Mellon/ACLS Recent Doctoral Recipients

Mellon/ACLS Recent Doctoral Recipients Fellowships provided a year’s support for scholars to advance their research, following completion of the doctorate.  The Recent Doctoral Recipient Fellows were chosen from among the pool of successful applicants to either the Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships competition or other competitions of national stature for dissertation completion awards.

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

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. 

Richard Patrick Anderson  |  Abstract
This project analyzes the concepts and paradigms that motivated the architectural cultures of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, thereby enriching our understanding of modernity’s material and spatial forms. Whereas many studies have focused on the ways in which the Communist Party instrumentalized architecture for its own ends, this project demonstrates that the dynamics of architectural culture are better understood as a radical renegotiation of history and modernity. "Toward a Socialist Architecture" presents architects’ attempts to make historical knowledge the basis for design practice throughout the Stalin Era.

Art History, Columbia University  -  Toward a Socialist Architecture, 1928-1953

Sara J. Milstein
Sara J. Milstein  |  Abstract
In the dual effort to preserve received material and to rework it to serve new ends, ancient near Eastern scribes would affix new introductions to older narratives. In numerous cases, this method involved the seamless attachment of new material to the received text, so that the logic and autonomy of the older work were obscured in the process. Yet the ancient inclination to preserve received material, even when its content was now in conflict with that of the new perspective, makes it possible to recover the perspectives of the original stories. By tracking the ways in which this method was employed in biblical and Mesopotamian narratives, this project proposes a new model for reading and interpreting the abundance of multilayered texts preserved in these two bodies of ancient literature.

New York University  -  Revamping Ancient Texts: Revision through Introduction in Biblical and Mesopotamian Narratives

Lucas Bessire
Lucas Bessire  |  Abstract
This research project draws from 37 months of fieldwork with a recently contacted indigenous group in South America’s Gran Chaco to examine the political and sentimental implications of “becoming indigenous” in the twenty-first century. It uses an intimate portrait of an Ayoreo band that made “first contact” in 2004 to track how three distinct scales of mediation—including indigenous appropriation of radio technology, transnational discourses of indigenous rights, and local understandings of evangelical Christian doctrine—change Ayoreo imaginations of themselves as people out of place in a “new world” they consider to be fundamentally out of their control. What kinds of futures are Ayoreo piecing together out of such understandings of indigeneity and modernity?

New York University  -  Behold the Black Caiman: Mediating Modernity, Sentiment, and Indigeneity among the Ayoreo Indians of the Gran Chaco
In Residence at School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe

Natalie M. Phillips
Natalie M. Phillips  |  Abstract
This dissertation offers a literary history of the inattentive mind in the eighteenth century. Three subsequent projects draw on this work to explore the larger relationship between attention and reading. The first, an essay on economies of attention for The History of Reading, investigates how ideas about attention span shaped the Enlightenment essay. The second, an interdisciplinary fMRI experiment, uses technologies from cognitive science to analyze neural differences between levels of literary focus. The third, “Attention and Reading: The Art of Focus in the Enlightenment,” explores how the idea of attention as art shaped major eighteenth-century genres like children’s literature, satire, domestic fiction, and lyric poetry.

Stanford University  -  Attention and Reading: A Cognitive Approach to Literary Focus

Sarah Isabel Cameron
Sarah Isabel Cameron  |  Abstract
Largely forgotten by history, the Kazakh famine of the 1930s led to the death of more than a million and a half people, a quarter of Kazakhstan’s population. The burden of this suffering, however, fell disproportionately on one of the republic’s ethnic groups, Kazakhs. My project, an original narrative account of this disaster, provides answers to the causes and consequences of the Kazakh catastrophe itself, as well as revisions to historians’ broader accounting of the massive upswing in state-driven modernization and violence that transformed the Soviet Union in the late 1920s and 1930s. Engaging with genocide studies and agrarian studies, the study contributes to scholars’ understanding of pastoral nomads, as well as the role of ideology and human agency in famines and other crises.

Yale University  -  The Hungry Steppe: Soviet Kazakhstan and the Kazakh Famine, 1921-1934

Peter Polak-Springer
Peter Polak-Springer  |  Abstract
This project examines the development of a Polish-German transnational political culture of territorial appropriation over a half-century based on the case-study of the Upper Silesian Industrial District. First, it focuses on how the bilateral national “cold war” over this borderland during the interwar era spurred the cultivation of revanchist discourses, acculturation programs, symbolic landscapes, and particular groups of Polish and German elites devoted to agitating for the territory. Second, it explores how these factors served as the supporting and legitimating basis of the war- and postwar-era violence and ethnic cleansing that occurred in this borderland, as well as the totalitarian-minded regimes that promoted it. Finally, it examines the immediate and long term effects of this revanchist cultural politics, and the more violent and disruptive processes it supported, on the populace of the Industrial District and the wider societies of Poland and Germany.

Rutgers University-New Brunswick  -  Making “Recoveries”: The Cultural Politics of Territorial Appropriation in a German-Polish Industrial Borderland, 1922-1971

Alex Csiszar
Alex Csiszar  |  Abstract
During the nineteenth century, periodical publications gradually took on roles in the social life of science—such as peer-review, the adjudication of priority, and the evaluation of professional qualifications—that had once been the domain of collectives such as the Royal Society and the Académie des Sciences. This project unearths the enormous labor that went into buttressing the credibility and the boundaries of the specialized periodical literature as it thus became a central site for delineating scientific authorship and expertise near the century’s end. At the core of these efforts was the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature, an intergovernmental organization for locating, recording, and classifying all “original contributions to science.” Its founders aimed to bring into view a dynamic, topographical landscape of scientific life through the lens provided by a classified archive of knowledge in print. Reimagining scientific serials offered an opportunity to re-engineer scientific virtue itself.

Harvard University  -  Regulating the Scientific Machine: Print, Classification, and Community in the Natural Sciences, 1889-1920

Jacob Aaron Carliner Remes
Jacob Aaron Carliner Remes  |  Abstract
A fire in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1914 and an explosion in Halifax, NS, in 1917 provide an opportunity to explore working-class institutions and organizations in the US-Canada borderlands. This project asks which institutions were most relevant and useful. It speaks to the broad historiography that shows the way elites imposed a progressive state on what they imagined to be a fractured and chaotic social landscape. “The people” for whom reformers claimed to speak had their own durable, alternative modes of support and rescue that they quickly and effectively mobilized in times of crisis, but which remained illegible to elites.

Duke University  -  Relief and Resistance: Urban Disasters and the Formation of the North American Progressive State
In Residence at Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture, Concordia University

Sarah Zukerman Daly
Sarah Zukerman Daly  |  Abstract
This dissertation seeks to explain variation in the post-war trajectories of armed organizations. Through in-depth analysis of the demilitarization of over 700 paramilitary-community dyads in Colombia, it gains analytic leverage on the question of when and why, post-peace agreement, armed groups disappear, return to arms, or form non-violent political entities. It employs a multi-method approach including in-depth case studies of paramilitary blocs that followed divergent post-war paths, semi-structured expert interviews, content analysis of a database of national and regional press, and ex-combatant surveys. In addition, it finds that armed forces’ recruitment and alliance patterns best account for variation in the dismantling of paramilitary political, financial, and coercive structures.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology  -  Bankruptcy, Guns, or Campaigns: Explaining Armed Organizations’ Post-War Trajectories

Caroline Emily Shaw
Caroline Emily Shaw  |  Abstract
Prior to the twentieth century, there was no legal definition for refugee. The distinction was cultural and the result of campaigns waged by would-be refugees and their British hosts. This project explains how the refugee became a category for humanitarian action in the century before it was enshrined in international law by tracking how the British distinguished refugees from other foreigners, and why. The horrors of the refugee’s plight made refuge a moral imperative constitutive of what it meant for Britain to act as a liberal nation and empire. Moreover, refuge had policy consequences across the Empire and in foreign relations. After 1870, the British became leery of wielding imperial power for refugees. By then, however, this particularly British act was fast becoming an international one.

University of California, Berkeley  -  Recall to Life: Imperial Britain, Foreign Refugees, and the Development of Modern Refuge, 1789-1921

Meghan C. Doherty
Meghan C. Doherty  |  Abstract
This project investigates how the visual effects of intaglio printing mediated the knowledge produced by the Royal Society of London, 1660-1700. It argues that printed images were the precondition and product of looking at nature. It includes close studies of artist’s manuals that show how drawing and engraving were entwined with the production of knowledge and features case studies that look at the critical role engraving played in presenting knowledge to a wide audience. Each case study examines a different type of mediation: the lens of the microscope; the reading and collecting practices of natural historians; and the editorial practices of a journal. This project adds to our understanding of the development of science in early modern England.

University of Wisconsin-Madison  -  Carving Knowledge: Printed Images, Accuracy, and the Early Royal Society of London

Tes Slominski
Tes Slominski  |  Abstract
Where are the women? This question exposes a tangle of questions in Irish traditional music: where are the women musicians? How did a system of widespread classical music education for women in Ireland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries yield so few prominent women musicians in any genre by the 1950s? Why are few women instrumentalists of the twentieth century considered truly “traditional” players? This project investigates the forces that allowed or denied Irish women instrumentalists access to public traditional music performance opportunities in the early and mid-twentieth century. It argues that the decline in the number of women musicians in Ireland’s mid-century musical public sphere is the result of post-independence constructions of tradition as male and middle class.

New York University  -  Gender, Music, and the Public Sphere in Twentieth-Century Ireland
In Residence at Louise W. and Edmund J. Kahn Liberal Arts Institute, Smith College

Pablo F. Gómez
Pablo F. Gómez  |  Abstract
This project explores African ideas and practices related to bodies, health, illness, and death in the early modern Spanish Caribbean. African traditions were an essential part of the imagination of the body and natural world espoused by the inhabitants of the Iberian Atlantic World. They were instruments of integration and adaptation. In the fluid and cosmopolitan societies of Spanish Caribbean cities, Africans, Europeans, and their descendants developed a common ground for the conceptualization of their bodies’ nature, and of the origins of health, illness, and death. Drawing on evidence coming from Africa, Europe, and America, this project demonstrates how African beliefs and practices around the body were seminal in the emergence of early modern Spanish Caribbean culture.

Vanderbilt University  -  Imagining Atlantic Bodies: Health, Illness, and Death in the Early Modern African-Spanish Caribbean
In Residence at Cogut Center for the Humanities, Brown University

Anton Braxton Soderman
Anton Braxton Soderman  |  Abstract
This project examines the aesthetics of the video game, connecting developments in game production to historical issues in aesthetic theory. It investigates the question continually posed by game scholars, “Are video games art?” analyzing the anxieties which subtend this question while arguing that the discourse of aesthetics in new media is supplanted by notions of technological innovation. It also analyzes the relationship between particular games and concepts in aesthetic theory such as the autonomy thesis of art, the concept of the sublime, the use of Brechtian alienation effects, and the relationship between art and technology; while producing close readings of specific videos games, but will also analyze key concepts in aesthetic theory in relation to the video game medium.

Brown University  -  Wherefore Art Thou? Video Games and Aesthetic Discourse

Katie Hornstein
Katie Hornstein  |  Abstract
This project investigates a neglected, yet central component of nineteenth-century visual culture in France, namely the proliferation of war imagery across a range of established and emergent visual forms including painting, printmaking, battle panoramas, illustrated newspapers and photography. Far from mere reflections of the propagandistic aims of state power, representations of war produced between the First Napoleonic Empire and the Crimean War (1804-1856), the first major armed conflict to break out on European soil since the wars of the First Napoleonic Empire, depended on a wide range of belief systems beyond officially-sponsored political agendas. In addition to focusing on the interrelations which existed between different media used to picture war, the study identifies and interrogates the structures that sustained the interest of both artists and viewers in war as a mode of artistic practice and as a dominant cultural narrative over the course of the nineteenth century.

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Episodes in Political Illusion: The Proliferation of War Imagery in Nineteenth-Century France, 1804-1856

Elizabeth S. Todd-Breland
Elizabeth S. Todd-Breland  |  Abstract
This project investigates Black political organizing in Chicago around inequities in public education. Between the late 1960s and the 2000s Black Chicagoans organized within and outside of the public school system around integration, Black educational institution building, and community control. These diverse ideological and programmatic approaches eventually coalesced into unlikely alliances to navigate an increasingly privatized public education system. This project forces a reconsideration of the complexity of Black civic life and political possibilities in urban America in the Post-Civil Rights era. Investigating political organizing within, and beyond, the institutional setting of public schools furthers understandings of the dynamic relationship between schools and communities.

University of Chicago  -  A Political Education: Race, Politics, and Education in Post-Civil Rights Chicago
In Residence at Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, Northwestern University

Alvaro E. Jarrin
Alvaro E. Jarrin  |  Abstract
This project examines how perceptions of beauty in Brazil reflect both the existing social inequalities and the struggles to produce a more egalitarian society. While hegemonic discourses about beauty in Brazil foster an upper-middle class, white standard, the working-class make claims to citizenship by redefining beauty according to their own affective, embodied experiences. In order to access this form of “cosmetic citizenship,” however, working-class patients undergo low-cost aesthetic surgeries in public hospitals, which are subsidized by the state and help build the national reputation of plastic surgeons. This study argues that this national investment in beauty establishes personal appearance as a precondition for citizenship and inclusion in the nation.

Duke University  -  Cosmetic Citizenship: Beauty, Affect, and Social Inequality in Southeastern Brazil

Johanna Elisabeth Wolff
Johanna Elisabeth Wolff  |  Abstract
Philosophers in the analytic tradition often adopt a deferential attitude towards natural science. Philosophy has no business questioning or criticizing claims made by science; indeed philosophy should strive to be continuous with scientific inquiry. This project suggests that this naturalistic stance not only deprives philosophy of its humanistic core mission, but philosophy is actually rendering science a disservice if it accepts science as authoritative. By engaging science in a dialogue from outside of scientific practice, philosophy can actually contribute to the legitimacy of science, as opposed to its mere authority. Not just any kind of questioning will do, however. What questions are allowed, and what questions should we reject? This is the core concern of this project.

Stanford University  -  Socratic Philosophy

Ozan Karaman
Ozan Karaman  |  Abstract
This project offers transnational perspectives on urban renewal policies. It examines what sorts of “best-practices” of urban renewal are transferred between Istanbul and other cities of the Islamic World and what sorts of investment partnerships emerge through transnational interactions between policy-makers and between developers. It tries to understand the extent to which Islam functions as a “network resource” in the formation of these linkages. It is the first stage of a larger project that will carry out a comparative study of what’s referred to as “dispossession through urban renewal” in various metropolitan regions across the Middle East including Cairo, Amman, and Istanbul, all of which are at the forefront of urban renewal.

Geography, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities  -  Islamic Urban Governance: A Transnational Perspective

Chad D. Wriglesworth
Chad D. Wriglesworth  |  Abstract
This project revises the literary history of the Pacific Northwest by putting the national and local histories of the Columbia River Basin at the center of this inquiry on the Pacific Northwest’s diverse body of place-centered literature. It argues that local and national narratives from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century worked alongside the Bureau of Reclamation to transform the Columbia River Basin into an awaiting Promised Land, while bioregional writers and activists, since the 1960s, have used prose and poetry to expose the social and ecological consequences of the federal reclamation process through a spiritually inflected discourse that calls readers to actively reclaim the watershed through more localized and sustainable methods of inhabiting the Pacific Northwest.

University of Iowa  -  Geographies of Reclamation: Writing and Water in the Columbia River Basin, 1855-2009
In Residence at Obermann Center for Advanced Studies

Julilly Kohler-Hausmann
Julilly Kohler-Hausmann  |  Abstract
This project examines two intertwined recent phenomena: welfare state retrenchment and burgeoning carceral institutions. Through research on seminal struggles over welfare, drug, death penalty, and criminal sentencing policy, it chronicles a profound shift during the 1970s where programs that championed punishment, expulsion, and retribution supplanted policies that stressed rehabilitation and social reintegration. It explores legislators’ motivations for these policies, their fervent public support, and the constrained agency of prisoners, welfare recipients, and drug offenders. These legislative battles served a productive cultural role in rationalizing new economic conditions, demarcating membership in the polity, and redefining state legitimacy and responsibility.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  -  Forging a Punishing State: The Punitive Turn in American Social and Criminal Policy, 1968-1980
In Residence at Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University