By Keely Savoie
Lauret Savoy, professor of environmental studies at Mount Holyoke College, has been awarded a prestigious Andrew Carnegie Fellowship to expand her research into the racialized history of humanity through the geological and physical traces it has left on the earth. Savoy has received many accolades for her work.
Mount Holyoke is the only Seven Sister college—and the only liberal arts institution—with a faculty member awarded a Carnegie fellowship this year and, with Harvard University and MIT, one of three Massachusetts schools with faculty receiving the honor. Savoy is one of 35 scholars earning the distinction this year.
"The Andrew Carnegie fellowship further celebrates Lauret Savoy's distinctive contribution to scholarship and to our understanding of the importance of place,” said Acting President Sonya Stephens. “We have long known Lauret to be among our most creative thinkers; this award cements her reputation as such, and promotes her work as both highly original and deeply significant. What I most appreciate about Lauret and her scholarship is her ability to ask important and interesting questions, to use writing as both exploration and discovery, as well as to tease out connections, not only between disciplines but between important dimensions of our environment, experience and identity. She is a remarkable person and an accomplished scholar, and I am delighted that she will have an opportunity, through this fellowship, to pursue her research and writing," she said.
The Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program recognizes established and emerging scholars, journalists and authors who have the goal of strengthening U.S. democracy, driving technological and cultural creativity; exploring global connections; and improving both natural and human environments.
“I am thrilled to receive this fellowship, which I couldn’t have done without the support of my dean of faculty, colleagues, and Mount Holyoke College itself,” Savoy said. “My research will explore some roots of the 'American dilemma' through the lens of an African-American family of mixed heritage and the environmental history of Chesapeake landscapes they inhabited from the colonial era onward. The end result will be a literary book for a broad readership about the legacy of slavery and near-slavery in the region around the U.S. capital, linking the land’s history and the changing place of race.”
The “American dilemma,” Savoy explained, is the conflict between the ideals of equal opportunity and what she calls the “inequities that were forced upon many of the nation’s citizens because of differences in race, class and gender.”
This latest project will build on themes Savoy developed in her 2015 book, “Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape,” which explored the origin of place names and the history and culture to which they are connected. In the book, Savoy teases out the meanings embedded in places and questions what the names memorialize — and what they erase — and how these reflect the values and tensions within contemporary culture and its at-times tumultuous and violent past.
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