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Two Swansea Arts and Humanities Scholars Win British Academy Research Grants

Dr Joy Porter and Dr Mike Franklin have won British Academy research grants in excess of £200k.

Dr Joy Porter and Dr Mike Franklin from Swansea University, College of Arts & Humanities have both been successful in winning British Academy research grants to the value of £207,649.

Their success came in the face of very strong competition for the British Academy Mid-Career fellowships as the success rate for applications was under 10%.

The awards are intended to support individual researchers with excellent research proposals, and to support outstanding communicators who will promote public understanding and engagement with the humanities and social sciences.

Dr Porter’s research award follows further significant investment in Native American Studies at Swansea University by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in 2010.  Her latest British Academy research is titled "The American Presidency and Tribal Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century". 

It addresses the most important question in twentieth-century Native American politics- how decisive were personal tribal relationships with individual American presidents? The answer may alter fundamentally not only our existing understandings of the presidency but also how we conceptualise relationships between "small nations" and dominant powers more generally.

It is work of profound interest to Native peoples and to anyone curious about how individual presidents functioned. The research is intended for dissemination via American Indian Radio Satellite, Native American Public Telecommunications, Lincoln, Nebraska - a library group for Public Service Broadcasting in the U.S - and through a major US press.

As part of the award Dr Porter will carry out extensive research in presidential libraries in Maryland and New Mexico during 2012.

Dr Mike Franklin’s project entitled: ‘Pluralism and the Multicultural Heritage of Maurya and Mughal India: the contribution of Warren Hastings’ Orientalist Regime’ investigates the literary, political and religio-cultural aspects of Hastings’s period of office as Governor and Governor–General of Bengal, 1772-85. Hastings was genuinely fascinated by Hindu and Indo-Persian culture. He encouraged Charles Wilkins to translate the ‘sublime’ Bhagvat-Geeta (1785); patronized Indo-Persian poets; sang Hindi songs; established a Calcutta Madrasah; and composed an Oriental tale from a Mahabharata source.

For Hastings the mystical aspects of both Hindu mysticism and of Islamic Sufism encouraged a subcontinental tradition of respect for all religions. Muslims frequently attended Hindu religious festivals and Hindus revered Sufi saints. Such tolerance was politically useful; it facilitated multicultural governance.       

Hastings was delighted when the celebrated Orientalist scholar, London Welshman Sir William Jones arrived in Calcutta in September 1783 as a Supreme Court judge. Jones loved the Sufi poetry of Hafiz and also respected the Sufi concept of suhl-i kul (peace with all). Within a few months he inaugurated the Indocentric Asiatic Society and, working closely with Hindu pandits and Muslim scholars, decided to learn Sanskrit. By 1786 he famously announced that Sanskrit was a ‘more refined sister’ of Greek and Latin, introducing disconcerting ideas of linguistic and familial relationship between the rulers and their ‘black’ subjects. If Hastings wanted to ensure that Hindus and Muslims continued to live amicably, Jones stressed the similarities between East and West.

For Jones and many of the Hastings circle, as for Pandit Nehru, India was more than Hindutva (Hindu-ness) and this remains relevant in a world where many are seeking to destroy the diversity and plurality of Islam.

Mike Franklin’s research will be highlighted in press interviews in a range of broadcast media, and in invited lectures to the general public as well as to university audiences. This will build on public engagement already initiated by the launch of Mike Franklin’s biography of Orientalist Jones, to be published by OUP as an 'impact' title this August.

Professor Chris Williams, Director of the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities said, ‘we are delighted to welcome further success by arts and humanities staff in gaining prestigious awards in what is an intensely difficult competition. The two awards reflect the extensive geographical diversity of research being undertaken in the College of Arts and Humanities. They are a marvellous tribute to the scholarly reputations of Joy Porter and Mike Franklin and a great morale boost for colleagues working in this area at the present time.’

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