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Chinese major wins Lankford Award

By Anna Mann on May 23, 2016 11:25 AM

Ian Connelly ’16 won the Lankford Award for this thesis on the Folk Memory Project.

Chinese major Ian Connelly ’16 has won the William T. Lankford III Humanities Award for his senior thesis on the Folk Memory Project, a series of documentary films about the Great Chinese Famine of 1959-61.

The award recognizes accomplishment in both history and literature and is given to students with outstanding academic records and strong potential for further achievement.

The award committee praised Ian for his “exceptional” thesis, which, it said, “exemplified independent and rigorous research across disciplines.”

Ian’s thesis looked at a documentary film project from China in which collaborating young urban filmmaker-artists returned to their native villages to interview old folks there about their experiences during the famine. He showed how the contingent, specific, and performative qualities of memory were purposed to forward an alternative history to the one promoted by the communist state. The films operate in an alternative but not oppositional way vis-a-vis the state and therefore are able to pursue practices of public discourse in China without arousing state censoring mechanisms.

Prof. Jing Jiang [Chinese 2006–], who advised Ian on his thesis, cited his “amazing ability to get conceptual inspiration from a wide range of western thinkers whose thought he has been exposed to over the course of four years of study here at Reed, while keeping his object of study firmly anchored in the specific traditions of the socialist mode of representation in general and Chinese documentary filmmaking in particular.”

“I feel super honored and surprised to receive this award,” says Ian. “I am deeply grateful to my advisor Jing Jiang who guided me through the whole process and who has been a consistent source of support for these last two years. And thank you to the many other professors who helped me think through my thesis, among them Monica Lopez Lerma, Charlene Makley, and Douglas Fix. My gratitude to the Lankford family for their commitment to supporting students in the disciplines of History and Literature.”

In addition to winning the Lankford Award, Ian was granted a President’s Winter Travel Fellowship to go to Beijing to study Taiji Quan with a master and to make a documentary film about the process. He also helped Prof. Jiang do research to develop a future Chinese documentary film and media course, worked on the Canyon Crew, and volunteered at Kateri Park affordable housing complex which mostly serves immigrant/refugee families, working with kids there at Homework Club or for art class.

This summer he’ll be leading groups of volunteers to do repair and maintenance work along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Oregon-Washington area.

The Lankford Award honors the memory of Prof. Bill Lankford (1946–1983), a distinguished teacher of English and humanities who served Reed from 1977 until his untimely death in 1983. Prof. Lankford’s national reputation as a scholar of the works of Charles Dickens and his inspiring teaching imbued many of his students with the same passion for literature that possessed him. The award also specifies accomplishment in history and in the relations between history and literature to honor Prof. Lankford’s second great love—his avocation—history, and to recall his important role in bringing new life and energy to the history and literature program at Reed. Finally, the award recognizes potential, as well as past academic accomplishment, to underline his deepest conviction, that devoted teaching makes a difference in the lives of young people and that it helped them to fulfill their potentials as intellectuals, citizens, and as human beings.

Classics major Haley Tilt ’16 also earned the award. Both winners received a cash prize and a copy of David Copperfield in honor of Prof. Lankford’s love of Dickens.