Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellows

The Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships support a year of research and writing to help advanced graduate students in the humanities and social sciences in the last year of PhD dissertation writing. Now in its fifteenth year, the program has supported over 1,000 promising emerging scholars.

This program is made possible by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Read more about this fellowship program.

Please note: affiliations shown are as of time of award. Please click on fellows' names for current information.

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Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 

Sophia Balakian
Sophia Balakian  |  Abstract
In 2008, the US government suspended the Refugee Family Reunification Program after DNA tests showed that 80 percent of families, many based in Kenya, were “fraudulent.” This research begins with this case to examine discourses of fraud and antifraud practices to understand competing claims within a system that is motivated by humanitarianism and protecting refugees on one hand, and security and protecting borders and bureaucracies on the other. Here, the category family is particularly fraught. Institutions aiding refugees consider it both a critical object of care and a dangerous site for potential fraud. Attending to the intersection of a patchwork of bureaucratic institutions and refugees’ strategies for navigating them, this dissertation examines postcolonial regimes of truth production. Ethnographically tracing families from Nairobi to North America, it points out the ethical complexities of this humanitarian program as it shapes the borderlands between East Africa and the Global North.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  -  "The Fraudulent Family": Humanitarianism, Security, and Competing Ethical Claims in Refugee Resettlement from Kenya

George Anthony Keddie
George Anthony Keddie  |  Abstract
This project presents a new model of the relationship among apocalyptic textual production, class relations, and socioeconomic change in early Roman Palestine (63 BCE-70 CE). To demonstrate changing class relations, it marshals evidence from three neglected Jewish apocalyptic texts (Psalms of Solomon, Parables of Enoch, and Testament of Moses), the “Q source,” and archaeological sources. Theorizing class as a subjective social category constrained by economic structures, but also socially and culturally produced by social actors, it challenges the idea that apocalyptic texts represent popular resistance to economic oppression. Instead, it demonstrates that the producers of apocalyptic texts were politically invested sub-elites who strategically revealed the ideology of the emergent aristocracy as false in order to advance their own interests. In the process, they influenced the class dispositions of their audiences and induced a class struggle against their aristocratic rivals waged through material and ideological tactics rather than physical resistance.

Doctoral Candidate, Religious Studies, University of Texas at Austin  -  Revelations of Ideology: Apocalyptic Class Politics in Early Roman Palestine

Sara Ballance
Sara Ballance  |  Abstract
This project explores the changing construction of skilled musical listening within the Western art music tradition of the nineteenth century. Considering evidence from musical aesthetics, pedagogy, and scientific inquiry, it shows that during this period the ability to hear music in detailed and analytical ways superseded skills of performance as a central hallmark of musicality. This contradicted earlier models of musicianship that centered on the production of musical sound, revising eighteenth-century beliefs that a “musical ear” was a fixed characteristic that a person either had or did not. These new ideals of listening emanated in part from mid-century conservative musical aesthetics, but they also were enabled by scientific advances in the study of sensation and perception, and translated into practice through the emerging pedagogical discipline of ear training. In this way, the silent, internal act of listening became synonymous with musicality itself, serving as a powerful gatekeeper of musical identity.

Doctoral Candidate, Music, University of California, Santa Barbara  -  Learning to Listen: Musical Hearing and the Construction of Musicality in the Nineteenth Century

Soo-Young Kim
Soo-Young Kim  |  Abstract
How is the future brought into being as an object of knowledge, activity, and concern in the present? This project takes up this question in contemporary Greece, examining how discourses and practices oriented around the economy construct a future, and how they gain hold as both legitimate and routine modes of thinking about and acting upon that future. Through ethnographic study of expert and everyday practices in fields ranging from economic forecasting to social insurance and national taxation, the project further considers how concern with the future plays a key role in enabling ideas about the economy to take shape and become familiar. Ultimately, it offers an account of how the future becomes a critical site for establishing and contesting claims to knowledge, authority, and belonging in the present.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Columbia University  -  A Future Continuously Present: Everyday Economics in Athens

Joshua Paul Batts
Joshua Paul Batts  |  Abstract
This project examines the fraught diplomatic and commercial relations between the Tokugawa shogunate and the Habsburg Spanish empire in the early seventeenth century. Vessels from Japan called at Acapulco three times within a decade, challenging Spain’s control over trans-Pacific trade. Japanese commercial experiments and diplomatic outreach peaked with the Keichō Embassy to Southern Europe from 1613-1620, a failed attempt to establish regular contact between New Spain and northeastern Japan. Although a Spanish policy of containment foiled the embassy, it helped persuade the Tokugawa to divest from the relationship in the face of alternative commercial partners and ongoing religious tension. The shogunate then adopted a diplomatic framework premised on ostensibly hierarchical relations with little room to accommodate further engagement with the Spanish empire. The project contrasts Japanese leaders’ impulse toward expansion with Spanish caution, thereby inverting the established narrative of the archipelago’s insularity in its dealings with Iberian actors.

Doctoral Candidate, East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University  -  Circling the Waters: The Keicho Embassy and Japanese-Spanish Relations in the Early Seventeenth Century

Liz Koslov
Liz Koslov  |  Abstract
This project is an ethnographic study of managed retreat, the process of relocating people and unbuilding land in places vulnerable to rising seas, stronger storms, and other effects of climate change. It is based on fieldwork in the New York City borough of Staten Island, where hundreds of residents lobbied the government after Hurricane Sandy to buy out their damaged homes, returning neighborhoods to wetlands rather than rebuilding. By examining how a community organizes to disperse itself, the project investigates the social and cultural consequences of collective human movement away from the water. It argues that community-led retreat, unlike other forms of forced relocation and displacement, offers a socially just and environmentally sustainable way to adapt to climate change.

Doctoral Candidate, Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University  -  Retreat: Moving to Higher Ground in a Climate-Changed City

A.J. Bauer
A.J. Bauer  |  Abstract
From its outset, the modern conservative movement has been preoccupied with challenging the veracity of mainstream sources of information and developing standards of news judgment capable of rendering its worldview legible within the public sphere. This media activism arose as a response to theories of public opinion and media influence developed by progressive scholars during the interwar period, and codified in federal regulations and journalistic standards after World War II. Tracking conservative efforts to critique and influence news coverage from the 1940s through the 1990s, this project explores the origins of the “liberal media” trope, and how its construction enabled and shaped the rise of conservatism as a powerful political coalition and identification within the United States.

Doctoral Candidate, Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University  -  Before Fair and Balanced: Conservative Media Activism and the Rise of the New Right

Sharon Kunde
Sharon Kunde  |  Abstract
Early practitioners of American Studies championed formally innovative writing that featured narratives of human opposition to the environment. This project, by contrast, delineates an alternative canon of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American texts that, in their characterization of human interactions with the nonhuman world, challenge the notion of a clear, stable boundary between the self and the environment. These texts resist liberal enlightenment theories of the rational, autonomous subject by representing human subjectivity as unstable, elusive, and subject to external influences. In so doing they suggest that the seemingly sovereign liberal enlightenment subject depends on an exploitation and repression of aspects of the self that in turn authorize the exploitation and repression of other humans and of the nonhuman world. The porous subjectivities theorized by these texts can help reframe humans’ relationship with the ecosystem as well as understandings of the American literary tradition of writing about nature.

Doctoral Candidate, English, University of California, Irvine  -  Down in the Dirt: Undoing Transcendentalism

Alyse Bertenthal
Alyse Bertenthal  |  Abstract
This project examines the emergent forms and techniques of environmental governance as they have unfolded in the rich environmental history and contemporary environmental confrontations in the Owens Valley, California. Drawing from ethnographic and historical research, the dissertation asks how law addresses not only thorny issues of conservation and sustainability, but also how interlocking human and natural communities are to be organized and controlled. It goes beyond the boundaries of a single discipline to present a wide array of possibilities for understanding law’s conceptualization, interpretation, and practice. This approach offers new insights into doctrinal and policy disputes in environmental law and proposes a significant alternative to the hyper-technical, formalistic, and economic approaches that dominate the study of environmental regulation.

Doctoral Candidate, Criminology, Law, and Society, University of California, Irvine  -  (Un)Natural Law: Environmental Governance in the Owens Valley, California

Nicole Labruto
Nicole Labruto  |  Abstract
As energy becomes an ever more crucial aspect of addressing climate change, Brazilian scientists are reengineering sugarcane, which was once at the heart of the colonial project, to produce new forms of biofuels. This project, based on ethnographic fieldwork, examines the practices of Brazilian biological and social scientists as they create new energy-producing biotechnologies from the botanical life of the nation under the banners of green capitalism and sustainability. It argues that Brazilian science is becoming integral to a global bioenergy economy that operates in what the project calls a “plantation network”: a postcolonial agricultural formation that includes laboratories as obligatory passage points in the growing of plants to meet human needs and desires.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology  -  Growing Energy, Generating Plants: Brazilian Biofuel Science in the Age of Climate Change

Andrea L. Brock
Andrea L. Brock  |  Abstract
This project evaluates environmental stress in Rome during the first half of the first millennium BCE and the consequent human response, with specific consideration of the Forum Boarium valley, the early city’s primary commercial district. Using a combination of literary, archaeological, and environmental data, this project considers the powerful effects of flooding and sedimentation on Rome’s river harbor infrastructure, as well as landscape modification projects intended to assuage the effects of inundation. It marshals years of deep trench excavation and extensive coring survey in the Forum Boarium to address several ecological research questions that elucidate human-environment relationships in Rome, as early inhabitants adapted to and transformed the natural landscape. This project also uses three-dimensional digital visualizations to make this complicated dataset accessible to nonspecialists through a series of topographic reconstructions that depict this region during a pivotal epoch of urban and cultural growth in the Eternal City.

Doctoral Candidate, Classical Art and Archaeology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Rome at Its Core: Reconstructing the Environment and Topography of the Forum Boarium

Katherine Lennard
Katherine Lennard  |  Abstract
This cultural history of industrially produced Ku Klux Klan regalia in the early twentieth century argues that the Klan’s iconic white robes and hoods facilitated the revival, expansion, and eventual failure of the white supremacist order during this period. Drawing also on both material culture and visual studies, this project uncovers material practices that enabled the Klan’s design, production, distribution, and use of its regalia. Usually detached from its conditions of production, the white robe and hood continue to operate as an iconic image of racial violence well into the present. This project historicizes the image and probes into its unstable meaning in the early twentieth century by demonstrating how members, leaders, and critics of the organization used robes and hoods to grapple over the terms of whiteness, masculinity, US citizenship, and violence in their everyday lives.

Doctoral Candidate, American Culture, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Uniform Threat: Manufacturing the Ku Klux Klan’s Visible Empire, 1905-1937

Emily Brooks
Emily Brooks  |  Abstract
This project explores the technological, environmental, and cultural politics of California’s “hidden drought” from the perspective of small communities in southern California’s groundwater-dependent, rural Colorado Desert region. Through an ethnography following water scientists, technicians, policy makers, community leaders, and activists as they struggle to understand, model, protect, and sustain their local groundwater (and with it particular imaginaries of their local way of life), this study traces how the idea of hiddenness shapes the imagining and scaling of water problems. Within this context, the hidden drought emerges not as literal invisibility or absence, but in more complex forms as remotely sensed geology, unseen infrastructure, archival laws, secretive political regimes, and excluded stakeholders. By examining how water is made to matter in these places, this project engages with critical questions about the explanatory models, stakes, and scale of water for California’s past, present, and imagined future.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of California, Irvine  -  The Hidden Drought: Groundwater Politics in California’s Low Desert

Elizabeth Lhost
Elizabeth Lhost  |  Abstract
This project considers the role writing and documentation played in the modernization of Islamic legal practice in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century South Asia. Drawing on previously unexamined materials produced by qazis (Islamic judges) and muftis (jurisconsults)—including notebooks, registers, and files—the project considers the effects of bureaucratization in particular and legal modernization more generally on the everyday procedures and protocols of local legal practice. In so doing it brings together observations on the importance of paperwork in the exercise and extension of British imperial power with a critical understanding of the role print technologies played in the context of Islamic reform. It argues that the development of novel documentary forms in the nineteenth century paved the way for the emergence of a system of legal pluralism rooted in parallel procedures.

Doctoral Candidate, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and History, University of Chicago  -  Between Community and Qanun: Documenting Islamic Legal Practice in Nineteenth-Century South Asia

Tristan G. Brown
Tristan G. Brown  |  Abstract
In late imperial China, land was measured not just in quantifiable dimensions, but also by a community’s relationship to it. The harming of a lineage’s “earth vein” or a temple’s fengshui were valid legal claims in county courts. This project uses rare archival documentation and ritual manuscripts to show how geomancy was both a strategy employed by the local population of Nanbu County for the expression of property claims as well as a means by which the state judged and enforced those claims. It then reveals how new legal standards, tax regimes, and surveying techniques demanded a transformed relationship among state, subject, and earth in the twentieth century. This study thus brings Chinese and international legal history into conversation with religious territoriality and historical anthropology, and opens a window into the changing dynamics of property on the eve of the communist revolution.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Columbia University  -  The Veins of the Earth: Law, Geomancy, and the Transformation of Property in Modern China, 1865-1928

Marina Magloire
Marina Magloire  |  Abstract
This project uses the revolutionary potential of Caribbean religions to theorize black feminism between World War I and World War II. It argues that women artists and performers across the diaspora produced ethnographic and creative representations of Haitian vodou and its sister religions in order to formulate a radical pan-African feminism. Unlike accounts of the savagery and hedonism of a sensationalized “voodoo” perpetuated by white male travelers to Haiti, black women’s narratives of vodou focused specifically on its status as a theology of resistance. By reanimating apolitical narratives of voodoo with their original spiritual provenance in vodou, women of color laid claim to the political force of the religion behind the only successful slave revolt in the western hemisphere.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Duke University  -  Whosoever Doubts My Power: Conjuring Feminism in the Interwar Black Diaspora

Morgan Day Frank
Morgan Day Frank  |  Abstract
This project argues that the literature produced in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century anticipated and incited the institutional transformations associated with the emergence of the modern educational system. Scholars have tended to depict American literature as either fundamentally anti-institutional or irrevocably shaped by institutional forces. In contrast, this project demonstrates how turn-of-the-century literature demanded its own institutionalization at a time when the US educational system was fragmented and incapable of institutionalizing culture. Because writers like Henry James, Gertrude Stein, and Henry Adams were dissatisfied with the ways schools organized social experience, in their books they articulated a competing vision of how literature might cultivate its own wider, more discriminating audience. Ironically, this audience would only be summoned into existence by the twentieth-century educational system, the very institution writers of the period challenged and repudiated in their work.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Stanford University  -  Schools of Fiction: American Literature and the Modern Educational System, 1880-1920

Alexander M. Mazzaferro
Alexander M. Mazzaferro  |  Abstract
This project argues that elites in England’s seventeenth-century North American and Caribbean colonies developed a discourse of empirical political science grounded in eyewitness reportage in order to combat rebellion, or what writers in the period pejoratively called political innovation. Representational techniques borrowed from natural science—first-hand observation, detailed description, inductive interpretation—aided colonial leaders in predicting and thwarting the various forms of innovation threatening their settlements: mutiny, heresy, native warfare, slave insurrection. But this rigorous literary empiricism also brought to the fore the very anticolonial critique it was intended to silence. This critique focused on colonialism's elite-sponsored departures from precedent, including repressive new political, religious, and economic arrangements. The dissertation reframes the study of political writing by looking beyond the abstract, deductive genre of political philosophy, relocates the controversial right to innovate at the heart of emergent definitions of sovereignty, and recasts anticolonial rebellion as reactionary rather than radical.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Rutgers University-New Brunswick  -  “No Newe Enterprize”: Empirical Political Science and the Problem of Innovation in the Colonial English Americas

Brendan de Kenessey
Brendan de Kenessey  |  Abstract
This project investigates several speech acts that have the power to change moral obligations: promises, offers, commands, requests, agreements, and consent. It argues that each of these acts is a move within joint practical deliberation, the activity of deciding together what to do. These speech acts change people's moral obligations by proposing to make (or retract) joint decisions about what they will do. For example, when one person promises to read another person’s favorite book, this promise brings into force a joint decision between the two to the effect that the first person will read the book. This joint decision, in turn, grounds the first person's obligation to keep his or her promise. The dissertation defends this deliberative theory by developing an account of joint practical deliberation and showing how it can explain the moral force and significance of these acts in terms of the everyday activity of deciding together what to do.

Doctoral Candidate, Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology  -  Joint Practical Deliberation

Nikhil Menon
Nikhil Menon  |  Abstract
From 1950, the Planning Commission of India negotiated a unique marriage between parliamentary democracy and centralized economic planning—precisely when the Cold War made them seem fundamentally incompatible. This project argues that India’s Five Year Plans were more than a means of regulating an economy; planning was, in fact, an expansive project to shape the nature of Indian democracy and society. It proves that planning was simultaneously a technocratic exercise in directing the economy, a means of modern state building, and an attempt at a state-directed social transformation. Placing India within global debates on development, it maps the transnational flows of ideas, individuals, and institutions among India, the United States, Europe, and the Soviet Union.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Princeton University  -  Planned Democracy: Citizenship, Development, and the Practices of Planning in Independent India, 1947-1967

Rosanna Dent
Rosanna Dent  |  Abstract
Scholars around the world have long considered Indigenous bodies, families, and communities to be uniquely productive sites of research. This project examines how scientists from disparate human-centered fields, including genetics, anthropology, and public health, and Indigenous people have engaged one another since the 1950s in Brazil. Through a case study of the Xavante of Mato Grosso, it traces the evolution of transnational intellectual approaches to characterizing human biological and cultural diversity. It shows how Indigenous people have engaged in scientific knowledge making for their own social, economic, and political ends, and have, in the process, shaped the scholars and disciplines that sought to characterize them. Illuminating the practical, intellectual, and ethical challenges for both the subjects and the scientists, this dissertation contributes to the ongoing discussion of the limitations and possibilities of Indigenous subjects’ interests in finding adequate representation through contemporary research frameworks.

Doctoral Candidate, History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania  -  Studying Indigenous Brazil: The Xavante and the Human Sciences, 1958-2015

Noémie Ndiaye
Noémie Ndiaye  |  Abstract
This project dissects the stagecraft used in seventeenth-century theater to represent and racialize Africans and Afro-descendants in England, France, and Spain, three European colonial powers that heavily engaged in color-based slavery in the early modern period. It uses close readings of plays, paratexts, and historical records to reconstruct the way Africans looked, sounded, and moved on European stages, focusing on techniques of embodiment such as blackface, blackspeak, and black dance. It also discusses the effect of those techniques, which circulated among French, English, and Spanish theatrical cultures, on early modern audiences. Because they were embedded in ideological constructs tied to historical, social, and colonial contexts, these theatrical techniques worked differently in England, France, and Spain. However, their racializing effect manifests the emergence of a common Atlantic consciousness of race.

Doctoral Candidate, English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University  -  Marking Blackness: Embodied Techniques of Racialization in Seventeenth-Century European Theater

Samuel Dolbee
Samuel Dolbee  |  Abstract
This project follows nomads, locusts, and cholera to understand mobility, environment, and power in the Jazira, the steppe region between the Euphrates and the Tigris. By exploring space as coproduced by Ottoman provincial boundaries and swarms of locusts alike, the project unearths human and non-human infrastructures beginning with imperial reforms of the 1850s. Moreover, it traces how the mobility of people, insects, and disease, set in motion in the Ottoman period, persisted and changed after the establishment of borders between British Iraq, French Syria, and Turkey. The dissertation thus presents the borders not simply as products of diplomacy or discourse, but rather grounds their development in sedentary agriculture, germ theory of disease, and synthetic pesticides. It ultimately recasts the simultaneous processes of integration and fragmentation in the post-Ottoman Middle East in terms of Ottoman precedents, while also connecting these developments to global environmental changes more broadly.

Doctoral Candidate, History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, New York University  -  The Locust and the Starling: People, Insects, and Disease in the Ottoman Jazira and After, 1860-1930

Huong Thi Diu Nguyen
Huong Thi Diu Nguyen  |  Abstract
The extensive scholarly focus on political and military activities, and the comparative neglect of social and cultural change, particularly in the understudied central region of a divided Vietnam, has become a significant gap in studies of the Vietnam War in both Vietnam and the United States. Concentrating on changes in lifestyle, social relations, and cultural activities, this project exposes the experiences of people of all walks of life and emphasizes the voices of common people before the January 1968 Tet Offensive. In Hue, the former imperial capital and national center of education, religion, and culture, the war was probably not always so immediately felt in daily life. Based on archival research and oral histories inside and outside Vietnam, this grassroots history investigates how war affected the social life of ordinary people in this central Vietnamese city during a critical period in the Vietnam War.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Washington  -  Living the Vietnam War: A Social History of the City of Hue, 1957-1967

Patrick Ellis
Patrick Ellis  |  Abstract
The aerial view was widely democratized prior to commercial flight. This media archaeology details the practice of terrestrial aerial views presented as cartographic spectacles in the long nineteenth century. The project considers panorama paintings that reproduced the view from above; models of cities that served as proxies for a balloon view; observation rides that provided slow-moving, elevated vistas of cities; and filmic simulations of flight in the earliest years of cinema. Although these bird’s-eye art forms have largely been forgotten, this project, based on extensive archival research, resurrects these lacunae as “aeroscopics.” Aeroscopics fundamentally skew the epistemology of the cartographic: time slows, scale shifts, and what was a quality of observation becomes instead intoxication. This interdisciplinary investigation into “old media” has implications for the new, answering a fundamental question: how do cultures mediate technological disorientation?

Doctoral Candidate, Film and Media, University of California, Berkeley  -  Aeroscopics: Cartographic Spectacles from Panorama to Film

Samuel Parler
Samuel Parler  |  Abstract
Most popular histories of country music characterize the genre as the “white man’s blues,” locating its origins in an authentic white Anglo-Saxon and Appalachian folk culture. This project challenges that narrative by examining the racial politics of commercial country music during its formative decades. Focusing on four seminal performers from different racial backgrounds— Gene Autry, DeFord Bailey, Sol Ho’opi’i, and Carson Robison—this project combines musicological, historical, and sociological perspectives to demonstrate country music’s often overlooked multiracial performance history. Country music’s white identity was not inherent, but rather was achieved largely through a white nationalist rhetoric emerging in the 1940s, motivated by white, working-class anxieties over the genre’s cultural prestige. By engaging with whiteness as a social and musical construct, this project critiques the tendency in popular music historiography to segregate genres by race.

Doctoral Candidate, Music, Harvard University  -  Musical Racialism and Racial Nationalism in Commercial Country Music, 1915-1953

Rachel Ellis
Rachel Ellis  |  Abstract
Today, over 1.2 million women in the United States are under the supervision of the adult correctional system. Yet, despite the historical relationship between contemporary punishment and religious rehabilitation, there has been little attention to the impact of religion on the lives of incarcerated women. This project draws upon 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork inside a state women’s prison. It demonstrates how religion, central to many inmates’ daily activities, impacts their freedoms and privileges behind prison walls by providing material benefits, social outcomes of support and status, and an alternative framework for interpreting incarceration. This project will not only illuminate the role of religion in these women’s lives, but will also more broadly examine how some of the most disadvantaged Americans engage with religion to cope with the hardships they face in everyday life.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, University of Pennsylvania  -  Conviction behind Bars: Religion in a Twenty-First-Century American Women’s Prison

James Phillips
James Phillips  |  Abstract
This project focuses on a cluster of interrelated disciplines known in Russia as the psychoneurological sciences—including neurology, psychology, pedology, and psychotechnics. These disciplines together promised to provide a unified and comprehensive science of the human subject in the first half of the twentieth century. It examines how these sciences constructed “human material” as an object of study, an object of knowledge, and an object of political transformation, from the 1904 inception of the Psychoneurological Institute through the proliferation of the sciences in the first decade of Soviet power, to their demise in the 1930s. Placing Bolshevik ambitions for the creation of a “New Man” within this broader chronological and intellectual frame, the dissertation offers a reinterpretation of the early Soviet revolutionary project.

Doctoral Candidate, History, New York University  -  Human Material: Psychoneurology and the Science of the New Man in Russia and the Soviet Union, 1904-1938

Joanna Fiduccia
Joanna Fiduccia  |  Abstract
In 1935, Alberto Giacometti disavowed his abstract surrealist sculpture and set about producing miniature figurines and portrait busts—a return to figuration that, like the broader “return to order” of interwar aesthetics, has been credited to psychological, political, or economic crises. In the 1930s and 40s, this rhetoric of crisis took shape in sculptural metaphors for the political subject that molded and were molded by figurative sculpture. Reframing Giacometti’s miniatures within these emergent interactions, this dissertation argues that these sculptural and discursive figurations of crisis treat it not as a psychic or structural breakdown, but rather as the convergence of two competing models for the subject: the monument and the commodity. Through close analysis of Giacometti’s sculptures and designs alongside his contemporaries’ political and philosophical writings, it positions his miniatures in this major narrative, and identifies new frameworks for the relation of aesthetic form to political tendency.

Doctoral Candidate, Art History, University of California, Los Angeles  -  Hollow Man: Alberto Giacometti and the Crisis of the Monument, 1935-1946

Samuel Reis-Dennis
Samuel Reis-Dennis  |  Abstract
This project defends a new approach to philosophical questions of moral responsibility by considering the justification of angry blame. It shows how devotion to control, quality of will, and self-disclosure-based theories of responsibility threatens to warp conceptions of both blameworthiness and blameworthy agents. To replace these models, the dissertation argues for the rejection of abstract metaphysical conditions of responsibility altogether. Theorizing about the legitimacy of blame should focus, instead, on an action’s meaning informed by its context and consequences, and on the ethics of response informed by an understanding of justified reactive practices. To contribute to this understanding of the norms of justified reaction, the dissertation offers an account of the role of anger in moral life, suggesting that angry blame is characteristically responsive to threats to relative status and that its effectiveness is due to its scariness—its tendency to signal a willingness to fight for respect.

Doctoral Candidate, Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  -  I Do Blame You: Responsibility in Real Life

Mark D. Fisher
Mark D. Fisher  |  Abstract
This project extends the historical turn in the history of political thought to the study of Thucydides by examining his portrayal and analysis of Athenian democracy within its fifth-century Greek intellectual context. It argues that Thucydides did not conceptualize democracy as an entirely novel form of rule nor as wholly anti-tyrannical, but rather as an advanced form of heroic autocracy. Drawing on traditional symbols, explanatory frameworks, and literary tropes associated with heroic kingship, Thucydides redescribes Athenian democracy as a collective tragic hero. At the same time, he uses rationalistic modes of analysis characteristic of fifth-century Greek science to diagnose the ways in which the heroic democracy differed from and surpassed previous autocratic forms of rule. The result was an interpretation of Athenian democracy that was deeply original, overturning contemporary assumptions about the inherent egalitarianism of popular rule while embracing its unique value and greatness.

Doctoral Candidate, Political Science, University of California, Berkeley  -  Democracy, Autocracy, and Democratic Heroism in Thucydides' Peloponnesian War

Erin Reitz
Erin Reitz  |  Abstract
This project—the first comprehensive art historical study of Black Panthers imagery—brings into focus the centrality of the Panthers’ image-making to their revolutionary ideology, identifying how the scenes pictured in their artworks were intended to relate viewers to the actual places that the organization wanted to occupy and liberate. The dissertation explores the drawings, paintings, photographs, and films that publicized the Panthers’ activities and interests in far-reaching geographies. It traces the expansion of their political ambitions, from their grassroots beginnings in the Bay Area through their period of strategic internationalism, which culminated in the founding of an international headquarters in Algiers. By emphasizing that Panther artists pointedly situated their work outside the institutional and discursive bounds of the art world, this project reframes dominant art historical narratives about the formal, spatial, and political concerns of 1960s and 1970s art.

Doctoral Candidate, Art History, Northwestern University  -  From Oakland to Outer Space: The Political Geographies of the Black Panthers, 1966-1982

Stephanie Lynn Freeman
Stephanie Lynn Freeman  |  Abstract
The 1980s was a unique decade during which the radical goal of nuclear abolition enjoyed staunch support from both grassroots movements across the globe and the leaders of the two superpowers, US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. This project assesses nuclear abolitionists’ influence on the trajectory of the Cold War's last decade. By examining both grassroots and government nuclear abolitionists’ visions of the end of the Cold War, as well as their influence on US and Soviet arms control and European policies, this project reveals the unappreciated yet important role that nuclear abolitionists played in the Cold War’s endgame. Drawing on multinational and multilingual archival materials, this project reshapes the explanation of why the Cold War ended.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Virginia  -  Looking over the Horizon: Nuclear Abolitionism and the End of the Cold War, 1979-1989

Sarah Roth
Sarah Roth  |  Abstract
The reproductive matrix—conception, pregnancy, birth, and lactation—is hidden in Victorian novels, but hidden imperfectly. Although depictions are infrequent and peripheral, they are also ubiquitous. This project examines the resulting oddity, arguing that the novel’s repression of reproduction operates differently, and for a different purpose, than its repression of sexuality. By juxtaposing the novel’s accounts of the reproductive matrix with those of contemporary obstetric texts, advice books, sex manuals, popular periodicals, contraceptive pamphlets, and women’s own letters and diaries, the project offers a rhetorical context for the reproductive matrix that undermines some popular and scholarly commonplaces about Victorian femininity, motherhood, and sexuality. The cultural distinction between the fallen woman and the respectable wife tends to collapse when reproduction is described. This suggests that scholars’ understanding of the novel’s social conservatism is oversimplified. This project offers a more nuanced understanding of reproduction’s cultural impact.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Northwestern University  -  An Interesting Situation: Reproduction and the Un-Domestication of the Victorian Novel

Margaret Gaida
Margaret Gaida  |  Abstract
This project examines the transmission and reception in medieval and Renaissance Europe of the Introduction to Astrology, written by the tenth-century Arabic author al-Qabīṣī, known to his Latin readers as Alcabitius. First composed in Aleppo and translated into Latin in the twelfth century, the work became one of the most influential texts on astrology in medieval and early modern Europe, particularly at universities. A close study of different forms of readership—translations, annotations, commentaries, and materialities—demonstrates how attitudes and perceptions of Arabic astrology shifted or remained stable among diverse groups of medieval and early modern readers in Europe. The readership of the Latin manuscript and print traditions, understood in conjunction with a contextualized study of the Arabic original, reveals how the astrological tradition in Europe emerged and evolved by assimilating and adapting Islamic ideas.

Doctoral Candidate, History of Science, University of Oklahoma  -  Encounters with Alcabitius: Reading Arabic Astrology in the Latin West, 950-1560

Tom Sapsford
Tom Sapsford  |  Abstract
The kinaidos is a type of person noted in classical literature both for effeminacy and for untoward sexual behavior, yet the term kinaidos/cinaedus is also used as an occupational category in extant Greek and Latin sources to describe a performer of lewd dance and speech. Modern scholars have seen this figure as evidence for either the presence or absence of sexual identity in the pre-modern world. This project explores how the kinaidos is more broadly represented in the Greek, Greco-Roman Egyptian, and Roman worlds by analyzing canonical authors, such as Plato, Demosthenes, Plautus, Catullus, and Juvenal, alongside documentary sources and popular literary genres such as mime and the ancient novel. It argues that the kinaidos is significant on multiple axes of difference—including status, ethnicity, profession, and religious affiliation—which makes it relevant beyond the double lenses of gender and sexuality through which it has most often been viewed.

Doctoral Candidate, Classics, University of Southern California  -  The Life of the Kinaidoi

Filippo Gianferrari
Filippo Gianferrari  |  Abstract
In late thirteenth-century Italy, literacy had become accessible to a significant portion of the lay population. It thus became a crucial means to the middle class’s cultural and political empowerment, and to the secularization of learning. This project investigates how minor Latin authors that were read in thirteenth-century schools shaped Dante’s hermeneutic posture toward classical, pagan literature. As this study shows, these school authors offered a particular type of classical reception that provided a Christianizing access to the ancient authors and had a major impact on Dante’s poetics. The study analyzes six Latin school texts—the Latin Aesop, the Disticha Catonis, the Ecloga Theoduli, Henry of Settimello’s Elegia, Statius’s Achilleid, and Claudian’s De raptu Proserpinae—and integrates a paleographical analysis of selected medieval school books, their commentaries, and glosses to reconstruct these texts’ medieval readership.

Doctoral Candidate, Medieval Institute, University of Notre Dame  -  Dante and Thirteenth-Century Latin Education: A Study in Medieval Christian Humanism

Cheryl Mei-ting Schmitz
Cheryl Mei-ting Schmitz  |  Abstract
Chinese interventions on the African continent have recently become the object of heated debate in both academic and popular circles. Moving beyond questions of whether China is helpful or harmful to Africa, or whether Chinese economic diplomacy constitutes a threat to Western hegemony, this project examines the meaning of globalization, cultural difference, and the ethical quandaries of money-making through the lived experiences of Chinese expatriate workers, Angolan citizens, and other international actors involved in the profitable reconstruction of postwar Angola. Based on extended ethnographic research in both Angola and China, this dissertation focuses on situated moments of moral conflict to show how subjects themselves reflect upon the fraught question of Chinese global expansion.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley  -  Another Day of Work: The Morality of Chinese Money in Postwar Angola

Anne Gillman
Anne Gillman  |  Abstract
This project examines the role of cultural policy in fostering emergent forms of state-society engagement in Brazil. Based on interviews and participant-observation in three Brazilian states, it explores how tensions between societal cultural practices and state bureaucratic procedures within the Brazilian Pontos de Cultura program, a policy to recognize and fund cultural initiatives of excluded populations, compel ongoing interactions between marginalized artists and state agents. While encounters with bureaucracy might be expected to exacerbate the alienation of subaltern groups, here marginalized individuals’ status as valued culture makers contributes to collaborations across the state-society divide that lead to learning and accommodations on both sides. Linking changes in abstract systems of meaning about who belongs in the polity to changes in technical details of state administration, the research shows both as necessary to construct a state capable of reaching and responding to the whole of its citizenry.

Doctoral Candidate, Political Science, Johns Hopkins University  -  Making Culture, Moving Margins: State-Society Interactions within Brazilian Cultural Policy

Aarti Sethi
Aarti Sethi  |  Abstract
Over 250,000 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1995. Scholarly accounts link farmers’ suicides to an economy of peasant indebtedness and the industrialization of agriculture in the early 1990s. This project focuses ethnographic attention on suicides in the cotton-growing region of Vidarbha. It uses debt relations to understand social and ethical obligation in the wake of late-capitalist transformations of the agrarian landscape. It shows that as debt becomes an inseparable component of the productive process, it is viewed not as a hindrance, but rather as vital to ethical obligation. Usurious interest rates become grounds for negotiating social and familial proximity, and monetary debt becomes the language through which other exchanges, such as honor and gifts, receive meaning. The project revisits anthropological investments in debtor-creditor relations as the condition of sociality, and recent critiques of the governance of debt in late capitalism as the conversion of public wealth into private liability.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Columbia University  -  The Life of Debt in Rural India

Timothy M. Griffiths
Timothy M. Griffiths  |  Abstract
This project situates post-Reconstruction black American culture in the genealogy of queer American studies. Rather than using queer theory as a way to understand black uplift, Bricolage Propriety allows late-nineteenth-century black culture to inform queer theory, which is typically centered on white gay male culture. Focused on archival documents and novels by Charles W. Chesnutt, Pauline E. Hopkins, Sutton Griggs, Thomas Nelson Page, William Hannibal Thomas, and Thomas Dixon, Jr., this project illuminates inventions of and challenges to black sexual propriety in late-nineteenth-century culture. Moreover, it argues that this archive not only calls into question the purity and novelty of queer antinormativity in the present, but further illustrates the constitutive relationship between performances of blackness and American theories of sexual propriety throughout US history.

Doctoral Candidate, English, City University of New York, The Graduate Center  -  Bricolage Propriety: The Queer Practice of Black Uplift, 1890-1905

William E.B. Sherman
William E.B. Sherman  |  Abstract
This project, which was awarded the Pirzada Prize from the Institute for South Asia Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, analyzes a sixteenth-century Sufi messianic movement known as the Roshaniyya (“people of light”) that was popular among Afghans on the frontier of the Mughal Empire. While Roshaniyya and Mughal armies clashed, there was a more profound contest over the nature of language and divine revelation. How does a vernacular language become the language of God? Out of this contest, new forms of imagining Afghan identity emerged, as did a Pashto literary movement. By telling a history of the practice of revelation along the Afghan frontier, this project rejects the overemphasis of tribe and ethnicity as categories that isolate the Roshaniyya movement. Rather, the Roshaniyya experimentation with language reveals both that Afghans were active participants in the religious landscapes of the early modern Persianate world, and that the nature of Islamic revelation was by no means settled in this period.

Doctoral Candidate, Religious Studies, Stanford University  -  Mountains and Messiahs: Revelation, Language, and Afghan Becomings

Angelina Grigoryeva
Angelina Grigoryeva  |  Abstract
The project provides a theoretically guided empirical description of household financial practices in the era of mass-participatory finance and reveals their role in wealth mobility as a novel mechanism of inequality. First, it identifies three distinctive patterns of use of financial products and services, as well as a number of other financial habits. Next, it demonstrates that the financial practices of the disadvantaged result in downward wealth mobility while the financial practices of the privileged facilitate upward wealth mobility, above and beyond standard explanations considered in the literature. The analyses span from the 1980s, when the trends of mass-participatory finance and growing wealth inequality had just begun in the United States, to the late 2000s, when both trends were well underway.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, Princeton University  -  Mass Participatory Finance in the Era of Growing Inequality

Evelyn Shih
Evelyn Shih  |  Abstract
This project investigates how comic works in Taiwan and South Korea generated counterpublics during the Cold War. Developmentalism and anti-Communist ideology may have smothered heterogeneous discourse in both US-allied countries, but comic works eluded censorship by eschewing sobriety. Cultural material, including cartoons, radio, film, and literature indirectly indexed the anxieties and discontent of the masses. By consuming these works and joining in collective laughter, the public could engage in fleeting thought transgression. The project asks what it means to address social tension through a comic aesthetic, and why a pronounced comic aesthetic was necessary during the Cold War in the Asian Pacific region. It argues that the comic aesthetic encapsulated a certain worldview, tells a new story of becoming, and demonstrates the fluidity of subjectivities within the matrices of social structure, ideology, and the imagination of self and nation in the world.

Doctoral Candidate, East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California, Berkeley  -  The Cold War Comic: Power and Laughter in Taiwan and South Korea, 1948-1979

George Charles Halvorson
George Charles Halvorson  |  Abstract
Fifty years ago, the environmental movement convinced Americans that strong regulations were needed to protect human health and the natural world against the compounding detritus of industrial society. Meanwhile, environmental economists argued that markets should value the environment by pricing the social effects of degradation. Congress followed the environmentalists, passing legislation in the early 1970s to protect the public from noxious emissions and effluents, regardless of price. But as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quickly discovered, defending major regulatory interventions against criticism from industry required environmental advocates to convincingly establish the economic benefits of environmental protection. Thus, this project tells the story of how the natural environment acquired economic value. By leaning on cost/benefit analysis to justify regulations, EPA contributed to the ascendance of economics in policymaking; yet by simultaneously rejecting economists’ calls to let markets price the environment, EPA perpetuated moral and romantic values written into the 1970s legislation.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Columbia University  -  Valuing the Air: The Politics of Environmental Regulation from the Clean Air Act to Carbon Trading

Adriana Monica Solomon
Adriana Monica Solomon  |  Abstract
The project casts a new light on the foundations of modern science by focusing on the conceptualization of force in the project of Newton’s Principia and in subsequent debates in Europe. Bringing together research in the history and philosophy of natural sciences in both England and Europe, the main focus is the conceptual emergence of a new understanding of circular motion and of composition of mathematical forces by analyzing not only their central role in the Principia, but also by taking into considerations a series of earlier manuscripts. It then develops their broader significance for the metaphysics of space and time in the history of the philosophy of science. The dissertation applies this new understanding to the debates over the nature of force in the first half of the eighteenth century and to current scholarship in philosophy of science.

Doctoral Candidate, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Notre Dame  -  On the Interaction between Mathematical Methods and Metaphysics in Isaac Newton’s Writings: The Case of Mathematical Forces

Lenora Hanson
Lenora Hanson  |  Abstract
In 1816, S.T. Coleridge wrote that “the frame of the man is the perfect frame of the state,” thus formulating the anthropocentric politics with which critics of romanticism have long since identified it. This project attends to a parallel poetics that unsettles Coleridge’s organic metaphor of human and state formation. It examines a poetics of riotous—rather than lawful—life, one that analogizes nonhuman life (both plant and animal) to disruptions of British empire (from urban uprisings to slave marronage). Ultimately, this project argues that in romantic rhetoric the pairing of politics and life cannot be reduced to “the frame of the man." It thus offers an important reminder that although the sovereign relation between the human and the state was proposed in the romantic period, it was articulated through the ongoing repression of other possible arrangements between living forms and political force.

Doctoral Candidate, English, University of Wisconsin-Madison  -  Riotous Life: The Rhetoric and Politics of Romantic Organisms

Swati Srivastava
Swati Srivastava  |  Abstract
How is sovereignty negotiated between public and private authorities in international politics? How do these power dynamics change over time? This project uses archival data, comparative historical methods, and an interpretive methodology to investigate private actors who deploy international violence, rules, and ideology. It leverages an understanding of public-private sovereign negotiations in the English East India Company from 1650 to 1789 to better situate the contemporary sovereignty challengers of Blackwater, the International Chamber of Commerce, and Amnesty International. The project shows that rather than representing a threat to state sovereignty, private actors create various configurations of sovereignty together with the state, obscuring who counts as public and private in the first place. Such reorientation maps the multi-sited networks of global power and foregrounds privatized action within a broader history of sovereign governance.

Doctoral Candidate, Political Science, Northwestern University  -  Configurations of Sovereignty: Public and Private Authority Negotiations in World Politics

Sonia Hazard
Sonia Hazard  |  Abstract
This project analyzes the reception of evangelical popular print media in the United States between 1825 and 1860, a key stage in the history of mass reproduction. It specifically examines the reception of tracts, books, and periodicals produced by the American Tract Society, the most prolific publisher in antebellum America. Demonstrating that print media provides more than containers for words, it argues that antebellum Americans primarily encountered religious print as a visual, tactile, and affective event. The project’s textual and material archival research reconstructs four predominant sensorial ways in which Americans encountered the power of religious print: through discipline, consumption, play, and initiation.

Doctoral Candidate, Religion, Duke University  -  The Touch of the Word: Evangelical Cultures of Print in Antebellum America

Alexander Statman
Alexander Statman  |  Abstract
At the end of the Enlightenment, some French savants came to criticize China because it seemed stuck in the past; others praised it for the same reason. For those who challenged the emerging view of progress, China had much to offer. Like gunpowder, printing, and the compass, all new European science might have had ancient Chinese antecedents. Had Daoist alchemists built the first hot-air balloons? Was the theory of animal magnetism prefigured by yin-yang cosmology? Scholars looked to Beijing to investigate. There, the ex-Jesuit missionary Joseph-Marie Amiot fostered a global conversation that included a French statesman, a Swiss freemason, a Chinese barber, and a Manchu prince. Together, they searched for Atlantis, discovered kung-fu, and invented Tarot card divination. In the process, they cemented the view of timeless China and paved the way for modern sinology. This dissertation shows how Europeans claimed for themselves a monopoly on progress and recast China as a land of mysterious alternatives.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Stanford University  -  A Global Enlightenment: History, Science, and the Birth of Sinology

Jacob Hobson
Jacob Hobson  |  Abstract
Any literate Anglo-Saxon studied biblical exegesis, a mode of reading that moves from historical analysis to the allegorical description of moral action and its consequences in the afterlife. The salvation history constructed through such exegetical theory, inherited from patristic and continental scholars, formed the absolute and universal horizon of present action. At the same time, each writer saw this horizon approaching at different rates, and no two writers perceived the shape of its curve in quite the same way. Drawing on history and literary theory, this project shows how Anglo-Saxon writers use and adapt exegetical theory to situate their audiences within the morally charged progress of salvation history, producing the Anglo-Saxon subject as a conscious actor in this history.

Doctoral Candidate, English, University of California, Berkeley  -  Exegetical Theory and Textual Communities in Late Anglo-Saxon England

Alexandra J. Steinlight
Alexandra J. Steinlight  |  Abstract
This project explores the fate of France’s wartime archives during the three decades following World War II. Rather than treating the construction of archives as a top-down phenomenon driven by the state’s patrimonial politics, it argues that the project of processing the past was an undertaking shared—and contested—by an array of actors, including renowned scholars, archival functionaries, government officials, local notables, erudite amateurs, and resistance veterans. The relationship between state authority and the archive, often regarded as mutually constitutive, emerges in this account as inherently unstable. This dissertation suggests that the creation of archives functioned as a critical site of contestation over the remaking of the state, the pursuit of justice, the meaning of the war, and the writing of history.

Doctoral Candidate, History, New York University  -  Salvaging Paper, Capturing Experience: Constructing France’s Wartime Archives, 1944-1979

Morgan Hoke
Morgan Hoke  |  Abstract
This research examines how social and economic inequalities are perpetuated in populations through the biological and social mechanism of infant feeding. Cultural, ecological, and economic forces influence infant feeding patterns that in turn affect infant health, growth, and later life outcomes. The research is conducted in the highland district of Nuñoa, Peru, where development efforts and infrastructural growth are fueling increasing socioeconomic stratification among a once relatively homogenous population. This study uses qualitative and quantitative methods, including participant observation, interviews, household surveys, and health measures, to show that in the context of emergent economies, improved socioeconomic status does not always translate into straightforward improvements in health.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Northwestern University  -  Feeding Babies, Feeding Inequalities: An Examination of Changing Economic Activity, Infant Feeding, and Early Growth in Nuñoa, Peru

Paige L. Sweet
Paige L. Sweet  |  Abstract
Centered on the concept of trauma, this project examines how processes of medicalization affect domestic violence politics, service provision, and the ways in which women understand and tell stories about their abuse. Through the site of trauma this project links macro-level political shifts in anti-violence feminism and medicine with micro-level transformations in women’s narratives of abuse and their interactions with service providers. Using in-depth interviews and archival research, this project tracks how feminist politics become entangled with biomedicine through the concept of domestic violence trauma, how that concept is made into a reality via professional practices, and how women negotiate this new reality in their stories of survival and transformation.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago  -  Trauma, Domestic Violence, and Hybrid Medicalization

Joshua A. Hubbard
Joshua A. Hubbard  |  Abstract
In the 1920s, the aims of international health organizations, a nationalistic revolution, and rising US influence converged on the reproductive functions of Chinese women. While the intertwined projects of philanthropy, nation-building, and imperialism relied on biomedical understandings of women’s bodies to differentiate between those fit to provide aid and those in need, Chinese feminists operating within their own transnational networks appropriated the facts of maternal and infant mortality to demand constitutional protections for women’s health and welfare. This project probes the reciprocal relations among these diverse actors to examine why the mundane acts of childbirth and mothering proved integral to Chinese nationalism, transnational feminisms, global health, and a realignment of political power in the interwar world. Through a macropolitical analysis of archival sources from China, Taiwan, Switzerland, and the United States, this project contributes new analytical tools for Chinese history, transnational histories of gender and medicine, and feminist theory.

Doctoral Candidate, History and Women's Studies, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Reproductive Subjects: The Global Politics of Health in Nationalist China

Kathryn Takabvirwa
Kathryn Takabvirwa  |  Abstract
People’s ability to move is highly regulated, often in ways they are unaware of, through vehicle registration, licenses, passports, and stop signs. What happens when the everyday, almost gossamer conditions of mobility suddenly harden? This study examines the policing of everyday life in Zimbabwe, in the wake of staggering economic crisis. In 2008, inflation hit 89.7 sextillion percent and between 10 and 42 percent of the population left the country or began migrating regularly between Zimbabwe and South Africa. In the wake of these exceptional conditions, there has been an explosion of official police roadblocks throughout the country. Based on 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Zimbabwe, this dissertation examines roadblocks as key sites of engagement between citizens and the state in this post-crisis climate. It explores the ways people’s conceptions of mobility, governance, and citizenship are expressed and transformed in the face of immediate and constant regulation.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Stanford University  -  On the Threshing Floor: Roadblocks and the Policing of Everyday Life in Post-Crisis Zimbabwe

Tyler Huismann
Tyler Huismann  |  Abstract
This project focuses on a neglected concept in Aristotle’s theory of causation: the notion of accidental causation. Accidental causes have never been given an extended analysis in the way that other parts of Aristotle’s theory of causation have. However, there are compelling features of Aristotle’s theory of causation that have long lain hidden, features that are only brought to light through a consideration of accidental causation. These features provide a lens through which Aristotle’s theory becomes neither as distant nor as easily debunked as contemporary philosophers argue. Moreover, because Aristotle mentions accidental causes in connection with a variety of topics, a better understanding of accidental causes sheds light on many deeply contested aspects of his philosophy.

Doctoral Candidate, Philosophy, University of Colorado Boulder  -  Aristotle on Accidental Causation

Emily Morgan Talbot
Emily Morgan Talbot  |  Abstract
This project analyzes the integration of photography into the production and interpretation of pictorial art made in Europe during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. In contrast to traditional narratives of cross-media exchange that emphasize artists’ visual responses to new technologies, this dissertation shifts attention from the visible to the invisible realms, arguing that photography’s effects reveal themselves through a discursive history and theory of artistic practice. By examining methods of making and the critical language used to describe works of art, the study establishes that photography unseated painting as the medium most closely aligned with “picturing” during the last decades of the nineteenth century, transforming the ways that painters, photographers, and their publics conceived of art and the processes through which it was made.

Doctoral Candidate, History of Art, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  The Photographic Effect: Making Pictures after Photography, 1875-1905

Shehab Ismail
Shehab Ismail  |  Abstract
While initially marginal to British colonial policies, by the end of the colonial period Cairo became the site of technological intervention that sought to reorder the urban landscape spatially and socially. This project argues that internal pressures were at the origin of this shift, which produced a fraught and contradictory metropolis. Recurring epidemics and a severe housing crisis implicated colonial authorities in the unwieldy task of governing a growing city, made the regime prone to critique, and exposed the narrowness of its conception of material prosperity. Against this background the regime undertook large-scale urban infrastructural projects that attempted to modernize urban water supply and provided the city with its first sewage system. Ironically, authorities contemplated comprehensive town planning schemes only on the eve of the 1919 revolution, which upended the colonial regime and its visions and signaled the refusal of Cairo’s unruly inhabitants to accept prosperity based on imperial assumptions.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Columbia University  -  Engineering Metropolis: Contagion, Capital, and the Making of British Colonial Cairo, 1882-1922

Miya Qiong Xie
Miya Qiong Xie  |  Abstract
This project examines modern Chinese, Korean, and Japanese literatures from the early to mid-twentieth century written in or about Manchuria, a frontier and borderland space in northeast Asia. Based on extensive fieldwork, the study is among the first in English to delineate the colorful but largely overlooked landscape of a trilingual Manchurian literature, highlighting its ideological complications and ethical burdens. It asks how literary recreation of the once-contested frontier redefines national and imperial territory and identity in modern East Asia. It specifically probes what this study terms frontier subjectivity, a geopolitically specific perspective instigated by constant and difficult negotiations between the national and the multi-national. This case study of frontier literature addresses critical concerns such as transnationality, multilingualism, and cultural affinity and subjectivity.

Doctoral Candidate, Comparative Literature, Harvard University  -  The Literary Territorialization of Manchuria: Spatial Imagination and Modern Identities in East Asian Literature

Amy Johnson
Amy Johnson  |  Abstract
This project investigates the global creation and regulation of Twitter parody as a genre of social critique, asking how parody and the parodic voice are collaboratively created by the users and architects of Twitter. The analysis draws on 18 months of multilingual fieldwork situated online and physically in San Francisco, Tokyo, and Dubai. The project integrates evidence from interviews, participant observation, media discourse, and legal research to analyze the genre’s verbal artistry in English, Japanese, and Arabic, and examine intersections with legal regimes and corporate policy. Ultimately, the dissertation illuminates how parody—a dominant form of communication online—functions; how the concept of person is changing online; and how the quasi-governmental structures of social media platforms regulate growing notions of usership.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology  -  Twitter and the Body Parodic: Creating and Regulating a Global Speech Genre

Ruben D. Yepes
Ruben D. Yepes  |  Abstract
This project studies how art and film produced during the last fifteen years of Colombia’s fifty-year-long internal war have contributed to the memorialization of the war and have helped Colombians overcome its negative legacies. It follows the recent tendency in visual culture to reject representational approaches to war and instead argues that the works in question mediate the war rather than represent it. In other words, they bridge the distance between their urban audiences and the predominantly rural conflict. Further, this mediation prompts an affective engagement with its history, events, and victims, thereby countering the apathy towards and removal from the war that has predominated in Colombian urban sectors.

Doctoral Candidate, Art and Art History, University of Rochester  -  Affecting the Conflict: Mediations of the Colombian War in Contemporary Art and Film

Marysia Jonsson
Marysia Jonsson  |  Abstract
This project explains how a new definition of religious tolerance grew out of Baltic warfare in the first half of the eighteenth century. Arguing that statesmen and diplomats from Sweden, Russia, Poland, and beyond came to see the concept in intellectual rather than social terms, it investigates how this approach affected diplomatic negotiations and territorial disputes. Focusing on five confessional borderlands, it traces how the interplay among state actors, religious intermediaries, and transimperial subjects informed perceptions of self and other, and codified these perceptions in treaties. Rather than rooting tolerant state discourse solely in western Enlightenment philosophy, this project shows that the intellectual history of tolerance as a concept cannot be disentangled from the lived experiences and exchanges of early modern conflict.

Doctoral Candidate, History, New York University  -  Carving Doors: Tolerance, Cultural Exchange, and Diplomacy during the Great Northern War, 1700-1721

Bryanne Young
Bryanne Young  |  Abstract
This project examines the Canadian Indian Residential School System from 1876 to 1996. Provoked by the schools’ mandate, “kill the Indian in the Child,” the project points to the centrality of physical death in shaping contemporary political life. Exploring how the ideological drive to kill in the name of improving life took shape within institutions whose aim was to make good on normative approaches to managing populations, the dissertation analyzes the epistemological shift in which life is disaggregated from individual subjects, becoming instead an objective reality separable from the singularity of concrete beings. In this model of politics, life is defended by the regulation and removal of undesirable, abnormal characteristics that are viewed as dangerous because they deviate from the norm.

Doctoral Candidate, Communication Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  -  “Killing the Indian in the Child”: Political Formations of Life and Materialities of Death in the Canadian Indian Residential School System

Janet Kay
Janet Kay  |  Abstract
The history of fifth-century Britain is too often a narrative of the end of Roman Britain or the beginning of Anglo-Saxon England from texts and chronicles written centuries later. Such approaches neglect the fifth century’s significance as the turning point between these two periods and also the perspectives of people who lived in that period. How did communities cope when the Roman administration collapsed? How did they define themselves in a rapidly changing social and economic landscape? This project examines Britain’s fifth century through burial archaeology, studying the inclusion of grave goods, the reuse or construction of graves and monuments, the relationship between the living community and the cemetery, and the movement of people in Britain. It uses material culture and funerary rites as primary sources to explore how fifth-century communities understood themselves and how invested they were in maintaining connections with their Roman past.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Boston College  -  Old, New, Borrowed, and Buried: Burial Practices in Britain, 350-550 CE

Jesse Zarley
Jesse Zarley  |  Abstract
The Mapuche people of southern Chile and western Argentina retained control over their lands throughout the colonial period and after Latin America gained independence from Spain. This project asks how Mapuche—and, by implication, other native peoples on the borderlands of the Spanish empire—kept these lands during the bloody transition from colony to nation. The Mapuche conducted formal political negotiations with all sides, as Chilean and Argentine national forces battled Spain for control of southern Latin America. Rival Mapuche continued to support or oppose Chile and Argentina after formal independence. Mapuche custom infused these ritual negotiations (parlamentos), which Mapuche leaders used to balance allegiances and secure control over a vast transandean region. Using correspondence among Mapuche, Spanish, Chilean, and Argentine leaders, this project demonstrates how internal Mapuche alliances and rivalries played a crucial role in these conflicts over how the Mapuche negotiated an autonomous space within changing geopolitical orders.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Maryland, College Park  -  Toward a Transandean Mapuche Politics: Ritual and Power in Chile and Argentina, 1792-1862