Institute of Historical Studies
Institute of Historical Studies

IHS Fellows Jeffrey Culang and Wm. Matthew Kennedy will study conceptualizations of freedom in 2018-19

Thu, June 21, 2018
IHS Fellows Jeffrey Culang and Wm. Matthew Kennedy will study conceptualizations of freedom in 2018-19
Drs. Wm. Matthew Kennedy and Jeffrey Culang, 2018-2019 Fellows

Story by Eyal Weinberg, Ph.D Candidate of History, University of Texas at Austin

Marking its twelfth year in 2018-2019, the Institute for Historical Studies will examine the theme of Genealogies of Freedom, focusing on the dynamic, shifting conceptualizations of freedom over time and space. We are delighted to announce the appointment of two residential research fellows, Jeffrey Culang and William Matthew Kennedy, whose research interests are central to that theme.

Jeffrey Culang received his Ph.D. from the CUNY Graduate Center (2017), where he is currently a visiting research scholar. As an IHS fellow, he will complete his book manuscript entitled "Moral Quandaries: Religion and Modern Law in Egypt." The book examines the secularization of Egyptian society between the 1880s and the 1930s, a period that witnessed the convergence of nationalism, colonial rule, missionary activity, and new modes of governance at the national and international levels. Tracing the emergence of a centralized state with the capacity to manage its population and increasing authority over religion, it focuses on the incorporation of modern legal-political concepts into Egypt’s legal system and public lexicon, and their displacement of prior concepts and forms of life. Culang recently published an article entitled "'The Shari'a must go': Seduction, Moral Injury, and Religious Freedom in Egypt's Liberal Age" with the journal Comparative Studies in Society and History, and is contributing a chapter entitled "'Ordering the ‘Land of Paradox’: The Fashioning of Nationality, Religion, and Political Loyalty in Colonial Egypt” to the forthcoming edited volume Beyond Versailles: Sovereignty, Legitimacy, and the Formation of New Polities after the Great War. Read about his workshop at IHS this December 10th here.

Wm. Matthew Kennedy earned his Ph.D. at the University of Sydney in 2017. He is currently an adjunct research fellow at the history department at Monash University, and he is a recipient of an Australian Research Council Endeavour Fellowship as well as a guest postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Germany. Kennedy is working on a project entitled “From Barataria to Utopia: Economic-Positivism, Scientific Governance and the Colonial Origins of ‘Freedom,’ 1880-1950,” which explores the influence of economic-positivist legal theory on thinking about governance in Britain and its empire. The influence of this legal theory, Kennedy argues, produced an enduring disjuncture between popular notions of “freedom” and legal constructions of that concept across the globe. During his tenure at the IHS, Kennedy will complete two publications, one examining the implementation of that theory in British Lagos/Nigeria, Australian New Guinea, and Australia’s Northern Territory, the other studying its impact on early twentieth-century internationalism and imperialism. Learn more about the Dec. 3rd workshop Dr. Kennedy will present at IHS here.

Culang and Kennedy will be part of a group of scholars at the Institute that will include five internal research fellows from UT’s history department whose work also addresses next year’s theme to one degree or another. All will be able to present their projects in weekly workshops as well as at the Institute's annual conference. That conference, devoted to the theme “Genealogies of Freedom,” will be organized by Professor Benjamin Claude Brower of UT’s history department, and will be held in late spring 2019. “We look forward to welcoming the new fellows and anticipate a lively discussion of a theme that concerns us all,” says IHS Director and Professor of History Miriam Bodian. “’Freedom’ is a concept whose meaning is all too often taken for granted. Exploring its many expressions in diverse historical and linguistic settings is essential for thinking clearly about it in our own.”

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