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DEADLINE: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminars

February 17, 2016

Internal Call for Proposals

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminars

Internal Proposals due Wednesday February 17th, 2016


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has invited UNC Chapel Hill to submit one proposal as part of the Sawyer Seminars program.  Grants of up to $175,000 will be provided for each seminar funded.


The Sawyer Seminars program provides support for collaborative research on historical and contemporary topics of major scholarly significance. The seminars, named in honor of the Foundation’s long-serving third president, John E. Sawyer, bring together faculty, foreign visitors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students from a variety of fields mainly, but not exclusively, in the arts, humanities and interpretive social sciences, for intensive study of subjects chosen by the participants.  This program aims to engage productive scholars in multi-disciplinary and comparative inquiry that would (in ordinary university circumstances) be difficult to pursue, while at the same time avoiding the institutionalization of such work in new centers, departments, or programs.


Sawyer Seminars normally meet for one year. Past experience suggests that it can take a year or more to organize the seminars; they need not be scheduled for the coming academic year. Faculty participants have largely come from the humanities and interpretive social sciences, although some of the most successful and provocative seminars have also drawn on faculty in the arts and in professional schools.  Seminar leaders are encouraged to invite participants from nearby institutions.  As the Foundation reviews proposals, preference will be given to those that include concrete plans for engaging participants with diverse institutional and disciplinary affiliations.


Proposals will be judged on the significance of the subject of inquiry, the aptness of plans for seminar meetings, the opportunities they present for comparative study, the rationale for the proposed comparisons, and the scholarly accomplishments of the participants.


Sawyer Seminar awards provide support for one postdoctoral fellow to be recruited through a national competition, and for the dissertation research of two graduate students.  It is expected that the graduate students will be active participants in the seminars, and the seminars’ contribution to graduate education in the humanities and social sciences will be carefully considered even though they are not intended to be organized as official credit-bearing courses.  Seminars are not expected to produce a written product. More detailed information can be viewed on the Mellon Foundation’s website


Mellon Foundation proposal selection and funded topics

An advisory committee of distinguished scholars will review Sawyer Seminar proposals.  The Mellon Foundation will recommend ten proposals for funding to the Foundation’s Board of Trustees from the group of 15 to 20 it expects to receive in response to this invited call for proposals.


Recently funded seminars have examined a wide range of topics, such as:

  • Documentary Media and Historical Transformation
  • Cuban Futures Beyond the Market
  • Ethical Subjects: Love, Moralities, Histories
  • Comparative Global Humanities
  • Documenting War
  • Geographies of Justice
  • Visual History: The Past in Images
  • Displacement and the Making of the Modern World: Histories, Ecologies, and Subjectivities


UNC has had previous success with this grant. Past Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminars at Carolina include:


  • “Precarious Work in Asia,” 2011-12, led  by Arne L. Kalleberg in Sociology and Kevin Hewison in Asian Studies and the Carolina Asia Center
  • “Diversity and Conformity in Muslim Societies: Historical Coexistence and Contemporary Struggles,” 2009-10, led by Banu Gokariksel in Geography and Sarah Shields in History
  • “The Changing Nature(s) of Land:  Property, Peasants and Agricultural Production in a Global World,” 2007-08, led by Wendy Wolford in Geography and Meenu Tewari in City & Regional Planning
  • “The Concept and Consequences of Race:  Cross-National and Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives”
  • “Reading Regions Globally:  History, Place and Power.”


As the University may only nominate ONE proposal to the Mellon Foundation, internal coordination is necessary. We now invite members of the academic community to submit seminar proposals to The Office of Research Development. We must receive the proposals by the close of business on Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 in order meet the Mellon Foundation’s March 31st, 2016 deadline. We apologize for the short turn-around time, but our office only very recently received the invitation from the Foundation.


Submit the following electronically in a single file (either PDF or Word) to


  • A proposal narrative 3,000-6,000 words in length which describes:  (1) the rationale for raising the central questions to be addressed and the potential significance of the inquiry to be pursued; (2) the cases to be studied (e.g., nations, regions, time periods, cultural trends, social tensions) and the perspectives to be brought to bear on them; (3) the thematic “threads” that will run through the seminar; (4) the institution’s resources and suitability for the proposed seminar; and (5) the procedures to be used in selecting graduate and postdoctoral fellows.


  • A preliminary plan for the seminar that outlines the specific topics to be addressed in each session and provides the names and qualifications of the scholars who would ideally participate. Include short CVs (1-2 pages) for the principal seminar organizers.


  • A preliminary budget for funding up to $175,000 should accompany the proposal. It is expected that each seminar’s budget will provide for a postdoctoral fellowship to be awarded for the year the seminar meets, and two dissertation fellowships for graduate students to be awarded for the seminar year or the year that follows.  The amount for postdoctoral fellowship awards and dissertation fellowship stipends should follow institutional practices.  Travel and living expenses for short stays by visiting scholars and the costs of coordinating the seminar, including those incurred for speakers and their travel, may be included.  The grants may not, however, be used for the costs of release time for regular faculty participants, student tuition, or indirect costs.


  • The names of three internal (to UNC) faculty members who could speak knowledgeably about your research. Please do not include the names of chairs or deans on this list in order to avoid a potential conflict of interest.



Contact Denise Lindley at the Office of Research Development at 962-7503, or with any questions.


February 17, 2016
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The Carolina Asia Center supports diverse Asia-related events. However, CAC co-sponsorship of any talk, seminar, documentary screening, film screening, performance or celebration does not constitute endorsement of or agreement with the views presented therein. As an academic institution, we value diverse perspectives that promote dialogue and understanding.

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