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By Hannah Montgomery, Graduate Writer and Social Media Manager

Dr. Shayne Legassie, a professor of Comparative Literature at UNC, has recently been awarded a Mellon New Directions Fellowship to pursue ethnobotany.

The Mellon New Directions Fellowship encourages “the highest standards in cross-disciplinary research” by funding humanities and social science faculty members as they pursue the additional methodological training needed for interdisciplinary work.

Dr. Legassie plans to write a cultural history of how humans related to plants in the Middle Ages. In this study, he will incorporate the methodology of ethnobotany, which uses traditional knowledge and local customs to study how people of a particular culture use native plants. To do this, he plans to use his Mellon New Directions Fellowship to enroll in graduate courses on ethnobiology and environmental studies. Inspired by his research for his book, The Medieval Invention of Travel, he is particularly interested in human-plant interactions as a form of cross-cultural exchange. To incorporate “medieval” Mesoamerica into his analysis, he will study elementary Náhuatl and Mixtec at Columbia University and CUNY. Dr. Legassie will also participate in UNC’s Yucatec Maya Summer Institute, in Mérida, Mexico during the summer of 2020.

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