Last month, Ettore Santi and Thomas Oommen, Ph.D. candidates in Architecture in the History, Theory and Society (HTS) program, were each awarded a 2020 Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF), funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of the Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC). Despite its size, the HTS program is notably accoladed-- having won many major scholarships for research in the social sciences such as the Fulbright-Hays Fellowships.
Selected out of 900 applicants, Santi and Oommen are two of the 70 awardees of the prestigious fellowship awarded to students from 14 disciplines such as literature, archaeology, political science, and technology studies.
The fellowship has supported more than 1000 projects, providing an average of $23,000 for housing, living, travel, and research expenses. Recipients must be a graduate student enrolled in a US Ph.D. program conducting dissertation research on non-US topics.
Santi’s research looks at the design of agrarian transformation in Hunan province, China. His dissertation, “Designing a Land Revolution: The Corporate Reinvention of China’s Rural Environment” tracks the rural area’s transition from local farming systems to an industrialized, commercial hub. According to Santi, his project “maps the ongoing construction of new high-tech farms, soil science laboratories, rural ecotourism parks, and modern rural homes.”
“My dissertation argues that rural areas are sites of intense design experimentation, in which modern state agencies struggle to shape and control land, food systems, and the population at the fringes of their territorial jurisdictions. This is especially true in today's China, where state-led design institutes are demolishing and rebuilding entire village dwellings, farmlands, hills, forests, animal and water systems to maximize their productivity and profitability." Santi said.
“The Mellon-IDRF grant will enable me to continue my fieldwork in Hunan. Collaborating with local architects and farmers, I will document how rural futures are designed, implemented, and even transgressed across multiple case studies.”
To follow Santi's work, visit his CED profile here.
Oommen is an architect and urbanist trained in India and the U.S. and was active in teaching and practice in Delhi before he began his doctoral studies. Oommen’s objects of research are modern single family houses located in the urban-rural continuums of the Malabar Coast of Kerala in India. Through studying the everyday business of house design and building he seeks to understand the nature of architectural expertise as well as the production of local architectural cultures.
"By studying Kerala - a region, that is politically and socio-economically distinct from the Indian mainland with deep linkages to the Indian Ocean World, I hope to bring attention to local modernities whose complexity and cosmopolitanism are not captured in nation centric architectural histories,” Oomen said.
In Delhi and at Berkeley he has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in modern architectural history and theory in addition to architectural and urban design studios.
To follow Oommen's work, visit his CED profile here.