The Center’s First Book Workshop provides both scholarly and collegial support for junior faculty members revising their first academic book.
The First Book Workshop is open to all tenure-track, junior faculty in the humanities and interpretive social sciences with manuscripts that are near completion, but still in a position to benefit from review. The goal is to turn solid and promising manuscripts into first-rate, field-shaping books. Applications for the First Book Workshop program will be accepted until Tuesday, October 10, 2023.
Awardees should expect to hold their workshop in the upcoming three academic semesters. Workshops awarded this cycle will continue to be held via Zoom.
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The core of the program is a workshop organized by the Center for the Humanities in which two external and several internal reviewers are brought together to read and discuss a book manuscript by a junior faculty member at UW-Madison. The workshop structure will allow the reviewers and author to respond to one another’s comments and collectively devise strategies for improving (and placing) the manuscript. The goal is to turn solid and promising manuscripts into first-rate, field-shaping books.
The focus of the program will be on constructive, informed criticism of a scholar’s research. The workshop will consist of both formal presentations and informal commentary from the group. Invited guests will present their responses to the book, while local participants will participate in a discussion of the book. The author will have a chance to respond to the presentations and the commentaries. This will be a closed workshop, and it will be recorded for the author’s benefit.
The Center will handle invitations and scheduling with all participating UW-Madison faculty and external reviewers identified by the author (in consultation with the Center Director) and provide honoraria for the external reviewers.
Eligibility and Criteria
This program is open to all tenure-track, junior faculty in the humanities and related social sciences with manuscripts that are near completion, but still in a position to benefit from the review.
Proposals must be for the discussion of scholarly manuscripts. Authors and their book projects will be selected based on the potential significance of the finished work, and the potential impact of the book on the author’s career. Academic accomplishments also will be taken into account.
This program is currently made possible by generous support from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education with funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
The program was initially funded by a short-term humanities programming grant from the A.W. Mellon Foundation. In recognition of the successes of the program, subsequent support has been provided by the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education with funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the International Division, and the Offices of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Staff and Vice Provost for Diversity and Climate.
Proposals must include the following components, saved as a single PDF:
- A one-page summary of the book in development, including a schedule for completion. In this summary, applicants should also include a statement indicating whether the work is under contract with a publisher. Please note the potential for the work to shape a field, and/or how the work contributes to diversity and inclusion.
- A one-page narrative explaining why and how this opportunity will be important to the process of completing the work. In this narrative, applicants should include a brief statement specifying their tenure and/or promotion timelines.
- A list of prospective invitees to the workshop, to include: (1) two scholars external to UW-Madison; (2) a list of general invitees to the workshops from the campus, including their departmental affiliations. The list may include no more than 10 people. Please note that this list is intended to give the review committee a sense of the workshop to be proposed and will not be considered final. Applicants should not make any advance commitments to anyone on their list.
- A current curriculum vitae.
- Names and email addresses of two referees, one of whom should be external to UW-Madison. Actual letters are not required.
Proposals must be saved in the above order as a single PDF and sent via email attachment to email@example.com by 11:59 PM on Tuesday, October 10, 2023. Please include the phrase “First Book Workshop Proposal” in the subject line.
History, 2022 Winner
“Virtual Capital: Computing Power in The Us Economy, 1947-1987”
English, 2022 Winner
“Forest Imaginaries: How African Novels Think”
Darshana Sreedhar Mini
Communication Arts, 2021 Winner
“Rated A: Soft-Porn Cinema and Mediations of Desire in India”
History, 2021 Winner
“Reinventing Protestant Germany: Religion, Nation, and Democracy after Nazism”
Marla A. Ramírez
History, 2021 Winner
“Banished: The Untold Transgenerational History of Repatriated Mexican Americans”
Music (Ethnomusicology), 2021 Winner
“The ‘Invisible We’: Listening, Voice, and Ethnography on Indigenous Land”
African Cultural Studies And Ischool, 2021 Winner
“Pan-African Futurism: Ghana, Digital Diaspora and Hacking for Development”
Claus Elholm Andersen
German, Nordic, Slavic +, 2020 Winner
“The Very Edge of Fiction: Karl Ove Knausgård and the Post-Fictional Turn”
English, 2020 Winner
“Terminal Regions: Queer Environmental Ethics in the Absence Of Futurity”
Gender & Women’s Studies and Asian American Studies Program, 2020 Winner
“Family Conceptions: Technologies of Asian American Family Formation”
History, 2019 Winner
“Between Faith and Belonging: Christianity, Conversion and The Politics of Differentiation in India, 1813-1907”
Civil Society & Community Studies and American Indian Studies Program, 2019 Winner
Communication Arts, 2019 Winner
Dance, 2019 Winner
“Choreographing the Greek Crisis: Performing National Identity in the Age of Austerity”
Anthropology, 2018 Winner
History, 2018 Winner
History, 2018 Winner
History, 2017 Winner
Civil Society & Community Studies, 2017 Winner
Art History, 2017 Winner
Comparative Literature & Folklore Studies, 2016 Winner
Gloria McCahon Whiting
History, 2016 Winner
“African Families, American Stories: Black Kin and Community in Early New England”
History, 2016 Winner
History of Science, 2015 Winner
Classical And Ancient Near East Studies, 2015 Winner
The Information School, 2015 Winner
History, 2014 Winner
English, 2014 Winner
Medical History and Bioethics, 2014 Winner
Dance, 2014 Winner
Gender And Women’s Studies, 2014 Winner
History, 2013 Winner
Hannah Vandegrift Eldridge
German, 2013 Winner
History, 2012 Winner
English, 2012 Winner
Communication Arts, 2011 Winner
Law, 2010 Winner
History, 2009 Winner
First Book Workshop Books
In American Indians and the American Dream: Policies, Place, and Property in Minnesota (University of Minnesota Press, 2023), Kasey Keeler (Civil Society & Community Studies; American Indian Studies) examines the long history of urbanization and suburbanization of Indian communities in Minnesota, and investigates the ways American Indians accessed homeownership, working with and against federal policy, underscoring American Indian peoples’ unequal and exclusionary access to the way of life known as the American dream.
In The Costs of the Gig Economy: Musical Entrepreneurs and the Cultural Politics of Inequality in Northeastern Brazil (University of Illinois, 2022), Falina Enriquez (Anthropology) explores how contemporary and traditional musicians in the fabled musical city have negotiated these intensified neoliberal cultural policies and economic uncertainties. Drawing on years of fieldwork, Enriquez shows how forcing artists to adopt “neutral” market solutions reinforces, and generates, overlapping racial and class-based inequalities.
In The Intimacy of Paper in Early and Nineteenth-Century American Literature (University of Massachusetts Press, January 2020), Jonathan Senchyne (Assistant Professor of Book History and Print Culture in the Information School) reveals that book history and literary studies are mutually constitutive and proposes a new literary periodization based on materiality and paper production.
In On Civilization’s Edge: A Polish Borderland in the Interwar World (Oxford University Press, 2020), Kathryn Ciancia (History) examines the possibility of European identity outside of the project of state building. Ciancia focuses on Poland’s eastern borderlands in order to place Poland within the mainstream of thinking about European debates about political sovereignty, empire, and civilization.
Giuliana Chamedes (History) presents the first comprehensive history of the Vatican’s agenda to defeat the forces of secular liberalism and communism through international law, cultural diplomacy, and a marriage of convenience with authoritarian and right-wing rulers in A Twentieth-Century Crusade: The Vatican’s Battle to Remake Christian Europe, published by Harvard University Press in 2019.
The First Book Workshop-award winning project byAndrea Harris (Dance) is an integrated examination of how ideas about American ballet in the 1930s to 1950s developed alongside, and sometimes in direct contact with, contemporaneous ideas about American art, literature, theatre, and cultural politics. Making Ballet American: Modernism Before and Beyond Balanchine is available from Oxford University Press as of October 2017.
Emily Callaci (History) draws on unconventional sources to explore the tension between urbanism and nationalism in postcolonial Tanzania. The manuscript is now published as Street Archives and City Life: Popular Intellectuals in Postcolonial Tanzania (Duke University Press, December 2017).
Hannah Vandegrift Eldridge(German) brings philosophy to bear on the close reading of German lyric poets and argues for the potential of lyric poetry to address the condition of human finitude in Lyric Orientations: Hölderlin, Rilke, and the Poetics of Community, published by Cornell University Press in January 2016.
A workshop for Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen (History) inaugurated the program. Soon after, American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas (University of Chicago Press, 2011) received favorable reviews in major publications, including the New York Times Review of Books, Prospect, Times Higher Education (UK), The Wall Street Journal, and The Nation. The book has garnered numerous awards, including the American Historical Association John H. Dunning Prize, the Society for U.S. Intellectual History Annual Book Award, and the Journal of the History of Ideas Morris D. Forkosch Prize for the Best First Book in Intellectual History.
In The World is Our Stage: The Global Rhetorical Presidency and the Cold War (Chicago University Press, 2023), Allison Prasch (Communication Arts) considers how presidential appearances overseas broadcast American superiority during the Cold War. Drawing on extensive archival research, Prasch examines five foundational moments in the development of what she calls the “global rhetorical presidency:” Truman at Potsdam, Eisenhower’s “Goodwill Tours,” Kennedy in West Berlin, Nixon in the People’s Republic of China, and Reagan in Normandy. In each case, Prasch reveals how the president’s physical presence defined the boundaries of the “Free World” and elevated the United States as the central actor in Cold War geopolitics.
In How the Suburbs Were Segregated: Developers and the Business of Exclusionary Housing, 1890–1960 (Columbia, 2020), Paige Glotzer (History) offers a new understanding of the deeper roots of suburban segregation. The mid-twentieth-century policies that favored exclusionary housing were not simply the inevitable result of popular and elite prejudice, she reveals, but the culmination of a long-term effort by developers to use racism to structure suburban real estate markets.
In Relative Races: Genealogies of Interracial Kinship in Nineteenth-Century America (Duke University Press, 2020), Brigitte Fielder presents an alternative theory of how race is constructed. Contrary to notions of “downward” genealogies by which race is transmitted from parents to children, Fielder identifies and theorizes forms of racialization that follow other directions through adoption, sexual kinship, and reflection from children to parents. Fielder’s work on the “relative races” of historical and literary figures in the 19th century effectively reimagines the relationship between race and family.
In On the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galápagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary Eden (Yale University Press, 2019), Elizabeth Hennessy (History) tells the story of the islands’ namesakes—the giant tortoises—as coveted food sources, objects of natural history, and famous icons of conservation and tourism. By doing so, it brings into stark relief the paradoxical, and impossible, goal of conserving species by trying to restore a past state of prehistoric evolution. In a world where evolution is thoroughly shaped by global history, Hennessy puts forward a vision for conservation based on reckoning with the past, rather than trying to erase it.
Nicole Nelson (History of Science) uses ethnographic methods to explore how scientists develop and deploy animal models to produce molecular knowledge about human alcoholism and anxiety, and how this shapes scientific and cultural understandings of how we define the human in Model Behavior: Animal Experiments, Complexity, and the Genetics of Psychiatric Disorders (University of Chicago Press, 2018), which was shortlisted by the Forum for the History of Science in America for the Philip J. Pauly Book Prize.
Eunjung Kim(Gender and Women’s Studies; now of Syracuse University) focuses on a range of visual and culture analyses of a wide variety of texts from late 1930s Korea to present-day South Korea, and questions the assumption that curing disability represents a universal good in Curative Violence: Rehabilitating Disability, Gender, and Sexuality in Modern Korea (Duke University Press, 2017). Kim’s book won the 2017 Alison Piepmeier Award, presented by the National Women’s Studies Association, and the James B. Palais Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies.
Jordan Zweck (English) illuminates the vast array of forms in which letters appeared in Old English literature, and especially literature intended for audiences who would never have seen, read, or produced letters themselves. Epistolary Acts: Anglo-Saxon Letters and Early English Media was published by the University of Toronto Press in December 2017.
In her First Book Workshop-winning manuscript, Mitra Sharafi (Law) examines the way one ethno-religious minority used law to enhance its collective autonomy. Published by Cambridge University Press in 2014 as Law and Identity in Colonial South Asia: Parsi Legal Culture, 1772-1947, Shirafi’s book received the 2015 Law and Society Association’s J. Willard Hurst Prize.
In Molecular World: Making Modern Chemistry (MIT Press, 2023), Catherine Jackson shows how novel experimental approaches combined with what she calls “laboratory reasoning” enabled chemists to bridge wet chemistry and abstract concepts and, in so doing, create the molecular world. Jackson introduces a series of practice-based breakthroughs that include chemistry’s move into lampworked glassware, the field’s turn to synthesis and subsequent struggles to characterize and differentiate the products of synthesis, and the gradual development of institutional chemical laboratories, an advance accelerated by synthesis and the dangers it introduced, revealing organic synthesis as the ground chemists stood upon to forge a new relationship between experiment and theory—with far-reaching consequences for chemistry as a discipline.
In Building the Caliphate: Construction, Destruction, and Sectarian Identity in Early Fatimid Architecture (Yale University Press, 2020), Jennifer Pruitt offers a new interpretation of other key moments in the history of Islamic architecture, using newly available medieval primary sources by Ismaili writers and rarely considered Arabic Christian sources. Building the Caliphate contextualizes early Fatimid architecture within the wider Mediterranean and Islamic world and demonstrates how rulers manipulated architectural form and urban topographies to express political legitimacy on a global stage.
In Custom, Common Law, and the Constitution of English Renaissance Literature (Oxford University Press, 2020) Stephanie Elsky(English; now of Rhodes College) expands our understanding of the relationship between literary and legal authority in sixteenth-century England and Ireland.
Jennifer Gaddis (Civil Society and Community Studies), provides a feminist history of the National School Lunch Program in The Labor of Lunch: Why We Need Real Food and Real Jobs in American Public Schools, available from the University of California Press in 2019.
In The Poetics of Power in Augustan Rome: Latin Poetic Responses to Early Imperial Iconography, published by Cambridge University Press in July 2018, Nandini Pandey conducts fresh readings of Augustan poetry in the light of politics and visual culture, builds on the best of recent Latin scholarship to offer a synthetic, interdisciplinary new approach to Augustan poetry, and offers a new model for understanding the relation between poetry and power as Rome transitioned from a republic into a monarchy.
In his study, Pablo Gómez (Medical History and Bioethics) focuses on knowledge production and belief making about the human body and the natural world in the early modern Caribbean, especially Cartagena de Indias and Havana. The University of North Carolina Press published The Experiential Caribbean: Creating Knowledge and Healing in the Early Modern Atlantic in spring 2017. Since then, Gómez’s book has garnered the William H. Welch Medal from the American Association for the History of Medicine, the 2018 Albert J. Raboteau Book Prize from the Journal of Africana Religions, and an Honorable Mention for the Bolton-Johnson Prize, from the Conference on Latin American History.
The Center chose the manuscript of Karma Chávez (Communication Arts; now of the University of Texas at Austin) for its promise of field-shaping significance. In an age of rising activism, Chávez examines how LGBT activists and immigration activists are building connections. Published by University of Illinois Press in 2013, Queer Migration Politics: Activist Rhetoric and Coalitional Possibilities, was named 2014 Book of the Year by the LGBTQ Communication Studies Division of the National Communication Association.