Two new projects in humanities research receive innovation funding

Wednesday, Jul 21, 2021
by Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research

Catalyzing scholarship on original theories as well as enduring questions, the Dean for Research Innovation Fund for New Ideas in the Humanities aims to advance disciplines through support for activities such as conferences, new collaborations and creative work. Two projects will be funded:

Preserving Black theater histories

Jane Cox

Jane Cox, senior lecturer in theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts and director of Princeton’s Program in Theater. Photo by David Kelly Crow 

Creating a resource for future generations, a team from the Princeton Program in Theater will partner with the organization CLASSIX, a collective of Black theater scholars and artists, to participate in gathering and preserving histories of Black American theaters founded during the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70s. The collaboration with CLASSIX, initiated in 2020-2021 through a Humanities Council Magic Project grant, hopes to collect oral histories of Black theater makers, to preserve and archive plays that have never been published, and to spark more meaningful relationship between theater making and the academy. CLASSIX consists of theater artists and scholars A.J. Muhammed, Arminda Thomas, Awoye Timpo, Brittany Bradford and Dominique Rider. The Princeton team will be led by Jane Cox, senior lecturer in theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts and director of Princeton’s Program in Theater.

 

Deciphering the past using neural networks

Marina Rustow

Marina Rustow, Director of the Princeton Geniza Lab and the Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East. Photo Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications

Researchers in Princeton and Paris will unlock the texts of manuscripts stored for centuries in a Cairo synagogue by harnessing the power of neural networks, complex algorithms that mimic the workings of the human brain. Documentary fragments found in a medieval repository known as the Cairo Geniza illuminate the daily lives of Jews and others in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean basins. Deciphering these documents has, until now, relied on the painstaking work of scholars adept in reading Hebrew, Arabic, and medieval handwriting. Marina Rustow, Director of the Princeton Geniza Lab and the Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East, will collaborate with Prof. Daniel Stökl Ben-Ezra and his team at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in developing machine learning models to decipher and transcribe Geniza documents, helping make these texts available to historians and to the wider public.