$5 Million Mellon Grant for Work on Dispossessions in the Americas

Tulia Falleti

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the University of Pennsylvania a grant to support “Dispossessions in the Americas: The Extraction of Bodies, Land, and Heritage from La Conquista to the Present,” a project directed by Tulia Falleti, Class of 1965 Endowed Term Professor of Political Science. The $5 million grant is part of Mellon’s Just Futures Initiative.

“Dispossessions in the Americas” is an interdisciplinary project that aims to document territorial, embodied, and cultural heritage dispossessions in the Americas from 1492 to the present, and to outline how the restoration of land, embodiments, and cultural values can recover histories and promote restorative justice.

The grant will allow Falleti and collaborators to create a multilingual website, host conferences, publish journal articles, an art catalog, and two coedited volumes, develop arts and performance events, and participate in the design of cultural heritage museums in Mexico and Belize.

“‘Dispossessions in the Americas’ exemplifies the important cross-disciplinary research that Penn is distinctively positioned to advance,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “By examining disparate perspectives from history, anthropology, medicine, and Latin American and Latinx studies, this project will provide new ways to assess our cultural heritage, in order to help us better understand and address the enormous challenges of social injustice. We thank the Mellon Foundation for their support and dedication to shaping a better future for our society.”

Falleti, also Director of the Latin American and Latinx Studies Program, said that the project is particularly urgent.

“The killing of George Floyd and the pandemic revealed entrenched issues of systemic racism and inequalities like never before,” said Falleti. “It's very important to highlight the historic nature of many of these structural inequities and to put forward proposals that can restore hope and justice. ‘Dispossessions in the Americas’ is not only about documenting what was lost, but also about decolonizing the way we research and working with communities to propose measures for healing.”

Steven J. Fluharty, Dean and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience, said, “The Mellon grant provides a tremendous opportunity to create research and community partnerships that shift the way we understand our world. This is the power of the liberal arts in action. Tulia and the team she has assembled have an ambitious plan and I am looking forward to seeing the results of this vital work.”

“Dispossessions in the Americas” will partner with over 40 institutions and community groups across the Americas, including local collaborations with the Barnes Foundation, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, and the Latinx community of the Center of Culture, Arts, Training, and Education (CCATE) of Norristown.

At Penn, collaborators include faculty, curators, undergraduate and graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows from the Department of Africana Studies, the Latin American and Latinx Studies Program, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Program, the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program, the Penn Cultural Heritage Center of the Penn Museum, and the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Informatics in the Perelman School of Medicine.

Co-investigators are Margaret Bruchac, Associate Professor of Anthropology; Ricardo Castillo-Neyra, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology; Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, Associate Professor of History; Michael Hanchard, Chair and Gustave C. Kuemmerle Professor of Africana Studies; Jonathan D. Katz, Associate Professor of Practice of History of Art and Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies; Richard M. Leventhal, Professor of Anthropology; and Michael Z. Levy, Associate Professor of Epidemiology.
 

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