U of M Professor Erika Lee named distinguished Andrew Carnegie Fellow

April 24, 2018
Erika Lee

Erika Lee, a professor of history in the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts and director of the University's Immigration History Research Center (IHRC), has been named one of 31 winners of a 2018 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Nicknamed the “brainy award,” the Carnegie Fellowship—chosen from among 270 nominations by a distinguished panel of jurors— provides support for scholarship that applies fresh perspectives from the humanities and social sciences to some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Lee’s recognition will provide her with $200,000 over a two-year period to support her research and the eventual publication of a book entitled, “Fear of the Stranger: A History of American Xenophobia.” Inspired by today’s divisive debates over immigration, the book explores the history of xenophobia in the U.S. from the colonial era to the present and underscores how anti-immigrant sentiment not only threatens the lives and livelihoods of immigrants and refugees, but also endangers American democracy.

“How xenophobia has evolved and flourished in our so-called nation of immigrants is one of the most important questions facing the United States today,” said Lee. “Only by fully understanding how American xenophobia works in the past and present can we successfully root it out and strengthen American democracy today.”

The book’s publication is expected to coincide with the 2020 presidential elections when public dialogue about immigration, xenophobia and American democracy expects to increase. Lee also plans to share her findings with broad audiences as part of her ongoing work with journalists, community organizations, academic conferences and public programs at the University’s Immigration History Research Center, including a “Xenophobia, Migration, and Migrants” symposium in 2019.

"Receiving a 2018 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship reaffirms Professor Erika Lee’s place as one of the country's path-breaking and premier historians,” said John Coleman, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “Her new research comes at a critical juncture and will greatly advance dialogue about an essential and controversial element of American history. Her career has been one of profound impact on scholarship, teaching and public outreach. I fully expect that her new research will have that same profound effect on historical analysis and public understanding of this important subject."

One of the nation’s leading immigration and Asian American historians, Lee is the author of three award-winning books in U.S. immigration and Asian American history. She teaches American history and Asian American Studies at the University of Minnesota, where she holds the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History and is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor. As director of the Immigration History Research Center, Lee has helped to pioneer new ways of merging immigration history with the digital humanities. She launched and oversees the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded Immigrant Stories Project, which works with recent immigrants and refugees to collect, preserve and share their experiences online and around the world.

Established in 2015, the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship Program provides a total of $6.2 million of philanthropic support each year toward significant research in the humanities and social sciences. To see the full press release and names of all the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Fellows, visit the Carnegie Corporation website.

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