Current and Past Graduate Student Fellows

Graduate Student Fellowships

WashU graduate students writing dissertations in humanities disciplines spend a semester in residence with the humanities center during which they participate in the center’s intensive, interdisciplinary intellectual environment. Fellowships are awarded competitively each spring.

How to apply

Graduate Student Fellows 2024–25

Fall 2024

Cora Chow
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
“Shopfloor Autonomy: Automation and Gender in Labor Narratives of Late Twentieth-Century Hong Kong and South China”

Sushil Kumar Jha
Program in Comparative Literature 
“Digital Window to India: Hindi Novels in Translation (1947–2024)”

Maurice Tetne
Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
“Bridging Continents: Tracing Louisiana and African Narratives in Literature and Films from 1800 to the Present”

Spring 2025

Crystal Payne
Department of English
“The Poetics of Home: Relation and Repatriation in Caribbean Literature”

Varun Chandrasekhar
Department of Music
“Being and Jazz: An Existential Analysis of Charles Mingus”

Paco Tijerina
Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
“Mineral Bodies: Violence, Extraction, and Possible Futures in Contemporary Mexican Literature”

Graduate Student Fellows 2023-24

Fall 2023

Ann Marie Jakubowski 
Department of English
“Towards a Poetics of Conversion: Religion, Modernism, and Literary Form”
Jakubowski’s dissertation brings the tools of literary analysis to a subject commonly imagined as the domain of the social sciences: examining the global phenomenon of conversion as it emerges in the literature of the early 20th century.

Salvador Lopez Rivera 
Department of Romance Languages and Literatures (French) and Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies
“The France No One Cares About: Coming-of-Age Narratives of Post-­Industrial France”
Rivera’s dissertation takes a closer look at why the idea that there are two Frances — one urban and neoliberal; the other rural-suburban and formerly industrial — continues to hold so much space in the national discursive landscape.
Read blog storyDispatches from the ‘other’ France

Xuela Zhang 
Program in Comparative Literature (International Writers Track)
“Splitting the Atom of Language: The Question of Untranslatability and the Making of Anglophone Modernist Poetry”
Zhang’s dissertation reconsiders two controversial cases of Anglophone Modernist translation and their legacy: Ezra Pound’s translation of classical Chinese poetry and Gertrude Stein’s translation of French poetry. She argue that both poets’ controversial translations actually involve the development of a poetic craft triggered and informed by the question of untranslatability.

Spring 2024

Heesoo Cho
Department of History
“The Making of the Mental and Material Map of the Pacific Ocean in Early America, 1740-1819”
Cho’s dissertation recovers how early Americans conceptualized the Pacific. It seeks to do so removed from the teleology of empire that has defined the Pacific as an inevitable terminus of an emerging U.S. empire. By investigating the interaction of correspondence, print culture, and lived experiences, she argues that Americans  — merchants, sailors, whalers and explorers — conceptualized the Pacific in fragmented and uneven ways as they emerged from different spaces, epistemologies, imaginations and rationales. 

Kaché Claytor
Department of Romance Languages and Literatures (Spanish)
“Mother Earth: Black Women and Environmental (In)Justice in the Pacific Coast of Colombia”
Claytor’s three-pronged project begins with an exploration the history of Blacks and their relation to land and water in the Pacific coast of Colombia, a history that is deeply impacted by Black women. She then unpacks how multilayered internal conflicts, displacements, land dispossessions, illegal mining, and the legacies of colonialism and capitalism have altered that relation. Lastly, she highlights Black women and their contemporary political performances in the fight for land, water, and human rights as they are at the forefront of advocacy to defend the environment and inhabitants from (un)natural catastrophes.
Read blog storyAfro-Colombian artists call out poisoned fish and toxic politics

Yuan Kevin Gao
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
“Corporeal Technology: Hydraulic Engineering and the Political Aesthetic of Labor in China, 1952-1993”
Across infrastructure studies and cultural studies, Gao’s dissertation examines a series of cultural works — picture album, spoken drama, documentary film and science fiction — produced for China’s hydraulic campaign from the high socialist period to the transitory years of Open and Reform.

Graduate Student Fellows 2022-23

Fall 2022

Charlotte Fressilli
Department of English
“Forgetting About It: Italian-American Narratives, Whiteness, and the Reorganization of Historical Memory”
Fressilli’s dissertation in progress explores the complex relationship between two conceptualizations of whiteness — whiteness as a legal status and access to resources such as housing and education, and whiteness as an act of racial violence as well as a fall into willed ignorance — through close engagement with a surprisingly generative archive: canonical works of Italian American literature, film, and television from WWII to the present. Seeking to take Italian American whiteness seriously in its ethical, psychological, historiographic, and epistemological consequences, her dissertation identifies a novel theory of racialization within canonical Italian-American narratives that frames becoming white as a type of transhistorical self-harm necessary for embracing, justifying, and dismissing white supremacist violence.

Lacy Murphy
Department of Art History and Archaeology
“Colliding Worlds: Visual Culture in France and Colonial Algeria (1918- 1962)”
Murphy’s dissertation will be the first to address the deterioration and conclusion of French hegemony in Algeria through the examination of visual culture, a field of inquiry that encompasses reproductive and ephemeral media such as posters, advertisements, photography, postcards, film, graffiti, and political iconography. The purpose of this dissertation is two-fold: 1) to identify the various ways that the French state used visual media to advance colonial ambitions in Algeria; and 2) to reconstitute a history of Algerian nationalism and protest culture, a movement centrally defined by Islam. Through this process, Murphy seeks to determine the extent to which French colonialism shaped the practice and application of Islam in Algeria and, vice-versa, the extent to which the practice of Islam in Algeria shaped the strategies of the French colonial empire.
Read blog storyAlgerian anonymity: The impact of image and language past and present

Annika Nilsson
Department of Anthropology
“Grassroots Science: Patient-Led Research Practices in Complex Chronic Illness Communities”
Nilsson’s dissertation examines how people suffering from complex chronic illnesses use online forums and support groups to navigate the epistemic controversies surrounding their conditions and collaboratively produce knowledge about them. I adopted the term “complex chronic illness” from these patient communities, where it is used to refer to multi-systemic, treatment-resistant, and etiologically underdetermined illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis, chronic Lyme disease, mast cell activation syndrome, and most recently, long COVID. How can biomedicine continue to claim sole epistemic authority over the body, when people who live on its margins are developing their own strategies for knowing and living with forms of embodied dysfunction and distress that disrupt expectations about the normal course of illness?

Spring 2023

Rebecca Dudley
Department of Anthropology
“Legacies of the Plantation: An Examination of Louisiana Contemporary Industrial Agriculture”
Dudley’s historical anthropology dissertation research examines how plantation legacies in the Deep South have produced today’s racially segregated industrial agriculture economy. Legacies of the plantation unfold in both material and cultural memory. In this framework of plantation legacy, the agricultural economy refers to not only the material, such as financing, technology, infrastructure, commodities, and distribution networks. She also extends this traditional economic notion to include sociological considerations that shape industrial agriculture, particularly farmer values, identity, knowledge, and intergenerational and interracial relations.
Read blog storyUnearthing plantation violence

Juan Manuel Ramírez Velázquez
Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
“Women’s Transgressive Power: Gender, Mobility, and Displacement in the Ibero-Atlantic World, 1521-1650”
Ramirez Velazquez’s dissertation draws on published and unpublished archival sources to explore the transatlantic intersections of gender and mobility in the ideological construction of colonial Latin America. The underlying question that guides his work is, How does scholarly understanding of mobility, displacement, and geographical space change once the primary sources include female affective discourses? To answer this question, he (re)conceptualizes the relationship between women’s agency, colonial politics, and early modern Ibero-American mobilities by examining women’s lawsuits, testaments, licenses, petitions, proof of merits, and other sources recognized as “minor literature.”

Laurel Taylor
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
“Moved: Affective Bonds in Online Literary Media”
The advent of the internet has transformed the speed and methods through which we interact with the world around us, shortening perceived spatial boundaries, transforming self-expression in dedicated online spaces, and in the case of literature, dissolving delineations between the writer and the reader, the professional and the amateur. Taylor’s project investigates the affective mechanisms at work behind these tectonic shifts in the Japanese literary scene from the year 2000 through the mid-2010s. During that period, the scene was shaken by trendy literary styles like the cell phone novel, the twitter novel, and twitter poetry; though professional authors have also participated in these trends, these works are often produced by and marketed as “amateur,” attached to writers who do not necessarily aspire to long-term literary careers. They are very often created by teenagers or young women writing pseudonymously for a similarly pseudonymous audience, and their works have been lambasted by professional literary critics for their lack of stylistic and formal skill, their melodramatic content, and their predictable plotlines.
Read blog storyStellar literary networks

Graduate Student Fellows 2021-22

Fall 2021

Erin Barry
Department of History
“The Dread Sex Cases: Space, Community and Sexuality in the Regulation of 1970s Adult Theaters”
Through her examination of adult theater regulation in the 1970s, Barry demonstrates how “porn” theaters provide a compelling lens for understanding intersections of space, sexuality and political power. Three Supreme Court cases center this project, and Barry argues that the constructs of “the local” and “community standards” developed before and by the court constituted a technology of sexual citizenship that excluded patrons of adult theaters from the community that mattered. Barry approaches this dynamic by using scale (local and national regulatory structures), space (the spatial arrangements inside and outside theaters) and place (the cities and suburbs of these theaters).

Elena Farel
Department of Music
“African American Opera Performers in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries”
Elena Farel’s dissertation focuses on African American opera performers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, foregrounding how musicians who knew they would never receive a fair hearing acted, not just as singers, but as entrepreneurs, managers, composers, and collaborators in order to create careers for themselves. In order to do so, these singers negotiated ideologies of racial uplift and contemporary attitudes toward class and gender, as well as uncertain divisions between “high” and “low” performing arts. These singers, while consummate professionals, also expressed their deeply felt love for opera, exhibited in the extraordinary lengths to which they went in order to perform.

Lauris McQuoid-Greason
Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
“In(form)al: Disappropriative Practices and Aesthetic Regimes in Late Neoliberal Mexico (2000-2020)”
This inherently interdisciplinary project, located at the intersection between literary criticism, cultural studies, media studies, art theory and art history, identifies and examines a range of participatory artistic and literary practices in twenty-first century greater Mexico that blur the line between aesthetic form and social form — in other words, between art and life. She examines how these practices respond to societal shifts in recent decades such as financialization, neoliberalization and the rise of digital technologies, and argue that new methodological tools are needed to best “read” and fully understand these practices.

Soledad Mocchi-Radichi
Department of Romance Languages and Literatures 
“The Ludic Sphere: Popular Entertainment and Urban Public Space, Río de la Plata 1870-1933”
Mocchi-Radichi’s dissertation focuses on popular ludic and cultural practices that shaped urban spaces of Uruguay and Argentina at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. By inhabiting the public sphere in close dialogue with processes of modernization and urbanization, popular entertainment became a main protagonist within everyday life. This project sheds light on the intersections between carnival, theater, soccer, radio, and cinema. Such intersections generated what Mocchi-Radichi terms the “ludic urban sphere” to underscore not only the overwhelming presence of play and entertainment as central elements in the urban landscape, but their unexpected ability to transform the meaning of public life itself.

Spring 2022

Constantine Karathanasis
Department of Classics
“Enter Homo Oeconomicus: Civic Motivation and Civic Education in Aristophanic Comedy”
Today, monetary incentives are considered a prerequisite for the design of public policy. Nevertheless, behavioral scientists have shown that incentives appeal to our utility-maximization, and an excessive appeal to that aspect of our behavior “crowds out” other motivational factors, like altruism ― something detrimental within the civic sphere of activity. By the mid 5th century BCE, the Athenian polis had introduced monetary incentives for the performance of crucial civic duties, and Aristophanes (a playwright of Old Comedy) consistently problematized their behavioral effects. His dissertation, thus, aims at a revaluation of the educational character as well as the political outlook of Aristophanic comedy.

Xin Yu
Department of History
“The Art of Mobilization: Print Culture and Rural Transformation in China, 1450–1644”
This work explores the roles of print culture in the rural transformation of Ming China, during which large-scale lineages started to dominate rural society. Unlike previous scholars who have examined this development in terms of state-society relations, Yu adopts a grassroots perspective and argues that lineage formation also entailed local leaders’ mobilization of common people. He shows that to convince community members, local leaders printed huge numbers of genealogy books and propelled the flourishing of print culture in rural China. His work thus challenges the urban-centered scholarship on print culture and gives voices to rural underclasses in early modern China.

Min Wang
Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures
“Detecting Quotidian Modernities: Vernacular Modernism in Modern Chinese Detective Fiction (1914-1949)”
Wang’s dissertation examines how Chinese detective fiction in the first half of the 20th century made reflections of and on the quotidian experience of Chinese modernities, which were featured by transnational, transcultural, and transmedia dynamics. Exploring into popular reading and visual cultures of modern Shanghai, Wang’s project situates this body of literature in important contexts such as scientism, growing film industry, colonialism, and transitioning class relations. The dissertation argues that modern Chinese popular literature and its readers actively participated in and responded to, in ways that deviated from elite intellectuals’ prescriptions, the social, cultural, and aesthetic modernities of China.

Graduate Student Fellows 2020-21

Fall 2020

Ana Quiring   
Department of English
“At the Kitchen Table: Feminist Modernism, Recovery, and the Trouble with Conventional Women”
Quiring’s dissertation traces the feminist preoccupation with conventionality in Anglophone literatures across the long twentieth century. The project makes the argument that the rise and canonization of modernism encouraged feminists to distinguish themselves from more traditional, old-fashioned women in order to embody modernity, freedom, and stylishness. This practice has persisted into feminist and queer academic discourses in the present. Quiring’s project demonstrates the harmfulness of such a binary distinction, especially for the way it sidelines already marginalized women. Through readings of many transnational texts in English, At the Kitchen Table seeks to rehistoricize the presence, value, and politics of conventional women.  

Bradley Jones    
Department of Anthropology
“Cultivating Life: Skill, Environment, and the Nature of Knowledge”
Interested in the vital transition towards more sustainable forms of food production, Jones’s dissertation explores the knowledge landscapes of U.S. alternative agriculture. Drawing on ethnographic research in New York and Central Appalachia with small-scale sustainable farmers and the knowledge communities they foster, the project examines the cultivation of agricultural skill across agrarian landscapes. Offering insights into the dynamics of agricultural knowledge, social relations of expertise, and transformations of human/environmental relations, the dissertation explores emerging efforts to cultivate more livable human and more-than-human worlds.

Emma Merrigan    
Department of Romance Languages & Literatures    
“Cripping Utopia: Revolutionary Corporealities in Cuba and the Diaspora”
Merrigan’s project charts how Cuban authors, artists, and filmmakers render disability as conducive to and/or inharmonious with the country’s anti-imperialist and collectively driven Revolutionary process, catalyzed in 1959. Cross-pollinating critical disability studies with queer, feminist, and critical race theory, Merrigan queries the (in)accessibility of the Cuban Revolution’s pathways to a decolonized Utopia. Radical disability thought and action, she contends, can reorient understandings of social reform to encompass a broader range of bodily and intellectual practices as integral to world (re)making projects intent upon socioeconomic, racial, and gender liberation.

Spring 2021

Nan Hu    
Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures    
“In Other Voices: Dubbing Foreign Films in Maoist China (1949-1976)”
This study theorizes the medium of dubbing as mediating the image and meaning of the foreign to the Chinese in the Maoist period (1949–76). After 1949, dubbed foreign films rose to be an outstanding cultural phenomenon in China, and became a most important tool for socialist pedagogy. Rather than understanding these films as transparent vehicles of meanings and examining their circulation and reception, this dissertation looks into the specific translating and dubbing processes, analyzing not only the content of the dialogue, but also the techniques, aesthetics, and politics of voicing. Highlighting dubbing as simultaneously a way of audiovisual translation and a genre of performance, Hu argues that this medium not only furnished the state with new techniques to educate its people and promote its Cold War policy, but also became the vehicle for Chinese film workers and the audience to imagine the foreign, the world order, and themselves alternatively.

Olivia Lott   
Department of Romance Languages & Literatures    
“Radical Re/Turns: Translation and Revolution in Latin American Neo-Avant-Garde Poetics, 1959-1973”
Lott’s dissertation examines translational poetic practices of leftist neo-avant-gardes during the long 1960s in Latin America. In theorizing neo-avant-garde return as re/turn––that is, repetition with a generative difference––this project uncovers a series of poetic-political dialogues with global and local predecessors and contemporaries. The neo-avant-gardes do not merely repeat or re-stage the avant-gardes, rather they re-articulate, re-route, and re-verse their energies to make them of use for 1960s anti-imperialist struggle. Weaving together a diverse textual archive including poems, literary magazines, manifestos, and personal correspondence, Radical Re/Turns chronicles a previously untold narrative of the modes through which neo-avant-garde poets sought to make the revolution.

Katja Perat    
Program in Comparative Literature
“Victimhood and Its Perversion: Masochistic Narratives and Cultural Identity in Cold War Central Europe”
Perat’s dissertation focuses on the discursive correlations between sexual and political power in Cold War Central Europe and its postmodernist literary projects. Engaging four of the most widely read Central European postmodern novels — Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being, Elfriede Jelinek’s The Piano Teacher, Peter Handke’s Repetition, and Stanisłav Lem’s Solaris — it seeks to address how their deployment of masochistic imagery serves to articulate the conditions of inhabiting the Iron Curtain, while simultaneously remapping Central European fiction of the final decades of the twentieth century in order to dismantle the naturalized Cold War dichotomy between Eastern and Western literatures.
Read blog storyInhabiting the Iron Curtain: What sexuality can teach us about cultural belonging

Graduate Student Fellows 2019-20

Fall 2019

Gabriella Martin 
Department of Romance Languages & Literatures
“Iberian Babel: Spain’s Translational Literatures, 1939-2018”
Martin’s dissertation traces how translation is performed, staged, or made visible within “original” (that is, not-translated) works of Iberian literature from the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War to the recent Catalan independence crisis. Through a study of four main strategies — pseudotranslation (texts that are deliberately, falsely presented as translations), re-writings of canonical works of world literature within local contexts, multilingual literature written in several of Spain’s co-official languages at once, and self-translation — her project shows how acts of translation are deployed within Iberian literatures to negotiate memory and exile, self and other, region and nation, in moments of crisis, rupture, and transition.

Natalia Guzman Solano 
Department of Anthropology
“Prompting the Political: The Emergent Feminist Politics of Women's Anti-mining Activism in Cajamarca, Peru”
Guzmán Solano’s dissertation explores how defensoras del medio ambiente (women environmental defenders), as social actors located at the capitalism-patriarchy nexus, extend their political participation to a terrain beyond the anti-mining movement that first brought them together. She investigates women’s self-adopted conceptualization of “cuerpo-territorio,” a notion which identifies heteropatriarchy as a framework for extractivism by making connections between the exploitation of “natural resources” and the Pachamama. The dissertation focuses on key ideas pertaining to the articulation between the defense of life and gender violence struggles; women’s re-appropriation of territory, conceptualizing territory as corporeal and geospatial; and the construction of new and emergent feminisms from the Global South.

Deborah Thurman
Department of English
“The Sensitivity Readers: Affective Professionalism and American Literature After 1945”
Thurman’s dissertation explores the social role of sensitivity as a feeling increasingly tasked with mediating racial, cultural, and gender divides in the latter half of the twentieth century. Examining works from Toni Morrison, Julia Alvarez, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as well as sensitivity training modules and workplace television shows, The Sensitivity Readers analyzes how literature has been used to cultivate socially desirable feelings and how minority authors have contended with the expectation that their work will exhibit and elicit sensitivity.

Spring 2020

Mark Beirn 
Department of History
“Grounding Mobility: Infrastructure, Airports, and Urban Space in Berlin, Istanbul, and Nairobi, 1923 to 1963”
This global urban history project investigates the airport as a new infrastructure intimately tied to urban environmental transformations around the world following the First World War. Beirn’s dissertation begins in Weimar Berlin tracing the influence of planners Sefton Brancker and Leonhard Adler and competing definitions of ‘urban’ seen through the contested transformation of Berlin’s sandy soils into the “air crossing of Europe.” The project moves on to compare airport projects in an occupied capital (Berlin) and a colonial capital (Nairobi), reorienting conventional western narratives of urban infrastructures that endured and shaped the Second World War, massive social upheaval, and political division well into the Cold War.

Deniz Gundogan İbrisim 
Program in Comparative Literature
“Of Creative Impulses: Tracing Traumatic Survivance, Memory and Subjectivity in Anglophone World Literatures”
Deniz’s dissertation project examines several authors from the twentieth and the twenty-first century Anglophone world literatures including J.M Coetzee, Achmat Dangor, Bilge Karasu, Orhan Pamuk,  Burhan Sönmez, and Anne Michaels. Her dissertation argues that authoritarian repression and violence serve as an overarching theme in the texts and create various traumatic thresholds that critically compels the authors to surpass them by moving through what this dissertation calls “traumatic survivance.”  By using several theoretical frameworks drawn from global Anglophone studies, world literature, trauma and memory studies and following the writings of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Rosi Braidotti and among others, Deniz’s interdisciplinary project defines “traumatic survivance” as a dynamic, active condition of individual and cultural forms of survivability that are enfolded in an expanded notion of subjectivity, disrupting the predominant binaries of human exceptionalism and universalism: mind-body, nature-culture, human-animal, animate-inanimate, born-made. In this context, “traumatic survivance” encompasses human and nonhuman entanglement, vibrant interactions between human characters and nonhuman animals, between humans and the various substances, physical matter and organisms as well as narrative performances and oral stories that inhabit their local environments, such as cities, landscapes, and seascapes. This dissertation, as Deniz argues, expands and complicates survivance as an analytical concept in Anglophone world literatures by bringing it into a larger theoretical and literary conversation beyond Indigenous-settler relations and beyond binary oppositions between the west and the rest in Anglophone worlds.
Read blog storyTrauma: Beyond PTSD and Pathological Closure in Contemporary Literature

Samantha Pergadia
Department of English
“Taxonomic Harm: Race, Species, and the Ontology of Metaphor”
Pergadia’s dissertation traces the rhetorical and visual strategies through which contemporary American authors and artists, including Toni Morrison, Charles Johnson, Octavia Butler, Ruth Ozeki, and Art Spiegelman, invoke Enlightenment humanism to rewrite the categories of race and species. Taxonomic Harm redresses the schism between animal studies and scholarship on race, two fields that regard the comparison between racialized humans and nonhuman animals as either an aspirant or violent analogy. Juxtaposing material from the modern history of science with twentieth-century aesthetic objects, Taxonomic Harm instead argues that race and species are sutured together as material, rhetorical, visual, classificatory and moral concepts.

Graduate Student Fellows 2018-19

Fall 2018

Adwoa Opong
Department of History
“Elite Women and the Architecture of Post-War Feminism in Ghana, 1945–1970”
Focusing on the Federation of Gold Coast (Ghana) Women — one of the largest and most influential women’s organizations to emerge at the dawn of Ghana’s independence in 1953 — Opong’s research questions the broader gendered politics of state-building in post-colonial Africa. In foregrounding the complexities and contradictions in the Federation’s vision for all women and the Ghanaian nation, her dissertation recovers alternative imaginings of nation from the perspective of educated urban women.

Melanie Walsh
Department of English
“Post-War Redux: How 21st-Century Networked Readers Remediated, Recirculated, and Redefined American Fiction”
Walsh’s dissertation tracks the pre-internet writings of four important late 20th-century American authors — James Baldwin, Kurt Vonnegut, Sandra Cisneros, and Chris Kraus — as they were recirculated by networks of readers in the 21st. Through the lens of #BlackLivesMatter tweets, licensed Amazon fan fiction, an anti-censorship protest movement called Libtrotraficante, and an Amazon Studios television adaptation, Postwar Redux sketches a living history of post-internet literary readership and excavates a new literary history of the post-1945 period of American writing. Making the claim that new ways of reading and circulating literature also demand new methods of analysis, Walsh's dissertation combines close reading and traditional archival research with social media archiving, computational analysis and geospatial mapping.

Corinne Zeman
Department of English and Program in Comparative Literature
“Transcultural Capital: Anglo-Islamic Traffic on the Early Modern Stage”
Zeman’s dissertation seeks to make sense of the ambivalent internationalism of 17th-century England and specifically how Islamic culture was folded into the fabric of metropolitan life in London. Looking beyond the analytical model that presumes Islamic culture as invariably xenos — a stranger in English borders — Zeman looks to domestic and urban dramas that entangle the foreign and familiar.

Spring 2019

Ling Kang
Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures
“Voicing China: The Technologies of Speaking and the Sonic Modernity in China”
Kang’s project investigates the techniques and technologies of four major mediums of human voice in modern Chinese enlightenment and revolutions: public speaking, poetry recitation, literary writing, and cinematic sound reproduction. Taking an interdisciplinary approach that brings together literary analysis, psychology, physiology, linguistics, acoustics, and media archeology, Kang argues that the significance of voice as a means of communication and mobilization lies not only in what it says, but also, and more importantly, in how it speaks, in the manipulation of its sonic materiality – tones, pitches, rhythms, volumes, etc. Kang challenges the seemingly transparent association between voice and agency in previous scholarship and argues for a more dynamic conceptualization of the relation between the two.

Rose Miyatsu
Department of English
“Seeking Asylum: Mental Illness and Post-1945 American Novels”
Miyatsu’s dissertation project focuses on fictional “madwomen” in asylum-based novels of the second half of the 20th century, and examines how these women use the confining space of the asylum to imagine more inclusive and non-hierarchical forms of community that can incorporate difficult and even painful lives. The texts that she examines provide a different vision of mental  illness as potentially productive, rather than simply broken or destructive, and capable of fostering new ways of being together.

Ashley Pribyl
Department of Music
“Sociocultural and Collaborative Antagonism in the Harold Prince/Stephen Sondheim Musicals, 1970–79”
Harold Prince, who strived to challenge his audience’s political complacency, often clashed with Stephen Sondheim, whose primary consideration was individual characterization and narrative arc. Rather than attempting to find a middle ground between the interior world of the show and the exterior cultural context, Prince and Sondheim independently followed their own paths and intuitions, a mode of creation that I call antagonistic collaboration. Focusing on four musicals – Company (1970), Follies (1971), Pacific Overtures (1976), and Sweeney Todd (1979) – she shows how Prince and Sondheim’s antagonistic collaboration yielded politically and culturally complex works.

Graduate Student Fellows 2017-18

Fall 2017

Spring 2018

Oguz Alyanak
Department of Anthropology
“Fear of the Ordinary: Muslim Turks Negotiate Men’s Moral Worth in the Franco-German Borderland”
Recent scholarship on gender looks at how migrant men, and their Europe-born sons, are an integral part of how Europeans think about Islam. Yet we still know little about who these men are. My dissertation addresses this gap by focusing on Turkish men in Strasbourg, France, as their lives unfold in three domains-work, home, and leisure. I explore how they reflect on Islam as they go about their everyday lives and discuss their daily routines vis-a-vis local conversations that frame moral and masculine behavior. I ask what happens when men transgress moral boundaries. How do they talk about and manage transgressions? And do these discussions tell us about something other than Islam that may be meaningful to these men's lives?

Waseem-Ahmed Bin-Kasim
Department of History
“Sanitary Segregation: Cleansing Accra and Nairobi, 1908–1963”
“Sanitary Segregation” is a comparative project that cuts across urbanization and public health. The project explores the segregationist plan of William Simpson in Accra and Nairobi, two important capital cities in British colonial Africa. Simpson was one of the British Empire’s foremost sanitary, plague, and urban design experts who advised imperial officials at the Colonial Office in London. How his segregationist ideas played out in the different cities he visited has not been examined. Simpson’s recommendations yielded unexpected and varying results because of the very different histories, power dynamics, and landscapes of the colonial cities. Simpson’s vision for Accra and Nairobi, two cities divided along class and racial lines, provoked different and conflicting responses.

Joohee Suh
Department of History
“The Afterlife of Corpses: Dead Bodies and the 19th-Century Society of China”
Suh’s dissertation project investigates a set of controversies that arose over unburied bodies in 19th-century China. This topic originated from an observation that there was a large number of dead bodies left unburied on the outskirts of major imperial cities in the eastern coastal regions of Qing China (1644–1911). Not surprisingly, these bodies were controversial and became a major source of anxiety for both commoners and administrators. Searching for the "appropriate" means of dealing with these bodies was a task that troubled the Qing state throughout the 19th century until its demise in 1911. Consulting judicial documents on grave desecration cases, account books of burial societies, burial manuals, local histories, and popular stories on zombies recorded in literature and newspapers, Suh uses these bodies as a key that links several different components of the 19th-century society that contested the meanings of death, dead bodies, and afterlife.

Graduate Student Fellows 2016-17

Fall 2016

Spring 2017

Graduate Student Fellows 2015-16

Fall 2015

Spring 2016

Claire Class, English and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Class’s dissertation, “Typewriting: Literature, Gender, and Modernist Sociology in America, 1892-1930,” argues that some practitioners turned to literary modernism not to describe modernity but to codify situated knowledges and advance social change. In his formative study, Edmund Wilson describes modernism as “literary shorthand which makes complex ideas more manageable.” His sentiments resonate with those of many early-twentieth century American sociologists who likewise hoped their writing would streamline complex social processes and expose essential patterns. Yet modernists such as Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, and Virginia Woolf roundly condemned sociological writing, which they considered too “realist” and, unlike modernism and the physical sciences, incapable of transcending language and revealing essential truths. Class concentrates on a small group at the margins of both these camps: sociologists who turned to life writing and fiction to theorize gender. Though Jane Addams, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Pauline Hopkins, and W. E. B. Du Bois moved to literature with the hope of better understanding complex social systems, unlike their literary and sociological colleagues, they did not aspire to locate fundamental truths. Instead, they developed a modernist sociology that highlights the productive limits of language and renders the systemic without collapsing difference or curtailing interpretation. Moreover, Class claims those aspects of their writing that are the most “modernist,” that engage the formal experimentation associated with modernist writing, are also those most responsive to these aims.

Robin Girard, Romance Languages & Literatures
Scholars of the medieval Mediterranean are increasingly aware of the intellectual imperative of abolishing divisive and often anachronistic boundaries that have so long dominated literary studies, be they political, religious or linguistic, and of embracing a rhizomatic reading of literary culture extending from the British Isles to Persia. Robin Girard’s dissertation, “Courtly Love and Its Counterparts in the Medieval Mediterranean” (dir. Julie Singer), seeks to interrogate the considerable cultural affinities evinced by the French and Islamicate literary traditions as seen through the lens of twelfth-century erotological knowledge. By drawing on a diverse body of texts ranging from the Andalusi love manual, the Ṭawq al-Hamāma, and the Arabic folk compendium, the Alf Layla wa Layla, to the early Arthurian legend of Tristan and Yseult and Constantine the African’s medical primer, the Viaticum Peregrinantis, Girard argues that the High Middle Ages saw the development of a shared erotological culture based upon a system of mutually recognizable symbols and aesthetics that spanned the Mediterranean and transcended contemporary geopolitics. Further, his dissertation project aims to map certain routes by which this erotological culture could be disseminated and thus come to shape the worldview of Muslim poets, Jewish doctors and Christian kings alike.


Graduate Student Fellows 2014-15

Fall 2014

Noah Cohan (English and American Culture Studies)
Cohan’s dissertation is titled "'We Average Unbeautiful Watchers': Reflexive Fans and the Readerly Stakes of American Sports Narratives.” In it, I argue that we can best grasp sports not as real events with objective results, but as narratives; mass-mediated athletics are consumed, variously interpreted and assigned personal significance in a manner most similar to the way books, films and other narrative entertainments are read. Examining a wide range of literary and cultural narratives that depict the readers of sports — the fans — I assert that the tools of critical textual inquiry are not only appropriate but are necessary if we are to understand the way sports inform the identities of millions of Americans. The fourth chapter, “Reimagined Communities: Web-Mediated Fandom and Subjective Narrativity,” extends my analysis of the fan-reader as author into the Internet era, arguing that the easily accessible publishing platforms of the blogosphere have enabled fans to publicly appropriate and renarrativize the sports, teams and players they covet. Cataloguing and closely reading texts produced by multiple narrative-oriented online fan communities, I demonstrate that these fan authors create a literature of sport unfettered by the implied narrative restrictions of “real” competition, freeing them to explore political, personal and philosophical themes often thought unavailable or limited in sporting texts. Given my argument and its investment in electronically mediated narratives, the chapter takes as its primary form a website ( that allows readers to experience the larger web networks of contemporary American sports fandom via links, pictures and video — in effect, furthering my analysis by inhabiting the form as I examine it.

Margaret Dobbins (English)
Dobbins' dissertation, Queer Accounts: Stories of Economic Change in the Victorian Novel, argues that as economic developments in the 19th century put pressure on social identities and relations in England, novelists envisioned new, queer forms of desire in a capitalist society. Since Foucault’s History of Sexuality, queer theorists have identified the 19th century as the defining moment when “heterosexuality” and “homosexuality” emerge, effacing more fluid forms of sexual desire. Her research revises this history by uncovering the overlooked link between the imperatives of the market economy and heteronormative desire originating in the British Empire. She begins by asking why the novels of high realism fix so persistently on figures outside the prevailing sex-gender system: widows, miserly bachelors and businesswomen. Rather than seeing these characters as anomalies who must be assimilated into the heterosexual family and the capitalist ethos, she explore how mid-century novels illuminate a queer history of modern economic thought. The broad interest of this project lies in exploring how humanists tell stories of economic change in social terms: Novels take stock of the radical changes that capital wreaks on existing social structures in Victorian England, and, in the process, offer “queer accounts” of desire in a capitalist society.

En Li (History)
Li's project, titled “Betting on Empire: A Socio-Cultural History of Gambling in Late-Qing China,” uses the practice and licensing of gambling, especially the lotteries, to investigate social, political and cultural changes in the transitional period of late-Qing China and in its global context. This research begins with a study of a civil service examination scandal in 1885. A highly organized lottery scheme, where money was bet on surnames that would pass the state’s official selection exam, spurred manipulation of the exam results. Based on archival research, she concludes that instead of being a social vice or individual moral defect, the lottery contributed to a more inclusive public by providing people with simultaneous experiences across time and space. Moreover, licensing allowed the Qing state to extend its power in local society by incorporating gambling, an irrational activity, into a rational ruling framework. As a social practice in China, gaming became a cultural custom in its communities abroad. Gambling created a local, national and transnational network. Similar to commodities such as sugar, coffee, tea and codfish, gambling was able to spread across the globe, often along the same trade routes. Gambling became an important part of public culture in late-Qing China for its reorganization of interpersonal relations, cultivation of a de-radicalized society, and facilitation of exchanges in information, materials and capital in an increasingly interconnected world.

Spring 2015

Courtney Andree (English)
In her dissertation, “Disabling Modernity: Disability and Sexuality in British Literature, Film and Culture, 1880-1939,” Andree argues that disability can be looked upon as a limit case that made it possible for writers, artists and filmmakers to reflect upon the shifting boundaries of citizenship, sexuality and community in modern Britain. While cultural attitudes toward and engagements with disability were in flux throughout the period that she treats, disability can be seen as a point of growing imaginative and creative interest, making it possible to conceive of alternative narrative modes; new models of inclusion and social acceptance; and the limits of the nation. Disability was also consistently bound up with questions of individual growth and development (or the perceived lack thereof), and served to reveal the limitations — and political assumptions — built into traditional narrative forms and the bildungsroman proper. As she argues, disability was frequently set apart as a prototypical “outsider” position, a position that took on increasing importance for members of other traditionally stigmatized and disenfranchised groups — particularly for queer and disabled women writers and artists. While this project is grounded in the political, legal and social history of disability, she examines a range of cultural texts from British artists, filmmakers and writers that serve to reveal an emergent disability consciousness and community. Building on recent work in disability studies, queer theory, genre studies and theory of mind, she argues that these authors and artists attempt to redress the erasure of “otherness” from the British public sphere. By restoring disability to its place within the community and decoupling it from its degenerationist and eugenic legacies, it becomes possible to conceive of disability in the future tense, as something that is potentially compatible with romantic love, reproduction, sexuality and personal autonomy.

Sara Jay (History)
In her dissertation, “Falafel, Rai and Bijoux: Cultural Exchange within the Transnational Algerian Jewish Community, 1945–1970,” Jay argues that the Algerian Jewish communities that settled in France and Israel after Algerian independence in 1962 represent a mobile, transnational collective that served as conduits of French, Israeli and Algerian culture to their new homes. Following the 1962 Evian Agreement, which denied citizenship to Jews living in Algeria, 125,000 Jews immigrated to France and 14,000 chose to settle in Israel. While most scholarly discussions of Algerian Jewish migrants have focused on the dramas of assimilation and integration into new host societies, her work examines the maintenance of communicative ties across national boundaries, among members of what was once a single community. She draws upon Jewish newspapers and pamphlets, synagogue bulletins, oral interviews with more than 80 individuals, and research in state and local government archives in France, Israel and Algeria in order to trace the exchange of both ideas and material culture, in the forms of music, fashion, art and food. These diverse sources and personal narratives reveal that the vast economic and personal networks, which existed before 1962 were maintained, and even expanded, as the population of Jews from Algeria dispersed. Emigres remained in contact with and visited family members, neighbors and friends while often simultaneously forming business partnerships. Markets for unique goods and services produced by Algerian Jews were cultivated in France and Israel within and outside of the Jewish community. Remaining a mobile community throughout the 1960s, Algerian Jews continually imported, exported and adapted musical, clothing, and food trends that they discovered and developed through their participation in trans­-Mediterranean economic and personal networks.

Jennifer Westrick (History)
Westrick’s dissertation, “In the Blood: Breeding Vice and Virtue in Early-Modern Britain,” reconstructs early-modern beliefs about blood and the inheritance of qualities spiritual and moral as well as physical. It then traces the ways in which those beliefs were put into practice. She argues that the 17th century presents a moment of syncretism between scripture and science: Older beliefs about original sin and inheritance mixed with newer medical and philosophical understandings of body and blood, each reinforcing and lending conceptual legitimacy to the other. The early-modern discourse of blood, body, nature and nurture — in which sinfulness could be passed  through either reproduction  or contagion — laid a path for later ideas about biological determinism. Westrick’s sources include an extensive range of legal, medical and religious texts, as well as archival documents such as diaries, criminal depositions and midwifery notes.

Graduate Student Fellows 2013-14

Fall 2013

Lauren Olin’s (Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology) dissertation project, “Housing Mirth: Humor and the Nature of Normativity,” focuses on the philosophy and psychology of humor. Its guiding hypothesis is that attention to the human capacity for humor intimates important lessons for the philosophy and psychology of normativity more broadly construed. Olin argues that we can use humor as a foil to focus our thinking about the fundamental nature of normative capacities, such as capacities for moral, aesthetic and epistemic judgment. She explores extant approaches to the explanation of humor and other normative capacities that are often regarded as problematic from the perspective of natural scientific inquiry and engages some of the foundational questions that arise in doing so. Olin concludes that her view of what humor is, and the view of normative capacities it implies, promises progress on many of those questions.

Jacob Ari Labendz’s (History) dissertation project, “Jews and the State in Communist Central Europe: The Czech Lands, 1948-1989” focuses on the Czechoslovak Communist Party’s rise to power. For the country’s Jewish minority, those years were marked by renegotiations of ethnicity, nationality, religion, and citizenship, periods of persecution and periods of renaissance. Labendz uses the Czech case to think broadly about how the terms of integration into Central Europe’s nation-states changed for Jews after the Holocaust. He argues that the period represents the final chapter of a two-century-long experiment in which Central European states sought bureaucratically to answer the so-called Jewish Question. Despite the pretentions of Communists to have revolutionized society, their thinking about Jews reflected continuities from earlier periods. Officials — even Jewish leaders — struggled to adapt traditional beliefs and inherited administrative strategies to a communistic framework. Over four decades, they not only radically altered them, but marked them as communist, which had tremendous repercussions after 1989.

Spring 2014

Barbara Barrow’s (English) dissertation project, “‘Fossil Poetry’: Victorian Science and the Consecration of Language,” explores the literary response to the scientific study of language in the 19th century. Once thought to be the product of a divine dispensation, a power given to the first biblical man in what was known as the “Adamic” theory of language origins, the study of language underwent a change in the Victorian period as natural scientists investigated human speech as a function of biological organs and evolutionary adaptation. Barrow argues that this demystification of language prompted anxieties that poetry was becoming desacralized and subject to the authority of a rapidly growing scientific professionalism. Focusing on the works of Matthew Arnold, Thomas Carlyle, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Mathilde Blind, she shows how these authors — part of a “Spasmodic” school of writers whose works were characterized by affective, embodied imagery — explored the status of poetry in the context of the new sciences of geology, biology and physiology. In so doing, they investigated the origins of human speech in a global context, revealed surprising overlaps in the seemingly antithetical realms of science and religion, and inaugurated discussions about interdisciplinarity that continue to the present day.

David Holloway's (East Asian Languages and Cultures) dissertation project, “Hunger Artistry: Gender, the Body, and Eating in Contemporary Japanese Women’s Fiction,” explores the tension in contemporary Japan between surfeit and dissatisfaction. Having survived the destruction of the Second World War and more recently an economic crash, Japan is a country where commodities are bountiful and purchasing power is resilient. And yet, many — particularly women — sense a fundamental lack. On the surface, women’s options — including access to education and more opportunities for employment — are limitless. But in fact, women continue to be valued based on looks. And the appropriate look continues to involve a smaller and smaller waistline. The thin body carries significant social capital, as it is coded with socioeconomic symbols and feminine ideals. Ironically, however, thinness is also firmly embedded in a milieu of rampant consumerism. Holloway’s project explores women who are unapologetically devoted to the topos of thinness, and it grants us the opportunity to think critically about the gendered nature of thinness and the ways body size elicits particular individual and communal emotions that are governed and reaffirmed by public discourses on beauty, health, aesthetics and the body.

Graduate Student Fellows 2012-13

Fall 2012

Spring 2013

Meghan Ference’s (Anthropology) dissertation project, “Movement and Meaning in Metropolitan Nairobi,” analyzes the built urban environment in colonial and post-colonial Nairobi through the lens of the informal transportation sector. The transportation sector consists of a system of privately owned, collective taxis, referred to as matatus. The matatu industry is the largest employer of young men between the ages of 17 and 35 in Kenya and carries over 80% of the population daily. Ference uses ethnographic and archival data to explore the ways that informal transportation operators manage risk and negotiate passage through social and physical boundaries over time. Her research examines the everyday linguistic, social and economic practices that matatu transport operators use in order to move through the increasingly regulated urban landscape of Nairobi and how this movement is linked to power and urban identity. Although many of these strategies have historically and currently disrupted the power asymmetry of the unique urban landscape of post-colonial Kenya, the large workforce of transport operators still struggle with the risk and responsibility inherent in providing a crucial service in a continually growing and urbanizing city.

The ways in which people belong and make claims to identities appear at the heart of debates across Europe about the future of national cultures and identities in a globalizing world. Nowhere is this debate more intense than in contemporary Britain, where “multicultural Britain” is increasingly becoming unsettled and, for some, unsettling. Rajbir Purewal Hazelwood’s (History) dissertation project, “Diasporic Politics of Belonging: Punjabis in Britain c.1950-2010,” provides a historical case study of how the largest minority group in Britain has differently positioned itself within a shifting politics of identity and national community in the second half of the twentieth century. Through an examination of the practices by which a diverse group of Punjabi migrants have historically constituted a sense of belonging and community in postwar Britain, Hazelwood unravels the ways in which Punjabi migrants have claimed stakes to multiple nodes of belonging, revealing the triangulation of a Punjabi-regional, Indian/Pakistani-national, and British-national geo-cultural politics in the postcolonial period. Drawing on a diverse archive, from community newspapers and oral histories to television and literature, her project contributes to a rethinking of how, why, and on what basis Punjabi migrants in Britain have belonged.

We wish to thank the WU faculty who participated in the Graduate Student Fellowship selection process: Ahmet Karamustafa, professor of history, religious studies, and Jewish, Islamic and near eastern languages and cultures; Joseph Schraibman, professor of Spanish; and Jennifer Kapczynski, associate professor of German.