UWM faculty member awarded Fulbright Research Fellowship to France

Carolyn Eichner, an associate professor of history and women’s and gender studies, has been awarded a Fulbright Research Fellowship to France for 2022-23.

The award will allow Eichner to conduct more research for her upcoming book, “The Name: Legitimacy, Identity, and Gendered Citizenship.” Eichner specializes in the study of women and gender in 19th century France and the French empire.

“I am very thrilled and grateful for this honor,” said Eichner, who will spend most of the upcoming academic year in Paris.

Her book looks at the significance of first and last names to individuals, families, and communities, as well as how governments use names as a way of monitoring, controlling, counting and taxing populations. It also examines how those individuals and groups resisted government efforts to restrict names.

For instance, in the 19th century, French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte mandated that Jews take permanent last names as part of an effort to make France more inclusive, but also as a way to help to erase Jews’ cultural identity, Eichner said. Similar mandates would later be imposed on emancipated Black people in French Caribbean colonies, as well as Muslims in the French colony of Algeria.

Eichner said the idea for “The Name” emerged two decades ago while researching another book in 2004. She describes the new book as a historical work that will touch on contemporary issues such as whether women take a spouse’s last name at marriage, hyphenate or continue to use their birth name.

The text will explore societal norms like how men are not expected to change their names when they marry and “the way that our culture values men’s identity and individualism differently than it does women’s,” Eichner said.

It will also delve into reasons behind why immigrants sometimes assimilated to their countries by changing names.

Since its establishment in 1946 by Congress, the Fulbright Program has given more than 400,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation by the U.S. Congress to the State Department. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support.