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Current Center Fellows: 2018-2019

Colleen Anderson

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of German Studies, Stanford University

Two Kinds of Infinity: Outer Space Travel in Cold War Germany

Colleen Anderson studies the history, culture, and technology of Cold War Germany. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 2017 and has received funding from the American Historical Association & NASA, the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, DAAD, the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, and the Central European History Society.

Project Summary:

This project studies Germans’ participation in and imaginations about outer space exploration during the Cold War. The manuscript traces the changing ways in which East and West Germans saw their own futures as connected to space travel and in which Germans used outer space to address their pasts and envision their roles in the world around them.

Max Ashton

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of English, Stanford University

Signs of War in Old English Poetry

Michael Bratman

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of Philosophy, Stanford University

Shared Agency, Institutional Agency

Project Summary:

In a 2014 book Michael Bratman develop a planning theory of small-scale shared intentional/shared cooperative activity, as when you and I sing a duet together. In Shared Agency, Institutional Agency, his question is whether, and if so how, this theory can be scaled up to provide insight into the functioning of larger institutions, and into the question of whether such institutions can themselves be (perhaps, accountable) agents.

Heather Brink-Roby

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of English, Stanford University

Reason’s Stories: Type, Example, Paradigm

Heather-Roby studies the novel and the history of science. She received her PhD from Harvard University in English, her MPhil from University of Cambridge in history and philosophy of science, and her AB from Harvard in History and Literature; before coming to Stanford, she was a Junior Research Fellow at University of Cambridge.

Project Summary:

Reason’s Stories: Type, Example, Paradigm explores the narratives latent in three central logical modes and considers how nineteenth-century novelists, scientists, philosophers, and social reformers used those implied structures of experience. It shows how conceptual orderings become unspoken stories that shadow and shape the spoken ones.

Joseph Cadagin

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Music, Stanford University

Where Childhood’s Dreams Are Twined: Nostalgia and Nonsense in the Lewis Carroll Compositions of György Ligeti

Joe Cadagin is a doctoral candidate in musicology at Stanford, where his research focuses on opera after 1960 and the works of Hungarian composer György Ligeti. He is an avid harpsichordist and a music critic whose reviews and features appear regularly in Opera News, San Francisco Classical Voice, and Fanfare.

Vincent Debiais

External Faculty Fellow

École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris

Abstract Colors and Shapes in Non-Figurative Medieval Art

Omnia El Shakry

Marta Sutton Weeks Fellow

Department of History, University of California, Davis

Encountering Traditions: Islam and Catholicism in Modern Egypt

Omnia El Shakry specializes in the intellectual and cultural history of the modern Middle East, with a particular emphasis on the history of the human and religious sciences in modern Egypt. She is the author of The Arabic Freud: Psychoanalysis and Islam in Modern Egypt (Princeton, 2017), The Great Social Laboratory: Subjects of Knowledge in Colonial and Postcolonial Egypt (Stanford, 2007), and editor of the multi-volume Gender and Sexuality in Islam (Routledge, 2016).

Project Summary:

Encountering Traditions explores the emergence of a vibrant movement of intellectual and religious exchange between Muslim and Catholic scholars and religious practitioners in twentieth century Egypt. It asks: how did the encounter between Islam and Catholicism shape and transform religious concepts, such as the oneness of God; practices, such as agape, sincerity, and truthfulness; and sensibilities, such as inwardness? Thisproject thus examines the cross-fertilization of ideas and practices and the co-constitution of intellectual and social histories of spirituality that come about through experiences of encounter with the religious other.

Kathryn Gin Lum

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of Religious Studies, Stanford University

The Heathen World and America’s Humanitarian Impulse

Kathryn Gin Lum is assistant professor of Religious Studies in collaboration with the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and History (by courtesy) at Stanford University. She is the author of Damned Nation: Hell in America from the Revolution to Reconstruction (Oxford University Press, 2014) and co-editor, with Paul Harvey, of The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Race in American History (Oxford University Press, 2018). She is currently writing a book on American conceptions of the “heathen” (under contract with Harvard University Press). She received her PhD in history from Yale and her BA in history from Stanford.

Project Summary:

The Heathen World and America’s Humanitarian Impulse investigates the relationship between heathenness, often understood to be a religious category of difference, and racial othering in America. It begins in the colonial era and ends in the present day, asking what happened to the figure of the heathen with the rise of racial science, and assessing the implications and continued resonances of heathen othering into the present.

Victoria Googasian

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of English, Stanford University

The Character of Animality: Species Difference and Narrative Form in American Fiction

Victoria Googasian is a PhD candidate in the Department of English. Her research interests include American literature, narrative theory, animal studies, and the environmental humanities. Her work explores how fictional character confronts and accommodates nonhuman forms of life. She also coordinates Stanford’s Environmental Humanities Project.

Project Summary:

The Character of Animality demonstrates what the history and form of literary character owe to the science of animal mind in twentieth-century America. In the process, it uncovers a decades-long controversy over fiction’s capacity to represent nonhuman consciousness, placing literary studies in direct conversation (or heated debate) with comparative psychology and the uneven anti-mentalism of its approach to animal life.

Rachel Heiman

External Faculty Fellow 

Department of Urban Studies, The New School

Retrofitting the American Dream: An Ethnography of Suburban Redesign

Rachel Heiman is associate professor of anthropology at The New School. She is the author of Driving After Class: Anxious Times in an American Suburb (University of California Press, 2015) and co-author (with Carla Freeman and Mark Liechty) of The Global Middle Classes: Theorizing Through Ethnography (SAR Press, 2012).

Project Summary:

There has been a growing literature on design, planning, and policy efforts to reimagine automobile suburbs for a more sustainable future, yet there has been little ethnographic research that explores the transformation of sedimented ideals and everyday habits as people’s familiar spaces shift amid the introduction of mixed-use neighborhoods, urban densities, and green infrastructure. Through multi-sited ethnographic research in four communities in the United States in which residents, developers, local officials, and corporations are negotiating aspirations for—and anxieties about—the material and social future of American suburbia, this book project sheds light on the formation of new subjectivities and modes of governance at the intersection of sustainable suburbanism and social justice concerns.

Lyndsey Hoh Copeland

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Music, Stanford University

The Sound of Metal: Amateur Brass Bands in Southern Benin

Lyndsey Hoh Copeland studies music and sound making practices in Francophone West Africa. She received her D.Phil. in ethnomusicology from the University of Oxford, her M.Phil. in social anthropology from the University of Oxford, and her B.M. in music performance from the University of Southern California. Her research has been supported by fellowships from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Fulbright Foundation, and the University of Oxford.

Project Summary:

Lyndsey’s current research focuses on music and education in the Republic of Benin. Her first project examines the role of material, masculinity, and anxiety in Benin’s amateur fanfarescene. Her second project is a comparative study of music education, listening practices, and pedagogies of sound within two schools for the Deaf in southern Benin.

Sam Holley-Kline

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Anthropology, Stanford University

Entangled Archaeology, Industry, and Labor in El Tajín, Mexico, 1880–2017

Sam Holley-Kline is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. His research interests include the intersections between archaeology and sociocultural anthropology, and late nineteenth and twentieth-century Mexican history with a focus on the Gulf Coast. He received his BA in anthropology and Spanish from DePauw University in 2012, and his MA in anthropology from Stanford University in 2015. Outside of dissertation research, he has conducted archaeological research in Kiuic, Yucatán, and ethnographic research in Cuetzalan, Puebla.

Elizabeth Hoover

External Faculty Fellow

Department of American Studies, Brown University

From “Garden Warriors” to “Good Seeds”: Indigenizing the Local Food Movement

Nicole T. Hughes

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Iberian and Latin American Cultures, Stanford University

Stages of History: New World Spectacles and the Theater of the World in the Sixteenth Century

Nicole T. Hughes completed her PhD at Columbia University in the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. Her research focuses on early modern Iberian expansion, especially in New Spain and Brazil. She has received support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the John Carter Brown Library, and the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut (Berlin) and was a visiting researcher at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa’s Centre for the Humanities and the Universidade de São Paulo. Previously, she edited nonfiction at The Penguin Press.

Project Summary:

In her current book project, "Stages of History: New World Spectacles and the Theater of the World in the Sixteenth Century," she analyzes at dramatic performances in New Spain and Brazil in which missionaries, conquistadors, and indigenous populations superimposed depictions of far-flung conflicts and representations of local struggles. She argues that by envisioning other parts of the world and relating those images back to the Americas, participants in these theatrical spectacles created foundational narratives of New Spanish and Brazilian history.  

Edward Kelting

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Classics, Stanford University

The Greek Face of Roman Egypt

Ted Kelting is a sixth-year PhD candidate in classics, currently finishing a dissertation on Egypt’s reception in the early-Imperial Period. Besides his dissertation, Ted maintains interests in Roman satire, Aesopic fable and animal literatures, the Homeric corpus, and the Afro-centrist and Afro-futurist receptions of Pharaonic Egypt. He completed his BA from Brown University in classics and Egyptology, where he studied Greek, Latin, Middle-Egyptian and Late-Egyptian literatures.

Project Summary:

"The Greek Face of Roman Egypt" argues for a dialogic model of intercultural exchange between Egypt, Greece, and Rome during the early Principate, as against previous models focused on a projected "Egypt" that have consistently underappreciated the agency Egyptians had in articulating Egyptian cultural forms to a Greek and Roman audience. After a deep dive into this Egyptian articulation of Egyptian culture, a sustained comparison of Greco-Roman geographies and ethnographies of Egypt and Ethiopia better answers what Egypt's function as Other was during the first and early-second centuries C.E., when Egypt became the key site in which the Roman principate was alternatively praised and criticized.

Mélanie Lamotte

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Stanford University

French Colonial Encounters in the French Atlantic and Indian Oceans, c. 1608-1789. 

Mélanie Lamotte is a historian of race, ethnicity, slavery and colonialism.  She was awarded a BA in history and an MPhil in early modern history at the Sorbonne and at the University of Cambridge. In 2016, she received a PhD in history from the University of Cambridge, where she became a Junior Research Fellow. 

She is currently developing her PhD research into a monograph entitled, “French Colonial Encounters in the French Atlantic and Indian Oceans, c. 1608-1789.”

Project summary:

This monograph focuses on race, assimilation, metissage and creolization in the French empire. This will be the first book envisioning early modern French Atlantic and Indian Ocean territories together, through the use of comparisons and the consideration of trans-imperial networks.

Elizabeth Marcus

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of French and Italian, Stanford University

Difference and Dissidence in Lebanon: French, Arabic and Cultural Conflict, 1943-1975

Elizabeth Jacqueline Marcus completed her Ph.D. in French and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in 2017, and received her BA in Modern History and French at the University of Oxford. Elizabeth's research focuses on the literatures and​ ​cultural​ ​history of the Francophone​ ​and Arab​ ​world, with a particular interest in multilingualism, intellectual networks and migration in the postcolonial context. She has been a Visiting Scholar at MIT, and at Sciences-Po (Paris). In addition to her formal training, she has studied and conducted research in France, the UK, Syria, and Lebanon.

 

Nick Mayhew

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Stanford University

Marriage and Brotherhood in Muscovite Russia

Nick Mayhew completed a PhD in Slavonic Studies at the University of Cambridge. He writes about gender and sexuality in Russia and his work in this field covers a broad chronology.

Project Summary:

He is currently working on developing his doctoral thesis into a monograph called “Queer Traditions in Early Modern Russia”. The book reassesses Russian Orthodox history from a queer perspective, offering a fresh look at church rites, saints’ lives and canon law. Nick’s next major project will explore the emergence of laws against homosexuality in Imperial Russia from a cross-cultural perspective.

Karen Melvin

Marta Sutton Weeks Fellow

Department of History, Bates College

Local Alms, Global Catholicism: Jerusalem and North Africa in New Spain

Karen Melvin is professor of history and a member of the Latin American Studies Program at Bates College. She is the author of Building Colonial Cities of God (Stanford, 2012) and several essays about global Catholicism, co-editor of Imagining Histories of Colonial Latin America (New Mexico, 2017), and a principal investigator of “Reading the Inquisition”, an online collection of transcribed and translated Inquisition cases. 

Project Summary:

The early modern Catholic world channeled alms to North Africa (to redeem Christian captives from Muslim captors) and Jerusalem (to maintain a Catholic presence at holy sites in the Muslim-controlled Holy Land), but no place provided more funds during the seventeenth through early-nineteenth centuries than New Spain. My project examines these charities there, including their complex global infrastructures, people’s motivations for donating, patterns of giving, and how Jerusalem and captives were depicted and understood.

David Plunkett

External Faculty Fellow

Department of Philosophy, Dartmouth College

Metalinguistic Negotiation and the Nature of Normativity

Annette Richards

Marta Sutton Weeks Fellow

Department of Music, Cornell University

C. P. E. Bach, The Musical Portrait and the Making of Music History

Annette Richards is professor of music at Cornell University. Her research in music and aesthetics in the long eighteenth century focuses in particular on cultures of sensibility, death and memory. She is also a performer, with an active international career as an organ recitalist.

Project Summary:

Bringing portrait culture to bear on concepts of music history, I hope to show how the new music historiography of the late eighteenth century, rich in anecdote, memoir and verbal vignette, was deeply indebted to portrait collecting and its simultaneous – and often paradoxical - negotiation between presence and detachment, fact and feeling. This book will explore ways of thinking about likeness, family resemblance and the question of influence with respect to the Bach family, and, informed by the interplay of looking and listening, it will suggest new ways of hearing C. P. E. Bach’s idiosyncratic music. More broadly, it will offer new arguments for the role of speculation and imagination in music historiography.

Aileen Robinson

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Theater and Performance Studies

Technological Wonder: The Theatrical Fashioning of Scientific Practice, 1780-1905 

Aileen Robinson received an Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Drama from Northwestern University in 2016.  Her current project explores the contribution of theatre and magic performance to emerging practices of science communication in the nineteenth century. She investigates how theatrical performances and magic shows drew upon technological innovations and formed unique methods for disseminating scientific knowledge. She conducted archival research in Britain and the United States supported through an SSRC International Dissertation Fellowship and an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant.

Read a Q&A about Robinson's work. 

Priya Satia

Violet Andrews Whittier Fellow

Department of History, Stanford University

Against Empire and Nation: Poets of Partition since the American Revolution

Priya Satia is professor of history at Stanford University and award-winning author of Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain’s Covert Empire in the Middle East (2008) and Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution (2018). Her academic and popular writing has appeared in American Historical ReviewPast & PresentFinancial TimesTime, and The Nation, among others.

Project Summary:

My project traces the history of anti-colonial thought that was critical of both nationalism and imperialism in the modern period. I seek to show how a progressive inheritance was produced and passed on through a chain of intellectual and literary influence and through particular inter-generational colonial and postcolonial social and personal networks.

Jennifer Scappettone

External Faculty Fellow

Department of English, University of Chicago

From Pentecost to Babel: Wireless Imaginations in Modern Poetry and the Dream (or Nightmare) of a Transnational Language 

Jennifer Scappettone works at the crossroads of writing, translation, and scholarly research—on the page and off. She is the author of Killing the Moonlight: Modernism in Venice (2014) and of the cross-genre verse books From Dame Quickly (2009) and The Republic of Exit 43: Outtakes & Scores from an Archaeology and Pop-Up Opera of the Corporate Dump (2017). Her translations of the polyglot poet and musicologist Amelia Rosselli were collected in Locomotrix: Selected Poetry and Prose of Amelia Rosselli (2012).

Project Summary:

When in 1913, Futurist F.T. Marinetti called for a “wireless imagination,” he challenged poetry to keep step with developments in global networks reflecting a “synthesis of various races” and “an urgent need to coordinate our relations with all humanity”;transformations in the shape and conveying media of verse enabled modernist poets to channel the plurality of languages streaming through a globalizing communicative sphere, yet the trans- or supra-nationalist ambitions of this work and of ensuing visual, concrete and sound poetry are easily eclipsed in discussions of its formal demands. This project tracks the poetics and politics of modern and contemporary “xenoglossic” verse across media, whose authors occupy foreign languages without the perceived birthright or proper education—and articulate the exclusions contradicting the utopian rhetoric of interconnection driving globalization: it proposes that these multilingual tableaus oblige us to rethink citizenship as it exceeds political definitions, charting both a relentless dislocation and emergent translocal communities.

Luca Scholz

Postdoctoral Mellon Fellow

Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, Stanford University 

The Enclosure of Movement: Safe-conduct and the Troubles of Transit in the Holy Roman Empire 

Luca Scholz is an historian of early modern Europe. He pursued his doctoral studies in History at the European University Institute (Florence). His research is concerned with the governance of inter-polity mobility. Before coming to Stanford, he taught for one term at the Free University of Berlin. Luca studied History and Economics in Heidelberg and Paris and has been a visiting scholar at the University of Saint Andrews and at Columbia University.

Project Summary:

Intent on transcending conventional representations of early modern states as bounded territories, Scholz’s current project devises new ways of representing premodern territoriality, using digital tools to create maps that visualize political orders as regimes of movement. Applying spatial analysis to the history of free movement and its restriction, the project provides a historical perspective one of the most controversial issues of our day.

Matthew Smith

Donald Andrews Whittier Fellow

Departments of German Studies and Theater and Performance Studies, Stanford University

The Idea of Virtual Reality

Matthew Wilson Smith’s books include The Total Work of Art: From Bayreuth to CyberspaceThe Nervous Stage: Nineteenth-century Neuroscience and the Birth of Modern Theater, and the edited volumes Georg Büchner: The Major Works and Modernism and Opera.  He is a professor at Stanford University.

Project Summary:

What is virtual reality and what are its most pressing implications for society, art, and philosophy? Taking the perspective that VR is primarily a technology for the calculation of presence, this project seeks to uncover the dialectics of the new medium.

Alexandra Stern

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of History, Stanford University

The Darker Side of E Pluribus Unum: The Unraveling of Indian Territory and the Reconstruction of Native America, 1860 – 1907

Alex Stern is a PhD candidate in Stanford’s Department of History with a BA in U.S. History with honors from the University of Pennsylvania.  She is a historian of nineteenth-century America, specializing in the Civil War and Reconstruction eras as well as Native American history. While at Stanford she has been recognized twice for excellence in teaching and is the founder of the History Department’s Honors Mentorship Program.

Project Summary:

Scholars have long told the history of the United States’ Reconstruction era (1865-77), much like the Civil War that preceded it, as a north-south story, with little connection to the people and concurrent events of the American West.  A history of the world the Civil War made in Indian Territory, Stern’s dissertation illuminates how emancipation in the South and the suppression of Native American sovereignty in the West were related state-building projects produced by the Civil War’s empowerment of federal authority. Demonstrating the ways in which federally-sanctioned agents actively worked to reconstruct Native American nations much like the former Confederate South, Stern’s work offers a fresh understanding of the ways in which federal power remade the United States in the aftermath of the civil war and the centrality of Native people and politics to that story.

Simon Todd

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Linguistics, Stanford University

Asymmetries in Spoken Word Perception and Sound Change

Simon Todd is a PhD candidate in the Department of Linguistics at Stanford University. He is a New Zealander who moved the United States in 2013 for graduate school, after completing a BA(Hons) in mathematics and linguistics at the University of Canterbury. His research aims to identify the biases and constraints underlying spoken language perception and to understand their implications for the way that language is used and for the way that language use changes over time.

Project Summary:

Language change progresses through two routes: across speakers from different social groups, and across words. But change is not always successful; one group may not adopt the linguistic features of another. And change is not always even-handed; it may affect some words before others. Existing theories of language change cannot explain these asymmetries, due to an overemphasis on the speaker. Todd's dissertation proposes an alternative theory with emphasis on the listener, which offers a unified explanation of asymmetries in both routes of language change.

Astrid Van Oyen

Distinguished Junior External Fellow

Department of Classics, Cornell University

Storage and Empire: Negotiating the Future in the Roman World

Astrid Van Oyen is assistant professor in classical archaeology at Cornell University. She is interested in how the material world shapes historical trajectories, a question which led her to publish on themes as varied as postcolonialism, morality, typologies, and cities. Astrid is the author of How Things Make History (Amsterdam UP, 2016).

Project Summary:

Storage’s material transformations – including processes of fermentation, degradation, and (dis-)assembling – actively shuffle social relations and economic possibilities and are a sensitive indicator of changing mentalities, hopes, and fears. Storage and Empireis a multi-scalar investigation of such mediations in the agrarian Roman empire, tracing structural echoes and differences between farmer and state.

Sixiang Wang

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Stanford University

Co-constructing Empire in Early Choson Korea : Knowledge Production and the Culture of Diplomacy, 1392–1592 

Sixiang Wang is a historian of pre-nineteenth-century Korea and early modern East Asia. His research interests also include comparative perspectives on early modern empire, the history of science and knowledge, and issues of language and writing in Korea's cultural and political history. He received his PhD from the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures of Columbia University in October 2015.

Project Summary:

This project examines how ritualistic and literary activities such as court ceremonial, gift-giving, envoy poetry and history writing shaped Korean-Chinese diplomatic exchange during the Chosŏn (1392–1910) and Ming (1368–1644) periods. By reconstructing the cultural strategies the Korean court deployed in dealing with the Ming empire, it also provides a genealogy of political concepts in East Asian diplomacy, especially those related to sovereignty or political authority, as they emerged from the interactions between Korean diplomats and their imperial Chinese counterparts.

JNese Williams

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of History, Stanford University 

The Texture of Empire: British Colonial Botanic Gardens, Science, and Colonial Administration in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries

J’Nese Williams works on the history of modern Britain, science, and empire. She received a PhD in history from Vanderbilt University and a BA in history from Princeton University. Before coming to Stanford, Williams was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Humanities Institute of the New York Botanical Garden and a Residential Fellow at the Linda Hall Library.

Project Summary:

Williams’ current project uses botanical gardens in the British colonies to explore imperial governance and the pursuit of science in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. By focusing on the colonial gardens and local actors, this work provides insight into the ways that class, race, and patronage shaped colonial administration and scientific work.

Adrien Zakar

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities 

Department of History, Stanford University 

Framing Perception: Landscape Images and the Politics of Geographical Information in Syria and Lebanon (1900-1946)

Adrien Zakar received a PhD in history from Columbia University in 2018 and a BA in International Relations from the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies in Geneva. His research and teaching interests are in the impact of technologies of surveillance on necropolitics, environmental thinking, and conceptions of selfhood and society in the Middle East. He is currently developing his dissertation into a manuscript, titled “The Disembodied Eye: Technologies of Surveillance and the Logistics of Perception in Syria.”

Project Summary:

The Disembodied Eye investigates how the development and circulation of technologies of surveillance shaped institutional structures, systems of representation, and ideas of subjectivity in the Ottoman Empire and Syria (1900-1948). Ways of mapping and enframing sustained competing social and institutional structures by inculcating upon their targeted audience concrete procedures for disciplining perception. The project argues that this process of cultural and technological transformation helped reconfigure the visual, political and ethical norms of war and peace throughout the transition from empire to nation-states.

Grace Zhou

Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Anthropology,  Stanford University

Market Intimacies: Work and Welfare after Socialism in Kyrgyzstan

Grace H. Zhou is a PhD candidate in Stanford's Department of Anthropology. She investigates the intersection of labor, intimacy, and the politics of work and welfare in post-socialist Central Asia. Her doctoral research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Social Science Research Council. She holds a BA in linguistics and anthropology and an MA in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia Regional Studies from Columbia University. She has lived and worked in Kyrgyzstan, on and off, since 2009.

Project Summary:

Based on long-term ethnographic research, Zhou's dissertation follows the lives of businesswomen, sex workers, and homeless drug users in southern Kyrgyzstan. She is interested in emergent forms of labor and intimacy after the collapse of a state-planned economy that had provided full employment and social security for its citizens. Her work explores continued attachments to work and welfare as a legacy of Soviet "productivism" where labor was both a right and an obligation that formed the cornerstone of state-citizen relations, of citizens' claims to being entitled to state care. She also investigates how new and seemingly market-based or transactional intimacies allow marginalized groups (and likewise, "peripheral" world regions) to bridge social, geographic, and political boundaries to access new opportunities when formal modes of state redistribution have collapsed. She hopes that her dissertation will have wider implications for understanding so-called "post-industrial" and "post-work" contexts that require critical rethinking of the terms of welfare. Her doctoral research engages with the anthropologies of capitalism and socialism, as well as feminist and queer theory, but she is also committed to ethnography as a practice, genre, and theory-generating process.