Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellows

The Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships program awards 65 fellowships annually. The fellowships support a year of research and writing to help advanced graduate students in the humanities and social sciences in the last year of Ph.D. dissertation writing.

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. 

Tyler Benjamin Adkins
Tyler Benjamin Adkins  |  Abstract
This project ethnographically examines the temporalities and materialities of forms of life in Russia’s Altai republic. Based on the author’s long-term participant observation of farmers from the Altai national group in rural areas of Siberia’s Altai Mountains, it asks how the material forms of Soviet and post-Soviet history are entangled with the historical consciousness and everyday life of Altai people. While previous studies of the material legacies of Soviet socialism have emphasized rupture, discontinuity, and a present nostalgia for an irretrievable past, this project examines the changes in post-Soviet Altai everyday life not as radical breaks, but rather as situational changes and redeployments of a repertoire of long-standing material forms and practices.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Princeton University  -  The Life of Forms and Forms of Life in Post-Soviet Siberia

Lamin Manneh
Lamin Manneh  |  Abstract
“Ecologies of Exclusion” examines how British colonial administrators and powerful Muslim leaders became entangled in a vexed political and economic collaboration along the Gambia River during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It asks: How did people and ecosystems fare under two distinct but connected modernist projects from the 1860s to 1965? How did European colonization and Islamicization render non-Muslims, non-Christians, and certain environments as threats or resources for their expansionist projects? Drawing on 16 months of oral historical and archival research, “Ecologies of Exclusion” considers how the understanding of the European colonization of Africa and the nineteenth-century jihads in West Africa changes when looked at from the vantage point of wetlands, forests, peanut plantations, and urban Bathurst.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Ecologies of Exclusion: Colonialism and Islamicization along the Gambia River, 1860-1960

Danya Al-Saleh
Danya Al-Saleh  |  Abstract
“Petro-education” examines the contradictory role of Texas A&M in transitioning Qatar away from fossil fuels. Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ), an engineering branch campus established in 2003, is a techno-political experiment to rehabilitate fossil fuel futurities not only in Qatar, but also in Texas. These futurities work to reconcile the accelerated extraction of fossil fuels with the recognition that the age of abundant oil and gas is ending. Through 18 months of institutional ethnography in Texas and Qatar, this project demonstrates how administrators, faculty, and students navigate TAMUQ’s commitment to fossil fuels in the context of competing visions and political struggles over energy transition. This study, sitting at the intersection of energy geographies and critical university studies, shows how the ideological commitment to ways of living that fossil fuels made possible is reproduced within a US university.

Doctoral Candidate, Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison  -  Petro-education: Engineering Fossil Fuel Futurities between Texas and Qatar

Patricia G. Markert
Patricia G. Markert  |  Abstract
This project combines linguistic and archaeological approaches to study migration and place in two nineteenth-century Alsatian towns in Texas. Though both towns emerged from the same historic migration, they have developed into distinctly different places today. This presents an important case study for understanding how migration narratives impact place-making through time. Since place-making is both a material and narrative practice, this project incorporates oral history, narrative analysis, archaeological mapping, and photogrammetry to investigate how each town has incorporated its Alsatian migration into historical narratives, community identity, and the built landscape. By bridging archaeology and linguistic anthropology, this project presents a novel approach to place that can inform studies across the social sciences and humanities.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Binghamton University, State University of New York  -  Making Alsatian Texas: An Archaeological and Linguistic Study of Place and Historic Migration

Bench Ansfield
Bench Ansfield  |  Abstract
During the 1970s, a wave of arson devastated cities across the United States, wiping out large portions of neighborhoods home to poor communities of color. Popular memory confuses the arson wave with the 1960s uprisings. Yet these fires were lit not for protest, but for profit, most of which flowed into the ironically named FIRE industries—finance, insurance, and real estate. By asking why cities went up in flames in these years, how their fires were extinguished, and what arose in their ashes, this project casts new light on the restructuring of US cities since 1968. It explores how the rise of the FIRE industries, which eclipsed manufacturing as the engines of urban economies in the 1970s, reshaped neighborhoods of color in the aftermath of the civil rights movement. In the Bronx and elsewhere, the arson wave sparked a groundswell of community organizing that ultimately stemmed the tide of the burnings.

Doctoral Candidate, American Studies, Yale University  -  Born in Flames: Arson, Racial Capitalism, and the Reinsuring of the Bronx in the Late Twentieth Century

Vrinda Marwah
Vrinda Marwah  |  Abstract
Working in the heart of India’s reproductive health care system, this project explores how the contemporary state constitutes citizenship through the modality of care. It examines the working lives of women community health workers, called ASHAs, who are “volunteers” paid to motivate poor women to use public health services. ASHAs reveal the productive power of an understudied and intensely gendered role in the state: the frontline bureaucrat. Because of the deeply intimate knowledge ASHAs have of their clients, and the networks they build among public and private health care providers, they become highly sought-after actors in service delivery. Through 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork, this project uncovers how the sociality of these women exceeds, and reconstitutes, the policy they are meant to implement.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, University of Texas at Austin  -  Reproducing the State: Women Community Health Volunteers in North India

Nohora A. Arrieta
Nohora A. Arrieta  |  Abstract
This project inquires into works of art about sugar cane plantations produced in Brazil and the Caribbean in the last three decades, from 1990 to 2018. It argues that these works are sites of cultural production, where new aesthetics and modes of representation of the sugar plantation are developed in order to critique traditional narratives about the nation and the production of sugar; rewrite a new historiography for the sugar plantation; and produce and negotiate Black identities in Brazil and the Caribbean. Through an interdisciplinary approach and the combination of textual and visual analysis, interviews, and archival research, this research studies how artistic creation both reshapes and destabilizes discourses on commodities, nation, and Black citizenship in traditional plantation societies.

Doctoral Candidate, Spanish and Portuguese, Georgetown University  -  Bittersweet Poetics: Politics and Aesthetics of the Sugar Plantation in Contemporary Brazilian and Caribbean Arts (1990-2018)

Adam C. Matthews
Adam C. Matthews  |  Abstract
Through an examination of legal practices between 850 and 1100, “Law, Liturgy, and Sacred Space in Medieval Catalonia” shows how communities in northeastern Spain, lacking the stabilizing influence of a state, were able to craft successful dispute resolution strategies and worked to prevent the emergence of abusive power hierarchies. Following the eighth-century collapse of the Visigothic kingdom, many litigants challenged the legitimacy of the court system. This project reveals how judges responded by drawing on an emerging theological distinction between mundane and supernatural spaces and the belief that churches were gateways to Heaven in order to resolve conflicts. At the height of protracted trials, judges brought litigants to sanctuaries, and there, under the discerning gaze of the church’s saintly denizens, compelled them to swear to uphold rulings. Thus, in lieu of central control, appeals to a common belief in supernatural forces permeating sacred spaces helped to maintain order.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Columbia University  -  Law, Liturgy, and Sacred Space in Medieval Catalonia, 850-1100

Vyta Baselice
Vyta Baselice  |  Abstract
“The Gospel of Concrete” is the first interdisciplinary and global study of the US concrete industry. It explains how Americans contributed to making concrete the most consumed material on Earth after water, and why it has prevailed over alternatives such as treated wood or rammed earth—even as it has drawn widespread and enthusiastic disdain. The four chapters trace the material’s production and circulation, starting with the industry’s origins in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, and then following its expansion to the US South, the Global South, and outer space. By unearthing the deep and tangled roots of our attachment to concrete, the project offers a field guide to building a more sustainable and equitable future.

Doctoral Candidate, American Studies, The George Washington University  -  The Gospel of Concrete: American Infrastructure and Global Power

Benjamin J. Murphy
Benjamin J. Murphy  |  Abstract
“Provisional Beings” examines the crowd as a problem for scientific and literary modes of representation. From the end of Reconstruction to the turn of the century, sociocultural factors converged to make mass human aggregation a pressing concern. One response to this situation was to import a European crowd science that, drawing from biological and social sciences, attempted to control crowds that were understood to be threatening; race was invoked in this discourse to explain the degenerative nature of crowds. Yet this pathologizing scientific management is only part of the story. Novels, stories, and essays written by a diverse array of authors experimented with aesthetic and narrative form to map the complex ethical, political, and racial contours of the crowd. Variously confirming and undermining crowd science, this literary archive also raises altogether new questions about collective identity, violence, and resistance that endure to the present.

Doctoral Candidate, English, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  -  “Provisional Beings”: Crowd Science and Race in American Literature, 1877-1900

Caitlyn Bolton
Caitlyn Bolton  |  Abstract
For many aid recipients, religion is a vital part of their lives. Yet in development programming it is largely sidelined, seen as an obstacle, or used simply as a tool to create program buy-in. This project is an ethnography of the contested terrain of Islam and development in Zanzibar, a site at the nexus of multiple projects of improvement and reform from British and Omani imperialism, Western development, and Islamic organizations with ties to the oil-rich Persian Gulf. Drawing on 20 months of ethnographic and archival research among Islamic organizations in Zanzibar and the Gulf, it argues that contrary to dominant development frameworks that marginalize religion, these organizations utilize Islam as a transformative agent. Through a central focus on Islamic education, such organizations engage with and redefine dominant development approaches, utilize Islam to counter capitalist inequalities, and chart alternative trajectories of modernization in which religion is central—thereby redefining the project of development itself.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, City University of New York, The Graduate Center  -  The Spirit of Progress: Islamic Education, Development, and Modernity in Zanzibar

Jordan L. Mylet
Jordan L. Mylet  |  Abstract
This project examines the grassroots addiction recovery movement that emerged in the post-World War II United States, spearheaded by self-identified drug addicts who asserted that treatment was as much a political and social process as a medical one. It focuses on the Synanon Foundation, the controversial recovery commune founded in 1958 and dissolved in 1991. Synanon fused innovative treatment techniques with broader concerns of social justice and utopian thought, eventually establishing a planned community for both “dope fiends” and “squares” in the late 1960s. Its radical model of recovery asserted that the solution to treating addiction was also a way to forge a good and just society. For these reasons, Synanon and the larger recovery movement it initiated shed a unique light on the debates over mental health and illness, expert authority, state power, and participatory democracy that undergirded social change and unrest in the postwar era.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of California, San Diego  -  “Dope Hope”: The Synanon Foundation, Grassroots Recovery Activism, and Popular Struggles over Addiction Treatment, 1945-1980

Sarah Brothers
Sarah Brothers  |  Abstract
People who inject drugs face high rates of overdose and infection. This project examines how they attempt to protect themselves from these risks. It focuses on the assessment, performance, and development of uncredentialed expertise in a particularly high-risk and common practice: assisted injection, in which one person injects another with illicit drugs. Based on 16 months of ethnographic observation in San Francisco and interviews with 80 people who receive and/or provide injection assistance, this project demonstrates that people assess uncredentialed expertise through trust mechanisms, which may increase risk. Further, in interactions with unequal power dynamics, their position in these interactions correlates with characteristics often considered gendered. This research thereby contributes to literature on marginalized communities, gender, and expertise.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, Yale University  -  Expertise, Gender, and Marginality: Health Related Practices by People who Inject Drugs in the United States

Michael Obiri-Yeboah
Michael Obiri-Yeboah  |  Abstract
This project describes and analyzes the sound system of Gua, an undocumented and endangered language of Ghana. The data for the project comes from fieldwork conducted in Ghana. Gua has a large inventory of vowels, including nasal vowels, and these vowels participate in vowel harmony, a requirement that vowels match for an articulatory property. Vowel harmony can even cross word boundaries in systematic ways. Gua has a large consonant system with a series of consonants with lip rounding. Finally, it is a tone language, and uses pitch differences for word and grammatical distinctions. The project considers the interaction of some of these properties as well and proposes some typological and theoretical implications of the patterns in the language. Documenting these properties in detail contributes to linguistic knowledge, but will also serve the Gua community in developing an orthography and educational material.

Doctoral Candidate, Linguistics, University of California, San Diego  -  Phonetics and Phonology of Gua

Sarah Bruno
Sarah Bruno  |  Abstract
This project examines Afro-Puerto Rican women’s usage of bomba, an Afro-Puerto Rican dance, to heal themselves and their communities in the wake of disaster. “Emotion in Motion” joins Black feminist historians in compiling an affective archive. Do women practitioners of bomba embody particular affective profiles in daily life against postcolonial stressors? How do these bomberas use dance to recover their lost past and heal from the ongoing trauma of disaster? Can feelings have a history? This project, which lies at the nexus of archival research and ethnographic methods, performance analysis, and dance, compiles and examines bomberas’ affective profiles throughout history and ethnographically uncovers Afro-Puerto Rican women’s emotional dexterity as they navigate (post)coloniality.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison  -  Emotion in Motion: Bomba Puertorriqueña, the Archive, and Diasporas

Hsin-Yuan Peng
Hsin-Yuan Peng  |  Abstract
In the wake of the current climate crisis, scholars in film and media studies have started addressing human beings’ relationship to the atmosphere from an eco-critical perspective, but the scope of such scholarship is largely restricted to weather’s fictional representation. Since the nineteenth century, modern experience of the atmosphere has been mediated by numerous scientific images, including weather maps, satellite visuals, and time-lapse cloud films. Focusing on the use of moving image technologies by Japanese meteorologists Abe Masanao, Nakaya Ukichirō, and their European colleagues, this project argues that scientific visualization of weather is a complex act of construction rather than passive documentation. Analyzing meteorological filmmaking not only allows us to imagine a genealogy of cinema from the perspective of weather sciences, but also helps us appreciate these scientists’ extraordinary sensibilities to the atmosphere at different historical moments. Such awareness and responsiveness prove increasingly meaningful in this time of environmental transformation.

Doctoral Candidate, Comparative Literature & Film and Media Studies, Yale University  -  Meteorology by Cinematic Means: Aesthetics and Epistemology of Weather Images

Dean Mohammed Chahim
Dean Mohammed Chahim  |  Abstract
Mexico City floods constantly, but these routine, localized floods receive scant media attention, stir little resistance, and garner minimal public investment in drainage infrastructures, even as the city continues to expand. To understand this paradox, this project draws on nearly two years of ethnographic and archival research focused on the city’s massive drainage system. Following city engineers, maintenance workers, and residents from command centers to the flooded urban periphery, this project reveals how the ostensible banality of flooding is an effect of engineering work itself. Through the design and operation of the city’s drainage system, engineers render flooding both an object of engineering control and a mundane problem of everyday life for the marginalized. By dragging out disasters in space and time and asserting control over an uncertain environment, engineers make continued urbanization both materially possible and imaginable even in a time of rapid environmental decay and increasing austerity.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Stanford University  -  Draining the Infinite Metropolis: Engineering and the Banality of Disaster in Mexico City

Ruijie Peng
Ruijie Peng  |  Abstract
This project examines how rural Qiang women leverage economic and political strategies to garner resources for their families against the backdrop of rural-to-urban migration. Based on ethnographic field research in Changle, a Qiang ethnic minority and migrant-sending community in southwest China, the project investigates how Changle’s aging Qiang women confront the unanticipated consequences of China’s headlong pursuit of a rapidly globalizing market economy, its protracted population control policies and ramifications, and the entrenched rural-urban inequalities. This project explores how these socio-political processes have forcefully combined to destabilize their traditional cultural and social patterns and analyzes how these older Qiang women resist the strong forces of structural marginality by assuming increased labor burdens, by reshaping gender and inter-generational relations, and by renegotiating marriage arrangements and the distribution of benefits while coping with the rising precarity embedded in China’s state-sponsored rural development and urbanization schemes.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, University of Texas at Austin  -  Fighting to Build Family Resources: Women Remaining in Place in Rural-to-Urban Migration

Eden G. Consenstein
Eden G. Consenstein  |  Abstract
This project examines the role of religion in the production and circulation of ostensibly secular, mass-market news media. From 1923 to 1964, Time Incorporated, the media empire responsible for “Time,” “Life,” and “Fortune” magazines, was run by Henry R. Luce, a devout Presbyterian layman and sometime amateur theologian. Drawing on Time Inc.’s corporate archives, this research demonstrates that Time Inc.’s journalism was consistently molded to advance Luce’s theological principles. Chief among them was his conviction that the United States was divinely destined to a occupy a position of global supremacy. Beyond the magazines, his corporation underwrote religiously motivated campaigns to secure US power abroad. By telling the story of “Religion at Time Inc.”, this project provides crucial insight into the motivations and values that shaped highly visible popular news media throughout the twentieth century.

Doctoral Candidate, Religion, Princeton University  -  Religion at Time Inc.: From the Beginning of Time to the End of Life

Anna Preus
Anna Preus  |  Abstract
“Publishing Empire” focuses on the material forms and production histories of books by authors from colonial backgrounds published in England between the turn of the twentieth century and the beginning of the Second World War. Drawing on methods from book history and the digital humanities, it combines in-depth case studies of individual books by authors including Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, Claude McKay, Mulk Raj Anand, C.L.R. James, and others with large-scale analysis of publishing data drawn from online libraries. Most broadly, the project demonstrates the significance of a transnational and intercolonial culture of literary production emerging in print in Britain in the early twentieth century.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Washington University in St. Louis  -  Publishing Empire: Colonial Authorship and British Literary Production, 1900-1940

Xiomara Cornejo
Xiomara Cornejo  |  Abstract
This study investigates an arts exchange between US-based protest theatre group Bread and Puppet Theater and the Farmworkers Artistic & Theater Movement (MECATE) of Nicaragua. This project examines the overlooked Latin American influence on Bread and Puppet through an analysis of the 1985 performance of “The Nativity, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador” in Nicaragua. This study relies upon firsthand accounts, oral histories, artifacts from Bread and Puppet archives, and published sources. It utilizes a hybrid methodological approach, fusing feminist ethnography and historiography to understand the geopolitical context and performance praxis that inspired this alliance. This project contributes to the limited knowledge of protest theatre history within the Americas with a hemispheric perspective of political puppetry and transnational radical theatre practice as a future model.

Doctoral Candidate, Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Missouri  -  The Performance and Puppet of Saint Oscar Romero in Post-Revolution Nicaragua: Transnational Solidarity between Bread and Puppet Theater and the Farm Worker's Theater Movement (MECATE)

Kai Pyle
Kai Pyle  |  Abstract
This project addresses the relationship between kinship and memory with a question: How have Anishinaabe Two-Spirit people remembered their own history? By examining Anishinaabe languages, nineteenth-century Two-Spirit figures, literature by contemporary Anishinaabe LGBTQ2 authors, and interviews with Two-Spirit youth and elders, this dissertation argues that the primary method of memory-making for Anishinaabe Two-Spirit people has been the maintenance of trans*temporal kinship—a form of queer Indigenous relationality that extends over vast time and space. Intervening in debates about continuity and rupture in Two-Spirit history and “claiming queer ancestors,” this project fills an urgent need to nuance understandings of gendered and sexualized aspects of colonization in North America.

Doctoral Candidate, American Studies, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities  -  Folks Like Us: Anishinaabe Two-Spirit Memory and Kinship Across Space and Time

Lou Cornum
Lou Cornum  |  Abstract
This project analyzes a range of science fiction (SF) texts by black and indigenous authors in order to argue that these speculative imaginaries are a crucial site for exploring the entangled global formations of black and indigenous studies. The study covers texts spanning across the Americas including Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Almanac of the Dead”, Nalo Hopkinson’s “Midnight Robber,” and Samuel Delany’s “Dhalgren.” The project analyzes these works as literary forms of theorizing the post-1492 “new world” at the nexus of settler colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade. Simultaneously the project puts forth as crucial the world building function of SF that allows black and indigenous authors to transform these contexts of dispossession and enslavement to pose different concepts of land and the human.

Doctoral Candidate, English, City University of New York, The Graduate Center  -  Skin Worlds: Science Fiction Theorizing in Black and Indigenous Science Fiction since the 1970s

Amna Qayyum
Amna Qayyum  |  Abstract
“The Demographic State” traces histories of population management to analyze state-making and unmaking in East and West Pakistan. It argues that Pakistan was not simply a Cold War laboratory, but rather a critical geography in the production of global demographic knowledge. Drawing on materials from social scientists, medical professionals, women’s welfare activists, bureaucrats, and Islamic modernists, this study demonstrates how family planning became an intimate site through which Pakistani citizens experienced the state. In so doing, it explores the emergence of the postcolonial family as an object of transnational development. This was not solely driven by imperatives of economic growth, but also reshaped concepts of public health, technology, gender, and religious authority. These transnational projects of population control stimulated debate over state power, modernization, and foreign aid in Pakistan—ultimately shaping protests against Ayub Khan’s authoritarian regime. Based on multi-sited archives and interviews, this study examines how the encounter between postcolonial sovereignty and global development unfolded in everyday Pakistan.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Princeton University  -  The Demographic State: Population, Citizens, and the Family in Pakistan, 1947-71

Katherine Cosby
Katherine Cosby  |  Abstract
This project addresses how the treatment of Black women in the afterlife of slavery, under the guise of whitening ideologies, contributed to the formations of regional identity and Black women’s geographies in the city of São Paulo. The lives and presence of Black women after abolition often go unrecognized as part of a larger omission of slavery and Black histories in public discourse and the brick-and-mortar archive. Relying on medicolegal municipal incident reports, “Flowers Grew Out of the Asphalt” centers Black women, their geographies, and spatial histories to push against traditional narratives and imaginings of São Paulo as a principally white, Europeanized city.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of California, Irvine  -  Flowers Grew Out of the Asphalt: Black Women's Territories in São Paulo, 1871-1930

Isabella Reinhardt
Isabella Reinhardt  |  Abstract
This project investigates the relationship between language and reality in early Greek thought. An examination of Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Aeschylus demonstrates that each of these thinkers treats language as an essential—but potentially misleading—vector to knowledge of reality. Language helps us communicate knowledge, but it can also mislead through error or deception. The project argues that the commonality among these thinkers arises from an emerging acknowledgment of the importance of non-perceptual aspects of reality, whether that is an invisible reality “in toto” or intellectual constructs such as concepts. The project treats Aeschylus, Parmenides, and Heraclitus as members of a shared intellectual culture, rather than isolated thinkers, in order to demonstrate first that the relationship between language and reality was a widespread contemporary concern, and second that this concern was part of a growing acknowledgment of the importance of non-sensible, conceptual aspects of that reality.

Doctoral Candidate, Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania  -  Language and Reality in Early Greek Thought

Constance de Font-Reaulx
Constance de Font-Reaulx  |  Abstract
Historians locate the origins of concerns over the governance of water supply in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ignoring the early modern period. My dissertation argues that the debate over the governance of water in Paris actually began in the 1720s, when entrepreneurs challenged the municipality’s monopoly over waterworks in the aftermath of severe scarcity. From the 1720s to the 1790s, the municipality fought to guarantee general access to water. Entrepreneurs sought to construct a market for water and to create a technological system that would supply water reliably, yet only to a few. Entrepreneurs used and benefited from the development of commercial capitalism, the monarchy’s reliance on private investment, and the rise of scientific expertise to shape the confrontation over water provision.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Johns Hopkins University  -  The Power of Water: The Politics of the Parisian Waterworks (1660-1799)

Gonzalo Romero Sommer
Gonzalo Romero Sommer  |  Abstract
This project examines efforts at state formation and nation-building by analyzing the process of electrification in the central Peruvian Andes from the Great Depression through the Cold War, particularly the Mantaro hydroelectric system completed in 1973. Although a technological success, Peruvian electrification was based upon contradictory goals: while some intellectuals and statesmen believed that electricity could strengthen inherited colonial structures, others alternatively saw it as a reformist and even revolutionary means to dismantle traditional hierarchies. The electrical grid physically unified large parts of the country and simultaneously highlighted divisions in Peru’s political class, paradoxically underscoring the political weakness of the very state that built it.

Doctoral Candidate, History, State University of New York, Stony Brook  -  Alternating Currents: Electrical Power and Shifting Political Power in Peru

Samuel J. Diener
Samuel J. Diener  |  Abstract
This project considers a set of colonial maritime exploration narratives, focusing on eighteenth-century Anglophone travel-books but bearing closely in mind the longue durée of the genre in Portuguese, English, and Spanish since the sixteenth century. It traces ways that readers articulated their relationship to national identity, inflected by race, gender, and class, with the physical books they used. It focuses on the English and Portuguese traditions, since those national identities were often associated with maritime expansion, and identifies key social technologies in sea-travel books that facilitate collective identification: the predominance of narration in the first-person plural, images that impress upon the reader the hazard and difficulty of navigation, and paratexts that enable nonlinear, self-directed reading. As readers read these books, they left traces of their reading in their papers and in the margins, including themselves in the capacious “we” of the ship’s crew and, by extension, of the nation.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Harvard University  -  The Maritime Travel-Book and the Collective Imagination

Maria Ryan
Maria Ryan  |  Abstract
This project explores how enslaved and free African people and their descendants in the British colonial Caribbean engaged with music that had its origins in Europe through listening, performance, theorizing, and composition, during the period between the banning of the transatlantic slave trade in 1807 and the granting of unrestricted freedom in 1838. By shifting perspective to how Black people heard European music, rather than how white people heard colonized and enslaved Black people, this project complicates traditional narratives about race and music in the colonial Caribbean, arguing that Black musicians used music and listening as a tool to assert their intellectual and aesthetic capabilities, while simultaneously learning, theorizing, and sometimes subverting the music of their colonizers.

Doctoral Candidate, Music, University of Pennsylvania  -  Hearing Power, Sounding Freedom: Black Practices of Listening, Music-Making, and Ear-Training in the British Colonial Caribbean, 1807-1838

Erin Eife
Erin Eife  |  Abstract
Much scholarship has been devoted to the harmful consequences of the criminal legal system, but there is relatively little information about the harms of surveillance and control mechanisms enforced during the pretrial stage. As such, this project considers the experience of pretrial release, and how this stage in the criminal legal system is stratified based on social factors like race, gender, sexuality, and class. By utilizing both ethnographic observations and 57 interviews with people on pretrial release, the findings illustrate how pretrial surveillance limits citizenship rights even without conviction or incarceration, showing that people on pretrial release are burdened by processes and factors including racist judicial discretion, overly burdensome court appearances, and house arrest.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago  -  Freed Without Freedom: Surveillance and Citizenship for People on Pretrial Release

Elif Sari
Elif Sari  |  Abstract
This project is an ethnographic study of LGBTQ asylum in Turkey, where Iranian LGBTQ refugees waiting to be resettled to the United States and Canada are stranded in small Turkish towns with insecure legal status for an undetermined time. Based on two years of ethnographic research, it explores how North American countries’ tightening resettlement policies, combined with Turkey’s strict control of refugees’ mobility and labor, leave LGBTQ refugees vulnerable to multiple forms of violence. Moving between asylum interviews, NGO offices, refugee protests, informal workplaces, and homes, this project also examines how LGBTQ refugees respond to violence and uncertainty by cultivating a queer ethics of love, care, and support and novel practices of self-making, kin-making, and community-making, while also competing with one another for access to limited rights and resources.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Cornell University  -  Waiting amidst Violence, Uncertainty, and (Un)Belonging: LGBTQ Asylum in Turkey

Nour El Rayes
Nour El Rayes  |  Abstract
Academic and journalistic work on Lebanon frames practices like music as escapist or activist responses to a reality defined by ongoing sectarian violence. In doing so, it forecloses the possibility of Lebanese futures that are not conceived in relation to violence. This project addresses this foreclosure by approaching the “alternative” in contemporary Lebanese music as a sonic and ideological orientation which enacts and articulates possible futurities for Lebanon. Through ethnographic fieldwork, it examines what musicians’ sound, performances, and discourses are conceived as alternative to. More than a generic designation, the “alternative” constitutes a site of social coherence in which sound articulates situated experiences of the present in order to construct, disrupt, and animate modalities of representing and imagining futures for Lebanon and its people.

Doctoral Candidate, Music, University of California, Berkeley  -  Other Futures: Promises of the Alternative in Lebanese Popular Music

Rovel Jerome Alex Sequeira
Rovel Jerome Alex Sequeira  |  Abstract
This project rethinks the global historiography of sexuality by tracing the history of modern sexual subject-formation in India alongside anti-colonial scientific and literary nationalism. Histories of sexuality, pace Michel Foucault, have shown that sexuality was invented in Europe in the late nineteenth century by sexology, psychiatry, and biomedicine. This project argues that the “invention” of sexuality in its modular forms—the homosexual, the couple, the sexed child, and the hysteric—was underpinned by liberal understandings of autonomous personhood. In colonial India, however, the genres understood to produce the modern individual like auto/biography, novel, and history, and allied scientific genres like case study and questionnaire were seen as lacking, even as Indians self-consciously adopted them at the turn of the twentieth century. Assembling archives in English, Hindi, and Marathi, the project argues that an Indian grammar of sexuality emerged through contests over genres they were thought not to have due to their “collective” modes of expression.

Doctoral Candidate, English, University of Pennsylvania  -  The Nation and its Deviants: Sexuality, Science, and Fiction in Colonial India, 1880-1950

Christopher Elford
Christopher Elford  |  Abstract
This project gives a new account of the co-emergence of the concepts of individual literary and calligraphic style in China between the second and the sixth centuries CE. Taking an actor-network theory approach, it argues that the tendency, new in this period, to posit a stylistic, characterological, and even somatic identity between author and text is best understood as a complex response to innovations in technologies of writing used to produce and copy texts and to changes in the bureaucratic institutions and archives in which these texts circulated and were evaluated. Case studies of four writers—Cai Yong, Ruan Ji, Xie Lingyun, and Xiao Gang—conducted against the background of the distinctive mediascapes in which they worked, reveal that although these writers developed their own individual styles, they did so with the awareness that this new mode of expression foreclosed other, older modes of engaging with the literary past.

Doctoral Candidate, East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California, Berkeley  -  Brushwork as Bloodwork: Character Appraisal, Calligraphy, and the Concept of Individual Literary Style in Early Medieval China

William Sharman
William Sharman  |  Abstract
This project explores how and why West Germany became a central hub of humanitarian care and governance around the world, seeking to balance aid commitments abroad with Europe’s largest refugee population at home. It focuses on humanitarian aid and intervention in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the migration of refugees from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia to West Germany. It argues that these twin processes reflected West Germany’s changing relation to the world in a postcolonial age of universal human rights, Holocaust memories, freely circulating capital, and global media and transportation. However, non-German actors were key figures, using the languages of humanitarianism, human rights, Christian fellowship, and feminism to make claims for rights and justice.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Duke University  -  Moral Politics: Global Humanitarianism, the Third World, and West Germany, 1960-1990

Jun Fang
Jun Fang  |  Abstract
This project, an ethnography of China’s encounter with Hollywood in the twenty-first century, examines the dynamics between art, markets, and the state. It investigates how filmmakers from the two industry sites negotiate disparities to co-produce “authentic” Chinese stories for the global market, and how state censorship shapes those collaborative films on the ground. Combining data from two-year ethnographic fieldwork within film studios in Beijing and Los Angeles and interviews with rarely accessed industry insiders, it follows the daily practices of studio executives and filmmakers inside production offices and on film sets. It argues that the “uneven collaboration” between China and Hollywood shapes the content and form of creative outcomes in the complete circuit of cultural creation, production, and distribution. Ultimately, this project offers a micro-sociological account of transnational cultural collaboration between two national industries at different stages of development, set against a background of difficult geopolitics.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, Northwestern University  -  When China Meets Hollywood: Global Collaboration and State Intervention in a Creative Industry

Desmond Sheehan
Desmond Sheehan  |  Abstract
Berlin in the period around 1800 is often considered to be the cradle of modern theology, as well as the center of modern musical aesthetics and music institutions. Without taking these coeval changes for granted, this project addresses the ways music and religion became related categories of modern knowledge, arguing for their simultaneous and mutually-dependent emergence. It does so by tracing what “church music” meant and how it was practiced in Prussia’s capital: “Kirchenmusik” long existed in discrete civic locales for corporate worship. By the nineteenth century, its repertory entered the informal, scattered sites of Protestant domestic devotion, thus disrupting church music’s attendant pedagogical methods, musical genres, and liturgical functions. Romantic witnesses to these transformations mounted new critiques upon church music in Berlin. The political and pedagogical interventions prescribed by their critiques subjected music and religion to new scientific modes of inquiry, culminating in their co-establishment as fields of study in the liberal modern university.

Doctoral Candidate, Music, University of California, Berkeley  -  Sacred Harmonies: Music and Religion in Berlin, 1760-1840

Amelia Frank-Vitale
Amelia Frank-Vitale  |  Abstract
Drawing from 21 months of fieldwork in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, “Everyday Deportations” focuses on the experiences of young men deported back to some of the world’s most violent neighborhoods. This project argues for understanding deportation not as a rupture but rather as a continuum of exclusions and displacements, and asks what it means when deportation becomes an ordinary and traumatic experience, something at once routine and catastrophic. Clandestine migration and deportation are positioned not as exceptional, spectacular events in a life of otherwise stability, but are instead shown to be the extension of processes that happen within national borders: the marginalization, criminalization, and displaceability of people who are always already excluded and deportable, before ever leaving their country of citizenship.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Everyday Deportations: Migration, Violence, and Survival in (and beyond) Honduras

Nicole Sheriko
Nicole Sheriko  |  Abstract
“Performing Popular Culture” argues for a more complex understanding of early modern theatricality by recovering the influence of popular performances that coexisted with, rivalled, and eventually outlasted commercial drama. It turns to puppets, clowns, and performing animals as alternatively embodied actors that push the limits of theatrical representation and expand our definitions of performance beyond the stage drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Using a wide-ranging set of newly uncovered texts, images, and objects, it assembles an archive of street theater to reconstruct popular theatrical practices and their place in the Renaissance imagination. Through this new archive, the project rethinks how popular representational strategies encode social values to describe the ethics of theatrical technologies.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Rutgers University-New Brunswick  -  Performing Popular Culture: Puppets, Clowns, and Animals in Early Modern England

Fernando Galeana Rodriguez
Fernando Galeana Rodriguez  |  Abstract
Around the world, indigenous peoples struggle to maintain territorial control over their homelands amidst rising interest in land and natural resources. This ethnographic research project explores how the Miskitu in Honduras mobilize property discourses to assert territorial control in the region of Moskitia. Based on 20 months of fieldwork, this dissertation traces how efforts to indigenize land access and resource management within newly titled indigenous jurisdictions intersect with markets and state bureaucracies transforming the ways in which communities pursue livelihoods, experience cultural difference, and conceive authority. This project demonstrates that the legal recognition of property rights over indigenous lands does not lead to greater control for indigenous peoples, but rather creates inter-dependency among the indigenous leadership, the state, and aid agencies. More broadly, this research contributes to our understanding of how communities negotiate the material and symbolic reproduction of the state in frontier regions and spur the formation of new socio-spatial orders.

Doctoral Candidate, Development Sociology, Cornell University  -  Indigenizing Development: State Formation and Indigenous Self-Determination in the Honduran Moskitia

Elizabeth Shoffner
Elizabeth Shoffner  |  Abstract
In 2012, a conservation NGO purchased approximately 4,000 hectares in the Yabotí Biosphere Reserve of Misiones, Argentina, titling the majority to three Mbya Guarani communities. This resolution of Indigenous territorial rights—as communitarian property accessed through neoliberal conservation—has been hailed as an unprecedented and exemplary model of negotiation and multicultural alliance. Yet collaboration is also a contact zone and site of negotiation between world-making practices, impacting both environmental management and Indigenous sovereignty. Through content analysis, interviews, and 17 months of ethnographic research, this project traces these inter-epistemic encounters, examining the practices which render land legible as both Mbya territory and endangered subtropical forest through dominant legal and scientific regimes of property and conservation. While translation between unevenly positioned ontologies limits Mbya world-making possibilities and rearticulates settler colonial territoriality, Mbya territorial practices and continued illegibility produce spaces of Indigenous resurgence.

Doctoral Candidate, Geography, University of Washington  -  Conservation Practice and Inter-epistemic Encounters: Negotiated Decoloniality along the Rio Uruguay

Lea Helena Greenberg
Lea Helena Greenberg  |  Abstract
This project examines the interplay between language politics and romantic politics in German-Jewish and Yiddish literature, confronting the social dynamics of Jewish assimilation into wider European culture. It uses literary case studies from the Jewish Enlightenment in the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. Each work uses a concern with the sexual purity and loyalty of the Jewish daughter to depict anxieties toward Jewish assimilation into the non-Jewish world. But these texts also share another layer of her subversion: a rebellious act in the form of a linguistic or cultural departure from tradition. “Curious Daughters” considers how these dynamics stage the ambivalence of a departure from Jewish tradition and brings them into conversation with the sociolinguistics of Jewish language usage and the history of Jewish women in Europe.

Doctoral Candidate, Germanic & Slavic Languages & Literature, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  -  Curious Daughters: Language, Literacy, and Jewish Female Desire in German and Yiddish Literature from 1793 to 1916

Miriam Ashkin Stanton
Miriam Ashkin Stanton  |  Abstract
Resisting gravity holds an allure. Translating that appeal to the realm of art history, this project charts aesthetic efforts to suspend and harness gravitational force. New visual and temporal possibilities emerged once photographic technology accelerated enough to catch airborne bodies and hold them aloft in the space of an image—documenting a potential which became fully embodied in the Space Age, once humans experienced sustained weightlessness. This represented suspension reconfigured the axes of artistic expression, yielding an ungrounded stillness. From Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs of bodies held in momentary flight to Helen Frankenthaler and Marcel Duchamp’s manipulations of gravity, and from Claude Monet’s paintings of horizon-less indeterminacy to Aaron Siskind’s levitational imagery, this project identifies forms of pictorial suspension that arose in the face of industrial momentum. Materializing a stillness made possible by modernity, these objects open space for a “gravitational imagination”—founded in the world but also challenging its limits.

Doctoral Candidate, History of Art, University of Pennsylvania  -  Gravitational Imagination: Picturing Suspension from Eadweard Muybridge to the Space Age

Maria Esther Hammack
Maria Esther Hammack  |  Abstract
Between 1790 and 1868, thousands of Black women engineered channels of liberation to Mexican destinations, often securing liberation for themselves while simultaneously engaging in helping others become free. This project reconceptualizes understandings of border-crossers, freedom-seekers, freedom destinations and the Underground Railroad. It traces the lives, geographic journeys and contributions of enslaved and free Black persons, centering Black women, to recover and understand their movement, their lived experiences, and how they forged communities in spaces south and southwest of the fluid US-Mexico border. This study contributes to the historiographies of Black liberation, resistance, and legacy by situating Black Americans as consequential actors in the shared histories of the United States and Mexico. It argues that freedom-seekers, who left the United States for Mexican havens, shaped antislavery, abolition, and freedom processes across the Global South and that their movement and narratives are integral components of the Black diaspora across North America.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Texas at Austin  -  South of Slavery: Enslaved and Free Black Movement across a Global Frontier, Mexico, the United States and Beyond, 1790-1868

Tommaso Stefini
Tommaso Stefini  |  Abstract
“Justice and Commerce” deals with the administration of justice in regulating trade exchanges between Venetian and Ottoman merchants in Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, in the first two decades of the seventeenth century. It asks how Ottomans and Venetians collaborated in commercial undertakings and solved disputes despite the absence of a system of interpolity law and secular legal regimes in the pre-modern Mediterranean. This project addresses this question through a comparative and microhistorical study of different types of Venetian and Ottoman Muslim courts available to merchants in Istanbul. Overall, this project argues that the Ottoman and Venetian courts jointly supported a trans-imperial regime of norms and practices that allowed them to sustain trade across political and religious boundaries.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Yale University  -  Justice and Commerce: Ottoman and Venetian Courts in Istanbul during the Seventeenth Century

Sara Hassani
Sara Hassani  |  Abstract
This dissertation investigates the steep and gendered rates of self-immolation plaguing the domestic sphere in the Persian belt countries of Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and mounts a conceptual challenge to common distinctions between self-destructive acts of resistance and suicide in the study of politics. Drawing on fieldwork, interviews with survivors of self-immolation, nurses, burn surgeons, and civil society actors, as well as 200 qualitative surveys from across the region, this project challenges the pathologizing rationalizations characteristic of epidemiological accounts of self-burning and theorizes this lethal and affective form of agency and protest through the lens of marginalized actors who exist within the cultural, political, and socioeconomic realities of apartheid.

Doctoral Candidate, Politics, The New School  -  Cloistered Infernos: The Politics of Self-Immolation in the Persian Belt

Alastair Y. Su
Alastair Y. Su  |  Abstract
“Capitalism and Opium” tells the story of the period between when Americans first sold opium in China to when the Chinese first sold opium in the United States. By exploring the drug’s dual function as an addictive commodity and a source of global capital, this project offers a new interpretation of the Opium War as a watershed event that had surprising connections to, and consequences for, Americans and the Pacific world. Drawing on records from 11 different archives, its central contention is that the traffic in opium did not flourish in the extralegal peripheries of the transpacific economy; rather, through embodying a form of capital itself, the production, consumption and exchange of opium contributed directly to the flourishing of the transpacific economy, and Americans were instrumental in promoting its expansion.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Stanford University  -  Capitalism and Opium: The Transpacific Drug Economy, 1804-1881

Juneisy Quintana Hawkins
Juneisy Quintana Hawkins  |  Abstract
In the eighteenth century, Spanish Florida experienced systemic and sustained food scarcity, which led colonists to search for nourishment wherever they could. This project explores the informal, often illicit, food trade that consequently developed between British and Spanish colonists. At the time, these colonists fought over the same land, the same resources, and the same Native alliances. Despite these conflicts, and amid them, they developed far-reaching trans-imperial food trade networks that lasted until Spain ceded Florida to the British in 1763. This project, based on multinational and multilingual research, begins with the assertion that Spanish-Native relations played a crucial role in the food shortages, and goes on to demonstrate the implications of the subsequent Anglo-Spanish food trade for the colonies, the people, and the empires involved.

Doctoral Candidate, History, New York University  -  Informal Anglo-Spanish Food Trade in the Colonial American Southeast, 1704-1763

Jane Sylvester
Jane Sylvester  |  Abstract
This project investigates how scientific practices from 1880 to 1926 informed new modes of expressing bodily sensation and gender identity in Italian realist, or “verismo,” opera. Outlining European histories of spiritualism, hypnotism, criminology, and forensics, this project shows how verismo’s indebtedness to these discourses gave way to the genre’s ability to critique social deviance, formulate “objective” prototypes of masculinity and femininity, and qualify personal autonomy for modern Italian audiences. Using music alongside medical treatises and archival sources, this study argues that verismo opera and contemporary science worked together as a powerful force of nation-building in the decades following Italian unification, providing a means of defining the bodies of the country’s diverse citizens.

Doctoral Candidate, Musicology, University of Rochester  -  Spectacles of Sensational Science: Locating the “Real” Bodies of Verismo Opera, 1880-1926

Megan G. Hines
Megan G. Hines  |  Abstract
This project considers artists who examined the logic and ethics of biotech and the ability to engineer life using new media, including video, audio, and digital computing. From the 1960s through the 1980s, the San Francisco Bay Area was a central node in the development of biotech and its industry and a focal point of artistic innovation. Through a series of four case studies, this research considers Bay Area artists who, decades before the emergence of bioart, reflected and critiqued changing understandings of humanity, society, and the environment in light of the development of biotech and its industry. The artists Richard Lowenberg, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Sonya Rapoport, and Judy Malloy understood biotech’s implications differently based on their political commitments and choice of artistic media. What they shared was a desire to explore the logic of biotech through art and to demonstrate biotech’s wide-ranging social impact.

Doctoral Candidate, Art History & Criticism, State University of New York, Stony Brook  -  Art and Biotech: Bay Area Networks, 1965-1985

Anna C. Tybinko
Anna C. Tybinko  |  Abstract
“Urban Borderlands” examines Spain’s dependency on undocumented African labor in the quest to become a developed, European nation. Via literature, this dissertation charts Spain’s transformation from a longstanding sending country for migrant labor into a cosmopolitan destination for workers the world over following the promulgation of its first immigration law in 1985. Drawing on both textual analysis and one-on-one interviews, it constructs a conversation among a group of African-born writers who publish for a Spanish audience. Through their collective storytelling, this project reframes the concept of bordering as practices of racialization and labor market segmentation that exert serious controls over the day-to-day of migrant life within Spanish national bounds. To this end, it considers the work of these writers as a unique form of political intervention, aimed at revealing the inherent instability of Spain’s economy—well before the Great Recession of 2008.

Doctoral Candidate, Romance Studies, Duke University  -  Urban Borderlands: African Writers in Precarious Spain, 1985-2008

Junting Huang
Junting Huang  |  Abstract
Between the 1990s and 2000s, Chinese and Taiwanese artists began to experiment with recorded sound and its capacity to document shifting social relations. In the aftermath of the Cold War, disruptive tensions in these two societies were embodied in their increasingly “noisy” acoustic environments—from everyday urban soundscapes to labor protests and missile tests. Well-known artists such as Lin Chi-Wei, Yao Dajuin, Yan Jun, and Hsia Yü have incorporated these sonic fragments into their intermedial experiments in music, video, installation, performance, and poetry, as they turn these acoustic motifs into discursive social commentaries. “The Noise Decade” examines this crucial but often overlooked encounter across the Taiwan Strait, where a discourse on “noise” intersected with the convergence of media. It argues that the embalming of sound creates a resource for the material remains of time, memory, and histories to echo through a violent temporal rupture that radically restructures communal experience.

Doctoral Candidate, Comparative Literature, Cornell University  -  The Noise Decade: Intermedial Impulse in Chinese Sound Recording

Sabina Vaccarino Bremner
Sabina Vaccarino Bremner  |  Abstract
This project develops an account of the relevance of “moral conceivability,” or the moral conceptual repertoire currently at our disposal. It draws on an interpretation of Kant’s moral philosophy that demonstrates Kant’s increased reliance on the reflective dimension of practical reasoning, or the generation of moral descriptions, which his traditional view of moral autonomy presupposes. The alterations in Kant’s views show that practical reasoning also involves the revision of moral terms, an aspect which contemporary ethics has missed. The project reveals the importance of moral conceivability to the historical and contemporary tradition of critique, emphasizing the need to construe universalization in terms of power relations rather than action as such.

Doctoral Candidate, Philosophy, Columbia University  -  Moral Conceivability: Kant, Power, and the Reflective Dimension of Practical Judgment

Niek Janssen
Niek Janssen  |  Abstract
Parody is a widespread but undertheorized phenomenon in Greco-Roman literature. This project shows that “appropriate transgression”—the idea that parody must justify itself in terms of propriety even as it breaches the decorous integrity of its model—is the paradoxical key to ancient conceptions of parody. In recovering Greco-Roman parody’s double relationship to notions of decorum (“appropriateness”), parody emerges as a surprising but crucial participant in discourses about this central aesthetic and ethical value. A series of case studies, from Hegemon of Thasos on generic decorum to crossdressing as gender parody in Statius’s Achilleid, demonstrates how parody enters into dialogue with ancient philosophical, rhetorical, and literary-critical accounts of the virtue of decorum, and lays bare the weaknesses and limitations of their understanding of propriety. Parody, this project shows, is a form of literary and philosophical criticism by different means.

Doctoral Candidate, Classics, Yale University  -  Appropriate Transgressions: Parody and Decorum in Ancient Greece and Rome

Fernando Varela
Fernando Varela  |  Abstract
This project examines the presence of fossils in nineteenth-century literature in the Americas. It argues that human and nonhuman ancient bones are more accurately understood if analyzed at the intersection of museum, literary, and critical race studies. To do so, it focuses on literary works from an Argentinian essayist, a Brazilian poet, and a Cuban novelist, each of whom performed what this project calls museum writing. Museum writing is defined here as a poetics of display where fossils ekphrastically appear as specimens that support but also outwit these authors’ theories of racial origins, generating alternate ways of conceiving the history of humans and nonhumans. It thus reflects on a certain intimacy of trust and value in consumers of natural history. More broadly, it presents a pressing need to evaluate the ethics and aesthetics of newly discovered origins, unexpected genetic kinships, and prehistorical migration routes exhibited in natural history museums.

Doctoral Candidate, Spanish and Portuguese, Vanderbilt University  -  Fossils, Literature, and the Origins of Race in the Americas: Museum Writing and the Poetics of Display

Rhyne King
Rhyne King  |  Abstract
At its height, the Achaemenid Persian Empire (550-330 BCE) stretched from eastern Europe and Libya to central Asia and Pakistan. How did the Achaemenid Empire endure at such a scale for so long? This project analyzes the mechanisms of Achaemenid imperialism through the study of a single institution: the house of the satrap. Satraps functioned as kings in miniature throughout the Empire and operated at the interface between state and subject. By foregrounding the satrapal house, this project emphasizes the roles of other actors—families, subordinates, slaves—connected to the satrap in maintaining imperial social and economic networks. Through the study of administrative documentation, legal records, and historiography across six languages, “The House of the Satrap” demonstrates how the Achaemenid imperial project simultaneously encouraged cooperation and fostered inequality.

Doctoral Candidate, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago  -  The House of the Satrap and the Making of the Achaemenid Persian Empire (550-330 BCE)

Fernanda Villarroel
Fernanda Villarroel  |  Abstract
This project focuses on the ethical and aesthetic need for devising new languages for the feminine among contemporary Nigerian artists, working within structures of production and circulation in Lagos. Drawing from an understanding of figurations as living maps of a changing but politically informed position, I conceive the feminine not as the reification of a binary, but rather as an exercise of freedom embracing practices of fugitivity. In this way, I illustrate how Taiye Idahor’s works on paper, Rahima Gambo’s poetic archives, and Jelili Atiku’s street performances produce figurations of the feminine with material remains from lost, undervalued, or disavowed epistemologies. Such figurations are a means to explore the possibilities for transnational feminism and the revaluation of black lives.

Doctoral Candidate, Art History, University of Wisconsin-Madison  -  Figurations of the Feminine in Contemporary Art from Lagos, Nigeria

Roy C. Lee
Roy C. Lee  |  Abstract
The most widely known aspect of Aristotle’s approach to ethics is his emphasis on virtue. Fundamental to his ethical theory are the questions “Why should I be virtuous?” and “What does virtue consist in?” Interpreters have long looked to his famous “Nicomachean Ethics” (NE) for answers to these questions, but they seldom examine his other major ethical treatise, the “Eudemian Ethics” (EE). In the century since it has been authenticated, Aristotle’s EE has often been dismissed as an earlier and inferior version of the NE. This project reconstructs the ethical theory of the EE by recovering answers to questions of fundamental interest in ethics and metaethics. It focuses on elements of the EE that differ from established interpretations of Aristotle’s NE, and finds that not only are some of its answers better than the ones found in the NE in several important respects, but it also provides new tools for addressing contemporary debates in ethics.

Doctoral Candidate, Philosophy, Stanford University  -  The Ethical Theory of Aristotle's Eudemian Ethics

Yuhe Faye Wang
Yuhe Faye Wang  |  Abstract
The United States Supreme Court ruled on two Fourteenth Amendment cases on the same day in 1886: “Yick Wo v. Hopkins” and “Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad.” “Yick Wo” declared that San Francisco laundry laws discriminated against Chinese laundries and violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause, which expanded the amendment’s protections to all persons instead of protecting only US citizens. “Santa Clara County,” in turn, adjudicated a California railroad tax dispute and asserted that corporations were considered persons under the Fourteenth Amendment. These cases together extended the influence of the legal doctrine known as corporate personhood. In doing so, the terms of sovereignty, citizenship, and racial capitalism became bound to the rise of corporate power from the late nineteenth century onwards. Studying these cases together shows how the law reflected, secured, and embedded nineteenth-century racial thinking into the basic foundations and structures of the economy.

Doctoral Candidate, American Studies, Yale University  -  Bureaucratic Violence: Chinese Civil Rights, Racial Capitalism, and the Rise of Corporations in Nineteenth-century California

Chris N. Lesser
Chris N. Lesser  |  Abstract
Sanctioning practices ostensibly beneficial to the environment while criminalizing others that apparently degrade it, Brazil’s post-1988 legislation has indelibly shaped the meaning of environmental care. Yet Brazil’s most progressive environmental laws have also served to authorize social and environmental violence. Employing archival, archaeological, and ethnographic research, this project demonstrates that empirical effects of environmental law have often diverged from statutory assumptions. Laws have prescribed “preservation” that in effect opens a path to dispossession of diverse socio-ecologies by land speculation and commercial agriculture. Rather than instances of poorly designed, or perhaps disingenuous, legislation, these contradictory outcomes reveal the limitations of juridical efforts to reverse the kinds of socio-ecological harm often associated with deforestation. This project explores how current forms of ecological authority have perpetuated, and in fact naturalized, environmental violence, and looks for other socio-ecological relationships capable of effecting repair for damaged environments.

Doctoral Candidate, Geography, University of California, Berkeley  -  Forests for the English to See: Looking for the Effects of Environmental Legislation in Modern Brazil

Rebecca Wolff
Rebecca Wolff  |  Abstract
Experiences and memories of the Nigerian Civil War have profoundly impacted Nigerian art. Through art produced in wide-ranging media created from 1967 to the present, artists have responded to wartime atrocities and grappled with the war’s complex place in Nigerian history, visually recollecting a conflict that has not been properly memorialized or historicized in Nigeria’s public sphere. This project analyzes these practices to discuss how art intersects with propaganda, how artists chronicle their wartime experiences, and how art is affected by memory and trauma. This study further develops a theoretical framework based on loss, witnessing, and testimony to examine how experience and memory shape recurring themes in war-related artworks, the sociopolitical and cultural conditions of their production, and the lasting impact of armed conflict on the cultural realm.

Doctoral Candidate, Art History, University of California, Los Angeles  -  Experience and Memory: The Nigerian Civil War (1967–1970) and its Effect on Nigerian Contemporary Art

Rachel Lim
Rachel Lim  |  Abstract
This project examines the Korean community in Mexico, centering the transnational social infrastructures and socialities produced and maintained through temporary migration. Based on archival, ethnographic, and interview data, it analyzes the relationship between mobility and belonging for two migratory cohorts: Korean re-migrants, primarily from South America, and the descendants of Korean “coolies” who came to work on henequen haciendas of the Yucatán peninsula in the early twentieth century. Both groups are characterized by serial and temporary migration patterns across the Americas and the Pacific. Rather than dismissing such migrants as culturally and politically dislocated, with little impact on local cultures and societies, this research forefronts how migrants express itinerant belonging by building mobile assemblages of transnational community—business networks, church organizations, and cultural imaginaries that ultimately shape the social spaces in which they reside.

Doctoral Candidate, Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley  -  Itinerant Belonging: Korean Transnational Mobility to and from Mexico

Gloria B. Yu
Gloria B. Yu  |  Abstract
In the mid-nineteenth century, German scientists of the mind turned a classical, philosophical problem of free will into a scientific problem about the mechanisms of voluntary behavior. Pedagogues, physiologists, psychologists, and logicians subjected the will to experimental scrutiny and identified regular laws of willing. Attempts to naturalize the will uprooted the will from its theological and metaphysical origins as the index of moral freedom and altered prevailing notions of thinking and human subjectivity. Thinking, in particular, was regarded as a type of action that could be quantified. In response to these conceptual changes, contemporary intellectuals insisted upon the moral primacy of a more substantive thinking, independent from action. This project traces the scientific conditions of moral frameworks that centralized the freedom of the thinking faculty, during a time when the question of human freedom was made urgent by the rise of modern social science and the advent of mass politics.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of California, Berkeley  -  The Science of the Will: Morality and the Mind in Nineteenth-Century Germany