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. 

Celia Abele
Celia Abele  |  Abstract
This dissertation brings together the methods of the study of literature and history of science to examine the processes of production of literary texts and knowledge in France and Germany from the Enlightenment to the present day. It analyzes modes of knowledge collection, such as museums, encyclopedias, and herbaria as concrete practices, and it shows what epistemological and ethical assumptions they involve. It argues that, at the heart of the Enlightenment, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s botanical research and Denis Diderot’s “Encyclopédie” both created paradigms for writing the world. The project uses two further case studies—Émile Zola’s systematic field researcher in the late nineteenth century and the solitary collector and natural historian of knowledge at the center of W.G. Sebald’s fictions at the end of the twentieth century—to show how these paradigms continued to shape ambitious attempts to collect knowledge and write the world at the intersection of science and literature.

Doctoral Candidate, French, and Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University  -  Collecting Knowledge, Writing the World: An Enlightenment Project?

Charles A. Kollmer
Charles A. Kollmer  |  Abstract
This historical study reconstructs how early twentieth-century microbiologists employed pure cultures of microbes to analyze nutrition, metabolism, and growth in chemical terms. Comparative studies of microorganisms helped elucidate the chemical order of nature, and researchers began to see life as an essentially unified phenomenon, composed modularly from a finite number of common molecular building blocks. Around mid-century, this view of life culminated in the ubiquitous use of the bacterium E. coli as an experimental stand-in for a generic cell. The bacterium had become a proxy for life itself. In a series of case studies on the careers of microbiologists working in laboratories in Germany, Czechoslovakia, France, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and the United States, this project reconstructs how the radical shift in the status of microbial life happened and interrogates its enduring consequences for the way that scientists and laypeople define and understand life.

Doctoral Candidate, History of Science, Princeton University  -  From Elephant to Bacterium: Microbes, Microbiologists, and the Chemical Order of Nature

Kessie Alexandre
Kessie Alexandre  |  Abstract
Across the United States, cities face the immediate challenges of aging and inadequate water systems. The declining state of infrastructure introduces a number of water insecurities to cities, causing severe disruptions, compounding fragilities in environmental systems, and exposing humans to sewage and toxic chemicals. Based on fieldwork conducted in Newark, New Jersey, “Floods and Fountains” is an ethnography of urban water insecurity and infrastructure disrepair, which examines how water and water management shape political subjectivities and social relations over time. Keyed to the compounded realities of chronic flooding, tap water contamination, and waterway pollution in Newark, this project explores how people grapple with the vulnerabilities and effects of unsafe water flows.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Princeton University  -  Floods and Fountains: Toxicity and Revitalization through Newark's Waterworks

Allison Korinek
Allison Korinek  |  Abstract
This dissertation provides a social and political history of translation in French Algeria from the 1830s to the 1880s, charting a path from the colonial state’s early promises for a polyglot empire to the ultimate implosion of such hopes. Drawing upon the colonial state’s French- and Arabic-language archives, this project weaves together a study of bureaucratic procedures, a social history of translation, and attention to communicative praxis. Although translators were required for daily communication between French administrators, European colonists, and diverse local populations, they struggled to bridge the gap between French bureaucratic process and Algerian communicative practices. Foregrounding the distinctive understandings and uses of language employed by French Algeria’s burgeoning social groups, “Lost in Translation” locates imperial power at the unstable intersection of formalized administrative procedures, informal communicative practices, and the dynamic cadre of translators tasked with facilitating understanding between the colonizer and the colonized.

Doctoral Candidate, French Studies and History, New York University  -  Lost in Translation: Language and Colonial Rule in Nineteenth-Century French Algeria

William Bamber
William Bamber  |  Abstract
In the late nineteenth century, the Ottoman style of fez and “istanbulin” coat became widely adopted across South and Southeast Asia. What explains the transnational spread and appeal of this aesthetic in an age defined by European hegemony? Through a study of male self-fashioning in Ottoman Turkey and South Asia, this study highlights historical networks of South-South cultural interaction, and the transformative impact of new media on emerging ideas of identity. Drawing on archives of studio portraiture, illustrated journals and dress, “Fez & Sherwani” argues that this style’s popularity was tied to new notions of urbane, masculine sophistication emerging across the region, framed by a strong sense of mutual anti-imperialist resentment.

Doctoral Candidate, Near and Middle East Studies, University of Washington  -  Fez & Sherwani: Self-fashioning, Consumption, and Ottoman Influence in Nineteenth-Century South Asia

Jesús Luzardo
Jesús Luzardo  |  Abstract
This dissertation analyzes the phenomena of nostalgia and irony as temporal structures as well as modes of white racial identity formation. Its central claim is that white racial identity is constituted by a nostalgic temporal structure; that is, whiteness is foundationally nostalgic. This relationship is established through a philosophical reading of the history of nostalgia as a medical disorder between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as the emergence of white identity formations primarily in the antebellum North. Through a critical reading of Richard Rorty and Søren Kierkegaard, the project then argues that irony—understood in its most radical sense as a temporal mode of existence oriented towards the future—can serve as an alternative mechanism of racial identity formation which would not succumb to the nostalgia and violence that has characterized the history of whiteness and white supremacy.

Doctoral Candidate, Philosophy, Fordham University  -  Nostalgic Pasts, Ironic Futures: On the Temporal Modalities of Whiteness

John Bardes
John Bardes  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines slave prisons, the circum-Caribbean development of slave penology, and how antebellum theories of crime and correction shaped the postslavery criminalization and incarceration of freed African Americans. Prior historians have argued that enslaved people were never incarcerated, and that carceral systems directed at African Americans emerged only after emancipation. This study, based in part on analysis of over 50,000 prison admittance records, demonstrates that Louisiana slaveholders sentenced vast numbers of enslaved persons to specialized slave prisons, often for months and years. As the nation’s economy grew increasingly reliant on wageworkers, authorities redeployed this slave prison system against poor white migrants charged with vagrancy and freed black sailors charged with entering the state illegally. Many slave prisons survived the Civil War, and were repurposed for wageworkers convicted of vagrancy. These findings present major implications for the study of race, labor, and power in the nineteenth-century United States.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Tulane University  -  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Slavery and Emancipation: Fugitive Slaves, Poor Whites, and Prison Development in Louisiana, 1805-1898

Claire E. Nashar
Claire E. Nashar  |  Abstract
“Bad Translator” uses poetry from Canada, Mexico, South Korea, and the United States as a crucible for studying the importance of translation to the twentieth-century rise of the US empire. While attempts to translate poetry highlight the obvious—that no language is entirely commensurate with another, and no literary work is entirely extractable from its cultural context—poetry, as a textual genre, is also largely unique in its use of translation as a critical literary device. Taking as its subject poetic texts that use translation as a technique, “Bad Translator” makes crucial observations about the active workings of translation more broadly, as a function of contemporary global life and as a logic of exchange and transferability embedded in a vast array of social and economic structures.

Doctoral Candidate, English, University at Buffalo, State University of New York  -  Bad Translator: Experimental Translation in New North American Poetry

Anita N. Bateman
Anita N. Bateman  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines photographic representations of Ethiopian identity. It focuses on Emperor Haile Selassie I as a recuperative figure in Pan-African contexts, images by court photographer and later London studio portraitist Shemelis Desta, and contemporary works created by Ethiopian artists in the diaspora one generation after the Derg’s collapse. Exploring visual processes that concern, inform, and confront the practices of photographers working at the intersection of ethnic identity and nationalism, this dissertation scrutinizes Ethiopian artists’ views of the importance of their work to their country and to the African diaspora in conjunction with opposing historical narratives adopted by black nationalists, and alternatively, white imperialists in the early twentieth century.

Doctoral Candidate, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Duke University  -  Ethiopia in Focus: Photography, Nationalism, Diaspora, and Modernization

Brianna Nofil
Brianna Nofil  |  Abstract
In 2018, the United States detained immigrants at over 400 sites, ranging from county jails to office buildings to federal detention centers. “Detention Power” examines how this distinct system of administrative custody emerged, tracing its development from the era of the Chinese Exclusion Act to the era of ICE. This project demonstrates how the immigration bureaucracy fueled the expansion of the carceral state by creating new demand for jail space, partnering with local law enforcement to surveil and police migrants, and generating opportunities for towns to profit off the incarceration of immigrants. Through the records of presidential administrations, the immigration service, and legal aid groups, as well as sources from communities at the heart of the detention business, this project recasts deportation as a federal initiative impossible to carry out without local cooperation.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Columbia University  -  Detention Power: Jails, Camps, and the Origins of Immigrant Incarceration, 1900-2002

Lorenzo Bondioli
Lorenzo Bondioli  |  Abstract
“Peasants, Merchants, and Caliphs” destabilizes the narrative of capitalism as a distinctively European and modern phenomenon. It investigates the dynamic relationship between capital and tribute in the political economy of Egypt between the tenth and twelfth centuries, at a time when the country was a key node of the Afroeurasian world system. Through an analysis of agrarian property relations, manufacture, fiscal regimes, and trade networks, this project uncovers the antagonistic symbiosis of two different value circulation circuits: commercial capital and monetized taxation. This symbiosis operated both at the structural level, in the interplay of taxation and commerce, and at the level of individual actors through partnership, investment, and lending. By describing a distinctive form of capital formation predicated on a distinctive form of state domination, this dissertation recasts the longue durée history of capital accumulation in noncapitalist, extra-European societies.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Princeton University  -  Peasants, Merchants, and Caliphs: Capital and Empire in Fatimid Egypt, 900-1200 CE

Carolina Ortega
Carolina Ortega  |  Abstract
A product of archival research across the United States and Mexico, this study traces the history of guanajuatense migration to the United States throughout the twentieth century. It argues that even though much has been written about Mexican migration, there is still surprisingly little known about how its history looks from and in migrant sending communities. By beginning the story in early twentieth-century Guanajuato, one of Mexico’s most prolific—but often overlooked—sending states, this dissertation illuminates previously ignored long-term push factors of mass migration. The project’s focus on the lived experiences of migrants whose transborder histories extend far beyond the singular focus of their arrival in the United States deepens scholars’ and the broader public’s understandings of the ways in which the local and regional shaped the migrant journey.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  -  De Guanajuato to Green Bay: A Generational Story of Labor, Place, and Community, 1926-2010

Svetlana Borodina
Svetlana Borodina  |  Abstract
What is it that sustains the social inclusion of people with disabilities, and why do so many well-funded domestic initiatives to cultivate inclusion fail? This ethnographic research project addresses these questions in the context of postsocialist Russia, a country that in the past decade has undertaken a shift from segregationist disability policies toward a cultural and political orientation of inclusion. Based on 21 months of fieldwork, this dissertation examines attempts to produce and promote a sustainable culture of inclusivity among disabled and nondisabled individuals. It critically interrogates the undebated universalized moral value of inclusion and documents the social effects produced by different, sometimes contradictory, interpretations of inclusion, which populate the contemporary Russian landscape of governmental and civic initiatives of social betterment.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Rice University  -  Needed Subjects: An Ethnography of the Formation of the Inclusion Complex in Russia

Yalcin Ozkan
Yalcin Ozkan  |  Abstract
The frequency of workplace deaths in Turkey places the country among the most unsafe economies. This project reveals the law’s contribution to this hazardous labor regime by examining its emphasis on monetary compensation as a form of justice. It compares victims’ families who consent to this legal directive with those who challenge it by considering their different political capacities, open and suppressed grievances, actions and inactions. It argues that when the injured follows the conventional legal process, the law obscures pervasive safety violations under the guise of justice. When the plaintiff finds moral flaws in mere monetary redress, however, the criminal court becomes a venue for asserting the right to work in safety—albeit without the expected outcomes. Ultimately, this project situates the problem of workplace safety in Turkey within the broader issues of the ethical logics and limits of monetary restitution, and the abilities of the disadvantaged to claim social justice within the law.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, University of Massachusetts Amherst  -  Righting a Death on the Job: The Politics of Fatal Work Accident Lawsuits in Turkey

Benjamin Hofman Bradlow
Benjamin Hofman Bradlow  |  Abstract
In Brazil and South Africa, the social basis for democracy in the 1980s and 1990s comprised an alliance of trade unions with neighborhood-based organizations that fought for urban rights like housing, sanitation, and transportation. These countries are now rare among middle-income nations for constitutions that decentralize administration and finances to realize socioeconomic rights. In São Paulo and Johannesburg, each country’s largest city, these similarities led to different outcomes: reduced urban inequalities in São Paulo and reproduced inequalities in Johannesburg. This dissertation draws on 16 months of fieldwork in both cities, including 240 semi-structured interviews, archival research, and spatial analysis of national and municipal data sources. It argues that configurations of embeddedness of the local state in civil society and the cohesion of the institutional sphere of the local state explain why and when cities are able to reduce inequalities in the distribution of public goods.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, Brown University  -  Urban Origins of Democracy and Inequality: Governing São Paulo and Johannesburg, 1985-2016

Andrea Lee Pauw
Andrea Lee Pauw  |  Abstract
“Verses to Live By” examines Aljamiado poetry composed and copied by Spanish Muslims through the lens of linguistic anthropology. Aljamiado refers to Spanish transliterated with the Arabic alphabet. This neglected portion of the Aljamiado corpus disproves the narrative of intellectual and cultural decline ascribed to the Moriscos—Spanish Muslims forcibly converted to Christianity in the sixteenth century. Though Christian authorities banned Arabic and Islamic practices, many Moriscos continued to practice Islam clandestinely. Poetic texts preserved in manuscripts and diffused in recitation transmitted critical religious knowledge in comprehensible, creative, and captivating verse. Attending to Aljamiado poetry rewrites the Moriscos’ supposed narrative of degeneration, one that derives from nineteenth-century preoccupations and continues to influence perceptions of Spanish Islam today.

Doctoral Candidate, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia  -  Verses to Live By: Aljamiado Poetry in Mudejar and Morisco Communities

Sean Kim Butorac
Sean Kim Butorac  |  Abstract
This dissertation shows how resistance to slavery altered the making of law and race, yielding racialized ideas and institutions that survived the abolition of slavery. It explores four critical junctures in South Carolina between 1690 and 1876: The 1739 Stono Uprising, the 1822 Vesey Uprising, the construction of the state penitentiary in 1866, and the 1876 race riots. Institutionally, this study tracks the effects of black resistance on state development, showing how insurrection laws—forged against expressions of black agency—persisted beyond slavery as riot and protest laws. Theoretically, it tracks the making of race through resistance to slavery, showing how whiteness is consolidated through antiblack violence and blackness is stigmatized as a condition of criminality. Taken together, this work offers an account of state and constitutional development and race-making that highlights the agency that freed and enslaved black people have asserted and the reactive development of punitive law.

Doctoral Candidate, Political Science, University of Washington  -  States of Insurrection: Race, Resistance, and the Laws of Slavery, 1690-1876

Caro Pirri
Caro Pirri  |  Abstract
This project engages key formal continuities between settlement writing and English popular drama between 1570 and 1620 to examine how dramatists gave expression to New World accounts of failure and loss. During this period, unprecedented geographic expansion outside the theater was mirrored by an expansion of the dramatic setting. Yet dramatic interest in settlement crisis was primarily aesthetic rather than thematic, as dramatists recognized in settler accounts a corresponding crisis of representation which suggested that traditional forms of knowledge were unsuited to the demands of the present. These dramatists drew on the structure and rhetoric of settlement documents to respond to changes in the dramatic medium and question the capaciousness of their own theatrical worlds. By linking innovations in dramatic scenography to England’s New World failures, this project shows that drama played a crucial role in formalizing the uncertainty at the heart of the early modern knowledge-making enterprise.

Doctoral Candidate, Literatures in English, Rutgers University-New Brunswick  -  Settlement Aesthetics: Theatricality, Form, Failure

Margarita Mercedes Castroman
Margarita Mercedes Castroman  |  Abstract
“Collecting Race” focuses on how black writers in the Americas during the second half of the twentieth century anticipate the archival turn. Proposing a new theory of the black archive, it shifts attention away from the objects collected for the sake of posterity to the motivations of subjects who accumulate these objects and the affective networks in which they participate. Exposing more radical challenges to archival status than those included in the current counter-archive paradigm, it explores how writers from Ralph Ellison to M. NourbeSe Philip confront the epistemological practices that govern the status of the archive and the position of the racialized subject. Their work on the archive, the project argues, not only speaks up for the silent, but presents new ways of collecting race.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Rutgers University-New Brunswick  -  Collecting Race: The Archival Impulse in Twentieth-Century Black Literature and Culture

Julie M. Powell
Julie M. Powell  |  Abstract
This dissertation explores the growth of wartime rehabilitation initiatives during World War I and the rhetoric that accompanied and facilitated their expansion. During this period, the Allied nations—and later, ex-enemies—collaborated in the development of rehabilitative language and practices that were deeply influenced by political ideologies and modern conceptions of ideal manliness. The project demonstrates the extent to which the new focus on rehabilitation and the reconstruction of the disabled male body both encouraged and frustrated international community building in the early twentieth century, and how wartime rhetoric about duty, debt, and masculinity and new understandings of rehabilitative rights for the war-wounded opened a space to consider how such rights might be extended to others.

Doctoral Candidate, History, The Ohio State University  -  The Labor Army of Tomorrow: Masculinity and the Internationalization of Veterans’ Rehabilitation, 1914-1924

Rafael Cesar
Rafael Cesar  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines the dominant current of Angolan nationalism in the twentieth century, which rejected expressions of blackness and race consciousness and forged an imaginary of a mixed-race nation at odds with its reality as a black-African country. By examining literature, press articles, political speeches, and educational materials, it tracks the emergence of this discourse to show that a nationalist, white-mestizo, creole elite in Angola, unidentified with black-African nationalisms, translated into Angola the Latin American imaginaries of race-mixing and racial harmony, mainly from Brazil and Cuba. Comparing these texts with archival material of the liberation movements, it argues that such discourse depoliticized the historical relations between race and colonization in Angola, ultimately legitimizing this white-mestizo group’s political rule after the country’s independence. This complicates the mainstream narrative that labels this South-South alliance in Angola as anticolonial. This study calls this resulting imaginary the “fictions of racelessness.”

Doctoral Candidate, Spanish and Portuguese, New York University  -  Fictions of Racelessness: The Latin American Racial Imaginaries of Angola, 1901-2002

Elizabeth Joy Reynolds
Elizabeth Joy Reynolds  |  Abstract
This dissertation explores Tibetan economic institutions and transportation infrastructures during the twentieth century. During this period, Tibetan institutions and actors negotiated their position vis-à-vis Britain and China by asserting economic agency through ulak: a transportation-cum-taxation system that facilitated transport, trade, and communications in Tibet. As opposed to the earlier literature that portrayed ulak as the primary reason for Tibetan economic backwardness, this project demonstrates that ulak was in fact a complex system uniquely suited to a region like Tibet, which was rich in land but poor in labor. Furthermore, due to its highly decentralized and flexible structure, ulak was particularly effective in times of uncertainty and change. Focusing on ulak and the socio-economic world around it, this dissertation examines Tibetan monasteries, merchants, and transnational companies that participated in global economic transformations.

Doctoral Candidate, East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University  -  Economies of the High Plateau: Monasteries, Merchants, and Ulak Transportation in Tibet, 1904-1959

Sandy F. Chang
Sandy F. Chang  |  Abstract
“Across the South Seas” explores the migration of Chinese women who embarked on border-crossing journeys, arriving in British Malaya as wives, domestic servants, and prostitutes. Between the 1870s and 1930s, hundreds of thousands of women traveled to the Peninsula at a time when modern migration control first emerged as a system of racial exclusion, curtailing Asian mobility into white settler colonies and nation-states. In colonial Malaya, however, Chinese women encountered a different set of racial, gender, and sexual politics at the border and beyond. Based on facilitation rather than exclusion, colonial immigration policies selectively encouraged Chinese female settlement across the Peninsula. Weaving together histories of colonial sexual economy, Chinese migration, and the globalization of border control, this study foregrounds the role of itinerant women during Asia’s mobility revolution. It argues that Chinese women’s intimate labor ultimately served as a crucial linchpin that sustained the Chinese overseas community in colonial Southeast Asia.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Texas at Austin  -  Across the South Seas: Gender, Intimacy, and Chinese Migrants in British Malaya, 1870s-1930s

Emma Rodman
Emma Rodman  |  Abstract
Is the idea of equality in the United States an inherently progressive ideal? From recent battles for marriage equality to its centrality in contemporary democratic theory, equality is presented as an ideologically straightforward, progressive concept. This project, the first properly critical study of the idea of equality in the United States, challenges and complicates this univocal theoretical orientation toward equality. It argues that equality is polyvocal; in three case studies, it shows how some registers of equality produce and naturalize hierarchy and sabotage democratic participation and inclusion. Using archival sources, published primary sources, and original datasets, it offers a complex and historically grounded new framework for understanding the US idea of equality.

Doctoral Candidate, Political Science, University of Washington  -  The Idea of Equality in America

Meghna Chaudhuri
Meghna Chaudhuri  |  Abstract
This dissertation tells the unknown history of how agrarian populations in South Asia have long been targeted as objects of financial experimentation and reveals the origins of agrarian finance as a project of governance from the late nineteenth century to the early postcolonial period. It brings the question of political economy as method to bear on how material processes inform the historically slippery questions of what value is and how it is created. Specifically, the dissertation examines the emergence of life insurance and credit instruments as financial tools for extracting value from the Indian countryside and their redeployment as a mechanism of state-directed development after 1947. Calling this process the “economization of life,” the project argues that it transformed social relations across South Asia and the wider British imperial world while producing new imaginaries of national sovereignty premised on both the actuarial and affective lives of South Asians.

Doctoral Candidate, History, New York University  -  A Measure of Value: Life, Land, and Agrarian Finance in South Asia, 1830-1950

Valentina J. Rozas-Krause
Valentina J. Rozas-Krause  |  Abstract
In 2004, when Argentina’s president apologized for crimes committed by the state during the last military dictatorship, he also inaugurated a new memorial. Fixing his words in stone, he expropriated a 42-acre lot from the navy to transform it into a so-called memory campus. Memorials like this one embody more than memory: they are built as symbols of remorse or reparation. This dissertation traces this emerging phenomenon by examining the cult of apology through its global manifestation in memorials. Through four representative case studies in Berlin, Buenos Aires, and San Francisco, it builds an empirical and theoretical understanding of multiple aspects of apology and memorialization, the actors involved in it, the material forms that it takes, and the diverse effects that it produces.

Doctoral Candidate, Architecture, University of California, Berkeley  -  Memorials and the Cult of Apology

Gabrielle E. Cornish
Gabrielle E. Cornish  |  Abstract
This dissertation explores the how music and sound helped to construct Soviet identity during the Cold War. Using archival research, musical analysis, historical sound studies, and interviews, it argues that the Soviet government strategically considered sound and music within a broader politics of socialist modernity—that is, a socialist alternative to capitalist models of cultural and technological development. Officials believed sound was a foundational material in promoting socialism in two ways: first, it was an ideal medium through which to reinvigorate the utopian underpinnings of Marxist-Leninism after Stalin. Second, it was instrumental in distinguishing Soviet socialism from Western capitalism: socialism ought to sound different from capitalism. Ultimately, this project presents a model for rethinking aesthetic modernism in the late socialist context and, in doing so, reintroduces the Soviet Union into broader discourses of musical modernism, invention, and the “new” in twentieth-century music history.

Doctoral Candidate, Musicology, University of Rochester  -  Sounding Socialist, Sounding Modern: Music, Technology, and Everyday Life in the Soviet Union, 1956-1975

Sonia Rupcic
Sonia Rupcic  |  Abstract
In post-apartheid South Africa, justice is pursued in a variety of forums. This is especially the case with sexual harm, which is historically dealt with in a number of ways. From courtrooms to chiefs’ tribunals, church services to university grievance hearings, living rooms to hair salons, this project describes how survivors and their loved ones seek justice inside and outside of courtrooms. By following complaints of unwanted sex, this study argues that material and discursive practices of redress shape indeterminate experiences of undesirable sex into recognizable categories of transgression. The project finds that categories of harm arise from different notions of normative sex, intentionality, and personhood that crosscut sites of redress. This study opens new inquiries into the conception of legal pluralism while also answering a wider call for empirically grounded research on the perils and potentials of righting sexual wrongs by way of criminal prosecution and its others.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Righting Sexual Wrongs? Personhood, Intent, and Sex in a former South African Homeland

Kyle Ellison David
Kyle Ellison David  |  Abstract
This project argues that children played a constitutive role in the Chinese communist revolution as agents of transformation and objects of state paternalism. As historical actors, children participated in wartime resistance activities as sentries, spies, and saboteurs. They were also at the center of numerous Chinese Communist Party (CCP) state-building projects, such as universal primary school education and the establishment of modern pediatric care. Together, these policies not only fostered good will between the rural masses and the communist government, but also achieved a quantitative increase and qualitative improvement of the population. The dissertation concludes that children were the foundation on which the CCP built its burgeoning socialist society.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of California, Irvine  -  Children of the Revolution: Childhood and Conflict in Rural North China, 1937-1948

Michael L. Sabbagh
Michael L. Sabbagh  |  Abstract
Since 2008, Wayne County, Michigan has issued more than 255,000 foreclosure notices to Detroit homeowners for falling three years behind on property taxes, resulting in the yearly January bloom of yellow-bagged notices stapled to wooden stakes pounded into the frozen ground. Detroit’s sizable black population, many of whom live near the poverty line, have felt the greatest impact of the resulting yearly auction. This dissertation regards Wayne County tax foreclosures not simply as a mundane state process, but rather as a dual form of racialized dispossession that occurs individually and collectively by destroying neighborhoods through dereliction and demolition. Foreclosure, census, demolition, and school closure data from 2008 to 2017 are mapped to show the total impact of tax foreclosure on Detroit’s neighborhoods.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, Wayne State University  -  Tax Foreclosure, Racialized Dispossession, and Belonging in Post-2008 Detroit

Kate Driscoll
Kate Driscoll  |  Abstract
Torquato Tasso has long been seen as a solitary figure, lionized by the Romantics as an individual tormented by genius and madness. However, scholars have not yet investigated in detail Tasso's vital role as a coordinator of cultural networks, many of which encouraged participation by women. This dissertation reads Tasso in dialogue with communities of women writers, performers, and patrons, and traces how the poet’s artistically innovative interactions with women reflect social and gendered dynamics inherent in Tasso’s writings, intended readership, and literary legacy. Through an interdisciplinary methodology informed by literary analysis, women's and gender studies, musicology, and cultural and performance history, this project demonstrates the centrality of Tasso’s contacts with women in various contexts, bringing these gendered communities to the foreground in order to enhance critical understanding of the sixteenth-century rise of new opportunities for men and women to collaborate as cultural protagonists.

Doctoral Candidate, Italian Studies, University of California, Berkeley  -  Torquato Tasso among the Muses: Gendered Communities of Readership and Response in Early Modern Italy

Nicolás Sánchez-Rodríguez
Nicolás Sánchez-Rodríguez  |  Abstract
This project studies the problem of representing value in an economy based on credit and accumulation through a historical analysis of four financial instruments: stocks, bonds, bills of exchange, and paper money. Considering the discursive, aesthetic, and affective dimensions of financial crises, it analyzes the way nineteenth-century Colombian criollos, white men of letters, understood and managed the ambiguous relation between these financial instruments and the value they were supposed to represent. This dissertation thus unravels how this problem of representation defined the efforts of criollos to join the capitalist world economy and profoundly determined the shape that class, gender, and racial hierarchies would take in Latin America. The project argues that capitalist development was made possible during the period through new linguistic and accounting modes of representation that secured the trust required by financial instruments, while simultaneously making the economy vulnerable to cyclical crises of credibility.

Doctoral Candidate, Romance Studies, Duke University  -  The Minted-City: Money, Value, and Crises of Representation in Nineteenth-Century Colombia, 1825-1903

David E. Dunning
David E. Dunning  |  Abstract
In the decades around 1900, logicians came to see the study of valid inference as a mathematical science. This transformation changed systems of writing no less dramatically than the ideas they expressed. Each notation entailed a way of interacting with marks on paper, a manner of training students, and a vision for the use of formal logic. Examining five notations developed across five countries, this project grounds mathematical logic in local scientific, cultural, and political settings. A growing diversity of writing practices led logicians to consider symbolic methods as not just a tool but as an object of study. Appropriated mathematical inscriptions led to a science of symbolic systems at a time when such systems were becoming central to technological, economic, and bureaucratic life in Europe.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Princeton University  -  Writing the Rules of Reason: Notations in Mathematical Logic, 1847-1937

Allison M. Serraes
Allison M. Serraes  |  Abstract
“Carceral Matrix” reveals how black women writers since the 1960s have provided complex aesthetic models for exploring incarceration and confinement—models that attend to the intersecting components of race, class, and gender—through black female characters whose futures depend on their converging struggles for freedom of expression and reproductive autonomy. This study examines how the works of Gayl Jones, Alice Walker, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Eve Ewing interrogate the expressive and social dynamics that have historically configured black women’s bodies and reproductive autonomy as contested sites of control in regard to personhood, property, and labor. Merging critical prison and literary studies, this dissertation broadens our understandings of what can be read as confinement and understood as confinement literature within an era of mass incarceration.

Doctoral Candidate, English, University of Mississippi  -  Carceral Matrix: Black Women’s Writing in Response to Mass Incarceration, 1963-2017

Usmaan M. Farooqui
Usmaan M. Farooqui  |  Abstract
This dissertation focuses on water access as a critical lens to study wider processes of urban stasis and transformation in Pakistan. Popular and scholarly discourses warn that an escalating water crisis in Karachi, one of the world’s largest, most conflict-prone cities, will soon cause widespread violence. But, despite its chronically dry pipes, the “city of lights” remains Pakistan’s cultural and economic hub. This dissertation begins by tracing how rationalities of urban governance have historically produced uncertain water access for the city’s urban poor. It then turns attention to everyday, lived experiences of water access to shed light on the social and material practices that emerge and consequently shape possibilities for violence in such a context. Combining these levels of analysis, “Precarious Pipes” demonstrates how supposedly “weak” states employ evolving logics of rule in times of scarcity and how city-dwellers receive and engage with the structures that seek to govern them.

Doctoral Candidate, Political Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst  -  Precarious Pipes: Governance, Informality, and the Politics of Access in Karachi

Renee Shelby
Renee Shelby  |  Abstract
The #MeToo social consciousness demands a move from awareness to action. Since the 1970s, citizen-activists have challenged how the justice system neglects assault by re-designing the technology used for self-defense, reporting, investigation, and punishment. “Designing Justice” uncovers how activists use these objects to contest structural inequality, by re-shaping which cases flow through the legal system. Using archival, narrative, and scientific sources, the study reveals new battles over survivors’ social and legal futures. The study articulates how public contestations over the multiple definitions of sexual violence inscribed in technological design challenge racial and gender stereotypes.

Doctoral Candidate, History and Sociology, Georgia Institute of Technology  -  Designing Justice: Sexual Violence, Technology, and Citizen-Activism

Sarah E.K. Fong
Sarah E.K. Fong  |  Abstract
In the aftermath of emancipation and as the supposed close of the frontier loomed, the United States grappled with fundamental challenges to its sociopolitical and territorial boundaries. In this contested context, industrial boarding schools emerged as a critical technology of racial and colonial governance. This project examines citizenship through a comparative analysis of the Hampton Institute in Virginia and the Haskell Institute in Kansas, two residential boarding schools for Black and Native youth. Discursive and rhetorical analysis of institutional records reveals how school authorities wielded character building as a pedagogy that aimed to cultivate self-governing subjects. This project contends that this individualizing model of education for citizenship leveraged discourses of inclusion to feed a new regime of industrial capitalism. It also concludes that late nineteenth-century industrial boarding schools created new possibilities for national belonging and, simultaneously, reinscribed the occupation of indigenous territories and the dehumanization of Black and Native subjects.

Doctoral Candidate, American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California  -  Making Citizens: Racialization, Settler Colonialism, and the Logics of Social Welfare, 1865-1924

Chelsea Rae Silva
Chelsea Rae Silva  |  Abstract
This dissertation explores the intersection and interaction of healthcare and literature in late medieval England. Texts produced in this period attest to the entanglement of literary and medical discourses and epistemologies. From the poetry of John “The Blind” Audelay to the medical collection of the Italian physician Donatus Antonius ab Altomare, this project redefines embodied writing to account not only for the body itself, but for the processes of maintenance and repair that defined life within it. Reading vernacular medical collections with, against, and alongside canonical literary texts produced by authors who were ailing or impaired, “Bedwritten” puts forward case studies in which attention to the material realities of embodiment transforms understandings of medieval literature. In doing so, it reveals the shaping power of medical care on writers’ experiences of illness and impairment and, consequently, on the texts they produced.

Doctoral Candidate, English, University of California, Riverside  -  Bedwritten: Middle English Medicine and the Ailing Author

Camila A. Gavin
Camila A. Gavin  |  Abstract
The US-backed Chilean military coup that deposed President Salvador Allende and initiated the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-90) sparked large-scale opposition as Chileans faced torture, disappearance, and exile. While the literature on the anti-Pinochet movement focuses on Chilean exiles, this dissertation uses archives, oral histories, and cultural analysis to explore how Chicanas participated in the movement. It argues that through the circulation of cultural texts on Chile, contact with Chilean exiles, and travel to Chile, Chicanas internationalized the Chicana/o movement and shaped women of color politics by framing imperialism as a feminist issue. More broadly, this dissertation contributes to understandings of international events and how they shape US culture and politics, focusing on women’s roles in the creation of these transnational connections.

Doctoral Candidate, Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego  -  Chicanas in Solidarity with Chile: Transnational Feminisms, the Chicana/o Movement, and Culture

Caleb Simone
Caleb Simone  |  Abstract
The double reed wind instrument known as the aulos was arguably the most prominent musical instrument in ancient Greek life. Its booming, bagpipe-like strains structured ritual, dramatic, and athletic performances and choreographed marching soldiers and rowing sailors. Bringing literary and visual sources together for the first time in a systematic study, this project addresses the phenomenon of aulos performance as an embodied, sonic experience. By charting the cultural discourse surrounding the aulos from archaic into classical times, the project shows how this instrument operated through a culturally conditioned interface with the body to trigger effects ranging from the orderly and salutary to the unsettled and even violent. The more comprehensive cultural history that emerges opens up fresh perspectives on the literature, art, and performance culture of ancient Greece.

Doctoral Candidate, Classics, Columbia University  -  Enchanted Bodies: Reframing the Culture of Greek Aulos Performance

Matthew Ghazarian
Matthew Ghazarian  |  Abstract
What conditions harden communal boundaries and provoke violence across them? This project addresses these questions in the Ottoman Empire in the period between 1839 and 1894: 1839 brought a radical declaration of religious equality, but 1894 brought years of sectarian violence. Other studies focus on Ottoman state, European colonial, and Protestant missionary activities, but this dissertation argues that new ideas and practices of religious difference arose from local material and ecological conditions. This project examines the effects of famine and responses to it, showing how extreme material conditions upended the social ecology of Ottoman Anatolia, distributing collective trauma along communal lines, crystallizing boundaries between religious communities, and planting the seeds for later sectarian violence.

Doctoral Candidate, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University  -  Famine and Sectarianism in Ottoman Anatolia, 1839-1894

Jesse Spafford
Jesse Spafford  |  Abstract
The past 25 years have witnessed the emergence and development of what has become known as left-libertarianism—a philosophical position that seeks to show that certain moral principles traditionally associated with libertarianism are compatible with egalitarian views about the distribution of resources. However, this position has also come under fire from various critics who argue that the position lacks coherence. For example, Barbara Fried argues that even if left-libertarians show that one can simultaneously hold this combination of ethical principles, it doesn’t follow that one should. This dissertation argues that there is a suitably coherent version of left-libertarianism wherein egalitarian conclusions are shown to actually follow from core libertarian premises.

Doctoral Candidate, Philosophy, City University of New York, The Graduate Center  -  The Coherence of Left-Libertarianism: A New Approach to Reconciling Libertarianism and Socialism

David Newman Glovsky
David Newman Glovsky  |  Abstract
In the late nineteenth century, the French, British, and Portuguese colonial governments drew borders between the colonies of Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea to divide and separate the peoples of these colonies. Based on ethnographic and archival research in six countries, “Belonging beyond Boundaries” argues that colonial governments never successfully controlled these borders, and that precolonial territorial strategies and networks have persisted to the present. Borderland communities made and remade spatial networks for a variety of reasons, adjusting their geographies in the face of state efforts to control and monitor movement. This research demonstrates that these communities used shifting migration strategies to consistently produce and reproduce alternative visions of space and place that challenged colonial and postcolonial ideas of territory as bounded space, using their border location to gain political autonomy and successfully disengage from colonial and postcolonial states.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Michigan State University  -  Belonging Beyond Boundaries: Constructing a Transnational Community in a West African Borderland since 1867

Serena S. Stein
Serena S. Stein  |  Abstract
This project examines social and environmental processes resulting from agriculture development projects in northern Mozambique along a landscape of coordinated investments in energy extraction, infrastructure, and agribusiness. Based on two years of multisited ethnographic and archival research, the dissertation analyzes encounters among smallholder farmers, agronomists, environmental activists, plantation investors, and Brazilian settlers brought together through the emerging paradigm of South-South cooperation over the past decade. The ethnography argues that ontological similarities drawn across disparate landscapes of the Global South legitimate agro-extractivism at various scales. This commensuration creates moral ecologies that rest upon—and unravel through—unequal power relations, hierarchies of knowledge, and contested belonging. In this boom-bust era of speculation, land grabs, and South-South technology transfers emerges conviviality, defined here as problematic solidarities among human and more-than-human collectives including soil, pests, spirits, and seeds. The project conceptualizes rural cosmopolitan futures, contributing to debates on domestication, state violence, and extractive accumulation.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Princeton University  -  Farmers, Donors, Settlers, Seeds: Extractivism and Convivial Ecologies in Mozambique’s Agribusiness Frontier

Daniel A. Grant
Daniel A. Grant  |  Abstract
In the century after the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo drew the modern US-Mexico border, the Colorado River undermined the border's fixity and subverted the authority of both states to discipline borderland subjects. During this era, before dams regulated flows, the river paradoxically fixed territorial boundaries and shifted unpredictably across its floodplain, posing problems of jurisdiction and sovereignty when it no longer adhered to the boundaries it supposedly demarcated. In response, local indigenous and African-American communities who shared these dynamic boundaries formed alliances and negotiated conflicts among one another, the United States, and Mexico to remain rooted to their respective territories. Three interwoven case studies focusing on African-American squatters, Yuma Indians, and Cocopah Indians suggest that the river mediated racial belonging and exclusion long before contemporary water crises. Using archival and oral history methods, this dissertation reframes the history of settler colonialism in the borderlands as multiple, not binary.

Doctoral Candidate, Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison  -  Fluid Geographies: Race, Boundaries, and Territory in the Colorado River Borderlands

Shreya Subramani
Shreya Subramani  |  Abstract
This project is an ethnographic study of prisoner reentry programming under the rubrics of so-called smart governance in New Orleans, Louisiana. It outlines the racializing/racialized assumptions made by progressive criminal justice reforms that push innovative private-public partnerships and data-driven best practices as correctives to social and financial inequity. Such reforms impel entrepreneurial projects of self-making for the formerly incarcerated while simultaneously recasting modes of carceral fixation. By tracing the institutional and intimate socialities of formerly incarcerated men and their families who navigate the emergent infrastructure of reentry, as well as those of the legal professionals, nonprofit operatives, city planners, and municipal bureaucrats who manage, negotiate, and build it, this work interrogates entrepreneurialism as an emancipatory ethos. It situates entrepreneurial governance within material histories of racialized accumulation by dispossession while attending to the novel technologies and affects through which entrepreneurialism articulates, re/imagines, and re/produces race in the contemporary US city.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Princeton University  -  Second Chance Entrepreneur: Prisoner Reentry Governance in the American City

Maricarmen Hernandez
Maricarmen Hernandez  |  Abstract
This dissertation is an ethnography of organizing strategies and daily life in a toxic informal settlement located next to a refinery in Ecuador. Drawing from social movement and environmental justice literature, it documents how various issues work in tandem, ultimately displacing the environment as a pressing matter. Through an understanding of why residents are organizing to formalize their ties to the toxic land, instead of making claims for mitigating exposure or relocation, the dissertation seeks to uncover the meaning that residents have attributed to this space. Drawing from 15 months of fieldwork, the project follows the resident’s day-to-day struggles to solve the problems of living in marginality and thus document if, when, and why environmental issues become salient or are normalized.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, University of Texas at Austin  -  To Build a Home: Informal Settlements and Environmental Inequality in Esmeraldas, Ecuador

Randa May Tawil
Randa May Tawil  |  Abstract
“Routes of Race” examines the multiple routes migrants from Ottoman Syria took to and through North America in the first half of the twentieth century. Using archival sources from France, Lebanon, and the United States, it analyzes the encounters between peoples from Syria and power structures along their itineraries, and the ways these confrontations produced competing racial, gender, and class formations. French, US, and Ottoman state and non-state actors had stakes in this traveling population, and asserted control over them during their transit. As these powers drew the global color line, Syrian migrants both disrupted and helped shape it through their mobility. This project shows that processes of migration—tickets, borders, transit zones—reveal the inner workings of race, empire, and capital. Sitting at the intersection of ethnic studies and transnational history, this study stresses mobility as a key process of racial formation.

Doctoral Candidate, American Studies, Yale University  -  Routes of Race: Migration between Ottoman Syria, Mandate Lebanon, and the United States, 1881-1945

Rebecca H. Hogue
Rebecca H. Hogue  |  Abstract
Often misguided by continental bias, studies of nuclear proliferation have largely ignored the experiences and writings of Indigenous peoples, especially those of the Pacific Islands, despite over three hundred detonations in the region. To counteract these erasures, my dissertation project examines the rhetorical and representational strategies of Indigenous writers and activists during, or inspired by, the “Nuclear Free” movements in the Pacific Islands from 1975 to 2018. Using a decolonial, ecocritical methodology on the topics of kinship and temporality, I examine newsletters, pamphlets, conference proceedings, fiction, poetry, and videopoems from Oceania to argue for a place-based re-theorization of nuclear studies that includes and incorporates Indigenous Oceanic epistemologies.

Doctoral Candidate, English, University of California, Davis  -  Archipelagos of Resistance: Anti-Nuclear Writing of Oceania, 1975-2018

Eric H. Thomas
Eric H. Thomas  |  Abstract
Based on 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork on the coast of Chilean Patagonia, this project uses critical development theory to examine relationships between rural residents pursuing multiple livelihoods in remote spaces, globalized industries that increasingly dominate these resource-rich but sparsely-populated edges of the global economy, and state agents tasked with serving both groups. An unprecedented red tide in 2018 revealed that the development favored by state planners—which has privileged growth over sustainability—is destructive to coastal ecosystems and livelihoods. Coastal residents are now using red tide narratives and bureaucratic skills developed through participating in public programs to assert their status as victims, hold officials accountable for ecological devastation, and gain a greater say in the development of their region.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  -  Making the Frontier: Contesting Development on the Coast of Patagonia

Gerard Holmes
Gerard Holmes  |  Abstract
Spontaneity suffused nineteenth-century American creative production to an extent now forgotten, so attentive have readers and critics been to the resulting texts and other material productions. The improvised creations of orators, clergy, musicians, and writers informed the production of works now read as fixed and canonical. Emily Dickinson, a skilled piano improviser, also improvised at her writing desk, in ways that matter for reading, reprinting, and understanding that work. Her self-preserved manuscripts function like music scores, incorporating variants that guide poetic performances she extemporaneously customized for specific audiences, often alongside or within letters. Dickinson also engaged in cultural critique of improvisation: in poems, for example, she complicated ideas of birdsong as artless or natural by writing about the communitarian songs of familiar, everyday birds instead of the exotic larks and nightingales of European poetry, and in letters she critiqued performances of simulated spontaneity in musical, religious, and political settings.

Doctoral Candidate, English, University of Maryland, College Park  -  Discretion in the Interval: Emily Dickinson’s Musical Performances

Kemal Onur Toker
Kemal Onur Toker  |  Abstract
The idea that certain goods grow more abundant when shared—“the more I give to thee, the more I have”—was a recurrent motif in the works of Shakespeare and Milton. Although this motif has resurfaced in recent social scientific work on the sharing economy of the open-source software movement, it has not yet received any sustained scholarly attention that traces its literary genealogy or explicates its poetic import. In remedying this neglect, “The Poetics of the Sharing Economy” not only fills a significant gap in scholarship but also undertakes a critical reexamination of the fundamentally monetary model of cultural capital that has shaped various New Historicist and New Economic approaches to literary and cultural studies since the early 1980s.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Brandeis University  -  The Poetics of the Sharing Economy: Shakespeare and Milton in the Age of the Leviathan

Poyao Huang
Poyao Huang  |  Abstract
This dissertation is an ethnographic study of the material culture of HIV medicine and gay men’s sexual health in the intra-Asian region of Taiwan and Thailand. Building on two years of fieldwork, it explores the implementation of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis—PrEP, a new type of HIV prevention medicine—in relation to the Taiwanese government-led demonstration project, the AIDS advocate-initiated drug-access model, gay men’s medical tourism to Thailand, and gay men’s sexual communication with social applications. By detailing PrEP’s social trajectory and gay men's lived experiences with becoming HIV negative on PrEP, this project addresses larger issues about the marketization of HIV medicine, the politics of self-medication, and the transformation of queer sociality in the digital realm.

Doctoral Candidate, Communication and Science Studies, University of California, San Diego  -  Becoming HIV Negative on PrEP: The Material Culture of HIV Medicine and Gay Taiwanese Men’s Sexual Health

Nishita Trisal
Nishita Trisal  |  Abstract
“Banking on Uncertainty” examines the everyday life of banking and finance in politically volatile conditions. Based on 22 months of ethnographic and archival research conducted at a large bank in Indian-administered Kashmir in the wake of the region's 2016 uprising, the dissertation tracks the technical and routine work of bankers as they labored amidst continuous strikes and curfews. It also follows the bank's customers, who struggled to repay and renegotiate their debts during a time of ongoing uncertainty. Moving between the spaces of the bank branch, the corporate headquarters, the marketplace, the shopfront, and the home, “Banking on Uncertainty” probes the making of a local conflict economy, the adjudication of credit and debt, and the negotiation of economic life in projects of self-determination and sovereignty.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Banking on Uncertainty: Debt, Default, and Violence in Indian-Administered Kashmir

Taryn D. Jordan
Taryn D. Jordan  |  Abstract
This dissertation is a genealogy of how black folks use soul to endure an anti-black world. Through archival research on soul food and soulful home aesthetics, this project addresses W.E.B. Du Bois’s persistent question "how does it feel to be a problem?" by exploring how black women’s labor has been central to black endurance. This genealogical analysis, methodogically grounded in work with a large historical archive, analyzes black women's tactics of collective survival from Columbus’s encounter with West Africans in 1482 to the emergence of Black Lives Matter in the present. The primary thesis of the project argues that black women have historically used soul, another word for collective black feeling, to produce an alternative ethics of endurance found in the last place anyone ever thought to look—in the practices of black domesticity—that cannot be translated but only sensed.

Doctoral Candidate, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Emory University  -  Black Soul: A Feminist Genealogy of Feeling from the Colombian Exchange to Black Lives Matter

Niina Maria Vuolajarvi
Niina Maria Vuolajarvi  |  Abstract
In 1999, Sweden claimed a feminist approach to commercial sex and aimed to abolish prostitution by targeting the demand and criminalizing the buying of sex while keeping the selling decriminalized. Since then, this so-called Nordic model has taken center stage in global prostitution and anti-trafficking debates and has spread globally. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the Nordic region, the project examines the cultural dynamics and social struggles that inform this turn in debates around prostitution, as well as the everyday realities of people who sell sex under it. The project demonstrates that, contrary to its feminist and humanitarian aura, client criminalization masks punitive practices that especially target migrants who sell sex, and argues that the success of the Nordic model lies in its ability to symbolize a humanitarian state in an era of intensified redistributive inequality.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, Rutgers University-New Brunswick  -  Precarious Intimacies: Commercial Sex and Migration Under the Nordic Model

Hyeok Hweon Kang
Hyeok Hweon Kang  |  Abstract
Military workshops became the center of material and knowledge production in Korea from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. A wide-ranging cast of artisans, officers, and technologists found work in the military institutions of Seoul, tasked at first with the manufacture of munitions such as muskets and powder, but also with engineering city walls, royal tombs, and pontoon bridges, and with testing state-of-the-art clocks, screw pumps, and steam engines. This project examines the origins of such military-technical productivity from the perspective of science and technology studies. It recovers the military in premodern Korea as a vibrant site of making and knowing, a milieu where technical knowledge was created, exchanged, and practiced. By foregrounding this hub of crafts, the project explores neglected registers of science and technology that existed outside of Europe and before the advent of the industrial age.

Doctoral Candidate, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University  -  A Hundred Crafts: Technology, Knowledge, and the Military in Late Chosŏn Korea, 1592-1910

Zina B. Ward
Zina B. Ward  |  Abstract
Contemporary psychologists and neuroscientists often ignore or minimize individual differences because variation between subjects can be an obstacle to scientific inference and explanation. This dissertation examines the tools available, and considers the tools needed, to deal appropriately with individual differences in cognitive science. It proposes a philosophical account of what it takes to explain mental and neural variation and suggests that several scientific methods must be modified in light of such variation. Methods discussed include rational analysis, hierarchical Bayesian models, and brain registration procedures. The project also examines the ethics of research on individual differences, which is especially pressing given how prejudice has historically shaped inquiry into human variation.

Doctoral Candidate, History & Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh  -  Individual Differences in Cognitive Science: Conceptual, Methodological, and Ethical Issues

Anna Karpusheva
Anna Karpusheva  |  Abstract
In 2015, a relatively unknown Belarusian writer, Svetlana Alexievich, received the Nobel Prize in Literature for her ironically titled book cycle, “Voices of Utopia.” The dissertation project explores Alexievich’s innovative use of oral history for literary purposes in the five narratives that comprise her remarkable cycle: “The Unwomanly Face of War” (1983), “Last Witnesses” (1985), “Boys in Zinc” (1991), “Voices from Chernobyl” (1997), and “Secondhand Time” (2013). Fusing oral history and fiction with performative genres such as requiem, death lament, and magic tale, Alexievich finds a new and powerful way to give voice to both individual and collective traumas of war and disaster that are described in the oral testimonies at the core of each volume. Her “Voices of Utopia” strips the Soviet past of its traditional mythologemes and engages the reader in the painful process of bearing witness to Soviet-era traumas, forcing a reassessment of their impact on post-Soviet societies.

Doctoral Candidate, Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Kansas  -  In Search of a Form for Soviet Trauma: Svetlana Alexievich’s Prose between History and Literature

Rachel Q. Welsh
Rachel Q. Welsh  |  Abstract
Local municipal law in medieval Iberia occasionally sought proof directly from the accused's body, forcing women accused of certain secretive, bodily crimes to prove themselves by carrying a red-hot iron. This dissertation analyzes this judicial ordeal—a physical test in which God was believed to intervene miraculously to reveal guilt or innocence—and examines why it was considered an effective form of proof and how it produced meaning. More broadly, this dissertation argues for ordeal in Iberia as functionally distinct from ordeal in northern Europe, as it operated as a civic rather than religious ritual. This project connects scholarship on gender, ritual, the body, and medieval proof and legal procedure, bringing a cultural and social-historical approach to legal history.

Doctoral Candidate, History, New York University  -  Proof in the Body: Ordeal, Justice, and the Physical Manifestation of Proof in Medieval Iberia, ca. 1050-1300

Anna Kelner
Anna Kelner  |  Abstract
This project highlights the emergence and influence of a regulatory discourse termed “remedies against temptations,” offering a new account of the relationship between women’s visionary writing and clerical methods for the regulation of female spirituality in late medieval England. The remedies against temptations found articulation in a series of regulatory guides, but also served as an authenticating strategy that female visionaries used in their own works. Within the terms of this discourse, the coherence of feminine identity is put under pressure: female visionaries drew on the remedies to frame themselves as exemplars, while at the same time positioning their texts as sources of devotional and affective scripts which only achieve their exemplarity in their performance by male and female readers.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Harvard University  -  Tempting Visions: Women’s Visionary Writing and Its Regulation in Late Medieval England

Daniel J. Williford
Daniel J. Williford  |  Abstract
This project explores the link between colonial concepts of urban crisis and the socio-technical work of remaking Morocco's urban housing and infrastructures by tracing the movements of construction technologies through different regulatory systems, ecological relationships, and regimes of value. During the French Protectorate in Morocco and the country’s postcolonial transition, experts, officials, and urban residents developed a series of crisis technologies as solutions to problems of housing, public health, unemployment, and popular unrest. These crisis technologies included materials such as cinder blocks, forms of worksite organization such as housing cooperatives, and financial mechanisms such as small, low-interest loans. By examining the final decades of the Protectorate and the process of decolonization, this project argues that crisis technologies of construction, demolition, and financialization remade relations between states and subjects, bodies and environments, and labor and capital in Morocco.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Concrete Futures: Technologies of Urban Crisis in Colonial and Postcolonial Morocco

Matthew Kilbane
Matthew Kilbane  |  Abstract
“Lyric Accompaniment” develops a theory of the lyric from the archives of media history, examining signal encounters between lyric poetry and emergent sound technologies of the mid-twentieth century in order to unfold the sociological and aesthetic complexities of lyric as a sonic medium in its own right. Drawing together a diverse range of poets and composers, the dissertation shows how lyric poems, formally caught between print and sound, offer especially sensitive indices of technological transformation. By opening our lyric archives to such things as pop songs, radio poems, and speech-music, this project’s materialist theory of midcentury lyric also supplies a framework for apprehending poetry’s dynamic transactions with ever-newer media in the twenty-first century.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Cornell University  -  Lyric Accompaniment: Poetry, Media, Society

Rixt L. Woudstra
Rixt L. Woudstra  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines how in the 1940s and 1950s, a time marked by the rise of anti-imperialist protests, British architects profoundly reorganized rapidly growing colonial cities such as Nairobi, Kampala, and Accra by constructing large-scale government-funded housing projects for African laborers and their families. While the political process of decolonization is often characterized as a moment of rapid change, too often overlooked is the way the struggle for self-government in the two decades leading up to independence transformed urban environments in British Africa. Exploring the spatial strategies architects devised to build stability, this dissertation traces how housing was touted as an instrument to counter—or postpone—the looming prospect of independence.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art, Massachusetts Institute of Technology  -  Countering Independence: Architecture, Decolonization, and the Design of Stability in British Africa, 1945-1963

Elizabeth Kinnamon
Elizabeth Kinnamon  |  Abstract
This dissertation explores the concept of attention from 1945 to the present through a materialist feminist lens. Since the mid-twentieth century, discourse in the United States has abounded with references to an attention crisis, but contrary to popular convictions that digital culture is to blame, this project asks how attention is constituted by economic conditions. Theorizing that workers’ psychic resources are differently strained by so-called immaterial or affective labor, this project develops a materialist theory of attention through Marxist feminist, phenomenological, and post-Fordist theory. This theoretical groundwork is followed by three case studies of contemporary attention techniques: mindfulness in the Bay Area tech sector, second-wave feminist consciousness raising, and the practice of feminist historiography itself.

Doctoral Candidate, Gender and Women's Studies, University of Arizona  -  Attention as Method: Marxism, Feminism, and the Politics of Presence

Farren Yero
Farren Yero  |  Abstract
The 1804 introduction of the smallpox vaccine raised unprecedented questions in the Spanish empire about patient rights and medical consent. By royal order, vaccination was voluntary—a problem for doctors in need of young bodies to reproduce, test, and circulate the vaccine. “Laboratories of Consent” considers how patients and doctors negotiated this question of consent and explains how and why voluntary vaccination developed in the nineteenth-century Spanish Atlantic world. At times, medical consent was pronounced a natural right of fathers, a demonstration of scientific expertise, and/or an act of loyalty to the crown. The dissertation analyzes the gendered and racialized assumptions that informed these visions of consent—and the ways women, children, and the enslaved challenged them. In doing so, it argues that the idea of medical consent, and its promise of ethical care, worked to uphold rather than contest structures of colonial power, as immunization became embedded in struggles over slavery, parental rights, individual freedoms, and hierarchies challenged by the unrest of revolution.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Duke University  -  Laboratories of Consent: Vaccine Science in the Spanish Atlantic World, 1779-1840