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.

Related Links

Search for Fellows and Grantees

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

Oluseyi O. Agbelusi
Oluseyi O. Agbelusi  |  Abstract
This project reveals the impacts of British anti-slavery, local, regional, and state-sanctioned trade on household socio-economic organization at Regent, a Liberated African village on the Freetown Peninsula, Sierra Leone during the early colonial period,1808-1896. It draws on a theoretical framework that connects colonial entanglements, cross-cultural exchange, and materialities to explore how the lives of Africans who were “liberated” from ships embarking from different parts of the West African coast and resettled in a nascent British Crown Colony in Freetown were entangled in the broader regional and global political economy. Using archival documents and material assemblages at Regent village, this project shows how these diverse Africans adapted to this new environment focusing on varied house structures and settlement patterns, and their socio-economic activities and the differences in households’ participation in local, regional, and state-sanctioned trade through the study of the mundane things they made, bought, used, and discarded.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Syracuse University  -  British Anti-Slavery, Trade, and Nascent Colonialism on the Freetown Peninsula, Sierra Leone

Carl Ernest Kubler
Carl Ernest Kubler  |  Abstract
Most scholars have painted a bleak portrait of the nineteenth-century encounter between “China” and “the West,” with stories of cross-cultural misunderstanding, legal disputes, and opium smuggling punctuating a conflict-centered narrative of the years before the first Opium War. This project, however, argues that everyday conflict and misunderstanding were far from representative. Through a bottom-up reexamination of daily life in the globally entangled societies of the South China Coast, this research shows that active problem solving and cooperation, not conflict, were in fact the norm: driven by shared economic incentives, most local merchants, sailors, prostitutes, interpreters, coolies, cooks, pirates, and other liminal actors worked flexibly with their foreign counterparts to resolve problems on the ground level, long before they wended their way up to the political sphere.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Chicago  -  Barbarians on the Shore: Global Trade, Conflict Resolution, and Everyday Life on the South China Coast, 1780-1860

Julio Aguilar
Julio Aguilar  |  Abstract
This dissertation explores how the fate of Spanish colonization and the people of the mining city of Potosí, Bolivia, converged around a dramatic search for water in the Andean highland from 1573-1770. Water was at the center of various conflicts in the wake of silver production and rapid urbanization — 120,000 inhabitants— in an environment without a permanent water source at 13,200 feet. The project examines the intersection between water and urbanization as a critical process in the making of Potosí’s mining ecology, expanding our understanding of mining cities not just as productive sites but as living spaces. It asks how empire, society, and active environment interplay forged the water infrastructure that shaped both Spanish hegemony and the people’s ways of living the landscape.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of California, Davis  -  A Thirsty Colonization: Water and Urban Political Ecology in the Silver City of Potosí, 1573-1770

Kay Sohini Kumar
Kay Sohini Kumar  |  Abstract
“Drawing UnBelonging” is a multi-modal project that uses comics as a medium of inquiry and a method to record, analyze, and narrate complex stories from the margins image-textually. It advances the field through not just textual analysis but through the practice of drawing comics with an experimental approach and expands the ways in which art-based research espouses a more equitable future for all. As a Graphic-Medicine-centric project, it engages the sociopolitical through the lens of the personal, to critically look at pressing issues of our time, and to draw attention to systemic and interconnected issues pertaining to race, gender, disability and environmental inequality. It is itself a long-form comic that harnesses the visual effect of the medium to evoke a sense of urgency, in order to establish how belonging is usually tied to the trouble of conforming, rather than to the issue of a geographical space.

Doctoral Candidate, English, State University of New York, Stony Brook  -  Drawing Unbelonging: Comics as Thinking, as Method, as Resistance

Marina Alamo-Bryan
Marina Alamo-Bryan  |  Abstract
“The Bodies and the Archive” examines what it means to find a murdered body in Mexico today, and what it means for it to become evidence. Building on interdisciplinary scholarship on bureaucracy and forensics, this research project examines regimes of justice and evidentiary practices, interrogating how bodies in mass graves are translated into terms legible to the law, and how their existence as evidence is transferred to archives. Investigating public truth production, it examines tensions between families of the disappeared and the state, and brings into conversation forensic and humanitarian exhumations, alongside recent critical and interdisciplinary perspectives on bureaucracy and violence, to address how dead bodies become evidence and how truth claims circulate around and through them.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Columbia University  -  The Bodies and the Archive: Bureaucratization of Violence and Communal Exhumation in Mexico

Emily R. Lake
Emily R. Lake  |  Abstract
Based on a classroom ethnography in the San Francisco Bay Area, this project examines how preschoolers, at the very beginning of social life, position themselves via linguistic styles: ways of speaking that are socially recognizable within a community. Using audio recordings across different interactional settings, this study proposes that ideologies of maturity are central to the preschool experience. Linguistic styles are one way that children begin to embed themselves within the first peer order, asserting and performing maturity in opposition to “babyhood.” This project demonstrates that even preschoolers are not simply passive acquirers and reproducers of sociolinguistic meaning, but rather, their linguistic performances of (im)maturity make them active collaborators in the emerging structure of the peer group.

Doctoral Candidate, Linguistics, Stanford University  -  Stylistic Variation in a Preschool Classroom

Heba Alnajada
Heba Alnajada  |  Abstract
The image of the refugee camp dominates most representations of contemporary refugees. Journalists, practitioners, and policymakers often claim that refugees and humanitarian aid have a coeval history, indeed, that the United Nations camp is the only rational architectural solution to the refugee “problem.” By taking up the case of Jordan, one of the largest host-states of Syrian and Palestinian refugees, this dissertation challenges the myth of the UN camp by situating various forms and norms of refugee settlement—Ottoman state lands, self-built Palestinian camps, refugee-to-refugee sanctuary, in addition to UN camps—within a social-legal and architectural history that spans from the late Ottoman period to the present. Drawing on nine months of ethnographic and archival research in Jordan, this dissertation demonstrates how genealogies of Ottoman refugee aid, the endurance of Arabo-Islamic traditions of hospitality, and the building activities of refugees can explain how the majority of refugees in this region have come to own land, make homes, and fulfill housing needs outside of western humanitarian aid.

Doctoral Candidate, Architecture, University of California, Berkeley  -  150 Years of Refuge into Jordan: Land Tenure, Camps, and Hospitality (1878-Present)

Lucia Luna-Victoria Indacochea
Lucia Luna-Victoria Indacochea  |  Abstract
This project argues how shantytowns became a focal point of collective struggles for survival and basic human dignity in Lima during the Peruvian armed conflict, 1980-2000. Conventionally perceived as either bastions of grassroots resistance or cradles of insurgency, shantytowns influenced the subversive and the Peruvian state’s strategies in the capital, ultimately determining the outcome of the conflict. Shantytown residents challenged, subverted, and reshaped both insurrectionary and state politics, making conscious decisions to organize for or against their demands. Placing resident agency at the center of the analysis, this project moves beyond framings of these individuals as either victims or insurgents. Through ethnographic fieldwork and archival sources, such as municipal documents, print media, and police reports, this work examines shantytown mass mobilizations, as well as the creation of state-sponsored self-defense militias.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of California, Davis  -  Urban Battleground: Survival in Lima's Shantytowns During the Peruvian Internal Armed Conflict

Felipe Álvarez de Toledo López-Herrera
Felipe Álvarez de Toledo López-Herrera  |  Abstract
Between 1503 and 1717, Seville was the administrative center of a trade system that indelibly changed the societies of Europe and the Americas. Thousands of paintings numbered among the objects traded. This project examines the market for paintings in early modern Seville, Spain from a humanistic and economic perspective. Thematically, it discusses the development of institutional structures that supported the market, the determinants of prices, demand for paintings in Seville and the Americas, and the evolving roles of merchants and dealers. Methodologically, it harnesses digital tools, including Natural Language Processing models and relational database management systems, to centralize the wealth of information distributed throughout the city’s archives. With the resulting font of aggregable data on the production, sale, and consumption of artistic goods in early modern Seville, it delivers a quantifiable case study of an early modern industry which had an impact on both sides of the Atlantic.

Doctoral Candidate, Art, Art History and Visual Studies, Duke University  -  'Pinturas Infinitas para América.’ A Data-Driven History of the Market for Paintings in Seville (1500-1700)

Kyong L. Mazzaro
Kyong L. Mazzaro  |  Abstract
Democratization theories assume that democracy and media freedom go hand in hand. However, journalists in democracies are often the target of politicians and individuals who have a stake in political battles. How can political and electoral incentives that are at the heart of democracy create a minefield for journalists? By centering on journalists' experiences and drawing on over 4,000 case narratives, field interviews, and historical documents, this project investigates the ways that political rivalries in Venezuela, Mexico, and Brazil result in anti-media violence and restrictions on media freedom. It reveals that restrictions are not only tied to the political will of anti-democratic incumbents but are also the result of the persistence of authoritarian institutional practices and the incapacity of human rights defense mechanisms to counter violence against journalists in the context of political contestation.

Doctoral Candidate, Political Science, City University of New York, The Graduate Center  -  The Politics of Media Freedom: Contestation, Inclusiveness, and the Experience of Anti-Press Violence in Venezuela, Mexico, and Brazil

Gabriel S. Bámgbóṣé
Gabriel S. Bámgbóṣé  |  Abstract
This project examines how 20th- and 21st-century African women poets rewrite négritude poetics within a decolonial feminist framework. Questioning the dominant androcentric and francocentric formations of négritude discourse, it argues that the poets remap négritude’s geographic, historical, and epistemic boundaries by challenging the colonial limits of its masculinist imagination of the human. It also demonstrates how the poets redefine négritude’s liberation ethics in their profound critique of the multiple and intersectional forms of violence on Black lives by centering everyday life experiences. The project pays particular attention to the multilingual archives of African women’s négritude poetics to offer a more nuanced account of its plural and relational locations, its translational and transnational imagination. Engaging the rich archives of Senegalese, São Toméan, and Nigerian women’s poetry through a critical, historical, and cultural analysis, the project asserts that their négritude work constructs a more radical Black poetics from the underside of marginalized epistemologies.

Doctoral Candidate, Comparative Literature, Rutgers University-New Brunswick  -  In My Mother’s House: African Women, Poetic Literacy, and Radical Translation of Négritude

Raul Melgoza
Raul Melgoza  |  Abstract
Pilgrims, missions, homes, and butterflies hold a key place in the Chicanx cultural imaginary. A study of Chicanx expressive culture and social justice activism, this project explores these figures to speak to how Mexican Americans navigate the ways racialization and settlerness intersect under U.S. settler colonialism in the Southwest. Drawing attention to how the forces of capitalism, liberalism, and colonialism racialize Mexicans as incorporable settlers and excludable aliens, this project argues that Chicanx artists and activists reharness this status into a source of antiracist critique. It names this politicized aesthetics of force and motion within Chicanx cultural politics “Chicanx Kinetics,” highlighting these four figures as emblems for understanding the status of Chicanx settlerness.

Doctoral Candidate, Ethnic Studies, University of Colorado, Boulder  -  Chicanx Kinetics: The Forces and Motions of Settlerness in Chicanx Cultural Politics

Mohamed Wajdi Ben Hammed
Mohamed Wajdi Ben Hammed  |  Abstract
This dissertation studies the reception of Sufi concepts of time in a selection of post-1967 Arabic philosophical and literary projects. It explores how different understandings of modernity condition the way the tradition of Sufi writing on time is negotiated. Sufi thought presents a view of time as a relational construct marked by heterogeneity and punctuated with messianic moments of convergence with eternity. This dissertation considers how key modernist thinkers object to this tradition of thinking time as incompatible with the modern sensibility of time as linear, homogenous, and progressive flow. It debates this reductive position and engages alternative Arab voices who make use of the moral, existential, and aesthetic dimensions of these concepts of time in critical and novelistic projects. Ultimately, these repurposings draw on the rich semantics of temporal heterogeneity to critique the emptiness and uniformity of modern global time which depends on capitalism as a life form.

Doctoral Candidate, MESAAS, Columbia University  -  Negotiating the Empty Time of Modernity: Sufi Temporality in Postcolonial Arabic Thought and Literature

Nikhita Sonia Richa Obeegadoo
Nikhita Sonia Richa Obeegadoo  |  Abstract
Eurocentric tales of marine adventure abound in popular culture, but the trauma of oceanic crossings for marginalized peoples—slaves, indentured laborers, clandestine migrants— is understudied, especially in lesser-known regions of the world, such as the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean. Similarly overlooked are the effects of these journeys on the marine ecosystem itself. “The Silence of the Seabed” argues that writers today confront both the lasting legacies of these transitions in everyday life, and the lack of either written archive or burial site to depend upon: thus, they simultaneously grapple with the importance and impossibility of recreating stories of traumatic oceanic crossings from ecological and subaltern perspectives. “The Silence of the Seabed” explores this paradox through contemporary literature from the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean, written in English, French, Spanish, Hindi and Mauritian Creole.

Doctoral Candidate, Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University  -  The Silence of the Seabed: Reimagining Traumatic Water Crossings in the Indian Ocean and Caribbean

Samuel Boateng
Samuel Boateng  |  Abstract
A key tenet in the field of jazz studies since the 1980s has been the demystification of the myth that jazz is uniquely American. Building on this anti-essentialist jazz narrative, this project explores Ghanaian jazz discourses, practices, and histories as culturally and politically charged arenas within which notions of Black diasporic solidarity, cultural sustainability, decolonial epistemologies, and cosmopolitan imaginaries are nurtured and articulated. This project draws from a combination of archival resources as well as ethnographic interviews conducted with jazz musicians, fans, club owners, journalists, and cultural institutions in Ghana in order to challenge the canonical understandings of jazz history and development, which is often characterized by an ideology of exclusion that minimizes or ignores jazz practices beyond America’s borders. While Ghana is the primary field of investigation, this project also takes a transnational approach to understand how wider musical networks in Britain and United States have impacted Ghanaian jazz.

Doctoral Candidate, Music, University of Pittsburgh  -  Jazz Ghana: Historical Perspectives, Transnational Routes, Space, and Sustainability

Brittani R. Orona
Brittani R. Orona  |  Abstract
Drawing on oral histories, archival research, and an analysis of secondary sources in critical Indigenous studies, environmental studies, and human rights, this dissertation examines Indigenous dispossession, genocide, and eco-fascism in California on Hupa, Yurok, and Karuk lands. In 2002, a massive fish kill led to a concentrated environmental justice movement to remove four dams on the Klamath River Basin that negatively impacted the health and sustainability of the river system. The project addresses how federal and state environmental policy on the Klamath River Basin relies on narrow definitions of genocide, time, and settler-colonial concepts of ownership to continue land dispossession of Indigenous people in California. In response, Hupa, Yurok, and Karuk artists and activists work beyond the scope of environmental policy to assert place-based epistemology through trans-Indigenous relationships against the state, centering decolonization through dam removal, ongoing environmental injustice, and human rights abuses.

Doctoral Candidate, Native American Studies, University of California, Davis  -  “This is our home, this is our land”: Visualizing Decolonization on the Klamath River Basin

Clifton Boyd
Clifton Boyd  |  Abstract
This project examines how American vernacular music institutions instrumentalize music theory to influence and uphold discriminatory sociopolitical values within their communities. The primary case study is the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), an organization founded in 1938 with the explicit goal of preserving the barbershop style. This style, however, has historically been intertwined with a culture of white heteropatriarchy that sought to portray segregation (masked as the more palatable “preservation”) as a moral obligation. This resulted in racial segregation within the Society until 1963 and gender segregation until 2018. This project spans from the BHS’s founding to their contemporary diversity initiative, “Everyone in Harmony” (2017–). Drawing upon archival research, music analysis, theoretical frameworks from critical race and gender studies, and ethnographic interviews, this project argues that the BHS used music theory to delimit the musical aesthetics of the barbershop style, in order to achieve deep-rooted goals of musical and demographic “purity.”

Doctoral Candidate, Music, Yale University  -  The Role of Vernacular Music Theory in the American Barbershop Community

Yasemin Ozer
Yasemin Ozer  |  Abstract
“Syrian Lives Beyond the Refugee Camp” is an ethnography of ordinary ethics and care practices based on 12-months of ethnographic research in the “Little Syria” neighborhoods of Istanbul. This project examines the daily processes whereby Syrian residents of the city create contingent yet extensive care networks among themselves and across the refugee-citizen divide to ensure economic survival, claim urban belonging, and remake Istanbul as a city of Syrians. Despite living with systematic uncertainty that stems from a temporary legal status, economic precarity, and fragile political dynamics, this research shows that Syrians have been able to establish bonds of interdependency while creating spaces of social intimacy. In the process, they have contributed to the emergence of new forms of sociality and urban belonging in the working-class neighborhoods of the city.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, City University of New York, The Graduate Center  -  Syrian Lives Beyond the Refugee Camp: Urban Belonging and Improvising Care in Istanbul

Dmitri J. Brown
Dmitri J. Brown  |  Abstract
Tewa storytellers knew that the sun could be captured—a boy had done it out of misplaced anger. In August 1945, President Harry Truman announced that the atomic bomb dropped on Japan had harnessed the power of the sun. The Manhattan Project and the accomplishment of Site Y, or Los Alamos, New Mexico continue to shadow our world. In the Rio Grande valley below Los Alamos, the Tewa Pueblos maintained distinct political identities and cosmologies that had accommodated potentially shattering modern incursions like the railroad, tourism, and boarding schools. Without Tewa perspectives, their stories of accommodation, and their expressions in language and art, our view of the atomic age remains incomplete. The stories and personal narratives of the Tewa world recontextualize atomic modernity and provide opportunities to link humanistic and scientific thought with traditional perspectives and develop the dialogue between physics, history, and Tewa philosophy.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of California, Davis  -  Tewa Pueblos at the Dawn of Atomic Modernity

Yaara Perlman
Yaara Perlman  |  Abstract
This dissertation demonstrates the extent to which family ties, particularly maternal and nursing relations, promoted individuals’ careers in early Islam. The project uncovers and follows accounts of family ties which are likely to have been integral to the personal advancement of government and military officials in the formative period of Islam, and thus contributes to the study of early Islamic politics, administration, and social structure. The role of maternal links in determining the trajectory of the careers of leading figures is often neglected in the Muslim sources. Through an analysis of accounts of family ties found in these sources, which have rarely, if ever, been previously consulted by scholars, the project reconstructs the importance of matrilineal descent in early Arab society.

Doctoral Candidate, Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University  -  Family Relations and Politics in Early Islam

Kathleen M. Burns
Kathleen M. Burns  |  Abstract
“Vegetal Forms” unearths how plants cultivate cosmologies: the storied and material histories people tell to make sense of the world. Beginning with microscopy in the early nineteenth century and ending with geoengineering in the twenty-first, the project advances an alternative history of modern science in which plants are central to biological configurations of life and the human. Plant animacy—how alive, intelligent or active plants are understood to be—underwrites political discourses of who acts and who is acted upon and, ultimately, who can claim the category of humanity. From Charles Darwin’s “Insectivorous Plants” (1875) to Wanuri Kahiu’s “Pumzi” (2009), narratives of plants operate in systems of cultivation—plantations, greenhouses, gardens, and laboratories—to naturalize, or cultivate, the rights of living beings. Drawing upon a cultural studies methodology, “Vegetal Forms” relies upon uncanny plants to defamiliarize deep-rooted assumptions about what it means to be alive and to be human.

Doctoral Candidate, English, Duke University  -  Vegetal Forms: How Plants Cultivate Life in Literature and Science

Marisa Plasencia
Marisa Plasencia  |  Abstract
This dissertation analyzes subtle reenactments of racial violence in performance with a focus on mundane gestures, objects, and sites in postmodern dance and choreography. This project then offers a definition of Black minimalism, a theory and practice rooted in discretion, that stems from traditions of masked protest on slave plantations. To construct this definition, a list of choreographic strategies used by black postmodern choreographer Ralph Lemon is generated and subsequently deconstructed through an analysis of work by feminist visual artists of color: Ana Mendieta, Alison Saar, and Nicole Miller. The manner in which these artists respectively deploy subterfuge, pastiche, and task-based choreography creates meditative spaces to reconstitute loss. These approaches gain significance as they respond to communities that may not have the privilege to grieve losses that occur in rapid succession.

Doctoral Candidate, Theatre and Dance, University of California, Santa Barbara  -  Black Minimalism: Task, Pastiche, and Subterfuge in Choreographies of Routine Violence

Hector Miguel Callejas
Hector Miguel Callejas  |  Abstract
This project investigates what the paradox of Indigeneity in contemporary El Salvador reveals about the regional particularities of settler state sovereignty in Latin America. In recent decades, Latin American studies of Indigenous identities and politics have centered on the question of Indigenous political standpoint and “voice.” Since at least the 1990s, Salvadoran government agencies, international institutions, and domestic Indigenous organizations have developed the state’s new neoliberal multicultural vision of the nation centered on autochthonous originario heritage as “Indigenous peoples.” However, most originarios themselves have neither contested nor adopted this official Indigenous identity, much less mobilized around state multiculturalism. Public cultural texts related to Salvadoran Indigenous policymaking since the 1970s (e.g. legislation, policy statements, tourism performances) demonstrate how state, international, and Indigenous actors have advocated “for” the originarios with little if any originario input. This ongoing, multi-scalar, and transnational process has legitimized settler state authority over the national population and territory.

Doctoral Candidate, Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley  -  Reimagining the Countryside: Settler Colonialism, National Culture, and Indigeneity in Contemporary El Salvador

Amir Reicher
Amir Reicher  |  Abstract
Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, the West Bank settlement project has been advanced through state-fabricated anarchism by establishing illegal Jewish outposts deeper into the hinterland. These small outposts are today the central tool in appropriating land in the West Bank, and the people who reside in them are considered the most nationalist settlers of them all. And yet, many of the outpost people position themselves as anti-statist subjects and are often opposed to the professed ideology of settlement society. Some go as far as defining themselves as post-Zionist. Based on twenty months of fieldwork in such an outpost, this research investigates how a national-religious project for the sake of expanding the state is led, paradoxically, by those who try to run away from it.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, City University of New York, The Graduate Center  -  Between Two Messiahs: An Ethnography of Outpost Settlers in the West Bank

Bobby Cervantes
Bobby Cervantes  |  Abstract
Scholarly and popular accounts of the US-Mexico border, one of the most contentious geopolitical divides, often depict nearby communities as caught between clashing nations. Yet, such framing obscures both countries’ far-reaching policy collaborations that have structured vast inequality as a condition of local life. This project historicizes the thousands of chronically under-resourced Texas border communities (las colonias) where today a half-million people live in one of the greatest concentrations of American poverty. Through property records, oral histories, and government archives, it explores how mid-twentieth-century landowners devised extra-legal schemes targeting Mexican migrant workers. It further contends that over the several decades when the once-small migrant settlements transformed into ready-made housing markets, the United States and Mexico initiated broad economic liberalization policies that accelerated colonia construction. Ultimately, the project explains how workers, landowners, and state actors made the Texas colonias a transnational institution of poverty and profit in the modern US-Mexico borderlands.

Doctoral Candidate, American Studies, University of Kansas  -  Las Colonias: The Housing of Poverty in Modern Americas

Andrea Rosengarten
Andrea Rosengarten  |  Abstract
This project examines how African ideas about territory and ethnicity grew entangled and co- constitutive in an arid southwestern African region called Namaqualand, which straddles parts of today’s Namibia and South Africa. While extant scholarship largely assumes that German colonial, from 1885-1915, and then South African apartheid-era, from 1948-94, maps here principally reflected European imaginations of ethnic boundaries, this project tracks a longer-term African history of geographical thinking to address the African intellectual origins of coupling ethnic boundaries with territorial fixedness. Drawing on 20 months of oral history and archival research and using previously unexamined sources by African leaders in the Nama language, this dissertation demonstrates how processes of translation and negotiation about geography became central to producing new ethnic identities and land claims during a long colonial period in this southern African borderland.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Northwestern University  -  Remapping Namaqualand: Negotiating Ethnicity and Territoriality in Colonial Southwestern Africa, Eighteenth-Twenty-First Centuries

A. Véronique Charles
A. Véronique Charles  |  Abstract
This project animates the institutional and experiential instantiations of Atlantic slavery in Africa through an interdisciplinary method that engages with archival and literary sources. In so doing, the project revises teleological and spatial metanarratives regarding slavery, racial capitalism, and land dispossession in Africa. Specifically, the dissertation examines an emergent body of literature in French and English that not only depicts Atlantic slavery from an African continental perspective, but also reorients scholarly attention to understudied historical records that reveal the confluence between the oceanic slave economy and enslaving systems on the continent. Through the use of multiple textual sources, the archived past within imperial records and fictionalized history in contemporary literature, “Writing Atlantic-African Slavery” initiates renewed inquiry into those who remained behind as slave ships set sail from the West African coast. These subjects include dehumanized slaves, enslavers, and the myriad characters who often fall outside of representation.

Doctoral Candidate, Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania  -  Writing Atlantic-African Slavery: The Middle Passage in Continental Terms

Briana Adline Royster
Briana Adline Royster  |  Abstract
“Of Our Stock and Blood” draws on interdisciplinary frameworks from Africana and gender studies to argue that as the United States emerged as an imperial power during the late nineteenth century, missionaries of African descent working within African American-based institutions in (formerly) British Guiana and Dutch Guiana drew upon their own notions of empire and race to leverage power in South America and the United States. Significantly, these Afro-diasporic connections expanded the role of the Guianas within visions of international Black solidarity, but connections also remained part of a larger project of empire that depended on and at times flourished through the labor of Black women. This work centers the early and continued importance of the Guianas as an ideological “Black nation” through which African Americans imagined their diasporic destinies and identities from the era of British emancipation in the 1830s.

Doctoral Candidate, History, New York University  -  Of Our Stock and Blood: Empire, Religion, and Afro-Diasporic Identity, 1838-1945

Mimi Cheng
Mimi Cheng  |  Abstract
This project examines the visual economy of German orientalism as it took form in the built environment in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It argues that orientalism was not just expressed as an artistic style, but experienced in modern infrastructure and planning. Beginning by assembling and analyzing maps, photographs, and drawings produced by German cartographers, engineers, and historians of China’s landscape and coastlines, the project proceeds to examine the development of Jiaozhou, the coastal territory occupied by the German Empire for sixteen years beginning in 1897. By tracing the contours of the imperial apparatus, China on the Horizon intervenes in historical and architectural scholarship on colonialism in East Asia as well as cultural constructions of “Asia” and “the Orient” in the West.

Doctoral Candidate, Art and Art History, University of Rochester  -  China on the Horizon: German Orientalism and the Colonial Built Environment, 1860-1914

Azadeh Safaeian
Azadeh Safaeian  |  Abstract
“Toward a Minor Theory of Trauma” examines the suppressed traumas of minorities in Iranian literary and cinematic narratives of the Iran-Iraq war, from 1980-1988. It specifically attends to the accounts of ethnic and religious minorities, women, children, and disabled war veterans. Against the ideological erasure of traumas in the official discourse of the war, this project argues that the figure of the minor opens the possibility for the emergence of repressed traumas in at least two ways: through codeswitching and linguistic entanglements when recounting traumatic experiences; and by representing the materiality of pain in ways that resist appropriation by an ideological narrative of war.

Doctoral Candidate, Comparative Literary Studies, Northwestern University  -  Toward a Minor Theory of Trauma: Literature and Cinema of the Iran-Iraq War, 1980-Present

Robert Christensen
Robert Christensen  |  Abstract
Between 1879 and 1885, the national government of Argentina waged a war known as the campaña al desierto, or Desert Campaign, against the indigenous population of its southern frontier. This war resulted in the death of thousands of civilians and the forced relocation of thousands more. “Worlds in Conflict” tells the story of the indigenous people who lived and died during these years as they experienced the fall of their autonomous confederacies and adapted their traditions to new circumstances. The project highlights the case studies of the Catriel lineage, as well as a group of indigenous people forcibly relocated to labor on sugar plantations in Tucumán and a population of indigenous people in central Buenos Aires province who chose cultural assimilation rather than face relocation. Their stories demonstrate how environmental relationships, particularly including infectious diseases, were a central component of the dispossession of indigenous people in Argentina.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Georgetown University  -  Worlds in Conflict: Indigenous Peoples, Environmental Challenges, and the 'Conquista del Desierto' in the Making of Argentina, 1870-1900

China Sajadian
China Sajadian  |  Abstract
The tiny state of Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees per capita in the world. Yet, contrary to the dominant image of deracinated refugees in unfamiliar territory, significant numbers of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are former labor migrants. Based on eighteen months of ethnographic research in the Lebanese-Syrian borderlands, this dissertation traces “debts of displacement” that have emerged from Syrian farmworkers’ loss of seasonal mobility during the Syrian war. This unique case of migrants-turned-refugees demonstrates that displacement encompasses more than the traumatic event of wartime uprooting. Displacement is, rather, an ongoing process embedded in debts across generations, bound by histories of agrarian labor, wealth distribution, and forms of interdependence on both sides of the border.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, City University of New York, The Graduate Center  -  Debts of Displacement: Syrian Refugee Farmworkers at the Lebanese-Syrian Border

Alexander Cors
Alexander Cors  |  Abstract
This dissertation on the Mississippi Valley from 1750 to 1820 argues that small Indigenous nations successfully used Spanish colonial laws to protect their land, property, and autonomy from Euro- American newcomers. It offers a new perspective on the history of Indigenous-settler interactions in the region by focusing on small and mobile Indigenous nations like the Houma, Pekowi and Kishpoko Shawnee, and Chickamauga Cherokee. This project employs a mixed methodology that integrates ethnohistorical approaches to legal disputes and property formation with historical geography to provide new insights about migration and settlement patterns. It challenges traditional periodization and geographies of North American history by viewing colonial expansion, Indigenous dispossession, and the rise of the slave-plantation economy as interconnected processes that spanned across national and imperial boundaries.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Emory University  -  Newcomers and New Borders: Migration, Property Formation, and Conflict over Land along the Mississippi River, 1750-1820

Zoya Sameen
Zoya Sameen  |  Abstract
This dissertation writes the history of prostitution in colonial India from the ground up by putting evasion, dissent, and disruption in the lead of understanding social and legal interventions into sexual commerce from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. It argues that law enforcement in relation to prostitution should be understood in terms of a series of failures, and historicizes how groups of laboring women, prostitutes, brothel workers, and soldiers acquired knowledge of laws and thwarted their impact through daily acts such as movement, concealment, and bribery. Pushing against a historiography broadly centered on codification and governance, this project draws on official, missionary, and personal records alongside literary and oral sources to read ordinary agents and their creative economies of evasion back into the history of prostitution in India—revealing how the procedure of empire on the ground was subject to subaltern co-option.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Chicago  -  Prostitution and Everyday Life in Colonial India, 1860-1940

Johaina Katinka B. Crisostomo
Johaina Katinka B. Crisostomo  |  Abstract
The abrupt imperial changeover of the 1898 Spanish-American War radically reconfigured the Philippine imaginary as competing visions of political community—Spanish Catholic, Creole Tagalog and Anglo-American Protestant—induced a conflicted ethics of social belonging and made twentieth-century Philippines the inadvertent scene of revivified Reformation polemics. Offering the first trilingual literary-intellectual history of this epistemic shift, this project investigates how the sacrificial discourse in literature and philosophy became the site of competing visions for the ideal social relation in the emerging archipelagic state. It reads the novels of the Americanized twentieth century as the formal afterlives of the revolutionary political theologies of the Hispanicized nineteenth century, tracing the ideological translations that occurred in the formulation of the Philippine sense of self and the social contract. Examining how Filipino writers reimagined their changing, transimperial milieu, it ultimately presents a rerouting of global intellectual history as encountered by the crisis of modern Philippine ethics.

Doctoral Candidate, English, University of California, Berkeley  -  Imperfect Sacrifice: The Ethical Crisis in the Novels and Vernacular Political Theologies of Transimperial Philippines (1890-1946)

Erin S. Schwartz
Erin S. Schwartz  |  Abstract
While the American South’s industrial past has been obscured by agriculture-focused historical narratives and disappearing industrial infrastructure, historic Black women in the iron plantation system have been rendered dually invisible as industrial workers and Black women. In an effort to recenter their unique experiences and selves in time and place, “(Home)making” explores the question: how did enslaved women leverage available social and economic connections to carve out space within the visible and invisible structures of industrial slavery? This research’s focus on the community living at Buffalo Forge in Glasgow, VA, permits an intimate, integrative, and holistic examination of Black women's extraordinary efforts to transform space at home and transform home to change Virginia.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, College of William & Mary  -  (Home)making: Black Women and the Transformation of Industrial Virginia

Terrence Cullen
Terrence Cullen  |  Abstract
“Take Note” offers a new account of musical notation in the textual culture of medieval France. While an abundance of written music distinguishes manuscripts of thirteenth-century French narrative and song from contemporary vernacular traditions elsewhere in Europe, its role in shaping the reception of these works has gone largely unexplored in literary scholarship. This project affirms notation’s centrality to literary meaning in the French Middle Ages by showing that it was not only a source of musical information, but a tool to orient interpretive focus and aural attention. Lending a new ear to foundational works of early French literature, “Take Note” identifies their manuscript sources as a key site of experimentation with premodern media technologies and of reflection on how to listen to – and ultimately understand – the texts they transmit.

Doctoral Candidate, French Literature, Thought, and Culture, New York University  -  Take Note: Listening to French Literature in the Long Thirteenth Century

Sidonia Serafini
Sidonia Serafini  |  Abstract
This project is the first longitudinal study and literary history of the “Southern Workman,” a periodical published between 1872-1939 by the Black industrial school and American Indian boarding school, Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia. This project analyzes literary writings about citizenship published in the “Southern Workman” to examine how and why Hampton’s central organ became a rich site of multicultural American literature between 1890 and 1920, just before the turn of the century and after the end of World War I. It explores how Black, White, and Native writers negotiated, and often eschewed, United States citizenship by instead placing value on “coalition citizenship,” characterized by the cultivation of an alternative “citizenship” through the formation and strengthening of social, cultural, racial, and familial coalitions within, but often separate from, the larger U.S.

Doctoral Candidate, English, University of Georgia  -  Black, White, and Native: The Southern Workman, Coalition Citizenship, and Multicultural American Literature, 1890-1920

Augusta Lynn Dell'Omo
Augusta Lynn Dell'Omo  |  Abstract
As global anti-apartheid sentiment grew throughout the 1980s, a powerful countermovement emerged, consisting of religious, political, and economic actors invested in preserving white rule in South Africa. This project is the first examination of the US “pro-apartheid” movement’s influence in South Africa. By mapping a transnational network of white supremacist and terrorist organizations, “Saving Apartheid” argues that US white power groups were central in the maintenance of apartheid. Combining political, intellectual, and religious history, it analyzes how the transnational anti-apartheid movement and mainstream conservative opposition to apartheid pushed white power groups in the US and South Africa to seek validation outside their domestic political arenas. Yet, the transatlantic alliance proved tenuous, as pro-apartheid actors disagreed on the ideas and strategies undergirding their white supremacist vision. “Saving Apartheid” reveals the globalized ecosystem of white supremacist movements, weaving together narratives of state and non-state actors to show the barriers to international reform.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Texas at Austin  -  Saving Apartheid: Trans-Atlantic Whiteness in the U.S.-South African Relationship, 1980-1994

Mathilda Shepard
Mathilda Shepard  |  Abstract
Colombian history since 1990 has been profoundly shaped by the twin rise of neoliberal multiculturalism and the post-conflict imaginary. "Demilitarized Futures" examines the cultural politics of Black, Indigenous and campesino radicalism in this context. Investigating the ways in which peace, development and the “post-conflict” have served as legitimizing discourses in the construction of the Colombian racial state, this project outlines a theory of “life politics” to account for activist writings, films and visual art that shift the critique of violence away from institutionalized definitions of armed conflict and toward the long-term human and environmental consequences of racial capitalism and settler colonialism. In addition to offering an original reading of contemporary Colombian cultural production, this project contributes to the cultural history of Latin American antimilitarisms and engages in broader conversations about the interrelated struggles for demilitarized, antiracist and environmentally just futures as they have been pursued throughout the Global South.

Doctoral Candidate, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, University of Virginia  -  Demilitarized Futures: Race, Ecology and the Politics of Life in Colombia

Ashley D. Dennis
Ashley D. Dennis  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines how and why Black women teachers, librarians, and authors promoted Black history and culture to children. First, it redefines what types of sources contain intellectual ideas, what forms of work constitute intellectual production, and who can wear the mantle “intellectual.” Second, it de-centers school desegregation within histories of education and civil rights by focusing on black women educators’ efforts to integrate learning and recreational materials for children. Third, it eschews the “great man” theory in its attention to women and their professional networks. This project argues that the range of texts they wrote, the library collections they assembled, and the exhibits about African Americans they curated are significant forms of intellectual production. It argues that Black women educators catalyzed a nationwide re-evaluation of library collections. Even as they felt constrained to offer an optimistic portrait of gradually integrating the United States, they laid crucial groundwork for the Black freedom struggle and rise of multicultural education in the US.

Doctoral Candidate, African American Studies, Northwestern University  -  The Intellectual Emancipation of the Negro: The Thought and Activism of Black Women Educators during the Mid-Twentieth Century

Alex Standen
Alex Standen  |  Abstract
In the 1930s, on the heels of a series of hurricanes and a global economic collapse, Puerto Rican and US reformers collaborated to craft the Puerto Rican New Deal: an economic reconstruction plan to diversify agriculture, redistribute land, reduce chronic poverty, and restore local economic control. This project argues that the Puerto Rican New Deal was propelled and conditioned by a complex network of human and environmental actors: organized workers, the crops they cultivated, the disaster events they confronted, and the political ecologies they helped construct. Drawing from environmental history, political ecology, and disaster studies, this project compels us to reconsider the forces that drive and maintain colonialism and the prospects for subverting them.

Doctoral Candidate, Environmental Studies, University of Colorado, Boulder  -  The Colonial New Deal: Hurricanes, Land Reform, and Organized Labor in Puerto Rico, 1928- 1952

Meenu Deswal
Meenu Deswal  |  Abstract
This dissertation focuses on young girls and women from “lower-caste” communities and their encounters with colonial legal structures in the context of the changing material and social conditions of everyday life in rural South Asia. It situates the lower-caste female subjects’ experiences with the law in the broader history of their movement and circulation in connected systems of marriage and trafficking in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Through a close reading of civil and criminal disputes related to marriage/cohabitation practices, kidnapping and related offences, together with administrative, census, and police records from the province of Punjab, this study re-frames and re-assesses the question of the female legal subject’s agency that rests on the idea of strategic negotiations with the law. “Uneven Terrains of Struggle” introduces new ways of thinking about lower-caste girls’ and women’s capacities for action and decision-making that were shaped by their experiences with violence within and outside colonial legal spaces.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Uneven Terrains of Struggle: Caste, Class, Gender, and the Everyday Experience of Law in Colonial South Asia, 1849-1940

Tara Suri
Tara Suri  |  Abstract
If imperial ideologies relied on a slippage between native and animal, how was the relationship between human and nonhuman reconfigured in a postcolonial world? Building on feminist and postcolonial science studies, “Selling Simians” engages this question by charting the history of rhesus monkey export from South Asia. Over the twentieth century, the rhesus monkey became a requisite model of “the human” – essential to research ranging from polio vaccine manufacture to spaceflight to contraceptive development. Yet the interplay of similitude and difference that rendered the species an ideal experimental model equally generated transnational conflicts over export. Following animal dealers, pharmaceutical representatives, nationalists, diplomats, sexologists, antivivisectionists, and scientists, this project traces the sociolegal contests that unevenly abstracted monkey life into a commodity. In so doing, the project explores how knowledge production about gender, sexuality, and the body has been historically entwined with the racialized geopolitics of empire, the Cold War, and postcolonial development.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Princeton University  -  Selling Simians: Science, Empire, and the Borders of the Human in South Asia, 1925 - 1983

Daniel Driscoll
Daniel Driscoll  |  Abstract
How and why do countries respond differently to the dilemma of pursuing global climate reform through national legislation? This dissertation project explores the socio-political foundations of national carbon price policies, which resonate with global ideals and prioritize a global challenge over national economic benefits. An investigation into carbon prices in France and the United States reveals key sites of trade-offs. In France, this project traces the formation of their carbon tax, comparatively neoliberal by design, and the backlash from the populist Yellow Vest movement. In the United States, this project investigates the demise of a proposed carbon price, revealing how economic growth models complicate effective climate reform and empower business-elites to block regulatory reforms.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, University of California, San Diego  -  Pricing Carbon: Globalism, Growth, and Populism

Madina Thiam
Madina Thiam  |  Abstract
Between 1804-1960, the Sahel underwent four world-making political projects: the gradual end of transatlantic slavery, Islamic revolutions, European colonization, and African decolonial struggles. Blending micro-history and global history, my research probes intersections between mobility, freedom, and political change in the region as it underwent these deep mutations. As systems of race-making and political economies stemming from the Atlantic and Saharan worlds simultaneously impacted them, Sahelian Muslims freely or forcefully migrated. Their circulations spanned the lands tucked between the Senegal and Niger rivers, but also the expanse between the Caribbean and Red Seas. Centering the mobilities and itineraries of itinerant Muslims—scholars, traders, pilgrims, clerics, and enslaved women and men—this project traces the various ways Sahelians sought emancipation from slavery and colonialism, and elaborated practices of freedom, be it in Mopti, Mecca, or Jamaica. The project draws on research conducted in Mali, Senegal, France, England, Ireland, and Jamaica.

Doctoral Candidate, History, University of California, Los Angeles  -  Seeking Freedom in the Sahel: Mobilities, Connectivity, and Islam, 1804-1960

Aaron F. Eldridge
Aaron F. Eldridge  |  Abstract
This project analyzes the return of Orthodox Christian monastic communities to Lebanon in the post-civil war period, from 1975-1990. The dissertation, based on twenty months of ethnographic and archival fieldwork, details the return of Orthodox ascetics to abandoned and centuries-old sites, showing how the uncanny return of hitherto unknown saints in dreams and the discovery of their bodies incites reinhabitation. Focusing on the lived and therapeutic modalities of monastic life’s return—in its liturgical poetics of chant, translation practices, and formations of communal labor—this research both details how the ascetics’ theologically inflected form of life traverses Muslim-Christian difference and becomes persuasive to a generation that is dispossessed of social, political, and economic guarantees. It shows how monasticism, lived as the struggle of the soul to ascend to God, evokes an other-worldly time that parochializes the ruinous aftermaths of Lebanon's present.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley  -  Monastic Life in Aftermath: Formations of Arab Orthodox Christian Asceticism in Lebanon

Carmen Torre Perez
Carmen Torre Perez  |  Abstract
Cuban punk appeared in the early 1990s, some fifteen years after bands like the Sex Pistols made it famous in England and the US. Emerging as a response to the collapse of the Soviet bloc, this culture offers a unique look back to the last three decades of the country’s history, shedding new light on the geopolitical and social trends of contemporary Cuba. This project argues that the late blossoming of Cuban punk is symptomatic of the failure of the Cuban Revolution's socialist project. Through the analysis of an original corpus of music and oral testimonies, it exposes the discrepancies between the rhetoric of a socialist regime that resists change, and the lived mutability of a Cuban people raised under the colliding influences of a collapsed economy, an Americanized global culture, and a colonial heritage defined by race, gender, and class inequalities.

Doctoral Candidate, Romance Languages, University of Pennsylvania  -  Music and Crisis in a Changing Island: Punk Culture in Cuba

Kareem Estefan
Kareem Estefan  |  Abstract
What does it mean to bear witness in contemporary Palestinian visual culture? This dissertation analyzes and historicizes Palestinian films and artworks that reconfigure witnessing as an imaginative act of decolonization, in which testimony to injustice is joined with reparative speculations. It contextualizes a turn toward strategies of fabulation, speculation, and opacity as a critical response to the political limitations of humanitarianism and the aesthetic restrictions of documentary realism, correlated constraints bolstered by the rise of NGOs in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and by transformations in the local and global media landscapes during the 1990s. At the same time, it contends that elements of worldbuilding have been immanent to Palestinian witnessing, if often overlooked by scholars, since the earliest self-representations of their 1948 dispossession.

Doctoral Candidate, Modern Culture and Media, Brown University  -  Witnessing as Worldbuilding: Imagining Repair and Decolonization in Palestinian Visual Culture

Caroline Eaton Tracey
Caroline Eaton Tracey  |  Abstract
Since 2008, more Mexicans have left the United States, both by deportation and return migration, than migrated to it. Existing scholarship has focused on deportation as a male phenomenon, and paid relatively little attention to return migration. Based on 16 months of ethnographic research with deportees and returnees in Mexico City, this project argues that while the majority of deportees and return migrants are indeed cisgender men, women and trans deportees and returnees carry out fundamental community-building and activism. At the same time as they have developed and mobilized an intimate knowledge of the bureaucracies of both the US and Mexico that has facilitated the long-term process of emplacement for all deportees/return migrants and their families, they have re-conceptualized migration activism away from belonging in the United States in favor of advocating for equal access to mobility.

Doctoral Candidate, Geography, University of California, Berkeley  -  Binational Politics from Intimate Scales: Women and Trans Deportees and Return Migrants in Mexico City

Cesar Estrella
Cesar Estrella  |  Abstract
As a guiding thread for US domestic and foreign policies, the protection of US national security has long shaped the world. This project analyzes the ideological roots, articulations, and continuities in US national security policy since the Cold War. Through in-depth interviews, archival research, and genealogical analysis, this study delves into hundreds of national security documents—declassified and leaked—to trace the national security establishment’s processes of meaning-making, problematization, and consensus-building amidst transfers of governmental power between the Republican and Democratic parties. By bridging political economy and cultural studies, this dissertation argues that national security doctrine has served as a catalyst to build bipartisan consensus in US politics, promote profit-driven geopolitical interests, and normalize non-democratic practices. This study also provides a novel approach to national security for more thoroughly understanding the lasting consequences of US national security doctrine and the challenges it has posed for world peace and global democracy.

Doctoral Candidate, Latin American and Latino Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz  -  The Strong Arm of Capital: Protecting US National Security

Saquib A. Usman
Saquib A. Usman  |  Abstract
This research presents an ethnography rooted in a village located in Mauritania renowned for the predominant inherited blindness of its inhabitants. By considering the interpretive processes that make blindness as a sign of difference and investigating its symbolic and historical dimensions alongside everyday multi-sensorial interactions, this project not only offers new possibilities for understanding blindness, but also reframes the concept of “sight” and reflects on the problems and potentials of doing an ethnography of blind worlds. Secondly, it draws from intimate interactions living with a blind water diviner to understand the site of the well and the role of water as a “vital substance” involved in the mediation of kin, social, and material relationships formed in arid Saharan environments.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Blindness and Water Divination in the Mauritanian Sahel

Jennifer M. Farquhar
Jennifer M. Farquhar  |  Abstract
This dissertation investigates the role of hunter-gatherers in the development of mobile pastoralism in the desert-steppe region of Mongolia, ca. 4500-3500 BP. The study focuses on patterns of mobility across this economic and social transition to understand how hunters and herders distributed themselves within habitats, identifying changes in how, when, and why people moved. Mobility is indeed critical to both foraging and herding modes of production; it provides not only important insight to how settlement strategies changed with the addition of domestic animals, but also contextualizes other aspects of social life including patterns of social interaction, hierarchy, and differential access to material wealth, prestige, production, and ritual. Tracking these trends over time allows us to address broader questions that seek to understand how, where, and why mobile pastoralism developed.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh  -  Human-Environment Interactions: The Role of Foragers in the Development of Mobile Pastoralism in Mongolia's Desert-Steppe.

Kelsey J. Utne
Kelsey J. Utne  |  Abstract
Bridging necropolitics and critical heritage studies, this project constructs of transnational history of the British Indian dead. This project’s approach reorients Eurocentric scholarship on memorialization and the dead by centering colonial subjects rather than colonizers. Assembling diverse sources in English, Hindi, Urdu, Persian, and Arabic, it explores how the materiality and commemoration of the dead altered physical, bureaucratic, and social landscapes in the decades between two world wars. During this period, an emergent South Asian public challenged the colonial state over who possessed sovereignty over the living and the dead, and the management of corpses became grounds on which political and cultural authority was forged. The project argues that colonial era memorialization has been inextricably tangled with the power of the South Asian dead to manufacture political meaning and define communities.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Cornell University  -  Corpse Politics: Disposal and Commemoration of the Indian Interwar Dead, 1919-1939

Jorge A. García-Granados
Jorge A. García-Granados  |  Abstract
This study explores how Spanish-proficient clergymen in colonial Cuzco translated the drama of damnation into Quechua, the primary indigenous language of Peru. By examining catechisms, paintings, and Spanish plays from the colonial era that served as models, this project tracks the artistic mechanisms that animate three “Andean Fausts.” It argues that the colonial subjects behind these plays attempted to associate the indigenous populations with an inclusive spiritual life. Examining the dramas in context reveals the complexity of Quechua theatre’s cultural signification in the eighteenth century.

Doctoral Candidate, Romance Languages, University of Georgia  -  The Journey of Three Andean Fausts: Dramas of Damnation in Eighteenth-century Colonial Peru

Fatima del Rocio Valdivia
Fatima del Rocio Valdivia  |  Abstract
This project examines how drug trafficking in the Tarahumara region, northern Mexico, transforms Rarámuri everyday life; how the Rarámuri imagine and articulate their self-determination in the face of this neo-colonial relationship, and how the Mexican state and drug trafficking organizations have interacted with that imagining. “Disputed Sovereignties” argues that drug trafficking actors enact a kind of sovereignty based on the historical processes of racialization that continue to define Rarámuri space and people as colonized subjects. Drug traffickers’ claims to sovereignty fall in line with the ideology of mestizaje, which organizes the nation according to a hierarchy predicated on mestizo rule over indigenous people, their land and their resources. Therefore, drug trafficking organizations’ claims to sovereignty are grounded in these broader colonial relations, rather their ability to mimic the state. As such, this project sheds new light on the little-recognized relationship between colonialism, race, power and drug trafficking.

Doctoral Candidate, Latin American Studies, University of Texas at Austin  -  Disputed Sovereignties: Rarámuri Self-Determination, State Sovereignty, and Drug Trafficking in the Tarahumara Region, Northern Mexico

Sage M. Gerson
Sage M. Gerson  |  Abstract
The Leaky Grid” is concerned with the cultural, ecological, and political entanglements of the US electricity grid, centering an analysis of the co-constitutive relationship between electrical power and structural power. Residing at the intersections of the energy humanities, literature and the environment, and the study of Western colonial modernity through a perspective informed by Black Studies and Native American and Indigenous Studies, “The Leaky Grid” strives to understand the relationality between power and electricity through a reading of material infrastructures and a collection of Black and Indigenous electrified multi-media cultural production. Countering the ways the power grid fuels colonial extraction, violence, and control, the project turns to electrified imaginaries – found in works such as Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” Janelle Monáe’s “Electric Lady,” and Linda Hogan’s (Chickasaw) “Solar Storms” – where the possibilities of identity, power, and environment otherwise emerge. Working athwart the grid’s infrastructural ordering, “The Leaky Grid” reframes the grid as leaky, illuminating how the infrastructural systems, narratives, and imaginaries of Western modernity are porous, and lingering with the possibilities this porosity creates.

Doctoral Candidate, English, University of California, Santa Barbara  -  The Leaky Grid: Black and Native Electrified Imaginaries

Melanie White
Melanie White  |  Abstract
This project traces a visual and discursive history of intimate colonial violence against Black women and girls from present-day Caribbean Nicaragua. Specifically, it explores how Black women and girls from the region appear in the racialized, gendered, and erotic imaginaries of key colonial actors in their history. These colonial imaginaries are juxtaposed with the counter-visualities of contemporary Afro-Nicaraguan women visual artists whose works grapple with Black women’s histories of gender-based violence and the critical yet taken-for-granted importance of bodily autonomy. Given the anti-Black and patriarchal Nicaraguan state’s refusal to address growing rates of gender violence in Caribbean Nicaragua and the masculinist struggle for Black autonomy in the region that has been centrally concerned with civic rather than intimate harms, this project contends that their art offers an alternative vision of autonomy that moves beyond formal political frameworks and allows for more radical and transformative methods of organizing for Black liberation.

Doctoral Candidate, Africana Studies, Brown University  -  “What Dem Do To We No Have Name”: Intimate Violence, Autonomy, and Black Women’s Contemporary Art in Caribbean Nicaragua

Liliana Gil
Liliana Gil  |  Abstract
In Brazil, popular notions of ingenuity have recently been used to inspire new forms of innovation. However, improvisational experiences have always been part of local strategies of technological development. Based on field research conducted in São Paulo and Manaus, this dissertation is an ethnographic and historical examination of the relationship between improvisation and technological production. It follows grassroots techno-activists, state-led innovation projects, independent cellphone repairers, and electronics industry workers to understand how improvisation has been contextually thought, performed, and valued. While scholars have discussed improvisation as an aspect of Brazilian culture, this dissertation attends to the reconfiguration of improvisation in the context of growing discussions about innovation from the global South, making contributions to debates on speculative critique, inclusive innovation, repair economies, and tech labor.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, The New School  -  Beyond Make-Do Innovation: Practices and Politics of Technological Improvisation in Brazil

Joseph Williams
Joseph Williams  |  Abstract
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Black women in the club movement frequently convened across the country to discuss the metaphysical, human nature, morality, the afterlife, and other abstract ideas. Social events, public debates, and books informed their deliberations. The conventional wisdom among scholars characterizes the club movement as a genteel crusade for communal reform orchestrated by middle-class Black Protestant women. “Black Club Women, the Production of Religious Thought, and the Making of an Intellectual Movement” reinterprets the club movement as a pluralistic campaign fueled by Black women's informal study of religious and philosophical thought. Using periodicals, eulogies, psychic readings, organizational reports, autobiographies, and memoirs, this project unveils the syncretic approach club women adopted in their conceptualization of the immaterial and as a means of social resistance.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Rutgers University-New Brunswick  -  Black Club Women, the Production of Religious Thought, and the Making of an Intellectual Movement, 1854-1933

Camille J. Goldmon
Camille J. Goldmon  |  Abstract
This dissertation examines the history of African American farmers in the Black Belt of Alabama from 1881–1940 from a radical agrarian perspective. Approaching the topic from the perspectives of both organizations and individuals, it argues that Black row-crop farmers in Alabama who sought land ownership mounted strategic challenges to the totalitarian nature of racial control the plantation agriculture system in the South helped create and sustain. Thus, the dissertation situates those farmers within histories of Black radical intellectualism and agrarian radicalism. It also interrogates the few institutions and people those farmers depended upon to represent their interests and further their progress, including many leaders who shaped the agricultural programs at Tuskegee Institute. Using an interdisciplinary definition of radicalism, the dissertation reevaluates historical figures typically dismissed as conservative, unprogressive, or even apathetic and positions them instead as harbingers of change responsive to the needs of local Black farmers.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Emory University  -  On the Right Side of Radicalism: African American Farmers, Tuskegee Institute, and Agrarian Radicalism in the Alabama Black Belt, 1881–1940

Clara Wilson-Hawken
Clara Wilson-Hawken  |  Abstract
“Am I That Easy to Forget?” traces Black women’s musical, administrative, and affective labor across distinct spheres of the music industry in the United States between 1945 and 1985. Beneath the commercialized finality of popular music lie extensive relational networks of personal and institutional interdependencies, which illustrate that both musical and non-musical labor enabled the commodification of Black sound across the four decades following World War II. This project excavates precisely these relational networks within and between key urban sites of Black musical innovation, such as Houston, Chicago and Los Angeles, by analyzing the work of Black women throughout all corners of the music industry—from radio disc jockey to record label executive, talent agent to lead vocalist.

Doctoral Candidate, American/African American Studies, Yale University  -  "Am I That Easy To Forget?": The Sounds and Forms of Black Women's Labor in the Music Industry 1945-1985

Michael B. Hawkins
Michael B. Hawkins  |  Abstract
This dissertation investigates historical transformations of the Port of Manila, and the changing social and political relations of work there, in a series of key moments or episodic geographies from 1898-2020. The project draws on historical archival analysis conducted in the Philippines and the US and interviews with the city’s port truck drivers. It asks how across disparate historical eras, the state-led production and management of harbor space strategically attempts to reproduce the unequal social relations of American empire, Cold War anti-communism, and contemporary global trade. Its attention to the historical and contemporary lives of dockworkers and truck drivers reveals how these men’s waterfront labor not only facilitates capitalist circulation but generates their own personal and political claims to port space.

Doctoral Candidate, Geography, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  -  From Colonial Cargo to Global Containers: An Episodic Historical Geography of Manila's Waterfront, 1898-2020

Matthew Wolfe
Matthew Wolfe  |  Abstract
Despite its prevalence, missingness remains a deeply neglected topic of sociological inquiry, with little known about the social response these absences engender. Recent studies, substantiating anecdotal data, have begun to demonstrate disparities in the resources law enforcement agencies and the media devote to different kinds of missing persons cases. Yet there exists minimal research about who is most affected by missingness and how these inequalities in response are produced. To fill this gap, my dissertation answers the entwined questions of who becomes missing, how families of missing persons marshal resources for searches, and why different missing persons cases receive dramatically different levels of public attention and institutional support—why, in effect, are some people more missing than others.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, New York University  -  Marketing the Missing: Missing Persons and the Economy of Concern in the United States

Sidra Kamran
Sidra Kamran  |  Abstract
Pakistan’s recent transition to a service economy has created an expanding and highly visible group of women beauty and retail workers, thereby defying prevalent norms that typically seclude women in their homes. Drawing on interviews and observations in a women-only marketplace and a mixed- gender department store, this project shows that these jobs are associated with contradictory moral and economic statuses. This study develops the concept of status ambiguity to capture these contradictions and argues that this ambiguity is gendered and leveraged by women to maximize their own economic and social status in multiple ways. Ultimately, status ambiguity renders these workers illegible to state and society, allowing them to enter the public sphere in unprecedented numbers without generating societal backlash.

Doctoral Candidate, Sociology, The New School  -  The (In)Visible Workers: Gender, Status, and Space in the New Service Economy in Pakistan

Suvaid Yaseen
Suvaid Yaseen  |  Abstract
This project examines Muslim reform movements, colonial modernity, and literary cultures in Kashmir in the long twentieth century. Based upon vernacular, subaltern records across colonial and postcolonial periods, it challenges the conventional dichotomies between “reformist orthodoxy” and “popular Sufism” in the historiography on Islam in the Indian subcontinent as well as the theoretical binaries between “religious” and “secular.” Studying Islamic revivalist movements like the Ahl-i Hadith and the Jamaat-e Islami in Kashmir on their own terms, the project charts “intellectual histories from below” and makes a case for recuperating wide-ranging forms of political imagination and modalities of religious thought, as well as transregional movement and local politics.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Brown University  -  Islamic Intersections: Religion and Politics in Kashmir in the Long Twentieth Century

Abdulbasit Kassim
Abdulbasit Kassim  |  Abstract
The region of Hausaland and Borno (commonly referred to as Northern Nigeria and Central Sudanic Africa) have experienced successive waves of Islamic reform, counter-reform, and jihad. Is there a linear development and continuity of ideas from the eighteenth-century Islamic movements led by Jibrīl b. ʿUmar (d. 1784) and ʿUthmān b. Fūdī (d. 1817) to the contemporary Islamic movements led by Jamāʿat Ahl al-Sunna li-Daʿwa wa-l-Jihād (Boko Haram), Jamāʾat Anṣār al-Muslimīn fi Bilād al-Sūdān (Ansaru) and Wilāyat Gharb Ifrīqīyā? What changed, and what endured in the Longue durée of Islamic reform? Drawing on eighteen months of research in manuscript repositories and ethnographic fieldwork, this project examines the continuities and changes in the intellectual history of Islamic thought, reform, and jihad. It provides a window onto the common and divergent methodologies of wide-ranging groups of reformers claiming the mantle of reform and jihad, but it does so by rejecting the historiographical binary of a reformist past either disentangled from the present or tethered teleologically to it. Unlike previous studies that focused on specific historical periods or religious movements, this project illuminates the core doctrinal ideas that Islamic reformers and dissidents in Hausaland and Borno have contested and appropriated to legitimize their projects of reform from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries.

Doctoral Candidate, Religion, Rice University  -  Old Reformers, New Dissidents: Continuity and Change in the Intellectual History of Islamic Thought, Reform and Jihad in Hausaland and Borno, 1700-2015

Magdalena Zegarra Chiappori
Magdalena Zegarra Chiappori  |  Abstract
Grounded in rigorous ethnographic fieldwork in a dilapidated home for the elderly in central Lima, “Surviving the Margins” examines the life-worlds and subjective experiences of one of the most neglected and understudied population of Peruvian society: the abandoned elderly urban-poor. This dissertation explores the fractures, intricacies, and subtleness of everyday survival at the end of life in a context of precarious care, institutional disregard, and emotional deprivation. “Survival” refers to the quotidian yet significant acts that some of these individuals can—to some extent— undertake in order to remain recognized in a society that renders them non-existent. This project, therefore, is concerned with how the destitute elderly in Lima strive to preserve their humanity in an environment of perpetual loss and material deterioration.

Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Surviving the Margins: Care, Social Death, and Possibility among the Elderly Urban Poor in Lima, Peru

Hayana Kim
Hayana Kim  |  Abstract
This project examines a history of advancing democracy in South Korea from the period of Korea’s last military dictatorship, from 1980-1987, to its post-dictatorship years, from 1987-2020. It asks how performance advances democracy and illustrates the role of embodied endeavors in facilitating democracy by analyzing various cultural performances, including protests, memorial rites, public hearings, and theatre productions, that represent and commemorate the Gwangju Uprising, a pro-democracy revolt. Its central argument which arises from extensive oral history interviews and archival research in Korea, is that performance contributes to democracy by creating an alternative, cultural space where deaths disavowed and erased from state records, and concealed from the public eye, arise into communal memories.

Doctoral Candidate, Theatre, Northwestern University  -  Embodying Democracies: The Gwangju Uprising and the Politics of Mourning in South Korea, 1980-2020.

Cathy Zhu
Cathy Zhu  |  Abstract
Omens are a widespread but understudied aspect of Song Dynasty society. Paintings and writings about such “responses from heaven” helped shape imperial politics, the bounds of appropriate governance, and people’s relations to the world. Yet, for all the efforts of political actors to control them, the appeal of omens lay in entropy: the chance encounter, the uncanny, the crossing of metaphysical or temporal thresholds. Through the first close study of the Southern Song handscroll “Illustrations of Auspicious Responses,” this project complicates the usage of Song art as instruments for political or historiographical writing. Instead, it considers viewership and situates “Illustrations” within narrative painting, archaeological remains, and texts such as collections of strange tales, showing that images were distinctly able to capture the nature of omen culture and its inherent contradictions.

Doctoral Candidate, Art History & Archaeology, Columbia University  -  Born in a Golden Light: Omens, Art, and Succession in the Southern Song, 1127-1279

Mariia Koskina
Mariia Koskina  |  Abstract
Once the mightiest dam in the world, the Krasnoyarsk Dam, built 1956-1972, instigated popular pride and brought sweeping development to Siberia. As a result of the latter, scholars generally present it as proof of antagonism between the Soviet state and nature. Asking “How green were ‘the Reds’?” this dissertation examines the interconnection of two seemingly opposed Soviet state programs—the exploitation and preservation of nature, as embodied by the Krasnoyarsk Dam and the neighboring protected urban greenery and “wilderness” at a nature preserve, respectively. Sharing ecosystems and community, these projects advanced a Soviet “promethean-preservationist” program meant to remake humans, their environment, and their relationship to nature. This relationship was not defined by conquest. As a Soviet dam builder declared, “We did not conquer the Yenisei [river], we proposed an alliance to him!” This historical-anthropological research emphasizes that nature had its own power to foster popular fascination and affinity, producing an environmental subjectivity beyond ideological confines.

Doctoral Candidate, History, Binghamton University, State University of New York  -  Giving a Green Light to Development: State and Personal Encounters with Nature in Cold War Siberia

Leonora Zoninsein
Leonora Zoninsein  |  Abstract
“How a Whale Becomes a Molecule” examines how the olfactory sense comes into being through historical, geographic conditions. It traces the process of material transformation of ambergris, a sperm whale gallstone prized as a scent and fixative in the perfume industry, from its original oceanic acquisition to its reformulation within chemical fragrance labs to consider how the simultaneous production of aromatic material and embodied knowledge generates smell anew. In tracking the production of sensory equivalence across material divides, this project argues that the making of the essence and commodity called “ambergris” and “ambroxan” is a history of the making and remaking of the sense of smell itself.

Doctoral Candidate, Geography, University of California, Berkeley  -  How a Whale Becomes a Molecule: A Geography of Modern Olfaction