2018-2019 Fellows Announced

ISM Fellows Logo
June 14, 2018

Martin Jean, director of the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, has announced that seven fellows will be joining its interdisciplinary community for the 2018–2019 year.

ISM Fellows in Sacred Music, Worship, and the Arts are scholars, religious leaders, or artists at all career stages whose work is in or is turning toward the fields of sacred music, liturgical/ritual studies, or religion and the arts. The fellows have numerous opportunities to share their work with the community and to teach, as well as to work on their individual projects using Yale’s vast resources. Following in the footsteps of previous classes of ISM fellows, the 2018–2019 group represents a cross-section of cultures and disciplines.

Ireri Chávez-Bárcenas received her Ph.D. in musicology and certificate in Latin American Studies from Princeton University in May 2018. During her fellowship year, she will expand and revise her dissertation, “Singing in the City of Angels: Race, Identity, and Devotion in Early Modern Puebla de los Ángeles,” for publication. Her work analyzes the performance of villancicos within the institutional and social fabric of Puebla, and develops a new methodology for the study of function, meaning, and transmission of the vernacular song tradition in the Spanish empire. Following her fellowship year, she will join the faculty of Bowdoin College as assistant professor of music.

Matthew Isaac Cohen is professor of international theatre and the director of the Centre for Asian Theatre and Dance at Royal Holloway, University of London. With a Ph.D. in anthropology from Yale and having recently worked as a visiting senior fellow to research and curate the Dr. Walter Angst and Sir Henry Angest Collection of Indonesian Puppets at the Yale University Art Gallery, he is no stranger. During his fellowship year, Cohen will build on earlier work on the collection to produce a book to function as a catalogue of the collection and a visual history of the art form.

Ashon Crawley, assistant professor of religious studies and African American and African Studies at the University of Virginia, will work on a book project entitled “Made Instrument: Polyphonic Intention,” which will consider the ways the Hammond B-3 organ model provides noise, vibration, and resonance for Black Christian communities. The work will place the instrument in the genealogy and tradition of Black sacred music practices, and explore how the usage of the Hammond organ has become a sonic foundation for liturgical performance and knowledge transmission.

Ephrem Aboud Ishac will spend 2018–2019 working on a project called “Searching for a Syriac Liturgical Identity,” which aims to construct a unified systematic liturgical methodology to provide currently lacking academic tools for the scholarly study of West Syriac liturgical documents and present a vision towards a proper liturgical reform in the Syrian Churches. He joins the ISM as a postdoctoral associate in liturgical studies from the University of Graz (Austria), where he is a senior postdoctoral researcher at the VESTIGIA Manuscript Research Center, working on Syriac liturgical Anaphoras in manuscripts. He is also a lecturer on Syriac Liturgical Theology at Salzburg University (Austria) in addition to his current senior postdoctoral fellowship at the Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII – Bologna (Italy).

Michelle Karnes is associate professor of English at the University of Notre Dame. She will spend the fellowship year finishing a book that studies medieval writings about marvels such as the evil eye and telekinesis. Exploring marvels in both natural philosophy and romance, in medieval Christianity and in medieval Islam, she argues that marvels define a space between truth and falsehood that is the distinctive home of both nature and fiction.

Kelsey Seymour will receive her Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Pennsylvania in June 2018. At Yale, she will expand her dissertation, “The Buddha’s Voice: Ritual Sound and Sensory Experience in Medieval Chinese Religious Practice,” and prepare it for publication. The project explores chanting practices surrounding Chinese Buddhist texts during the Six Dynasties and Tang periods, and how these sonic activities and aural experiences affected not only people’s religious lives in a ritual context, but also the larger role of chant in the lives of medieval Chinese Buddhists, both lay and monastic.

David Sperber is an art historian, art critic, and independent curator who is currently a research fellow at the David Hartman Center for Intellectual Leadership at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Gender Studies at Bar-Ilan University in May 2018. At Yale his book project, entitled “Liberating Body, Earth, and God: Helène Aylon’s Jewish-Feminist Art in the United States, 1970–2017”, will explore the links between contemporary art, feminist thought and activism, and Judaism through an analysis of the social and cultural significance of Aylon’s feminist art, and the charting of a broad theoretical framework for understanding a branch of contemporary art offering a feminist critique of the Jewish world including its rituals and institutions.

“The Institute is delighted to welcome these newest members of the community,” said Martin Jean. “We look forward to a rich and fruitful dialogue that reflects the breadth and diversity of our mission.”