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. 

Chloe Ahmann
Chloe Ahmann  |  Abstract
This research explores the historical and embodied dimensions of risk from the perspective of a community in south Baltimore. In the process, it challenges scholarly inquiries that tend to treat risk as a strictly future-looking phenomenon. Drawing on archival and ethnographic study in a neighborhood that has managed multiple forms of risk over the past two centuries—from quarantining smallpox victims during the great wave of immigration to supporting deterrence with its Cold War chemical arsenal—the project centers around a group of residents who, today, are invoking past exposure to evaluate the acceptability of a proposed incinerator. Marshaling this evidence, this study argues that the tendency to assess risks as single events with isolated costs ignores how those most affected by risk-management decisions experience their outcomes. Instead, it attends to risk’s cumulative effects, exploring the processes by which toxins build up in the body over time, while also addressing the aggregate burdens of state-sanctioned exposure.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, The George Washington University  -  Cumulative Effects: Reckoning Risk on Baltimore's Toxic Periphery

Magdalena Kolodziej
Magdalena Kolodziej  |  Abstract
This project examines how the Japanese modern art world contributed to, benefited from, and was transformed by Japan’s imperial expansion. Japanese artists resettled in Korea and Taiwan as brokers of empire, and colonial artists moved to Tokyo in pursuit of art education. To explore these intra-imperial trajectories, this project investigates the professional networks, publicity, and paintings of three artists—Fujishima Takeji, Lee In-sung, and Chen Chin—who had successful careers at the government-sponsored fine arts exhibitions in Tokyo, Seoul, and Taipei in the 1930s. It argues that, with its ubiquitous publicity, this exhibitionary system provided artists with access to audiences throughout the empire, asserted the superiority of Japanese modern art, and assimilated colonial artists into the metropolitan art establishment.

Doctoral Candidate, Art, Art History and Visual Studies, Duke University  -  Empire at the Exhibition: The Imperial Art World of Modern Japan, 1907-1945

Maryam Alemzadeh
Maryam Alemzadeh  |  Abstract
This project is a historical ethnography of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s (IRGC) institutionalization process as a revolutionary establishment. When Iran was invaded by Iraqi forces shortly after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the IRGC was a feeble, inexperienced, and ill-equipped militia. Nevertheless, it joined the war effort and, surprisingly, survived and thrived to become the most powerful economic, intelligence, and military institution in the country. This dissertation shows how the Guards borrowed organizational practices used in clerical and other religious communities to preserve the new militia, and mobilized their newly revolutionized Shi’ite cultural background to articulate their characteristic role in the war. By studying the consolidation of this unique religious-military organization that won the political support of the Islamic government, the project contributes to the understanding of unconventional religious militaries as well as bottom-up processes of state-building.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, University of Chicago  -  Revolutionary Armies and Mechanisms of Institution-building: The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in the Iran-Iraq War, 1980-1988

Firat Kurt
Firat Kurt  |  Abstract
Beginning in 2002, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has mobilized millions of Turkish citizens from the most impoverished districts of Istanbul. Based on two years of ethnographic engagement in two districts of Istanbul, the party’s strongholds Esenler and Kucukcekmece, this project explores the conjunction of financial capitalism, mass mobilization, and political Islam. By paying close attention to personal histories, daily capacities, emerging hopes, and intergenerational grievances of the party members and sympathizers, the project investigates how material and financial changes facilitate and even promote a popular knowledge that religiously informed authoritarian politics, embodied by the AKP in Turkey, are the only solutions for the predicaments of late capitalism. Ultimately, the project problematizes some key presumptions of contemporary social scientific analyses, namely individualization, depoliticization, and economic rationality, and investigates the emergence of alternative practices in their steads: self-negation, authoritarian mobilization, and theological expectations.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Columbia University  -  Folds of Authoritarianism: Financial Capitalism, Mobilization, and Political Islam in Turkey

Tony Andersson
Tony Andersson  |  Abstract
This project examines the long, violent, and mostly forgotten history of forest conservation in the lowland tropical forests of El Petén, in northern Guatemala. It traces the origins of conservation in El Petén from a progressive vision of applied science and social justice in the 1940s, through its appropriation and expansion by successive authoritarian regimes over four bloody decades. In the crucible of the Cold War, the institutions of forest management helped to build the military state, imprinting a militaristic ethic onto conservationist ideas and practice that foreclosed the possibility of democratic alternatives. The landscapes of El Petén today are a legacy of the counterinsurgent environmentalism deployed by the Guatemalan military—and its international partners—to contain the human and ecological fallout of its own scorched earth policies. Never an objective science, conservation in northern Guatemala served as a tool to fight a civil war by other means.

Doctoral Candidate, History, New York University  -  Environmentalists with Guns: Conservation, Revolution, and Counterinsurgency in El Petén, Guatemala, 1944-1996

Ulug Kuzuoglu
Ulug Kuzuoglu  |  Abstract
This dissertation explores the global history of Chinese script reforms from the 1890s to the 1980s. During this period, Chinese intellectuals identified the Chinese logographic writing system as the primary reason for backwardness, and re-engineered the Chinese script to fit the demands of the modern information age. This project demonstrates that Chinese script reform was part of a global history of knowledge economy, in which the management and optimization of clerical and mental labor through innovations in writing technologies were key concerns for modernizing economies. Examining Chinese as well as Russian, American, and Turkic scientists who were instrumental in giving a final shape to the Chinese script, this dissertation interrogates the historical interface between humans and information technologies.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Columbia University  -  Overcome by Information: Psychogrammatology and Technopolitics of Script Invention in China, 1892-1986

Mohamad Ballan
Mohamad Ballan  |  Abstract
This project explores the sociopolitical context of knowledge production and the articulation of dynastic ideology in medieval Iberia and North Africa. It interrogates the role of the secretarial class, composed of individuals working within the royal chancery and administration, in the development, deployment, and dissemination of a new vocabulary of sovereignty during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The life and career of Lisān al-Dīn ibn al-Khaṭīb (d. 1374), the preeminent historian and philosopher of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada, provides the main focal point of this investigation. By situating this figure’s career and writings within the wider context of a dynamic network of scholars, this project illuminates how royal networks of patronage, itinerancy, and mobility shaped the production of knowledge and facilitated the diffusion of novel conceptions of sovereignty and legitimate authority during the late medieval period.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Chicago  -  The Scribe of the Alhambra: Lisān al-Dīn ibn al-Khaṭīb, Sovereignty, and History in Nasrid Granada

William Lempert
William Lempert  |  Abstract
What would it mean to have anthropologies of the future centered around media produced by and with those most associated with the distant past? Indigenous future imaginaries are essential for constructive Aboriginal policy-making, as well as providing insight into a global era increasingly defined by apocalyptic rhetoric. This dissertation engages Indigenous futurity and the rise of two national Aboriginal television networks through 20 months of ethnographic fieldwork with Indigenous media organizations in the Kimberley region of Northwestern Australia. Through collaborative filmmaking within production teams, this research illustrates the stakes of contemporary Indigenous representation embedded within the daily practices of dozens of diverse media projects. By following the life cycles of these films as they travel through time and space between remote communities, towns, and national film festivals, this project aims to understand the paradoxical proliferation of hopeful future-oriented Aboriginal films amidst the current mass defunding of their communities and organizations.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder  -  Broadcasting Indigenous Futures: The Social Life of Aboriginal Media

Héctor Beltrán
Héctor Beltrán  |  Abstract
While Mexican citizens organize to protest pressing social problems—violence, impunity, and corruption—young entrepreneurs work feverishly within co-working spaces to develop technology startup ideas aimed at solving these same systemic issues. This dissertation uses ethnographic methods to highlight the complex ways individuals navigate domains that seem contradictory: a hacker world aimed against capitalism, and an entrepreneurial world that advances capitalist practices. How do people living under precarious conditions create different protocols for technology-driven capitalism? These nuances become particularly important as scholars take seriously alternative capitalisms from the Global South and refocus their studies of the economy on the small-scale models individuals use to project their livelihoods into the future.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley  -  Disenchanted Hacking: Technology, Startups, and Alternative Capitalisms from Mexico

Alessandra Link
Alessandra Link  |  Abstract
Native Americans engaged with railroads as passengers, entrepreneurs, wage-earners, and tribal citizens in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While much of the existing literature on US railroads centers on how the Iron Horse reconfigured the nation’s economic, environmental, social, and spatial landscapes, this project spotlights the ways in which indigenous communities incorporated the railroad into their own socioeconomic and cultural networks. Exposing indigenous relationships with railroads challenges deep-seated misconceptions in which Indians either violently but vainly resisted the Iron Horse, or simply vanished at the first sound of the locomotive’s whistle. This study shows that neither of these versions is true. Rather, by the early 1900s, natives had transformed the railroad into a tool of resistance, one they had learned to deploy with considerable skill as part of their broader quest for cultural and material self-determination in the face of colonization.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Colorado Boulder  -  The Iron Horse in Indian Country: Native Americans and Railroads in the US West, 1853-1924

Jessica Bird
Jessica Bird  |  Abstract
The United States’ underground economy has grown strikingly since the 1970s, reflecting consumer demand for cheap prices and workers’ search for alternative sources of income as manufacturing jobs declined and federal support for cities disappeared. Far from unregulated, however, the underground economy has been managed in crucial ways, revealing a fundamental paradox in free market rhetoric. This was particularly striking in New York City in the latter decades of the twentieth century. Facing budgetary pressure and calls from business and neighborhood organizations to clean up the city, politicians sought to simultaneously extract revenue from the underground economy and regulate it out of existence. By the end of the twentieth century, a set of uneven government responses to the underground economy increased mass surveillance over public space usage and contributed to rising income inequality in the city, cutting off needed sources of income for workers.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Temple University  -  Do the Hustle: Municipal Regulation of New York City’s Underground Economy, 1970-Present

Megan Lukaniec
Megan Lukaniec  |  Abstract
This grammar is the first comprehensive study of the First Nations language Wendat (Huron). Wendat, and its southern dialect Wyandot, is an Iroquoian language originally spoken in Ontario and Quebec. Wendat lost its last fluent speakers in the mid-nineteenth century, but is currently being revitalized. The Wyandot dialect, however, was last spoken in Oklahoma in the 1960s. Due to its dormant status, research is based upon archival records dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including 10 manuscript dictionaries, two Latinate grammars, and ecclesiastical texts. Wyandot narratives and audio recordings supplement lacunae in the record. This grammar explores traditional levels of linguistic structure such as phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and discourse, as well as more functional topics.

Doctoral Candidate, Linguistics, University of California, Santa Barbara  -  A Grammar of Wendat

Alex Hudgins Bush
Alex Hudgins Bush  |  Abstract
In recent years, climate change has forced a reconceptualization of nature as historical, or subject to change over time. This critical historiographical inquiry examines the role played by visual and communications media in this epistemic shift. The project focuses on two moments of heightened popular fascination with glacial regions—the present and the early twentieth century—with attention to how popular media produce an idea of nature not as static or eternal, but in constant dynamic motion. Chapters address early twentieth-century exploration films; popular German cinema of the 1920s; contemporary documentary; and data visualization practices that use the glacier itself as an archival medium of natural history. The vast temporal and spatial scales of environmental historicity make it conceptually available only through technological mediation, and demand an examination of the social, economic, and political forces shaping media technologies to understand conceptions of nature in a Western historical tradition.

Doctoral Candidate, Film and Media, University of California, Berkeley  -  Cold Storage: A Media History of the Glacier

Jane C. Manners
Jane C. Manners  |  Abstract
In the wake of the “Great New York Fire” of 1835, the most destructive fire ever to afflict New York City, wealthy merchant sufferers moved quickly to recoup their losses, filing lawsuits and seeking public relief from both the state and federal government. This project traces the debates that followed, exploring the ideological fissures that emerged as Jacksonian ideals of federalism and small government clashed with the realities of urban life and commercial interconnectedness. In a world in which individual financial fates were inextricably linked, debates over the government’s responsibility to the fire’s sufferers had particular resonance. As a legal history that uses a single natural disaster to examine the constitutional implications of risk and commercial interconnectedness, this project proceeds from the premise that instances of crisis provide singular political opportunities, enabling the implementation of permanent shifts in governmental practice to meet the perceived exigencies of the moment.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Princeton University  -  “Infinitely Dangerous to the Revenue of the United States”: The Great New York Fire of 1835 and the Law of Disaster Relief in Jacksonian America

Paola Cépeda
Paola Cépeda  |  Abstract
The label expletive negation has been applied traditionally to a negative expression that apparently does not have any meaning and, therefore, does not contribute to the meaning of a sentence. By examining temporal clauses with the words until, before, and since, this dissertation explores the distribution and meaning of the so-called expletive negation in different languages, with special focus on Romance languages. The main finding of this research is that the negative expression is not really empty; it actually changes the time in which an eventuality occurs. As a result, this dissertation argues for extending the role of the negative expressions in natural languages beyond changing the truth value of a proposition. By offering a theoretical and an experimental approach, this study contributes to understanding how negation is codified and used in different natural languages.

Doctoral Candidate, Linguistics, State University of New York, Stony Brook  -  Negation and Time: Against Expletive Negation in Temporal Clauses

Allison Joan Martino
Allison Joan Martino  |  Abstract
Adinkra is one of the best-known textiles of Africa. This dissertation examines how adinkra cloth has evolved from royal dress among the Akan of Ghana in the early nineteenth century to its expanding role today as a global icon of Africa. The Akan wear adinkra to communicate messages through the cloth’s symbols that evoke proverbs, moral beliefs, and cultural values. Adinkra has contributed to how the Akan shape their identity and relationships. By reframing adinkra as an expressive form of fashion and social memory, this dissertation argues that the Akan have given multiple, changing meanings to adinkra that revitalize the past in contemporary life. No other cultural practice tells this story of Akan and Ghanaian history from various perspectives over the last 200 years. Through ethnographic and archival research in Ghana, the UK, and the Netherlands, this dissertation reveals the dynamics of adinkra to write a social history of Akan visual culture.

Doctoral Candidate, History of Art, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Stamping History: Stories of Social Change in Ghana’s Adinkra Cloth

JM Chris Chang
JM Chris Chang  |  Abstract
This project is a history of bureaucratic file-making and paperwork in Maoist China, considered through the institution of individual dossiers on Chinese subjects known as dang’an. Drawing upon a source base of deaccessioned case files, it examines how low-level communist bureaucrats counterbalanced contradictory imperatives to permanent revolution and socialist governance through scrupulous routines of information management and clerical labor. The investigative and file-keeping practices entailed by the dossier system illuminate bureaucratic approaches to issues of administration, local justice, and archive, while revealing fractures in a communist polity that often struggled to contain the impact of its own emancipatory ideology.

Doctoral Candidate, East Asian Languages & Cultures, Columbia University  -  Communist Miscellany: The Paperwork of Revolution

Kirsten Noelle Mendoza
Kirsten Noelle Mendoza  |  Abstract
In sixteenth-century England, the definition of rape transitioned from the abduction of a man’s property to the sexual violation of a woman against her will. This reconceptualization occurred alongside the expansion of the English empire and the country’s initial attempts to enter the slave trade. While rape statutes appeared to enhance the efficacy of female self-possession and consent, the early modern period also inaugurated English involvement in the systematic rapine of slaves, who by definition could not possess their persons. This project examines the relations between these disparate yet contemporaneous approaches to consent by analyzing the performance of black bodies as they intersect with the erotic lives of women in English drama. This research addresses the convergence of rape and race as a problem of consent that was neither independent from nor tangential to an imperialist agenda, but rather central to emerging notions of English nationalism and its colonial trajectory.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Vanderbilt University  -  Representations of Race, Rape, and Consent in English Drama, 1590-1660

Taylor Clement
Taylor Clement  |  Abstract
“Visualizing Verse” establishes new terms for assessing the effects of woodcut image reproduction on literary meaning in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century printed books. Specifically, this project considers the recycling of illustrations in England and across continental Europe that afforded vernacular readers a transnational advantage of shared visual language. As early modern printers and illustrators traced, copied, and reprinted images, translators shifted verbal signifiers for new audiences. Each chapter examines the ways in which illustration can inflect form and genre in emblem, lyric, and epic poetry, respectively. Drawing on critical methods of literary and translation studies, book history, and illustration, this project contributes to an interdisciplinary understanding of illustrated poetry and the ways in which the production of pictures significantly affects textual reception.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Florida State University  -  Visualizing Verse in Early Modern England

Rachel Nolan
Rachel Nolan  |  Abstract
Guatemala closed international adoption amidst a nationalist backlash and allegations of child theft and child-selling in 2007. Until then, one in 110 children born there was adopted by a family in the United States, Canada, or Europe. The adoption boom has its roots in the most brutal episode of Latin America’s Cold War: a 36-year armed conflict that escalated into state-directed genocide from 1981 to 1983. This dissertation draws on adoption files, police reports, court records, the results of FOIA requests, and dozens of oral histories to explore how Guatemala became a leading sender country for children, and what conditions or characteristics made a child adoptable. It argues that while participants posed international adoption as humanitarian, and thus apolitical, in fact it was practiced as a political, commercial, and racist (anti-Indigenous) institution. International adoption is a crucial site for understanding the articulation of local, national, and transnational politics and social life.

Doctoral Candidate, History, New York University  -  “Children for Export”: A History of International Adoption from Guatemala

Andrew Jeffrey Collings
Andrew Jeffrey Collings  |  Abstract
Between 1254 and 1270, King Louis IX of France promulgated a sweeping series of reforms intended to ensure the ethical integrity of his government and moral purity of the realm. Focusing on the administrative district of the Vermandois, this project examines the extent to which these initiatives affected the exercise and experience of royal power and authority within provincial society. Drawing upon administrative and judicial records, it analyzes the application and enforcement of royal policy within a world of local government, custom, political interests, and corruption. While not always successful and often contested, Louis’s reform program and its associated ideals of sacral governance exerted considerable influence on day-to-day bureaucratic practice, the conduct of royal agents, and wider perceptions of royal government.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Princeton University  -  The King Cannot Be Everywhere: Royal Governance and Local Society in the Reign of Louis IX

Milad Odabaei
Milad Odabaei  |  Abstract
This project is a historical and anthropological examination of the practices of reading and translation of European social thought in postrevolutionary Iran, where translation has emerged as a central form of intellectual production. It draws on over two years of ethnographic and archival research in the Iranian academy, the education and research centers of the Shi’i seminaries, and Tehran’s and Qom’s exclusive translation circles. My dissertation traces the history of the present practices of translation: from the nineteenth-century geopolitical and intellectual encounter of Iran with Europe, the subsequent reformulation of the country’s political vocabularies, and to the twentieth-century Islamic and anti-Western discourses of the 1979 revolution. Its chapters ethnographically explore practices of translation as indices of precarity and hope and argue that the translation of European social thought in contemporary Iran is a simultaneous manifestation of a political crisis and the travails of cultural regeneration.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology and Critical Theory, University of California, Berkeley  -  Giving Words: Translation and History in Modern Iran

Jessica Cooper
Jessica Cooper  |  Abstract
Mental health courts (MHCs) are novel criminal courtrooms that aspire to move individuals whom the state has convicted of a crime and diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder out of jails and into community mental health programs. Rather than merely outsource clinical care, these criminal courts actively manage and administer mental health care to individuals in their charge. Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in MHCs and their attendant clinical spaces in the San Francisco Bay Area, this dissertation examines the systems of evidence and ethics practiced in courtrooms-made-clinics. How does structural change in the criminal justice system reorganize political and affective relationships between offenders—considered clients in this context—and the state? The project hews closely to interpersonal relationships between clients and courtroom professionals to ask how care influences and directs statecraft.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Princeton University  -  Uncomfortable Justice: Care and Conviction in California's Mental Health Courts

Matthew Omelsky
Matthew Omelsky  |  Abstract
This project examines how African diasporic writers and filmmakers from Zimbabwe, Martinique, Britain, and the United States inscribe into their works a sense of anticipation of release from subjection, as if to experience in advance the feeling of unequivocal bodily relief. Charting its appearance in both descriptive content and aesthetic form—such as metaphor, narrative structure, and aspects of cinematic editing—“Fugitive Time” shows how this recurring form of utopian time-consciousness distinct to African diasporic cultural expression evolves from the eighteenth-century slave narrative to the contemporary novel, and how it mutates across disparate global geographies. Examining epic poetry, autobiography, experimental film, and historical novels, the project isolates this fugitive anticipation of the outside of subjection and the persistent memory of violence that engenders it. In these works, utopia, however elusive, lies in that moment when the body at last finds release.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Duke University  -  Fugitive Time: Black Culture and Utopian Desire

Graham Cornwell
Graham Cornwell  |  Abstract
This project examines the history of tea and sugar in Northwest Africa, beginning with the first major shipments of tea into the region in the 1850s and concluding with the end of colonial rule in the 1950s and 1960s. Although previous scholars have focused on how consumers across the region took up tea and sugar as new markers of social status in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this project argues that many more turned to tea and sugar as essential components of subsistence diets during periods of rapid economic, environmental, and political change. Sweetened tea provided necessary calories in the midst of European imperial interventions that encouraged the export of locally produced foodstuffs in exchange for imports like refined sugar. Northwest Africans adopted sugar and tea on their own terms and wove new webs of meaning around their consumption.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Georgetown University  -  Sweetening the Pot: A History of Tea and Sugar in Northwest Africa, 1850-1960

Colleen O'Reilly
Colleen O'Reilly  |  Abstract
In the United States between 1945 and 1970, educators, scientists, artists, and media professionals identified their time as the age of the visual. They discussed how to mobilize visual tools such as photography, film, and exhibitions, and argued that images were essential to maximizing human potential in a modern liberal democracy. The practices of photographer Berenice Abbott, graphic designer Will Burtin, and the educators of the International Visual Literacy Association show how strongly this engagement with the visual was informed by the period’s global politics and by new collaborations across corporations, government, and art. This project demonstrates how visual pedagogy instantiated a broader ideological framework, and maps crucial intersections between art and science in the midst of the Cold War.

Doctoral Candidate, History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh  -  Visual Pedagogy in Cold War America: Berenice Abbott, Will Burtin, and the International Visual Literacy Association

Barnaby Crowcroft
Barnaby Crowcroft  |  Abstract
How far did the way in which empire was acquired impact the way in which it ended? Most would say not much. The British Empire was made up of a diverse combination of territories, acquired at different times, under different legal bases, and ruled under a variety of political systems—from directly ruled crown colonies to protectorates, protected states, and “the empire by treaty.” In the story of the end of empire, however, these differences seem irrelevant when confronted by the overriding desire of colonial peoples everywhere to achieve national independence and freedom. "Decolonization in Britain’s Empire of Protectorates" reveals unique legal, constitutional, and political challenges that arose in attempting to end a protected rather than a colonial empire, for imperial reformers and nationalist leaders alike, and offers a new perspective on the end of empire story that can challenge a range of familiar teleologies about the emergence of a world of nation-states after 1945.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Harvard University  -  Decolonization in Britain’s Empire of Protectorates, 1945-1970

Sayd Randle
Sayd Randle  |  Abstract
This dissertation uses a case study of the Los Angeles waterscape to examine how efforts to retrofit the metropolitan environment affect the politics and governance of urban space. Concerns about the future dependability of imported water sources have spurred attempts to incorporate local stormwater and wastewater effluent into LA’s municipal water supply. These initiatives require redesigning both obvious sites of city infrastructure and quotidian urban spaces to capture and transform waste flows into potable water. In the process, new actors and landscapes within the city emerge as targets of state investment, discipline, and management. This study explores how residents, environmental activists, and water engineers understand, enact, and resist these spatial projects of resource security.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology and Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University  -  Replumbing the City: Climate Adaptation Urbanisms in Los Angeles

Devin Sanchez Curry
Devin Sanchez Curry  |  Abstract
Teresa believes in God. Maggie’s wife believes that the Earth is flat, and also that Maggie should be home from work by now. Anouk, a cat, believes it is dinner time. This dissertation is about what believing is. In other words, it concerns what exactly ordinary people are attributing to Teresa, Maggie’s wife, and Anouk when affirming that they are believers. The first half of the dissertation distinguishes the attitudes of belief attributed by lay people across cultures from the cognitive states of belief theoretically posited by some cognitive scientists. The second half of the dissertation defends the view that to have an attitude of belief is to live—to be disposed to act, react, think, and feel—in a manner that an actual belief attributor identifies with taking the world to be some way.

Doctoral Candidate, Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania  -  Believers

María Enid Rodríguez
María Enid Rodríguez  |  Abstract
Humans desire communication with the divine through prophecy. Prophecy, in turn, provides a salient focus for the cross-cultural nature of humanity’s need for divine communication. Of special interest to this project is the phrase word of God that occurs in prophetic corpora across various cultures, especially since the phrase has also been reused with theological meanings that developed from its appearance within prophetic texts. This project uses cognitive science of religion as a framework to analyze the linguistic function of the phrase word of God in Assyrian, Hebrew, Greek, and Arabic sacred prophetic writings in order to distinguish the convergences and divergences among the use of the phrase in each linguistic context.

Doctoral Candidate, Theology and Religious Studies, Catholic University of America  -  What God Really Said: The Function of the “Word of God” in Assyrian, Hebrew, Greek, and Arabic Prophetic Literature

Helen Cushman
Helen Cushman  |  Abstract
This project focuses on theories of knowledge in the English mystery plays. It argues that the plays model and construct new hybrid methods of knowledge production that combine what were often coded as either clerical or lay modes of knowledge: namely, knowledge derived from authority or knowledge acquired through experience. The plays stage received knowledge as something that is subject to physical testing in practice. That is, knowledge from authority can be used to design material experiments that employ artisanal, medical, and professional experience and expertise. As a result, the plays empowered lay audiences to participate in the process of knowledge production, to re-envision received theological knowledge, and, most importantly, to evaluate and restructure the forms of discourse that produce and disseminate knowledge.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Harvard University  -  Producing Knowledge in the Middle English Mystery Plays

Domenica G. Romagni
Domenica G. Romagni  |  Abstract
This project focuses on the property of consonance, broadly defined as a property possessed by musical intervals—two pitches sounding simultaneously—in virtue of which a listener perceives them as pleasant sounding. The first three sections of the dissertation discuss the way this property was understood by key seventeenth-century theorists: René Descartes, Marin Mersenne, and Johannes Kepler. This historical portion establishes the role consonance played in forming the philosophical ideology of the period, which has been largely overlooked by theorists. The status of music theory as a mathematical science in this period made consonance a key issue, alongside other topics like those in mechanical physics. The final section updates the discussion and focuses on how consonance has been treated recently. This section proposes a new conception of consonance characterized by the complexity of the stimulus, which will allow a better articulation of current intuitions about this property.

Doctoral Candidate, Philosophy, Princeton University  -  The Hard Problem of Consonance and Its Place in Seventeenth-Century Philosophy

Christian B. Flow
Christian B. Flow  |  Abstract
What constitutes a philological contribution and how can such contributions be preserved or outmoded? This dissertation examines these questions historically through the lens of three signal lexicographical projects: the sixteenth-century Latin and Greek lexica of the French scholar-printers Robert and Henri Estienne; a final, eighteenth-century edition of the Estienne Latin lexicon by a professor at the University of Göttingen, Johann Matthias Gesner; and the nineteenth-century German-led effort to create a Latin dictionary of unprecedented proportion, the Thesaurus linguae Latinae. From strict compilatory reserve to self-archiving, mechanical evidence-collection, and attempts at completeness, there emerges a history of the practices by which philologists have looked to deal with a recurring knowledge-production challenge: how to balance fidelity to the sources with the imperative to produce a distinct, innovative scholarly product.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Princeton University  -  Writing the Thesaurus of Latinity: A Study in the History of Philological Practice

John A. Romey
John A. Romey  |  Abstract
This project examines the interaction of popular and elite musical cultures in early modern Paris, and the ways in which popular tunes and parodies of elite music, such as tunes from operas and ballets, served as vehicles for cultural transfer and societal critique. By focusing on the interplay between the popular and elite song traditions, the daily back and forth between the street and high art, the project challenges traditional ways of understanding early modern French spectacle and the circulation of information. The study of new texts composed for culturally shared tunes, whether from the Pont-Neuf, the Parisian salons, or the theater, serves as a means of tracing a cultural phenomenon in which individuals from all social spheres recycled and reused bits of culture to form something new as a projection of their identity, as a demonstration of their wit, or as part of complex social ceremonies.

Doctoral Candidate, Music, Case Western Reserve University  -  Popular Song, Opera Parody, and the Construction of Parisian Spectacle, 1648-1713

Alborz Ghandehari
Alborz Ghandehari  |  Abstract
This project explores the intersection of class politics with feminist activism in Iran since 2002. It analyzes the work of women’s movement activists in the context of labor and ethnic stratification. These individuals have composed Persian translations of works of US radical black feminist theory as well as Italian and Arab Marxist feminist texts. This study shows that their work brings such transnational traditions of radical political thought into an encounter with an Iranian intellectual history that includes figures as diverse as the poet Simin Behbahani and Iranian socialist women from the 1950s to 1970s. Contrary to an orientalist view that holds neoliberalism and Islam as incompatible, this project also argues that fractured neoliberalization in Iran has pushed this group to center working poor and working class women in their political work who experience marginalization as a result of precarious jobs, rape, and government repression.

Doctoral Candidate, Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego  -  Post-Revolutionary Fervor: Class and Gender in Iranian Social Movements since 2002

Natasha M. Roule
Natasha M. Roule  |  Abstract
This project explores the history of the first French operas—the tragédies lyriques of Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687)—in the French provinces between 1685 and 1750. Scholars typically focus on productions of Lully’s operas in Paris or at court, where the operas premiered. Provincial productions of Lully’s operas, however, offer a crucial perspective on a period of unprecedented expansion of royal authority over France and the ascendance of Paris as the French cultural capital. This project argues that provincial productions of Lully’s operas voiced tension and compromise between regional identity and royal absolutist ideology. An analysis of scores, libretti, and contemporary criticism of the productions reveals a thriving practice among artists of affirming or subverting the operas’ frequent allusions to Louis XIV through musical and textual adaptations or satire. An epilogue studies modern revivals of Lully’s operas to reflect further on the repertoire’s adaptability to the identities and ideologies of performers.

Doctoral Candidate, Music, Harvard University  -  Reviving Lully: Opera and the Negotiation of Absolutism in the French Provinces, 1685-1750

Lelia M. Glass
Lelia M. Glass  |  Abstract
This dissertation explores a linguistic inference pattern called distributivity. Told that Alice and Bob smiled, one infers that they each smiled (distributive); whereas, told that Alice and Bob met, one does not infer that they each met (nondistributive). Told that Alice and Bob lifted the table, one is not sure whether they each did so (distributive) or did so jointly (nondistributive). This dissertation defends an analysis attributing these inferences not to any difference in the logical representations of these sentences, but rather to extralinguistic knowledge about the events they describe. To make this analysis explanatory, it investigates which predicates are understood distributively and/or nondistributively, and why. The project then identifies large-scale patterns in the understandings available to different classes of predicates, and grounds these patterns in an analysis of the events they represent, uncovering the way knowledge about the world creates patterns across the lexicon people use to portray it.

Doctoral Candidate, Linguistics, Stanford University  -  The Pragmatics and Semantics of (Non)distributive Predication

Joseph C. Russo
Joseph C. Russo  |  Abstract
Ethnographically engaging with multiple publics in the small cities and rural backwaters of Southeast Texas’s Golden Triangle, this dissertation works through the political and ideological implications of stories told in a context of hard-luck Texan regionalism. In particular, it looks at hard-luck stories and oral histories of Southeast Texan LGBTQ folks and cancer patients, which are rich archives of exuberance, ideology, and pain. Their expressive qualities challenge conventional political discourse around notions of what progress means, how political consciousness is determined, and what defines community in the twenty-first-century US South. Unexpected histories of non-normative sexualities, fraught relationships with the petrochemical industry, and creative modes of regionalism together present a vibrant social ecology. Drawing out the complexities and incommensurabilities of ordinary life in this rigidly conservative and economically depressed region of Texas reveals a divided America in the throes of unprecedented upheaval, excess, and tragedy

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin  -  Texan Hard-Luck: Social Ecology in Southeast Texas’s Golden Triangle

Anne Gray Fischer
Anne Gray Fischer  |  Abstract
This project examines the sexual policing of women as the racial and sexual politics of US cities underwent dramatic transformations across the twentieth century. Between 1930 and 1980, two contradictory developments emerged: the gradual liberalization of sexual prohibitions, and the mounting force of a racially charged program of law-and-order morals policing. This project focuses on the discretionary police enforcement of a suite of broadly defined morals misdemeanors, including disorderly conduct, lewdness, and prostitution—which were primarily deployed against women—to explore how changing racial and gendered meanings of sexual criminality shaped police practices. By illuminating both the raced dimension of sexual liberalism and the gendered dimension of policing in black communities, this project reshapes understandings of the relationship of race, gender, and sexuality to the development of modern legal regimes in the United States.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Brown University  -  Arrestable Behavior: Women, Police Power, and the Making of Law-and-Order America, 1930-1980

Danica Savonick
Danica Savonick  |  Abstract
While many of the most important feminist and antiracist poets in the United States had life-changing careers as teachers, their engaged pedagogies have long been overlooked. This dissertation analyzes how aesthetics shaped classroom practices in the late twentieth century and, reciprocally, how educational opportunity programs helped produce some of the most powerful literature of the 1960s and 1970s. Through archival research on the syllabi, lesson plans, and assignments of Audre Lorde, Toni Cade Bambara, June Jordan, and Adrienne Rich, and analysis of their published work, this project argues that these teacher-poets developed pedagogies of collective dissent deeply influenced by their experiences teaching in the nation’s first state-mandated educational opportunity program at the City University of New York.

Doctoral Candidate, English, City University of New York, The Graduate Center  -  The Promise of Aesthetic Education: On Pedagogy, Praxis, and Social Justice

Sandra Jasmin Gutierrez
Sandra Jasmin Gutierrez  |  Abstract
In 1979, a P’urhépecha community in Michoacán, Mexico mobilized to defend their lands from a group of cattle ranchers who had been invading them for decades. The weapons they used were their collective history, communal practices, and strategic organization mechanisms, which they shaped within their traditional social structures and cultural values. Considering this moment as the inception of contemporary P’urhépecha political movements oriented toward the recognition of indigenous collective rights and self-determination, the project examines indigenous organization and autonomy practices in Michoacán’s P’urhépecha region from 1979 to 2015. Through a historical analysis that engages archival and ethnographic research to track these movements, the project demonstrates that the P’urhépecha have deployed successfully history, community, and ethnicity as weapons of resistance and as core elements of their claims to autonomy. It shows that Indigenous historical experiences are highly valuable, for they unveil innovative and successful mechanisms of political mobility.

Doctoral Candidate, Native American Studies, University of California, Davis  -  Juchari Uinapekua!: Community, Sociopolitical Organization, and Indigenous Autonomy Practices in Michoacán’s P’urhépecha Region, 1979-2015

Casey Schmitt
Casey Schmitt  |  Abstract
Using English, French, and Spanish sources from Europe and the Caribbean, this project is a social history of the early-seventeenth-century Anglo- and Franco-Caribbean. It uncovers the origins of debates over who could be coerced to perform what kind of labor by focusing on transnational negotiations over escaped laborers and kidnapped subjects. The project also shows that European officials applied nascent theories of the law of nations to create a transnational legal system for controlling labor. This process was instrumental in creating the legal basis for race-based slavery essential to the Americas until the nineteenth century.

Doctoral Candidate, History, College of William & Mary  -  Bound among Nations: Labor Coercion in the Early-Seventeenth-Century Caribbean

Vladimir Hamed-Troyansky
Vladimir Hamed-Troyansky  |  Abstract
In the late nineteenth century, over a million Muslim refugees from the Russian Empire’s North Caucasus region arrived and settled in Ottoman domains. This dissertation, based on archival research in seven countries, shifts the discussion of immigration from the state and its top-down resettlement program to immigrants and their responses to Ottoman policies. Using documents written by refugees themselves, such as petitions and private letters in Arabic and Ottoman Turkish, the project investigates networks that refugees fostered throughout the empire and between the Ottoman and Russian worlds. By focusing on the political economy of refugee resettlement, it posits that refugees’ abilities to tap into local economies, aided by state support, was crucial to regional stability. This study contributes to an understanding of immigrant integration and intercommunal conflict, both processes integral to the collapse of the Ottoman empire and the making of the modern Balkans, Turkey, and the Levant.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Stanford University  -  Refugees and Empires: North Caucasus Muslims between the Ottoman and Russian Worlds, 1864-1914

Christopher Seeds
Christopher Seeds  |  Abstract
Life sentencing has long existed in the United States, but the emergence of a particularly extreme form—life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (LWOP)—is a contemporary development. In recent years, the number of LWOP-sentenced prisoners has increased dramatically, even as bipartisan reform efforts seek to reduce prison populations. This dissertation begins by investigating the history of life sentencing and other practices under which prisoners faced the remainder of their natural lives in prison, in order to generate insight as to what makes the phenomenon of LWOP unique. The study then turns to state-level research, focusing on transformations in laws and practices as well as the understandings of key actors—including the anti-death-penalty movement, the United States Supreme Court, and state legislators and prison administrators—to uncover the conditions and processes of LWOP’s rise.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, New York University  -  Life Without Parole: Emergence of a Late-Twentieth-Century American Punishment

Nabeel Hamid
Nabeel Hamid  |  Abstract
This project argues that the reception of the mechanical worldview in the German Enlightenment was deeply conditioned by the metaphysics of late-medieval scholasticism. Linking seventeenth-century Lutheran scholastics such as Christoph Scheibler and Johann Clauberg and eighteenth-century thinkers like Christian Wolff and Immanuel Kant, it shows how pressure from the new mathematical physics led authors in this tradition to reconfigure rather than abandon Aristotelian models of causal explanation. By Kant’s time, accordingly, theories of causation accommodate the explanatory needs of mechanistic physics within a broadly Aristotelian view of causes as agents and nature as a goal-directed principle of change. Mediating this transformation is the preservation in early modern Germany of two scholastic theses bearing on natural teleology: the denial of a distinction between being and the good, between facts and values—sometimes called the convertibility thesis; and, second, the view that explanations involving ends or purposes presuppose rational agency.

Doctoral Candidate, Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania  -  Being and the Good: Natural Teleology in Early Modern German Philosophy

Edward Flavian Shore
Edward Flavian Shore  |  Abstract
In 1988, Brazil ratified Article 68, a constitutional provision that granted land rights to rural black communities descended from fugitive slaves called quilombos. This project argues that Article 68 and its fitful enforcement reflect longstanding battles of the black peasantry over land, resources, and autonomy that originated under slavery and took new forms during the twentieth century. Focused on the Atlantic Rainforest of São Paulo state, this study draws from archival research and oral histories to reveal how quilombo-descendant political mobilization is bound up with past and present socio-spatial struggles. This political, cultural, and environmental history engages with critical geography to shed light upon the racial dynamics of what is often referred to as the environmentalism of the poor in Brazil.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Texas at Austin  -  Avengers of Zumbi: The Nature of Fugitive Slave Communities and Their Descendants in Brazil

Karen Buenavista Hanna
Karen Buenavista Hanna  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines the history of the Filipina/o American Anti-imperialist Left, beginning with the exile of activists to North America during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. These activists created a new line of political organizing from within the United States that prioritized ousting a US government-supported Marcos and the establishment of Philippine national sovereignty while addressing Filipina/o concerns in the US. Using oral history interviews, original activist documents, and feminist methodologies, this study traces the evolution of the Filipina/o American Left, analyzing its organizational splits and shifts over two decades. In doing so, it pays attention to the ways that race, gender, sexuality, class, and nation shaped this under-documented movement, offering insights for present-day transnational organizing.

Doctoral Candidate, Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara  -  Makibaka!: A Feminist Social History of the Transnational Filipina/o American Left, 1969-1992

Katherine Smoak
Katherine Smoak  |  Abstract
Counterfeiting flourished in the eighteenth-century British Atlantic world. Counterfeiters took advantage of the unstandardized nature of the colonial money supply and patchwork colonial legal codes to build regional and even Atlantic-wide counterfeiting networks that operated much like any other eighteenth-century business. This project reconstructs the lives of these men and women, arguing that their actions had wide-ranging implications for market development, cultures of money, and imperial authority. Counterfeits shaped daily economic transactions as people evaluated money, and each other, to minimize their own risks. Counterfeits also became enmeshed in larger debates about sovereignty and empire. During the American Revolution, counterfeiters threatened the political legitimacy of the United States; post-revolution, the rise of industrial counterfeiting challenged British authority in its remaining Atlantic possessions. Combining social, cultural, and political history, this project demonstrates that money itself has a history, of which counterfeiting is an important chapter.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Johns Hopkins University  -  Circulating Counterfeits: Making Money and Its Meanings in the Eighteenth-Century British Atlantic

Tiana Bakic Hayden
Tiana Bakic Hayden  |  Abstract
This dissertation is an ethnographic study of the effects of Mexico’s current insecurity crisis on the country’s largest wholesale food market and its provisioning networks. Based on 15 months of fieldwork among wholesale merchants, market administrators, police, truck drivers, and workers, it addresses the questions: How does insecurity figure into decisions, practices, and discourses of actors in the food system? How are order and trust established in conditions of impunity and uncertainty? What role does the law play in defining what it means to be a moral economic actor under these conditions? This project opens windows onto broader discussions on the meaning and practice of the law in conditions of insecurity, and on the cultural and moral dimensions of globalized food systems.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, New York University  -  Traders in Uncertainty: An Ethnography of Law(lessness) and (Dis)order in Mexico’s Central Food Market

Tim Sorg
Tim Sorg  |  Abstract
This dissertation is a comparative history of imperial land allotment in the ancient Mediterranean. Living in a profoundly agrarian world, the Athenians, Syracusans, and Romans created imperial territories by allotting confiscated land. Although all three were republics, the groups allotted land to their citizens in remarkably different ways. Drawing on recent trends in political geography and economic theory, and examining literary texts alongside archaeological case studies, this project demonstrates that the Athenians, Syracusans, and Romans used land allotment to model their imperial territories on what they valued in their own republics. As such, land allotment was a means to an end, more self-reflexive than aimed at control. Because land allotment moved people to and from confiscated land, and in and out of each republic, it also reorganized, concentrated, and displaced labor. Therefore, citizenship in each republic became increasingly economic, as the movement of citizens became a question of human capital.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Cornell University  -  Imperial Neighbors: Empires and Land Allotment in the Ancient Mediterranean World

Joshua Hudelson
Joshua Hudelson  |  Abstract
This project is a counter-history of the digitization of sound that gives priority to the concept of frequency. It locates the conceptual shift necessary for the digitization of sound in the development of the modern science of acoustics, circa 1900, and then charts the ascendance of a frequency-based model of sound through the twentieth century: from the invention of the noiseless typewriter to the proliferation of radio technology, Cold War research on digital signal processing, and the emergence of new sonic practices on the internet. The standard narrative of digitization paints everything, including sounds, in ones and zeroes. But the shift toward frequency preceded digital technology and constitutes a sort of digitization avant le lettre.

Doctoral Candidate, Music, New York University  -  Spectral Sound: A Cultural History of the Frequency Domain

Jessie L. Speer
Jessie L. Speer  |  Abstract
Over the past decade, new oral history archives and self-publishing platforms have led to an explosion in the production of memoirs and oral histories of homelessness. This project frames the growing genre of homeless life narratives as a form of subaltern urban theory. Based on close readings of hundreds of memoirs and oral histories of homelessness from cities across the United States, this research highlights the violent geographies of US housing, in which both political economies of urban development and heteropatriarchal cultures of domesticity produce racialized and gendered cycles of displacement. Further, it enables a radical reimagining of domestic space as a potential site of collective appropriation and mutual care, rather than alienation, consumption, and violence. In centering subaltern voices and analyzing the connections between economic and intimate politics, this work advances a Marxist-feminist and postcolonial approach to the study of US cities.

Doctoral Candidate, Geography, Syracuse University  -  Reimagining Home: Homeless Narratives As a Critique of Urban Housing

Faisal Husain
Faisal Husain  |  Abstract
A series of military campaigns between Anatolia and Iraq during the early sixteenth century brought the entirety of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers under the Ottoman Empire’s institutional control. From its dominant position over a unified drainage basin, Istanbul sought to harness the energy and resources of the twin rivers for its security and economic needs through a complex network of forts, canals, bridges, and shipyards. This project explores the concerted imperial effort at water control and its paradoxical consequences. The same rivers that allowed the Ottomans to cement their presence in the east exposed them to the hydrologic instabilities of floods, droughts, and channel shifts. Placing natural streams at the center of analysis, this study reveals intimate bonds between valley and mountain, nature and culture in the early modern world.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Georgetown University  -  Flows of Power: The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, 1546-1831

Alexios Tsigkas
Alexios Tsigkas  |  Abstract
Probing Ceylon tea as an ethnographic object, this project proposes that aesthetic judgment, as exemplified in the practices and discourses of professional tea tasting, is a constitutive component of economic valuation. It suggests that value, as quantified within price, is a product of the merging of calculative rationality and cultivated discernment, which systematically enacts tea as an object of both market speculation and taste expertise. The project follows tea along an intricate value chain from the plantations to the brokering and export firms that taste and trade it, and, ultimately, to the cup. By diverting attention back to spaces of production and processes of valuation, it shows that the economic function of taste extends beyond a mere grammar for consumption patterns. In doing so, it explores how aesthetic judgements get crafted and shared within market settings as well as across the divide between producers and consumers, experts and amateurs.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, The New School  -  Discerning Value: Taste As an Economic Fact

Philip Janzen
Philip Janzen  |  Abstract
Between 1890 and 1930, more than 500 people from the Caribbean joined the British and French colonial administrations in West and Central Africa. These Caribbean colonizers were typically two or three generations removed from slavery, but most identified as British and French and looked down on Africans, even as they were attracted by a symbolic Africa. Once in Africa, however, they were excluded by their white European colleagues and unwelcome among the Africans they were subjugating. The intellectual effects of this middle position were profound. This project illuminates how experiences with migration and racism, interactions with Africans, and exposure to African languages and cultures led Caribbean colonizers to rethink empire and black racial unity and to imagine alternative futures and geographies of the world.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Wisconsin-Madison  -  Africa and the Atlantic Imagination: An Intellectual History of Empire and Black Internationalism in the Twentieth Century

Elena Turevon
Elena Turevon  |  Abstract
Below melting glaciers in Peru’s Huaylas Valley, people speak of an Inca city glowing atop a mountain at night, a blond devil lurking in canals, and lakes that petrify shepherds. Through narratives that resist and embrace colonial projects, ecological ruin, and accumulation, storytellers conceptualize global capitalism and their futures in a warming world. And they tell of more than themselves. By juxtaposing the slow ruin of the valley with their own dreams of wealth, storytellers pinpoint the social genesis of planetary destruction, imagining too where and how humanity is bound. Engaging debates about the nonhuman and universality across Andean studies, political ecology, and ecocriticism, this dissertation frames capitalism and storytelling as telluric processes. It argues that social creativity defines yet exceeds the human, causing the climate crisis while also comprising humankind’s hope for survival. For, in the end, the stories people tell shape the fates of species.

Doctoral Candidate, Cultural Anthropology, Duke University  -  Devil in the Water, Lights on the Mountain: Anthroposcenes from Andean Peru

Ethan Jerzak
Ethan Jerzak  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines paradoxes of self-reference for two areas in which they have received little concerted attention: natural language semantics, and psychological theories of propositional attitudes. The central idea of the project is that these paradoxes arise for beliefs and desires even when those beliefs or desires are not about language. It develops a unified propositional theory governed by a nonclassical logic, and explores implications for natural language semantics and for philosophy of mind.

Doctoral Candidate, Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley  -  Paradox in Thought and Natural Language

Stefan Vogler
Stefan Vogler  |  Abstract
This dissertation asks how legal bureaucracies attempt to objectively measure the subjective phenomenon of sexuality for legal decision-making in the United States in order to analyze how measurement and classification processes get institutionalized in the law. Juxtaposing two sites where individuals must prove their sexualities—asylum claims by sexual minorities and risk assessments of sex offenders—this project argues that science and law coproduce sexuality as a regulatory category and cooperate to render sexual subjects legible to, and thus manageable by, the state. It shows that different networks of expertise formed to support competing conceptions of sexuality in each area of law, resulting in divergent ways of understanding sexuality and disparate governance outcomes.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, Northwestern University  -  Ruling Sexuality: Law, Expertise, and the Making of Sexual Knowledge

Alix Johnson
Alix Johnson  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines information infrastructures in Iceland to chart the ambivalent consequences of connectivity. Beginning with the effort to make Iceland an information haven—an attractive storage location for data from around the world—the project maps the layered histories and landscapes through which it became an infrastructural intermediary. By following Icelanders’ encounters with data centers, internet exchanges, and subsea fiber optic cables, it shows how digital networks remake natural landscapes, national imaginaries, and postcolonial politics. In doing so it interrogates the ideal of connection, a charismatic concept from the European Enlightenment to techno-utopian discourse today.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz  -  Compromising Connections: Icelandic Information Infrastructure and the Making of Marginality

Claire J. Weiss
Claire J. Weiss  |  Abstract
The difference in constructions provided for pedestrians in four ancient Roman cities—Pompeii, Herculaneum, Ostia, and Minturnae—suggests that sidewalk construction, or lack thereof, reflected differences in the social culture of the street front in these locations. This study analyzes both textual and physical evidence for the dialogue between municipal and private interests, and employs cutting-edge computer imaging methods to correlate sidewalk constructions, or their absence, with property types, street characteristics, and other urban infrastructural features. As urban culture shifted priorities over time, from public display of social hierarchy to commerce, from social integration to private isolation, the construction of sidewalks also waxed and waned to support these new patterns of behavior.

Doctoral Candidate, Art and Archaeology, University of Virginia  -  The Construction of Sidewalks as Indicator of Social and Economic Interaction in Ancient Roman Cities

Adrienne Kates
Adrienne Kates  |  Abstract
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, eastern Yucatec Mayas had to contend with increasing threats to their autonomy, both from the Mexican government and from businessmen working in the natural gum—chicle—industry. As appetites for chewing gum grew, the Quintana Roo region of Mexico, a previously peripheral place and source of chicle, became suddenly lucrative. Instead of losing land and independence as outsiders encroached, however, Quintana Roo’s Mayas negotiated the terms of resource extraction with local capitalists, striking compromises that suited their interests. They were aided in their efforts by the region’s insalubrious malarial climate, which helped keep outsiders at bay. This project argues that capitalist industry preserved indigenous independence instead of suppressing it; Mayas retained access to land, worked in chicle when they chose to, and even served as powerful middlemen and concessionaires. Money earned in chicle provided economic independence and was used to purchase weapons to fight off Mexican incursions.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Georgetown University  -  Maya Autonomy and International Capitalism in Mexico's Chewing Gum Forests, 1886-1947

Hallie Wells
Hallie Wells  |  Abstract
This project analyzes how understandings of democracy and free expression are shaped by the circulation of slam poetry as it both draws from and contends with centuries-old genres of public discourse in Madagascar. Slam—a performance poetry competition born in the United States in the 1980s—has flourished around the world, but nowhere more than Madagascar, where verbal art forms such as kabary (oratory) were a foundational site for anthropological studies of performance and politics, and where the idea that words have power is nothing new. This dissertation shows how slam poets and other verbal artists perform and reform notions of the public sphere, evaluations of authority and competence, and norms of indirectness and deference, thus providing critical insight into the impact of language ideologies on the political and economic livelihoods of communities.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley  -  Moving Words: Malagasy Slam Poetry at the Intersection of Performance, Politics, and Circulation

Joseph Kellner
Joseph Kellner  |  Abstract
This dissertation is a cultural history of the collapse of the USSR, focused on the highly visible flourishing of radical spiritual movements and worldviews that emerged in Soviet cities at that time. The collapse saw an abrupt and traumatic end to the Soviet world, and the values and orientations that Soviet people had long taken for granted. The project is comprised of five case studies, each examining problems people faced at that time, and the beliefs—esoteric or dogmatic, foreign or homespun, utopian or apocalyptic—that they adopted as solutions. These seekers, mostly of the urban, educated middle class, looked beyond conventional political philosophies or the USSR’s traditional faiths toward more radical conceptions of the world and the place of humans within it. Their stories speak to the nature of Soviet ideology, exposed as it unraveled, and to the common features of societies undergoing crisis.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of California, Berkeley  -  The End of History: Radical Responses to the Soviet Collapse

Oliver M. Wunsch
Oliver M. Wunsch  |  Abstract
In eighteenth-century France, a conflict emerged over art’s material decay. On one side of the divide were artists who produced increasingly ephemeral objects using experimental techniques, exploring unstable methods of oil painting and trying fragile materials like pastel. On the other side were those who sought to create enduring pictures, reviving ancient techniques and testing new chemical processes in the hopes of discovering a permanent medium. This project traces the emergence of these divergent practices, arguing that they reveal a broader conflict over art’s meaning and purpose. The historical sensibility of the Enlightenment, defined by both a faith in progress and a secular awareness of uncertainty, left artists unsure about the role that their work played in history. Some clung to the idea that great work transcended time, but others embraced impermanence, redefining art as something whose meaning and materiality were specific to their moment.

Doctoral Candidate, History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University  -  Painting against Time: The Decaying Image in the French Enlightenment