Professors Deborah Fitzgerald of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS) and Harriet Ritvo of the history faculty have received a $107,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of a year-long seminar series on the theme of "Modern Times, Rural Places."
The grant is part of the Mellon Foundation's Sawyer Seminars program, which was established to support multidisciplinary research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments. Fifty seminars have been funded since the series was established in 1994 to honor John Sawyer, the foundation's third president.
The seminar will focus on rural transformations that have occurred at various times and places, attempting to understand rural change not just in terms of innovation, but within the context of traditional practices and assumptions.
"The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is an excellent site for this seminar," said Dean Philip S. Khoury. "Our programs in the humanities and social sciences are committed to cross-disciplinary scholarship on topics of broad concern in the areas of science, technology, globalization and history."
Among the questions being examined are: What happens to rural cultures when new technologies become available? How are individuals and communities affected by technological change? How does that process vary across time and cultures?
After receiving the news of the foundation grant, Professor Ritvo said she was particularly pleased because "although the topics considered in environmental studies and agricultural studies overlap, scholars in those fields are often separated by their divergent perspectives." Professor Fitzgerald noted that "the series provides the opportunity to compare and contrast vectors of change in diverse settings through the work of many different scholars."
"Modern Times, Rural Places" will meet twice a month throughout 2001-02, and will be open to participants from the greater Boston academic community. Speakers will represent a range of disciplines, including history, geography, sociology, anthropology and zoology.
Later in the year, a listing of speakers and topics along with times and locations will be posted on the history and the STS web pages, and will also be listed in the MIT Events Calendar. The web addresses are http://web.mit.edu/history/www/ and http://web.mit.edu/sts/.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 8, 2001.