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Exploring American cities

Exterior of the U-M Institute for the Humanities.

Nathan Connolly, who received his doctorate in history from the University of Michigan, is the recipient of the third annual Emerging Scholars Award presented by U-M’s Institute for the Humanities.

The aim of the award is to recognize scholars in the humanities who are within five years of having received their doctorates, and whose work pushes academic boundaries. “We look for work that is bold, inventive with elegant conceptualizations, convincing arguments and a mature style,” said Daniel Herwitz, director of the Institute for the Humanities.

The Emerging Scholars Prize includes a first place award of $25,000, and two honorable mention awards of $1,000 each.  To qualify, recipients must either teach at U-M or have received their doctorate from the university. The first three years of the prize has been funded by Institute for the Humanities board member Cody Engle.

Connolly, who earned his U-M doctorate in 2008, is an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University. His research focuses primarily on American cities. “To understand the American city, and the human experience within that city, one must understand America’s large- and small-scale dependence on racial segregation,” he wrote in his intellectual statement, a requirement for candidates.

The prize committee was unanimous in its praise for Connolly’s book, “A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida,” which is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press. The book, according to Connolly, “provides a social and cultural history of real estate capitalism and civil rights reform in mid-twentieth century Greater Miami.”

In his book, Connolly argues that civil rights activism changed how capitalism worked without unmaking segregation itself. He describes how both the whites and “colored” people placed their faith in the potential of new technologies of liberal land policy; first, eminent domain under Jim Crowism, and then, the “color-blind,” yet untested programs of highway building, public housing and urban renewal.

Connolly is also completing an edited collection with Brett Gadsden of Emory University entitled, “Desegregating Backlash: Liberals and African Americans in the Making of Modern Conservatism.”

Honorable mention recipients of the Emerging Scholars prize include:

Ronit Ricci, who received her doctorate in comparative literature from the University of Michigan in 2006.  Ricci has studied extensively the literary traditions of Javanese, Tamil, and Malay-speaking Muslims. She is author of the forthcoming book, “Islam Translated: Literature, Conversion, and the Arabic Cosmopolis of South and Southeast Asia,” to be published by University of Chicago Press in 2011. Ricci is currently a lecturer in the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Tara Zahra, who received her doctorate in history from the University of Michigan in 2005. The award committee cited Zahra’s engaging scholarship in reconceptualizing East European history through the study of the status of children in times of war and displacement.  Zahra is author of “Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900-1948” (University of Chicago Press, 2008), and “Lost Children: Displaced Families and the Reconstruction of Europe, 1918-51” (forthcoming Harvard University Press). Zahra teaches at the University of Chicago.