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By Katie Neitz

Christopher J. Lee, associate professor of history, has been awarded a prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Stipend.

NEH Summer Stipends are extremely competitive: The program receives an average of 860 applications a year. This year, only 78 proposals were granted funding, an acceptance rate of about 9 percent.

The $6,000 award will enable Lee to spend two months this summer in South Africa, where he will research the history of nighttime in South Africa for a new book.

“I am interested in the nighttime as a specific context that has shaped South African history,” Lee says. “During the 20th century, nighttime was when political activists like Nelson Mandela would meet and organize. But it was also a time when police raids would occur—the nighttime is consequently a time of paradox, encompassing both freedom and danger.

“South Africa is also important in the history of astronomy, with the first astronomical observatory in the Southern Hemisphere being established in Cape Town in 1820. The city of Kimberley was also one of the first cities in the world to have electricity and public streetlights. So I’m pursuing a range of topics that illustrates how the nighttime is important for understanding historical change in South Africa and elsewhere.”

Lee also received an R. K. Mellon research grant from the College that will enable him to continue his research during summer 2019.

He has published five previous books, most recently Jet Lag (2017).


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