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UWinnipeg Welcomes Banting Postdoctoral Fellow

UWinnipeg Welcomes Banting Postdoctoral Fellow
UWinnipeg Welcomes Banting Postdoctoral Fellow

A new postdoctoral researcher from the University of Winnipeg with a PhD from Princeton University will begin a two-year research project funded by the prestigious Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Dr. Lucas McMahon is a medievalist specializing in Byzantium, the Eastern Roman Empire in the Middle Ages.

“I’m interested in the day-to-day impact of state institutions and infrastructure,” he said, “the kinds of things we take for granted but that are essential to the functioning of any form of politics, like roads, ports, and the tax system. More broadly, my interest is how the creation and maintenance of institutions and infrastructure are felt on the ground by the people who live around them, and how this contributes to the functioning of the state more broadly, including foreign affairs. It’s as relevant today as it was in the Middle Ages.”

Lucas brings significant expertise in digital humanities to the Classics Department.

Dr. Conor Whately

Dr. McMahon will receive $140,000 over two years to conduct a book-length research project, Information and Empire in New Rome.

“I frame my project around state attempts to control information, and use that to try to figure out where we see coercion and how the average person responds to it,” Dr. McMahon explained. “What we don’t have in Byzantium is the documentary sources that would show us what the average peasant or artisan would think, so an alternative approach is needed.”

The book examines border controls, counterintelligence tactics and other attempts to control state information.

“What I want to get at is how extensively the state was felt in the provinces through its institutions there,” Dr. McMahon said. “What it comes down to is an attempt to understand what we mean when we use the term ’empire’ in relation to Byzantium. As a field, we haven’t really had a conversation about empire, and if empire is ultimately about coercion, then I think it needs to be understood in the context of the people who experienced it firsthand.”

Dr. McMahon will be supervised by Dr. Conor Whately, Professor in the Department of Classics at the University of Wisconsin Innipeg.

“We are very pleased to have Lucas join the Classics Department and I am particularly looking forward to working with him over the next two years,” said Dr. Whately. “Among other things, Lucas will bring significant expertise in digital humanities to the Department. In addition to working on his book, we plan to collaborate on the visual and auditory experiences of Byzantine soldiers, which will involve visiting several landscapes in Manitoba as potential to share for parts of the Roman East.”

Dr. McMahon said he would like to work with Dr. Whately.

“I look forward to learning from him how to better use the history of emotions in my work, and to sharing my experience with historical maps and GIS (Geographic Information Systems).”

About Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships

Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships help Canadian institutions attract and retain highly qualified trainees. They provide funding to top postdoctoral candidates, both domestic and international, who will contribute to Canada’s growth.

This is only the second time that UWinnipeg has hosted a Banting. These grants are highly competitive and are awarded by the Canadian government’s three federal granting councils: the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

This year, 522 candidates competed for 70 available scholarships. Dr McMahon is one of 23 recipients in the SSHRC stream. Dr McMahon said it was a “complete shock” to hear he would receive a Banting.

“I had gone through the lists of previous holders of the fellowship and not many historians or classicists win them, rarely more than one or two a year,” he said. “I didn’t think my chances were very good.”

About Dr. McMahon

Dr. McMahon received his PhD in history from Princeton University in 2022, studying under the esteemed Byzantine historian John Haldon, former president of the international organization that oversees the discipline.

For the past two years, Dr. McMahon has held an SSHRC postdoctoral position at the University of Ottawa, where he earned a master’s degree in classics. He also holds a master’s degree in medieval studies from Central European University and a bachelor’s degree in ancient medieval history from the University of Calgary.

About Postdoctoral Fellows

Postdoctoral Fellows are individuals who have completed a doctoral degree within the past five years and are engaged in research and training under the supervision of a faculty member. There are currently 11 postdoctoral fellows at UWinnipeg who work with a variety of faculty members and students.

Their growing presence on campus is a testament to the quality of research conducted within UWinnipeg’s departments and faculties. It is also a reflection of UWinnipeg’s growing reputation for innovation and impactful research.

Applications for the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship 2024 will be accepted until August 1.