VCU English professor receives prestigious fellowship in support of ‘Counting’ project

The American Council of Learned Societies has named Jennifer Rhee, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of English in the College of Humanities and Sciences, as a 2019 ACLS Fellow. The program supports scholars in the humanities and related social sciences who are undertaking the full-time research and writing of a major scholarly work.

Jennifer Rhee, Ph.D.
Jennifer Rhee, Ph.D.

Rhee, who is also a core faculty member in the Virginia Commonwealth University Media, Art, & Text Ph.D. Program, is one of 81 fellows from more than 60 colleges and universities who were selected by their peers from over 1,100 applicants in a review process with multiple stages. They were chosen for their potential to make an original and significant contribution to knowledge.

Rhee’s book project, “Counting: Cultures of Measurement, Quantification, and Surveillance,” examines technologies of quantification and their entanglements with race, alongside artistic engagements with counting.

The project “analyzes the racial dimensions of digital counting practices while paying close attention to who is counting, who determines what counts, who constitutes the uncounted or the uncountable, and who is all too readily counted,” according to Rhee’s abstract. “This project argues that the 19th century, which saw developments including statistics’ foundational role in eugenic science, modern capitalism’s emergence and expansion, and conceptions of mechanical objectivity, profoundly influenced today’s digital counting.

“This project argues that these earlier 19th-century phenomena and their inscriptions of race continue to structure contemporary counting practices, from big data, digital redlining, biometric surveillance technologies, predictive policing software, and the environmental costs of digital counting,” her abstract continues. “As ‘Counting’ analyzes these various digital counting technologies, it turns to artworks that reflect — and often challenge — counting technologies’ racial biases and claims of objectivity and neutrality.”

Rhee’s one-year fellowship, which starts in July, will total $50,000.