Williams College History Professor Jessica Chapman Awarded Mellon Fellowship

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., May 6, 2016—The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Williams College history professor Jessica Chapman a three-year, $240,000 New Directions Fellowship to pursue substantive and methodological training in the field of anthropology. Once that training is completed, Chapman will embark on anthropological research related to the economic and cultural significance of Kenya’s running industry.

Mellon New Directions Fellowships assist faculty members in the humanities who seek supplemental education outside their formal areas of study. The program enables selected scholars to work on interdisciplinary projects or on problems beyond their expertise at a level of sophistication that matches their advanced training. New Directions Fellows receive the equivalent of one academic year’s salary, two summers of additional support, and tuition and course fees for their programs of study.

“My next book project will unpack the layered significance of Kenya’s running industry at the local, national, and international levels in order to shed light on the new international system that began to take shape in the late-1960s,” says Chapman, whose previous research focused on the history of Vietnam. “In order to illuminate new modes of economic, cultural, and political exchange between decolonized peoples and the industrialized West, I need to move beyond archival research and learn how to conduct anthropological research.” Chapman also notes that she is excited to see how this development of truly interdisciplinary scholarship will change her teaching in the future.

To prepare for the ethnographic research required for her new project, Chapman will spend a year taking graduate courses in anthropology and Africana studies through SUNY Albany’s College of Arts and Sciences, and she will study Swahili at the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages in Amherst. Afterward, Chapman will travel to Eldoret, Kenya, to conduct ethnographic studies of the running community.

Chapman earned her Ph.D. in history from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2006. She has taught at Williams since 2008, and her first book, Cauldron of Resistance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and 1950s Southern Vietnam, came out in 2013.

Chapman is the third Williams faculty member to receive a New Directions Fellowship since its inception in 2002. Anthropology professor Antonia Foias received one in 2010 for her archeological research in Guatemala, and history professor Sara Dubow received one in 2013 for her study on the impact of law, social movements, and politics on the conflict between constitutional protections for religious freedom and equality.


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.


Published May 6, 2016