September/October 2010 Issue • Volume 38 • Issue 7

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ACLS Fellowships:
Opportunities for Sociologists

Joyce Lee and Steven Wheatley, American Council of Learned Societies

In 2010 the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) awarded over $15 million in fellowship stipends and grants to more than 380 scholars in a variety of disciplines based in the United States and abroad. More than a dozen ACLS fellowship programs aid scholars at every stage of the academic career, from the dissertation completion year to post-retirement research by emeriti professors. While the full portfolio of ACLS fellowships is broad, a number of them focus on specific career stages, while others support research in particular areas, themes, or methodologies.

What Is the ACLS?

The mission of ACLS, as stated in its constitution, is "the advancement of humanistic studies in all fields of the humanities and social sciences." This formulation, adopted almost a century ago, in 1919, connects disciplines and posits that academic domains are porous. ACLS, throughout its fellowship programs, seeks to foster established and emerging forms of humanistic inquiry, whatever the departmental home of applicants. Therefore ACLS encourages sociologists to apply for its fellowships, especially those proposing research in historical sociology or sociology of culture. ACLS shares many of the humanistic tenets of the discipline of sociology and hopes that sociologists will join it in furthering its mission.

For Example

ACLS awardees in sociology have included a diverse array of projects across its many fellowship programs. This past competition year, D. Michael Lindsay’s proposal "Accounting for Power: Elite Integration and the White House Fellows Program" was awarded the Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship, which supports advanced assistant professors and untenured associate professors. Jaeeun Kim and Elizabeth Chiarello were each selected for the Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship for their respective dissertations, "Colonial Migration and Transborder Membership Politics in Twentieth-Century Korea" and "Pharmacists of Conscience: Ethical Decision-Making Across Legal, Political, and Organizational Environments." Previous awardees include Javier Auyero’s "Flammable: An Ethnography of Environmental Suffering" and Karen Field’s "Bordeaux’s Africa, People and Things in the Slave Trade and After" for ACLS fellowship. (Abstracts of these projects are available on the ACLS website.) Even as these projects cover a multitude of topics and areas, they share a focus on qualitative evaluation and interpretive and social contextualization.

A fellowships program of note: an initiative begun this past year by ACLS in order to address the increasingly "jobless" academic market, is the New Faculty Fellows program. It allows recent PhDs in the humanities and related social sciences to take up two-year positions at universities and colleges where their particular research and teaching expertise augment departmental offerings. Mary Barr, a PhD in African American Studies and sociology, with a dissertation titled "Black and White Together: Constructing Integration while Establishing de facto Segregation," accepted a New Faculty Fellows appointment at Pomona College. Application to this program is by nomination only and details will be forthcoming in the fall on the ACLS website.


More information can be found on ACLS’s various fellowship programs at, as well as information on ACLS’s mission and history. The specifics of competitions vary, and program descriptions, eligibility requirements, and application procedures for each program can be found on the "Competitions and Deadlines" page under "Fellowships and Grants." Also on the ACLS website is an FAQ for applicants, which includes a link to an essay, "Writing Proposals for ACLS Fellowship Competitions." Fellows in all programs are selected by rigorous two-stage peer review. ACLS advises applicants to start early and have a wide range of colleagues read drafts, as proposals that are clear and can explain their research relevance to a broader and interdisciplinary audience are on the whole more successful. Any questions concerning the fellowships process can be directed to Best wishes to all applicants! asalogo

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