2020-21 Postdocs in the humanities and humanistic social sciences


African & African American Studies

Kenly Brown

Brown earned a PhD in African diaspora and African American studies at the University of California, Berkeley, with a designated emphasis in women, gender, and sexuality. The title of her dissertation is “Dream Making through Systemic Nightmares: The Emergence of Black Girlhood in Alternative Schooling.” Her research interests and teaching agenda draws from my interdisciplinary training in Black intellectual thought and social science situated at the nexus of race, gender, and institutional violence. While at Berkeley, she co-founded the Black/Girlhood Imaginary working group and served as a project manager in the Justice Interaction Lab. Her research has been supported by the Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship and AERA Minority Writing Fellowship. This academic year, she will teach Sabotage and Anarchy: The Study of Power, Mourning, and Resistance in Black Girlhood.

Adwoa K. Opong     

Opong earned her PhD in African History at Washington University, with a certificate in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Her research sits at the intersections of histories of decolonization, development and gender. Her dissertation, “All That is Meant by Citizenship: Women, Social Work and Development in Ghana, 1945-1970,” explores the postwar convergence of social work, decolonization and development in Ghana. Opong’s research interests include histories of African women’s social and political activism, 20th-century African American history, the politics of Black internationalism in the 20th century, and the political and social economy of development in colonial and postcolonial Africa. Her work has been featured in the Ampersand, the Ghana Studies Association newsletter and The Black Scholar. In the Spring semester, Adwoa will be teaching a first-year seminar, Gender, Sexuality and Power in 19th and 20th Century Africa.

American Culture Studies

Nicholas Crawford 

Crawford earned a PhD in history from Harvard University. His dissertation is “Sustaining Slavery: The Politics of Food Provisioning in the British Caribbean, 1784-1838.” He is a historian of slavery in the Atlantic world, focusing in particular on the relationship between slavery, food, and empire in the 18th- and 19th-century British Caribbean colonies. In the fall, he is teaching Freedom Struggles: Race, Resistance and Revolution in Early America, and in the spring he will teach Introduction to American Culture Studies.


Sara Heisel    


Petra Vaiglova     

After earning her PhD from University of Oxford with the dissertation “Neolithic agricultural management in the Eastern Mediterranean: new insight from a multi-isotope approach,” Vaiglova joins the Department of Anthropology’s Laboratory for the Analysis of Early Food-Webs. Her primary research focuses on stable isotopic analysis, ancient agricultural systems, ancient environments, archaeological science, human-plant-animal interactions.

Art History & Archaeology/Classics

Joe Sheppard 

Sheppard arrives in St. Louis after a year at Barnard College as a term assistant professor. He earned his doctorate in 2019 from Columbia University with a dissertation titled “Mass Spectacles in Roman Pompeii as a System of Communication.” In addition to his fieldwork studying imperial villas in central Italy, Sheppard’s research focuses on the social and political dimensions of religious festivals and public games in the Roman Empire, and he is also interested in the collections of antiquities held by universities in the United States. Sheppard is currently teaching a first-year seminar on spectacle in antiquity as well as reading Ovid and Cornelius Nepos with an intermediate Latin class. In the spring his classes will survey the literature of the Roman Empire and explore cultural diversity in Hellenistic and Roman Pompeii.


Elena Baldi 

Baldi earned her PhD at the University of Bologna in 2013, with the “The coin evidence as a source for the history of Classe (Ravenna): Excavations of the Harbour Area (2001-2005) and the Basilica of San Severo (2006-2010).” Her primary research focus is on the coins of the Ostrogoths, a Germanic people who conquered and settled the Italian peninsula, and beyond to the East part of the Adriatic Sea, after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. She also specializes in Late Antiquity and Byzantine coinage. At Washington University, Baldi catalogues the coins of the Wulfing Coin Collection, originally donated to WashU in 1929 by John Max Wulfing, a St. Louis businessman and amateur numismatist. In the fall 2020 semester, Baldi is teaching a class on Coins and Daily Life in the Ancient Mediterranean, which discusses coinage from its birth, in the Aegean Sea area, until the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, looking at all the civilizations of the Mediterranean, from Greeks to Phoenicians, Etruscans to Romans.

Religious Studies

Tobias Züern

Züern earned his PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (2016). His dissertation is titled “Writing as Weaving: Intertextuality and the Huainanzi's Self-Fashioning as an Embodiment of the Way.” His primary research focus is Buddhist and Daoist textual and visual cultures. This academic year, he is teaching Buddhist Traditions: A Material Cultural Approach; Early Chinese Thought: What is a Good Life?; and Tools and Methods in the Study of East Asian Religions and Philosophy.

East Asian Languages & Cultures

Yuqian Yan 

Yan is a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and Performing Arts Department. She earned her PhD in the joint program of cinema and media studies and East Asian studies from the University of Chicago. Her dissertation is titled “The Ancient as Enchantment: Cinematic Representation of the Past in Republican China.” Her research focuses primarily on the issue of historical representation and the dissemination of cultural memory in China. She examines Chinese modernity and the modern medium of cinema through the perspective of persisting tradition. This year, she is teaching Encountering China: A Performative Perspective on Chinese Culture and Identity and Screen Culture in the Sinophone World.


Yeo-Eun Kim  

Kim earned her PhD at the Ohio State University, with a specialization in educational psychology. Her dissertation is titled “Study, Socialize, and Play: Understanding Students’ Multiple Goal Pursuit and Multiple-Goals-Directed Self-Regulation.” Kim’s research focuses on understanding various motivational challenges that students experience and facilitating self-regulatory processes that students can engage in to overcome them. Throughout her program of research, she has established two strands of research: 1) developing students’ motivation to learn by understanding competing motivational processes and 2) supporting various self-regulatory processes that students can engage in to regulate their cognition, motivation, behavior, and context. In her dissertation, she examined the dynamic interplay between academic, social, and well-being goals and the role of multiple-goals-directed self-regulation. Her work has been acknowledged with a Dissertation Fellowship and by the American Educational Research Association.


Tetiana Lysenko


Cristina Zepeda 

Zepeda is a postdoctoral research fellow working in the Memory Dynamics Laboratory in the Department of Education. She earned her PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2018 with her dissertation “Self-regulated learning in a college course: Examining student metacognitive study strategies, grit, self-efficacy, and performance.” Using various methods (laboratory studies, classroom interventions, observations, large educational databases) and perspectives (cognitive, educational, social psychology), her research aims to understand the mechanisms that promote better retention and transfer of knowledge (i.e., more accurate, efficient, and robust). Asking questions such as how we can improve student learning and better prepare them for future learning experiences are central to her research program. To answer these questions, she primarily focuses on the metacognitive and motivational components of learning and their relation to each other and different instructional techniques.


Michael J. Sanders 

Sanders earned his PhD from Washington University in 2020. His dissertation, “Deviant Form: American Literary Exiles, Logical Contradiction, and Postmodernism,” argues that a growing belief in the truth of logical paradoxes irrevocably changed 20th-century American literature and culture, especially with respect to four surprisingly connected domains: Supreme Court law, Marxism, Buddhism, and mathematical logic. One focus of his current research connects queer, African American and Asian American literary and intellectual histories to the structurally racist systems of legal paradox that these communities seek to defy, outsmart, and oppose. His other research interests as of late include surveillance, banned books, transgressive fiction, and genre fiction (science fiction, fantasy, and horror). In 2020–21 he will be teaching The Nightmare Canon: American Horror Stories in the fall and You Are Being Watched: The Work of Art in the Age of Surveillance Capitalism in the spring.

Claire Sommers 

Sommers is the postdoctoral fellow in Early Modern literature in the English department. Her current book project, “Chimeras, Centaurs, and Satyrs: Creating Mixed Genre Texts in Antiquity and the Renaissance,” reframes the contemporary understanding of hybridity, arguing that it is the means by which to transcend current modes of expression and surpass human limitation. Drawing upon Classical and Early Modern literary theory, she establishes a connection between composite creatures such as the centaur and satyr, and the intersection of genres in works that she has termed “hybrid texts. She has also begun work on a second project, “Drama Queens: Cleopatra in Elizabethan England,” a comparative study of Cleopatra’s representation in Renaissance English drama. She is teaching the courses Drama Queens: Cleopatra in Elizabethan England and Early Texts and Contexts in fall 2020, and she plans to teach The Marvelous and the Monstrous in Early Modern Literature and Shakespeare in Performance in spring 2021. Before coming to WashU, she earned her PhD from The Graduate Center, CUNY where she was also the creator and founding director of the Critical Theory Certificate Program. She currently serves as the exhibits and professionalization coordinator for the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA).

English, Humanities Digital Workshop, and the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Equity

Setsuko Yokoyama

Yokoyama, an ACLS Emerging Voices Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities, earned her PhD at the University of Maryland, where she wrote her dissertation titled “Digital Frost: Accessibility and Public Humanities.” In her dissertation, she examined sociohistorical implications of publishing audio recordings of Robert Frost’s public talks from the 1940s and ’50s on the Internet. Her current research investigates the history of “visible speech” (e.g., phonetics, physiological alphabets, and the sound spectrograph) and how it intersects with linguistic imperialism, scientific racism, and technosolutionism. In fall 2020, she is teaching Introduction to Digital Humanities: Cultural Analysis in the Digital Age. For the spring, she has designed a 400-level course called The Sonic Color Line & Language Diversity, which draws on audio recordings of Robert Frost, Zora Neale Hurston, and samples from the Alan Lomax Collection, to examine the construction of “sonic color line” in the early 20th-century U.S.


Elizabeth Reynolds 

Reynolds earned her PhD from Columbia University in 2020. Her dissertation, “Tibet Incorporated: Institutional Power and Economic Practice on the Sino-Tibetan Borderland 1930-1950,” delves into the world of Kham, a Tibetan region at the epicenter of Chinese and Tibetan political struggles of the 20th century. Her research interests include economic and social history of Tibet from the 19th to 20th centuries with a particular focus on monastic economies, currency, taxation, labor systems, and trade networks in Tibet and East Asia. For the 2020–21 academic year, Reynolds is teaching four courses on economic history and on China: Wheels of Commerce: Industrial Revolution to Global Capitalism, Cultural Encounters: China and Eurasia since the Middle Ages, Silk Roads and Empires, and Economic History of China.

Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities

Clare Kim

Kim earned her PhD in 2019 from the Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society at MIT. Her dissertation is on the ramifications of mathematics in the American academy from the 1920s to the 1960s, during a period in which “mathematicians reconceived their field of study around notions of abstraction, general theory, and formalism bearing no necessary relation to the world.” Yet for all this abstraction, she argues, mathematics began to exert unexpected and unprecedented influence on aesthetics, on poetry, and on social science. She also interests herself in the influence of Orientalism on mathematics. Kim manages these various histories of mathematics under the general rubric of “manifold modernisms,” a rubric which indicates her ambition to extend the cultural history of modernism into the comparatively abstract arena of mathematics. This fall, she is teaching Techno-Orientalism: Race, Media & Society.

Anna Whittington 

Whittington completed her doctorate in history in 2018 at the University of Michigan and afterward spent a year in Moscow at the Higher School of Economics. Her dissertation research addressed the relation between ethnic and civic identity in the Soviet Union and on the fate of civic identity after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Whereas an orthodox western account discredits Soviet civic identity, Whittington constructs a revisionist account that features the achievements, affective and institutional, of egalitarian civic identity. This academic year, she is teaching an interdisciplinary seminar on citizenship and a survey on Central Asian history.

Allison Korinek 

Korinek is a graduate of the joint PhD program in French studies and history at NYU. Her dissertation, “Lost in Translation: Language and Colonial Rule in Nineteenth-Century French Algeria,” provided a social history of translation and in French Algeria through the lens of its multilingual colonial bureaucracy. More broadly, her research is concerned with matters of cross-cultural communication, administration, and governance, and seeks to center language and its uses in historical inquiry. This fall, she is teaching a freshman seminar on language and national belonging; in the spring, she will offer Race, Rights, and Humanity in European History.

Jewish, Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies

Rosanne Liebermann 

Liebermann researches the portrayal of collective and social identities in the Hebrew Bible. She is primarily concerned with how these identities were created and maintained through the human bodies of participants and their material worlds. Liebermann’s current project focuses on Judean collective identity as presented by the book of Ezekiel. She is writing a monograph about why ideologies such as this were effective due to their utilization of bodily and other material mnemonic devices. She is also interested in how social identities within a community affected prophetic concerns for social justice and is working on an article about the concept of mišpāṭ ûṣědāqâ (“justice and righteousness”) in the prophetic corpus. After earning a BA in theology at the University of Oxford, Liebermann completed a PhD in Hebrew Bible and Northwest Semitic Philology at Johns Hopkins University; her dissertation was titled “‘Hearts of Flesh’: Collective Identity and the Body in the Book of Ezekiel.” She has taught at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and held a fellowship at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. This academic year, she is teaching two classes, The Hebrew Prophets: Voices of Social Justice? and Gender & Sexuality in the Hebrew Bible.

David H. Warren 

Warren is a scholar of contemporary Islam. His research analyzes the politics and discourses of the Muslim scholarly-elite (the ulama), with a particular focus on the Arab Spring and its aftermath. Warren earned his PhD from the University of Manchester, UK, and his first book, Rivals in the Gulf: Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Abdullah Bin Bayyah, and the Qatar-UAE Contest Over the Arab Spring and the Gulf Crisis is forthcoming with Routledge in 2021. He is teaching two classes in 2020-21, Religious Authority in Modern Islam (fall 2020) and Muhammad: His Life and Legacy.


Paula Clare Harper 

Harper currently holds an appointment as a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the Department of Music, where she teaches courses on American popular music, listening in digital culture, and women in music videos. She earned her PhD in historical musicology from Columbia University in 2019; her dissertation is titled “Unmute This: Sound, Circulation, and Sociality in the Rise of Viral Media.” Harper’s research centers around music and sound and the internet, with focuses on issues of circulation, sharing, sociality and social media, fandom, gender, and representation. She has presented on topics ranging from Beyoncé, to Taylor Swift, to internet musical practices, at conferences across the country and internationally. Her work has been published in the journals Popular Music and Society, Sound Studies, Current Musicology, The Soundtrack and American Music, for which she is serving as co-editor. She is currently at work on a book project, based on her dissertation, titled “Viral Musicking and the Rise of Noisy Platforms.” In 2020–21, she is teaching the courses Popular Music in American Culture (undergraduate elective), Intro to Popular Music Studies (graduate proseminar), Sound On: Listening in Digital Culture (first year undergraduate seminar).

Performing Arts Department and Department of Neurology

Elinore “Ellie” Harrison 

Harrison was always torn between her two loves of dance and science, but it wasn’t until her senior year of college that she decided to fully abandon her dreams of medical school to pursue dance. After earning BAs in French literature and dance from Washington University, she packed up her dance shoes and bought a one-way ticket to New York. Over a decade-long dance career, Harrison toured with musicals such as A Chorus Line and performed original dance/theatre works by choreographers including Jane Comfort, Janis Brenner, Mary Seidman, Nancy Meehan, Carlos Orta, and Thomas/Ortiz. In 2014, she returned to Washington University to pursue a PhD in movement science with hopes of transferring her love of movement out of the studio and into the lab to better the lives of people with neurological disorders. During graduate school, she developed a novel therapeutic technique of singing to improve gait for people with Parkinson’s disease, for which she received a Grammy Foundation Grant. This academic year, she is teaching Modern Dance V, The Neuroscience of Movement, Modern Dance III.

Philosophy and PNP Program

Riana Betzler 

Betzler is a McDonnell Postdoctoral Fellow in the Philosophy Department/PNP Program. Prior to coming to WashU, she held teaching and research posts at the University of Cambridge (UK) and at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research (Vienna, Austria). She completed her dissertation, titled “Why Empathy? The Pernicious Consequences of Conceptual Confusion in Empathy Research” in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. At WashU, she plans to continue her work on the science and ethics of empathy. She also looks forward to working on topics in philosophy of medicine, especially philosophy of psychiatry. She is teaching biomedical ethics this fall semester.

Andre Sant’Anna 

Sant’Anna earned his PhD from the University of Otago in New Zealand. His dissertation is titled “Perception and memory: Beyond representationalism and relationalism.” Sant’Anna’s research interests are in philosophy of mind and philosophy of psychology, with a particular focus on memory. He’s interested in questions pertaining to the nature of episodic memory — the capacity we have to recall events from the past — and the relationship between episodic memory, perception, and imagination. This year, he will teach the course Problems in Philosophy.

Religion and Politics

Christina Davidson 

Davidson is an interdisciplinary historian with specializations in Latin American and Caribbean history, African American Studies, and religious history. Her book manuscript, “Converting Hispaniola: Religious Race-Making in the Dominican Americas,” explores diplomatic and cultural relations between the Dominican Republic and the United States in the late 19th century. Davidson comes to Washington University following a postdoctoral fellowship at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University, and will join the Department of History at the University of Southern California in 2022. She earned her PhD and master’s degree in history from Duke University and a BA from Yale University in Latin American studies and international studies.

Candace Lukasik

Lukasik earned a PhD in sociocultural anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, with the dissertation "Transnational Anxieties: Coptic Christians as Martyrs and Migrants.” She was the 2019–20 inaugural research fellow in Coptic Orthodox Studies at Fordham University. Her first book project explores the transnational circulation of political subjectivities and religious practices through the lens of Coptic Orthodox Christian emigration from Egypt to the United States. For this project, she has received a Religion, Spirituality, and Democratic Renewal Fellowship for 2020-2021, funded by the Social Science Research Council and the Fetzer Institute. In addition to academic scholarship, she has written opinion editorials and short-form essays for Anthropology News, Public Orthodoxy, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, and The Coptic Canadian History Project (CCHP), and is a curator for New Directions in the Anthropology of Christianity. Between 2019 and 2022, she will be a participant in Fordham University’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center project on Orthodoxy and Human Rights, funded by the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs. In the spring 2021 semester, she will teach the seminar Global Circuits: Religion, Race, Empire.

Andrew Walker-Cornetta

Walker-Cornetta is a scholar of religion and the history of disability in the United States. In 2020, he defended his dissertation — “Spiritual Rehabilitation: Religion and Cognitive Disability in Postwar America” — at Princeton University in the Department of Religion. In the spring of 2021, he will be teaching an undergraduate course at WashU, Religion, Race, and Health in Modern America.

Alexia Williams

Williams is an interdisciplinary scholar of religion and racial identity in the hemispheric Americas. She earned her PhD in American studies and African American studies from Yale University. Her book manuscript, “Black Revolutionary Saints: Roman Catholicism and the U.S. Racial Imagination,” examines Black discursive and aesthetic practices of sainthood to understand how a Catholic imaginary of race materializes for public display and consumption in American culture. Williams contextualizes these stories within the tradition of Black Catholic activism continued into the 20th century by self-professed Catholic artists Claude McKay, Ellen Tarry, Toni Morrison, Vanessa Williams and others. Williams argues that as categories of celebrity secular sainthood and Roman Catholic sainthood overlap, Roman Catholicism is able to maintain its influence as a race-making institution, even in spaces traditionally seen as secular. She looks forward to joining the faculty of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as an assistant professor of religion and African American studies in fall 2021. In spring 2021, she will teach Religion and Popular Music.

Latin American Studies

Eliza Williamson

Williamson is a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the Latin American Studies Program. She earned her PhD from Rice University. Her current book project, “Birth in Crisis: Humanizing Childbirth in Brazil,” is an ethnography of a maternal and infant health program in Brazil designed to institute a paradigm shift in birth care practice in Brazil’s public healthcare system. Her second project is a longitudinal ethnographic study of the lasting impacts of the 2015–16 Zika virus epidemic in Brazil on Bahian families raising children with Congenital Zika Syndrome. Williamson’s research has been funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, Fulbright Program (Fulbright and Fulbright-Hays), Association for Feminist Anthropology, Brazilian Studies Association and Rice University. This year, she is teaching four courses: Survey of Brazilian Cultures: Race, Nation & Society, and Cultures of Health in Latin America (fall 2020); and Gender, Sexuality & Power in Brazil, and Humans and Others in Latin America: Natures, Cultures & Environments (spring 2021).