End-of-Year Director’s Statement, 2020-21

Published: June 8, 2021

Dear Friends,

A year ago, in June 2020, we released a statement in support of Black Lives Matter. We promised to continue systemic and programmatic changes that we initiated in 2019. And we are starting to deliver.

I am delighted to report on the results of this past year that has seen CMRS attain new levels of visibility and leadership. In 33 events held, we reached a total of 2,500 live audience members, thanks to the Zoom environment imposed upon us in the COVID-19 pandemic. Our YouTube channel has had more than 3,500 views and our website online content has an average of 450 views per month. While we focused on expanding CMRS’s global outreach, we also remained mindful of the need to nurture our community through smaller-scale formats: a monthly CMRS Faculty-Graduate Student Reading Group, curated by Matthew Fisher (English, UCLA); Works-in-Progress Happy Hours where eight faculty and graduate students presented to a receptive audience; four New Book Salons where CMRS faculty discussed their publications with invited guests to enraptured audiences.

To our audiences and viewers, thank you for your interest, dedication, and personal messages of support; to our faculty and graduate students, thank you for everything you contributed to keep us not only together, but to maintain and spark interest in each other’s work, keeping our connections alive and strong. To our staff, thank you for making that miracle possible.

I am very happy to report on the first progress on our inclusive agenda. On May 7, 2021, the Graduate Certificate in Global Medieval Studies was approved. CMRS will administer the certificate that is housed in UCLA’s Department of Comparative Literature. We are likewise engaged in the process of updating the Center’s name, almost 60 years into CMRS’s existence, to more accurately reflect our mission and our appeal to broad, diverse audiences. What drives both initiatives is the premise that all areas of the world are equally epistemologically and methodologically productive, including those that have been underrepresented and understudied. Our collaborative platform of five research axes is based in the exchange of methodologies and epistemologies. In other words, methodology and comparison connect distinct and separate areas of the globe. Connected methodologies thus enable transspatial (non-contiguous) study but also transperiodic (non-continuous) study of the early worlds. This approach provides CMRS with an inclusive and innovative model of combined disciplinarity and transdisciplinarity.

We continue to expand our support for graduate students. This year we added an annual CMRS Dissertation Research Fellowship, thus offering a total of four one-year fellowships for AY 2021-22. We also provided two supplemental recruitment fellowships to attract the most qualified candidates to UCLA’s graduate programs, and awarded summer funding to thirteen recipients. In all, we dedicated $176,400 to graduate student funding. In addition, this fall we will launch a Junior Faculty Book Manuscript Workshop series. Created in partnership with the Dean of Humanities and faculty members’ home departments, this series will bring together outside reviewers and UCLA faculty and advanced graduate students to provide valuable feedback and networking experience to junior faculty. We are grateful for the past contributions of our supporters, who have allowed us to offer fellowships, grants, research assistantships, research funds, publication projects, and classes. We hope you will continue to support CMRS and our deserving graduate scholars, who bring innovative ideas to our campus and create new opportunities for cross-disciplinary research, enriching the intellectual life of the university.

In order to continue CMRS’s role as a leading North-American Center for the study of the early worlds, we have led the charge on the technological updates to our stately rooms of Royce Hall 314 and 306. All our events in 306/314 Royce will have the capacity to be hybrid starting this Fall: each event can be presented simultaneously both on-campus in-person and live-streamed on the internet to a remote audience. These events will also be fully interactive with the remote audience. CMRS also spearheaded a proposal for an NEH American Rescue Plan grant, on behalf of all the Humanities Centers.

I invite you to visit our YouTube channel where you can find some of the highlights of this virtual season, “1521: Making the World while Breaking the World”; “Slavery’s Archive in the Premodern World”; “Spatial Grammars: The Union of Art and Writing in the Painted Books of Aztec Mexico,” and “Varallo and the Sacri Monti of Northwestern Italy.” You can continue to enjoy our podcast series on the colonization of the Americas and indigenous California, as well as the beautiful and moving op-eds in “Reflections on 2020,” written by UCLA faculty and graduate students during the worst period of the pandemic.

As ever, I look forward to hearing from you at zs@humnet.ucla.edu. I hope that you will join CMRS as we continue to build a new habitus across disciplines on campus and all over the globe.

Wishing you a safe and restorative summertime,

Zrinka Stahuljak
Director, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies