Dipesh Chakrabarty Awarded 2014 Toynbee Prize

Dipesh Chakrabarty, Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History and South Asian Languages and Civilizations, is the recipient of the 2014 Toynbee Prize.

The Toynbee Prize Foundation was chartered in 1987 “to contribute to the development of the social sciences” and the Toynbee Prize, awarded every other year, recognizes distinguished practitioners of global history.

"One of the most pleasing aspects of this award is that it recognizes the work I have done in raising certain critical questions about some of the foundational categories through which historians usually think about global history,” said Chakrabarty.

Chakrabarty will be formally awarded his prize at a session of the American Historical Association’s Annual Meeting in January 2015, where he will deliver his Toynbee Prize lecture entitled "From Globalization to Global Warming: A Historiographical Transition."

Brenda Johnson named Library Director and University Librarian

Brenda L. Johnson, an internationally respected leader in the field of library science, has been appointed Library Director and University Librarian, Provost Eric Isaacs announced Oct. 16. Her five-year term begins Jan. 1, 2015. “The Library plays a key role in the life of faculty and students at the University of Chicago,” Isaacs said. “Brenda’s expertise in supporting both physical collections and the proliferation of digital resources, along with her history of collaboration and innovative thinking, make her an outstanding leader for this important enterprise.” Johnson currently serves as Ruth Lilly Dean of University Libraries at Indiana University, Bloomington—a position she has held since 2010. She succeeds Judith Nadler, who retired in June after nearly five decades of service to UChicago.

Rescuing Endangered Native Languages

Lenore Grenoble (Photo by Andrew Nelles)

The following article appeared in UChicago News on 13 October.

How do you save a language?

That question has occupied linguist Lenore Grenoble since the early 1990s, when she made her first trek to a remote area of Siberia to study Evenki, the rapidly disappearing tongue of a Siberian indigenous group.

A Slavic linguist by training, Grenoble had been studying languages like Russian, Polish, and Old Church Slavonic for years. But she wanted to apply her expertise beyond the academy.

“I decided when I got tenure that I would take my expertise and do something that was also socially meaningful,” says Grenoble, the John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor in Linguistics.

Grenoble’s work on Evenki launched a new phase in her career. “I became interested in not just Evenki, but the kinds of things that happen when a language is lost: the linguistic changes, the social changes, the factors that drive people to speak one language over another,” she explains. “I started looking at the broader picture globally.”

Today, Grenoble is an internationally respected expert in the study of endangered languages and the author of several books on the topic.  Although much of her work focuses on the indigenous languages of the Arctic, she has conducted fieldwork on other languages such as Māori in New Zealand and the Wolof language in Senegal.

She is also taking an active role to protect indigenous languages as coordinator of the Arctic Council’s Arctic Indigenous Languages Vitality project.