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Ian Merkel joins FU’s Global History Division on a Humboldt Fellowship

News vom 20.10.2021

Ian Merkel (Ph.D. New York University/University of São Paulo) joins us as an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow. He has taught at Cornell University, the University of Miami, the University of Turin, and Leipzig University. His work in intellectual history examines exchange across Latin America and European empires with an emphasis on the emergence of the social sciences. His first book, Terms of Exchange: Brazilian Intellectuals and the French Social Sciences, will be published by the University of Chicago Press in April 2022.

Here in Berlin, Ian is working on his next major project, provisionally entitled “Laurette Séjourné: Exile, Anthropology and Aesthetics in Cold War Mexico.” Séjourné (1911-2003), born Italian, nationalized French, and exiled from Vichy France, became a renowned specialist of Aztec and Mayan civilizations during her adult life in Mexico. Best known for her excavations of Teotihuacan, Séjourné’s broad syntheses such as Burning Water: Thought and Religion in Ancient Mexico further popularized archaeology, helping to consolidate its place in Mexico’s nation-building projects, in the international community, and among artistic vanguards. This project, the first in any language on Séjourné, repurposes the voice of this public intellectual to bridge distinct national and disciplinary histories. It connects the history of French and Mexican archaeology and examines collaboration across anthropological, literary, and artistic fields in Latin America and elsewhere. By analyzing Séjourné’s correspondence, manuscripts, and published works, this project casts new light on figures that include the novelist and revolutionary Victor Serge; Mexicans such as archaeologist Eulalia Guzmán, anthropologist Miguel Léon-Portilla, and Nobel laureate Octavio Paz; surrealists such as André Breton and Benjamin Perét; and Arnaldo Orfila Reynal, her second husband and director of the pan-Latin-American publishing house Fondo de Cultura Económica. Séjourné’s story also contributes to feminist intellectual histories that examine the place that women carved out for themselves in spite of the limits placed upon them.

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