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Anthropology’s Agwuele receives Fulbright award, Carnegie fellowship

Augustine Agwuele
Augustine Agwuele

By Ryan Thornton
Office of Media Relations
April 13, 2016

Augustine Agwuele, associate professor in the Texas State University Department of Anthropology, has been awarded both a Fulbright Scholar grant to Ethiopia for the 2016-2017 academic year and a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship to Kenya for the 2016 summer semester.

Agwuele is the fifth Texas State faculty member to receive a Fulbright grant in 2016, joining Peter Dedek, Christine Norton, Julie Nathanielsz and Omar López. This is the highest number of Fulbright faculty at Texas State since at least 2005.   

As a Fulbright Scholar, Agwuele will conduct linguistic research on nonverbal communicative gestures among both sighted and blind Amhara people. Agwuele will work in collaboration with two scholars in Ethiopia to document communicative nonverbal gestures that are typically subordinated by researchers to the study of spoken language.

“To me, the study of communicative gestures is invaluable to the study of a people’s language and culture in the same way that an understanding of the physical properties of speech is inevitable to linguistics,” Agwuele said. “These two areas are the focus of my Fulbright and Carnegie fellowship respectively.”

His research plans in Ethiopia are to integrate the study of the formal properties of language with the study of language, culture and society; to integrate nonverbal language into the description and documentation of African languages; to strengthen research on blind people; and to improve cross-cultural understanding and thereby reduce intercultural conflicts.

“Consider the fact that NASA found it necessary to include the drawing of a man with a raised arm and spread hand in its golden plaque which was affixed to the Pioneer Spacecraft,” said Agwuele. “NASA could have just as easily written the word hello. With the Fulbright to Ethiopia, we will be documenting communicative gestures, and with the Carnegie Fellowship we hope to set up a lab for study of the physical properties of Kisii speech sounds among other things.”

As a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellow, Agwuele will be working with faculty members at Kisii University Kenya to revise their linguistic curriculum and develop new linguistic courses. He will work to establish a phonetic laboratory for the scientific study of speech and train users in its operation, initiating a collaborative research project on Kisii language and culture that will continue after his fellowship.

The Fulbright program is administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars and is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the United States government. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United State and the people of other countries. For more than 60 years, U.S. faculty and professionals have taught, studied or conducted research abroad, and thousands of scholars from abroad have done similar work in the United States.

The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program (CADFP) is a scholar fellowship program for educational projects at African higher education institutions. Offered by IIE in partnership with the United States International University-Africa (USIU-Africa), the program in funded by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY).

For further information about the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, visit eca.state.gov/fulbright. For information on the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program, please visit www.iie.org/Programs/Carnegie-African-Diaspora-Fellows-Program.