This post is part of a series where Rutgers grant and/or fellowship winners are invited to share their thoughts and experiences with the process of applying for funding in graduate school.
By Rafael Vizcaíno
Hello! My name is Rafael, and I am a recent Rutgers doctoral graduate (Class of 2020). I am a philosopher by training, having studied European philosophy during my undergraduate years at Northwestern University. For my Ph.D., I wanted to continue pursuing philosophy, but this time beyond the European tradition. I found a transdisciplinary approach under the guidance of Nelson Maldonado-Torres at Rutgers’ Program in Comparative Literature.
Over the last four years, my research has primarily focused on understanding how the conceptual distinction between the secular and the religious came about in modernity. Several scholars have recently clarified how this distinction essential to modern politics is rooted in the Christian and European colonization of the Global South i.e., Latin America, Africa, and Asia. My work gathers the tools of Latin American and Caribbean thought to articulate what is at stake in conceiving the secular/religious framing otherwise, beyond its colonialist inheritance.
My work primarily hopes to demonstrate the contributions of Latin American and Caribbean intellectual traditions to today’s most pressing global problems. For instance, my recent research on the secular/religious distinction contributes to a debate taking place all around the world regarding the presence of religious movements in global politics. This is a fact that has questioned the long-held assumption that modernity entails a linear process of secularization where religion slowly loses its social and political influence in public matters. This long-held assumption said that the more modernity advances, the more secular and the less religious the world would be. Of course, our reality could not be farther from such an account. Accordingly, many are now exploring what the relation between modernity and secularization actually entails. My work contributes to this debate a perspective grounded in Latin American and Caribbean thought, which is itself rooted in the histories of these regions. This is critical insofar as my work challenges the tendency in this debate to only explore the above question within the context of the European experience and European theoretical frameworks. Of course, this tendency is itself deeply rooted in how the academy has assumed for centuries that only European frameworks are capable of grounding valid theoretical analyzes of global issues. My eventual hope is that the 21st century will be the century when this tendency is overcome, and non-European frameworks are recognized for their valuable theoretical contributions to solving the problems that we face ahead.
Since my first year as an undergraduate student, I knew that I wanted to pursue the life of the mind. I am now fortunate enough to have landed my dream job near my family in Chicago, as Assistant Professor of Latin American philosophy. This concrete goal has been at the back of my head at every step of my research and professionalization over the last decade, including applications for research funding.
My experiences with the world of funding
During my time at Rutgers, I received many small research travel, conference travel, and special study grants from several university sources and from external sources. I also received two major dissertation completion awards: a grant from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, 80% of which I had to decline in order to maintain the other award as my primary source of funding during my sixth and last year of graduate study, which was a coveted Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship.
In the second part of this blog post, I will share with you in more depth my process for applying for external funding, the role of GradFund in these applications, and some of my recommendations for working through your applications.
You can follow Rafael on Twitter @RVizcainoR
To learn more about Rafael’s research check out his website https://rafaelvizcaino.com/