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Fellowship beckons ASU's Hopkins to Paris

July 05, 2006
The city of Paris has 390 public gardens, and more than 80 percent of these parks were constructed from 1850-1870 under the rule of Napoleon III.

The development of these “greenspaces” had an extraordinary effect on the city, its neighborhoods and the lives of ordinary Parisians. Although this period and process of urbanization in Paris has fascinated historians, none has considered the cultural impact and aesthetic sensibility of these natural spaces.

ASU doctoral student Richard Hopkins plans to change that.

His dissertation, “Engineering Nature: Public Greenspaces in 19th century Paris,” studies the social, cultural, political and environmental effects that these public gardens had on society during the Second Empire, and throughout subsequent regimes. His research explores the role that each of these greenspaces played in the creation of the metropolitan area, as well as a sense of how this constructed nature affected the understanding and daily use of city space.

In May, he was awarded a $20,000 International Dissertation Field Research Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council-American Council of Learned Societies (SSRC-ACLS) to conduct further research on the subject. The SSRC fellowship provides support to researchers whose work and ideas will have longer-term impact on society and scholarship.

Hopkins is the first ASU graduate student to receive this prestigious award. As part of the fellowship, Hopkins will spend the next academic year in France conducting field research.

“Receiving this recognition is an honor and a tremendous opportunity for me,” Hopkins says. “Not only is it an encouraging affirmation of my work thus far, but it also provides me with the kind of support that will allow me to remain in France for an extended period. While there, I intend to engage in significant archival research for my dissertation, as well as strengthen ties with French historians and scholars interested in the study of urban spaces.”

Hopkins completed his undergraduate studies in history at ASU in 2002. He entered the graduate program in history that same year and has worked closely ever since with his mentor, Rachel Fuchs.

Hopkins says that ASU has an outstanding program in French history, and he hopes that receiving this recognition will enhance the program's visibility internationally.

Hopkins, who will travel to Paris in September, is anticipating the next chapter in his life, and already has found himself an apartment in the heart of the city, just a few blocks away from several public gardens.

Getting the award couldn't have come at a more perfect time, he says.

“On a purely practical level, it will speed up completion of my dissertation and get me on the job market sooner,” he says, “so that I can find a university position somewhere doing what I love most: teaching, researching and writing about history.”