The Space of Scholarship

Jovonna Jones Pic

   by Jovonna Jones 15C

I am a space person. I grew up watching my dad reorganize the thousands of books in his office to let more light in. I relished choosing the honeydew melon green main color for my room, for I knew that hue would make all the difference in my budding teenage awareness. For as long as I can remember, space, to me, has always coincided with the possibilities of life—or at least how I could make room to think about it. So when I learned about the benefits of communal and office space through the Fox Center fellowship, I yearned for the opportunity to surround myself in the energy of learning, where scholarly contributions line the walls, coffee awaits in the kitchen, and our only purpose in this space is to explore the expanse of humanistic knowledge.

To be a humanities undergraduate can be quite lonely at Emory, especially when you have the gall to know your work matters. With humanities relegated to the broad world of liberal arts, it began to feel like I was deeply passionate about the material that other students only engaged in to add on to their more “practical” career paths. As much pride as I have in my African-American Studies major, it can feel hard to feel like the only support you receive is within your department. Luckily, my mentors in AAS introduced me to the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship early on in my time at Emory, so I was able to find affirming independent research spaces leading to the Fox Center honors thesis fellowship. Nevertheless, I never knew there was an entire space/place dedicated to humanistic inquiry, appreciative of this particular knowledge process.

What happens in the Fox Center is really quite miraculous. “Humanities” is an umbrella for a slew of disciplines with their own politics, biases, theories, etc., although we all deal with the nuances of the human condition. In each office, scholars are tackling such important work, and sometimes, they are the only ones in the university doing their specific work. Imagine how isolating that can be. For example, my work focuses on the visually-based philosophic trajectory of Blackness in America, and I argue that the photographic realm reveals structures of being that extend beyond Western modernist notions of “the human.” While I have loved the mentorship I have received from professors in multiple disciplines, in and outside of Emory, I still had this yearning to feel like my scholarship had a place in this University—that there was extra space and resources just for humanities folk. Just like business school students can go to the B-school library, law students can go to the law library, chemistry students meet up in the lab, etc. etc., I wanted somewhere to go where other students were engulfed in the same sense of humanistic complexity, even if we were working on completely different topics. I wanted to be in a space where I know others are dedicated to elucidating the fabrics of humanity, however it ends up manifesting to us.

Even though I have not yet been able to attend the Center’s events and lunches, the Fox Center houses have affirmed in me a sense of scholarly place in the University. Every time I see the undergraduates’ names on the plaque in the front corridor along with accomplished graduate students and faculty, I remember that our ideas matter. Furthermore, I am motivated by the possibilities our scholarship can unfold when we have the intentional space to really to think and create.

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