Two Vanderbilt Historians Receive 2018 Guggenheim Fellowships for Latin American Projects

Eddie Wright-Rios and Joel Harrington are among 175 scholars, artists, and scientists named as 2018 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellows.

Professor of History Eddie Wright-Rios specializes in modern Mexico and its cultural history; he will use his Guggenheim to complete his book, Devotion in Motion: Pilgrimage in Modern Mexico. He noted in his proposal that this project requires scholarly sleuthing, creativity flexibility, and sensitive exposition, as it leans heavily on his oral interviews and participation alongside a group of market vendors during six days and 120 miles of walking to Our Lady of Juquila’s shrine.

Wright-Rios will devote the next academic year to honing his analysis of the Juquila’s growing online devotional presence, completing additional devotee interviews in Mexico and writing book chapters, as well as taking part in the pilgrimage again in November via bicycle. Part of the project entails a concerted effort to reach beyond the academy to a truly public audience through a travelling photography exhibit anchored in the project. CLAS worked with Wright-Rios to organize and host the exhibit on campus, as well as at Miami University in Ohio and Cumberland University in Tennessee.

Joel Harrington, Professor of History and department chair, was also selected for a Guggenheim fellowship. His project, “Hans Staden and the German Counter- Narrative of New World Cannibalism,” focuses on the sixteenth-century true story of a Hessian mercenary. Hans Staden was shipwrecked in southern Brazil and credited divine providence for his nine-month survival and subsequent escape from his cannibal captors, the Tupinamba Indians. Staden’s publication, True History, was promoted as a popular “maneating book” about the adventure and became an instant bestseller in 1557.

However, Harrington has found a disjunction between the lurid marketing of the book and the more sympathetic account Staden wrote about his “hosts,” also in contrast to the denigrating portrayals by Spanish and Portuguese contemporaries. Harrington plans to travel to relevant Brazilian sites and archives and make an archival trip to Germany, where he will review printed German accounts of the New World at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel.

—Contributed by Heidi Hall