions, surrounding the importance or irrelevance of institutions. This essay argues for precisely the kind of multi-disciplinary strategy that the Institute on the Formation of Knowledge seeks to foster.
“Statecraft, Race, and the Ethics of Care: US Army Recruiting in Chicago” (Alyssa Rodriguez)
"Statecraft, Race, and the Ethics of Care: US Army Recruiting in Chicago,” by Alyssa Rodriguez (advisors: Darryl Li and John Kelly), is an intimate ethnography of scenes from our own back yard. It gives space and narrative agency to participants in a negotiation that all sides know is not absolutely free and unconstrained, and where some information asymmetry is bound to occur: namely the decision of a young person to commit to several years of military service, and the decision of the army to confer on this young person the benefits of service and the rudiments of a career. Death, wounding, and a scarcity of jobs hover around the discussion without being explicitly evoked (or needing to be). The result is a fine piece of participant-observer analysis.
“Classical Scholarship in the Early Modern World: An Examination of Erasmus’s Editions of Seneca” (Timothy Cunningham)
Timothy Cunningham’s “Classical Scholarship in the Early Modern World: An Examination of Erasmus’s Editions of Seneca” (advisors: Ada Palmer, Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer) demonstrates that text-editing in the sixteenth century was both a highly technical and a potentially unsettling business. Erasmus’s editions of Seneca cleared away many old fallacies, including some that had been convenient for bridging the classical and Christian worlds, and gave moderns a new ancestor. Their role in nascent print culture is here shown with precision and learning.
2018-19 Application Cycle
The Institute on the Formation of Knowledge launched its annual $1000 undergraduate thesis award in the 2017-18 academic year.
The Undergraduate Thesis Award will be given to the best undergraduate thesis dealing with topics related to the social and historical influences shaping the formation of knowledge, and most effectively crossing disciplinary and divisional boundaries in its research, argument, and conclusions. The thesis may address any topic that has implications for the formation of knowledge. The competition is open to University of Chicago undergraduate students in any division who are graduating at the end of the 2018-19 academic year.
The work will be judged by a panel of Institute faculty. The deadline to apply is May 1, 2019. The winner will receive an award of $1000, and a description of the winning thesis and its author will also be posted on the Institute’s website. The application process will include submission of your thesis, an up-to-date c.v., and a one-page statement describing how you have transcended the normative restrictions of your major(s) and explaining your inspiration, methodology, and conclusions.
The 2018-19 application cycle will open Winter 2019. Please send any questions to email@example.com