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Current Undergraduate Fellows

Ariela Algaze

Art History, Minor in Medieval Studies and Classics

Project: The Poetics of Baptism: Liturgical Performance and Ekphrasis in Medieval Florence

Advisors: Bissera Pentcheva, Emanuele Lugli 

Ariela Algaze is a senior majoring in Art History with a minor in Medieval Studies and Classics. A Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, Algaze’s research explores liturgical enactment, multisensory experience, and representations of otherness in the Middle Ages across disciplinary and geographic boundaries. She is currently writing an honors thesis on baptismal liturgy and imagery in thirteenth-century Italy. Previously, she received a Chappell-Lougee grant to conduct research on depictions of Black saints in Gothic sculpture. In the museum world, Algaze has co-curated an exhibition of Egyptian antiquities at the Stanford University Archaeological Collections and has served as a curatorial intern at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and an education intern at the National Portrait Gallery. Algaze is the 2020–21 Peer Advisor/Undergraduate Representative for Art History, a theater technician in the Stanford Shakespeare Company, and an advocate for disability justice.  


What is the focus of your current research?

My honors thesis explores the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence as a space of initiation into the medieval Florentine religious and political community through the ritual enactment of its liturgy. In the first part of my thesis, I analyze baptismal imagery in San Giovanni's mosaic cupola alongside extant Florentine liturgical ordinals dated to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to reconstruct the sensorially-charged Holy Saturday rite in medieval Florence. These ordinals serve, in effect, as stage directions, detailing the order of the Mass service and charting the movements of a procession between Santa Reparata (the erstwhile cathedral of Florence) and San Giovanni.

In the second part of the thesis, I argue that these rituals, in turn, are echoed in Dante’s vivid reimagining of the Florentine baptismal rite in Purgatorio, reading the Earthly Paradise sequence in the last cantos of Purgatorio as a poetic ekphrasis that seeks to render in words the celestial beauty that Dante encountered as he gazed at the Baptistery mosaics and participated in its rituals. In so doing, I reconceptualize the relationship between Dante and the mosaics of San Giovanni, long discussed by Dante scholars, as liturgical rather than iconographic. By taking an interdisciplinary approach to explore the sensorial imaginary in the Middle Ages, this thesis articulates and illuminates the profound interconnections that can exist between architecture, liturgy, and poetry.

 

What drew you to this topic?

My thesis grew directly out of a seminar paper I wrote for Bissera Pentcheva’s course on animacy in medieval art. In many ways, however, the questions that form the foundation for my thesis are ones that I have been asking throughout my time at Stanford. My approach to this material has been been deeply shaped by work I have done on Dante’s Commedia with Robert Harrison, on Auguste Rodin’s interpretation of the Inferno with Alexander Nemerov, on exile in medieval Italy with Rowan Dorin, on ekphrasis with Sarah Prodan, on Florentine art with Emanuele Lugli, and on liturgical participation with Bissera Pentcheva. 

 

How are you conducting your research?

A combination of close-looking and close-reading guides my approach to research. While the pandemic prevented my plans to study the Baptistery in situ from coming to fruition—a frustrating situation for someone so interested in sensory experience —I have nevertheless been able to continue to work on my thesis from afar, thanks to the extensive photographic archives of the cupola mosaics and the publication of the two extant medieval Florentine ordinals, Ritus in ecclesia servandi (ca. 1173) and Mores et consuetudines canonice florentine (ca. 1231).

 

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?

Baptism in the Middle Ages was a civic ritual as well as a religious one. Citizenship was conferred through baptism in medieval Italy. Likewise, when Florentines living in exile were given amnesty and reintegrated into the city, they performed public penance around the same baptismal font where they had first become a citizen. In the words of the Dominican friar Giovanni Domini (1356-1419), in San Giovanni’s baptismal font, one became “a man, a Christian, and a Florentine.” 

 

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?

Beyond its inherent aesthetic power, the San Giovanni mosaics can afford us personal, tangible connections to the people who created, used, and were moved by them. By centering ritual enactment as a means by which to study medieval art, I strive to reveal the lived experiences of the people underneath the mosaics as they beheld the splendor of the art above and around them.

 

How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?

The process of embarking on a long-term, ambitious research project has been a wonderful culmination of my last four years at Stanford. It has helped inform my academic interests, deepened my understanding of the multifaceted nature of culture, and broadened my vision of what I consider important to study as well as the type of life I want to lead. 

 

How do you anticipate the fellowship will be able to support your research?

I am deeply grateful for the collegiality and the company of my peers in the Hume Humanities Honors Fellowship. In a time where we are physically distanced from our campus communities, I find it evermore special that we have been able to form these connections as a group of people with whom to think, share ideas, and commiserate.

Likewise, the stipend associated with the fellowship will allow me to purchase books I will consult while writing my thesis, which is especially critical given limited library access in the pandemic.

 
Sophia Colello

Classics and Archaeology

Project: Imperial Substance: Ancient Numismatics and the Malleable Conditions of Sovereignty

Advisor: Jennifer Trimble

Sophia Colello is a senior double-majoring in archaeology and classics in the ancient history track. Centered on the Arsacid Kingdom of Armenia during periods of contested Roman and Parthian rule, her work interrogates how conditions of imperial sovereignty are shaped and negotiated by material culture in contested regions. Sophia’s archaeological research has ranged widely, from studying the provenience of cuneiform tablets in the Cantor Arts Center collections to co-authoring a forthcoming publication on methodologies for documenting aural heritage soundscapes and informing their conservation. Sophia has excavated at archaeological sites in Greece, Peru, and in the territory of Huichin, the ancestral and unceded land of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe which Stanford’s campus occupies. Beyond her research activities, Sophia is a student tour guide at Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center and Anderson Collection and serves as the Archaeology Center’s undergraduate peer advisor.  


What is the focus of your current research?

My work investigates how imperial sovereignty is reproduced in politically contested regions. Centering on the volatile region of ancient Armenia, I use disparate assemblages of imperial Parthian, Roman, and Armenian coins in order to understand how each competing polity established claims to legitimate sovereignty by mobilizing coins as a shared medium of their political and economic systems. I turn to new materialist archaeology to move beyond standard symbolic or metallurgical coinage analysis and towards a more holistic and contextual view of coins and their malleable roles in antiquity in both shaping and being shaped by tenuous imperial claims to sovereignty. 

 

What drew you to this topic?

I first found myself standing in awe at the base of the monumental temple at Garni as an 8-year-old. Despite visiting dozens of sites before then, something struck me when faced with the unexpected concurrence of an elaborate columned Hellenistic structure sitting alongside more traditional Armenian artifacts carved from red tufa stone and framed by mulberry trees. Coming to Stanford years later as an archaeology student, I returned to Garni and its sculptural program in my final paper for Professor Jennifer Trimble’s introductory Roman archaeology course to investigate questions of cultural transmission between the Mediterranean and Armenia in antiquity. Sculpted lions’ heads, acanthus leaves, and the granite which formed them provided a window into the myriad cultural, religious, and political interactions whose effects continue to echo through the mundane details of my diasporic Armenian life. My thesis pushes beyond my early interest in cultural transmission to embrace a post-humanist view that would account for both the temple’s carved lion acroteria and the ancient worshippers who passed below the lions’ snarling jaws.

 

How are you conducting your research?

My work requires that I look not only at the specific coins of interest to my topic, but also at the archaeological contexts in which coins were found. Religious, cultural, and political landscapes were inseparable from economic contexts in forming the entangled web of relationships in which coins acted on and reacted to the things and people they came in contact with. In analyzing varied aspects of coins, I work to draw out the many complex systems of interaction in which coins played an integral part and to which imperial authority was made dependent. 
 
Given limitations on travel and restricted institutional access necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and Armenia’s wartime precautions, I am unable to directly work with the myriad coins held in largely international museum collections. I have turned instead to a wealth of material available in online databases and digitized libraries. In addition to online publications, I have sought archaeological context for coin hoards using Google Maps walkthroughs of Iranian museums and cultural sites and through buying used copies of specialist archaeological site reports from eBay to fill the gaps in library collections. 
 
The framing for my theoretical approach to coins draws heavily from Lori Khatchadourian’s framework of the “satrapal conditions” of imperial sovereignty, detailed in her book Imperial Matter (UC Press, 2016). Her approach, derived from new materialist archaeology, seeks like many pieces in new materialism to reach a deeper understanding of things beyond the limiting dichotomy of either semiotic or material analysis. 

 

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?

It is astounding how potent such a little old disc of metal can be, and how much there is to learn from a coin even thousands of years after it was minted. Perhaps most surprising thus far is the extreme care and detail taken by all imperial mints in accurately depicting Parthian headwear, whose particular shape, adornment, and manner of wear were bound up in systems of dynastic inheritance, shifting political allegiances, sociopolitical stratification, and shared cultural literacy. In order to meet the richness that coinage can offer a student of antiquity, my work has ranged in wildly unexpected directions; some days I will find myself reading articles from neuroscience journals attributing the large nodules on Parthian kings’ foreheads to ancient cases of inherited neurofibromatosis, while other weeks will entail forays into Zoroastrian metaphysical conceptions of metals and their ontological indivisibility from right rule. Ancient coins pay dividends far beyond the economic transactions for which they were originally created.

 

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?

At its core, my work seeks a deeper understanding of political legitimacy, its many manifestations or re-productions, and the interactions by which political control might be established or undermined. Particularly over the past year, political legitimacy and its fragility have occupied center stage in conversations surrounding national unity and the U.S. presidential election. In the south Caucasus itself, Armenia and Azerbaijan have resumed violent conflict over the contested region of Artsakh/Nagorno Karabakh, palpably bearing witness to the pressing and destabilizing effects that sovereignty in flux can bring. From Joe Biden and Donald Trump to Nikol Pashinyan and Ilham Aliyev, human agents rather than the more ubiquitous material agents of modern political systems take center stage in our narratives of political events. My work looks directly at the silenced material substances and their web of interactions which both threaten and make possible the political sovereignty of human agents in power, contributing to fundamentally reorienting how we might perceive, define, and invoke the ‘right to rule.’

 

How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?

My thesis work has afforded me the opportunity to more directly investigate the intricate yet elusive realities of political life in Arsacid Armenia, a place often too remote and inaccessible for the coursework I have completed over my time at Stanford. In addition to expanding the geopolitical and cultural range of my engagement with antiquity, my honors thesis work has also provided the invaluable opportunity to grapple with theories of entanglement and new materialism, archaeological approaches which I plan to pursue in greater detail as a graduate student. More immediately, my honors thesis has been a refreshing and illuminating way for me to make sense of the many tumultuous events of this past year, and to think deeply about the interconnected networks by which we might respond to the challenges presented to us in the face of wide-ranging political change.

 

How do you anticipate the fellowship will be able to support your research?

The Hume Humanities Center fellowship is an invaluable opportunity for me to join a diverse community of scholars and intellectual peers with whom I can workshop research ideas and collaborate on areas of shared interest. Particularly as classes have moved online in response to the needs of the pandemic, I feel incredibly privileged to have the rare opportunity to not only meet peers from disciplines I may not have otherwise engaged with, but also to do so within a program tailored to bolstering all our intellectual and personal successes. Beyond strengthening my own writing and establishing a base of intellectual support, this fellowship is also a crucial opportunity for me to become more educated and involved in the rich and varied issues each fellow is addressing, and to contribute to cultivating an interdisciplinary environment in which to embrace and enrich our understanding of human experiences. From sharing stimulating conversations on theory to commiserating about the challenges of remote research, I look forward to the collaborative environment this fellowship will facilitate.

 
Ayelet Drazen

Political Science and Computer Science 

Project: Addiction, Agency, and Responsibility: Substance Use Disorders in the Criminal Justice System

Advisors: Keith Humphreys, Michael Bratman

Ayelet Drazen is a senior from Washington, D.C. majoring in political science and pursuing a master’s in computer science. She is pursuing her honors thesis through the Ethics in Society program. Her primary academic interests are Greek political thought, cyber warfare and modern weaponry, game theory, and philosophical issues related to public policy. Apart from her academic work, Drazen conducts research for the Stanford Cyber Policy Center and is a Section Leader in the Computer Science Department. In her free time, Drazen enjoys few things more than boxing on a Saturday morning, listening to a podcast about the Supreme Court, or working through the New York Times crossword. 


What is the focus of your current research?

Through my thesis, I am exploring the role of rational choice theories in directing the treatment of substance use disorders in the criminal justice system. Agent-based philosophies of action provide a framework through which one can predict the behavior of an individual with a substance use disorder. George Ainslie—an American psychologist and behavioral economist—models addictive behavior as the competition between successive motivational states within the individual. In my research, I examine Ainslie’s conception of addiction in order to better understand the ethics of assigning criminal responsibility to an addicted person in our justice system. That is, to what extent is an individual responsible for her criminal infractions given that she is suffering from a substance use-disorder, and how ought we to incorporate these normative distinctions into our criminal justice system? 

 

What drew you to this topic?

The inspiration for my topic came from a course I took during my junior year on the neuropsychology of addiction. The course introduced me to some of the challenges associated with developing effective public policy for the treatment of addiction. Namely, the behavioral characteristics of addiction—such as withdrawal, tolerance, and craving—make it especially difficult for an individual with a substance use disorder to stop consuming an addictive substance. These challenges suggest that traditional conceptions of agency and intentionality may be insufficient for understanding addictive behavior. This is especially evident in our criminal justice system where there is often no distinction between the treatment of criminal infractions related to addiction, versus those that are not. 

 

How are you conducting your research?

I am conducting my research using existing literature on philosophy of action and the public policy of addiction, as well as through the personal narratives of individuals with a substance use disorder. Once I have developed an understanding of the elements that are operative in addictive behavior, I will use personal accounts to fully develop my understanding of how we ought to treat substance use disorders in the criminal justice system. 

 

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?

Given our current understanding of addiction as a complex condition involving both neuropsychology and environmental factors, I think most people would be surprised to know how much this understanding of substance use disorders has evolved over the past few centuries. In Colonial America, heavy drinking was ubiquitous—with some estimating the normal consumption of alcohol averaging seven shots a day—but was not regarded as problematic. At the start of the 20th century, addiction began garnering attention as a worrying phenomenon that ought to be addressed with “narcotic farms” and racist rhetoric. In fact, up until 1962, a person could be imprisoned for having a substance use disorder. Though many of these misconceptions have been since renounced, some of their underlying reasoning continues to permeate our public institutions in unfortunate ways. 

 

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?

The central question of my thesis—how ought we to assign responsibility to individuals within our criminal justice system—has relevance far beyond the treatment of substance use disorders. Notions of agency and responsibility frame our understanding of how minors and those who are mentally-ill are—and should—be treated in a justice system that seeks to promote rehabilitation and restoration. A critical evaluation of the public policy of addiction is necessary to advance a better understanding of how we can promote the overarching goals of the American criminal justice system.  

 

How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?

My honors thesis is pushing me to examine the central tenets of our criminal justice system, and to develop an understanding of how such a system ought to be designed in order to promote democratic values. Questions of agency and responsibility are central to designing a system that confers dignity and respect upon its citizens. Delving into these questions will undoubtedly make me a better and more conscientious citizen.  

 

How do you anticipate the fellowship will be able to support your research?

I am extremely excited to be part of this cohort of humanities students. A diverse community of fellows will help me become a better thinker and student, and will allow me to produce a thesis that I am proud of. I am looking forward to working alongside fellows in my cohort in order to think critically and answer difficult questions about our respective topics.

 
Megan Faircloth

East Asian Studies 

Project: Precious Threads of Time: Tracing the Critical Consciousness of Korea’s Working Class through Literature

Advisor: Dafna Zur 

Megan Faircloth is a senior majoring in East Asian Studies with a focus on Korea. She is interested in issues regarding class, gender, and Korea's democratization period, and how all of these elements manifest in Korean literature. One aspect that rings particularly fascinating in her research thus far is the interaction between the individual and the institution—to what extent can individuals be said to possess agency, and what are the ways in which individuals interact with oppressive structures that reify their oppression or liberate them from it? Outside of her honors thesis work, Faircloth is also a research fellow at the Stanford Center for Poverty and Inequality and a writer for the Stanford Daily's Music beat. 


What is the focus of your current research? 

My research is centered around South Korea’s Minjung movement—a time of upheaval and redefinition on both a political and societal level—in which Korean society fiercely grappled with the issues raised by military dictatorship, corporate conglomerates, and exploitative foreign powers. I’m interested in how this movement sparked discourse on labor relations and the ways in which emerging “class consciousness” can be seen in literature. I believe fictional narratives have a way of conveying existential and deeply psychological perspectives that sociopolitical or structural analyses often shadow. Through this keenly personal gaze, I’m trying to uncover the implicit relationship between the individual and the oppressive system(s) in which they reside, and trace how these findings affect class consciousness in Korea today. 

 

What drew you to this topic? 

As a sophomore doing research for a class, I stumbled upon a news article about a Korean coal plant worker who had died as a result of safety standard violations at his job. The violations were in the name of saving money for the company, and the article contextualized the demonstrations I’d seen on the street during my first trip to Korea. Coming from a working-class family myself, I’ve always been interested in labor relations and class issues, and the ways in which communities resist such oppression. As something very close to my heart, I’m happy that these elements came together in the topic of my thesis. 

 

How are you conducting your research? 

My research is adapting the theoretical frameworks provided by agency theory, Marxism, and historical philosophy. On the literature side, I’m looking at both contemporary works and those written during the Minjung period. So far, my research has spanned from reading lots of books to listening to Paul Fry’s lectures to watching videos of worker’s hymns and analyzing the lyrics. Overall, my goal so far has been to gain a better understanding of the existing theoretical landscape in which I’m working and to deeply understand specifics of the time period and people I’m studying. 

 

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on? 

My perception of the relationship between art and reality has changed so much as a result of the research I’ve done so far. If you wanted to learn about a time period, where would you go for the most accurate information--a movie about the time period, or a textbook written about it? While a humanities professor may provide a different answer, most people would probably say a textbook without hesitation. However, this subject matter calls one to question the preconceptions we have regarding the standardization and institutionalization of knowledge. Rather than thinking about information in terms of accuracy/inaccuracy, validity/invalidity, my advisor has challenged me to think about reality in a more multifaceted way. Instead of thinking about our world as some fixed matter that can be seen coherently, a better question is: what reality is this medium illuminating that another cannot? 

 

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic? 

We live in a very precarious world where, more and more, people are trying to understand our relationship to oppression and the systems around us. The pandemic in particular has brought to light implicit perceptions of expendable and non-expendable laborers, though this example merely scratches the surface. Though the Minjung movement is over in Korea, labor rights violations and labor movements persist. Though my research is honed-in on a specific context, this is also something that is happening across the globe. I believe the period in which we’re living has highlighted more than ever the immediate importance of studying our relationships to labor, systems, and oppression. 

 

How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?

Academically, I’ve been finding all sorts of connections between the material I’m studying and the material I’m learning in my classes. It’s fascinating how wide this topic reaches! On a personal level, I’ve found that the way I see the world has changed a lot in this process. I’ve become far more discerning about the ways in which our society is constructed, and I find myself questioning things that I may have previously taken for granted. 

 

How do you anticipate the fellowship will be able to support your research? 

I find that I work far better with others than I do alone, and I’m so happy to have a community of incredibly bright and passionate people to work with as I continue on this journey. Humanities research can sometimes seem isolating, and I’m delighted to have other undergrads to bounce ideas off of and to help with revising and accountability, especially during the pandemic. I’m also just really excited to learn more about the other fellows’ projects, watch their work unfold, and help them in any capacity that I can.

Kory Gaines

African and African American Studies, Political Science

Project: The Private Li(v)es and Public Truths of Shirley Graham

Advisors: Allyson Hobbs, Lauren Davenport, Alison McQueen

Kory Gaines is a senior, majoring in African and African American Studies and Political Science. In those majors, they focus on Black art and cultural expression and political philosophy respectively. They are from Washington, D.C. and Prince George's County, MD. They are interested in the arts for the arts' own sake and for the interplay between arts and politics. They enjoy running, bingewatching shows on Netflix, reading, writing poems, listening to music, and dancing for fun.


What is the focus of your current research? 

I am currently interested in Shirley Graham as a political thinker.  I am exploring the role of truth-telling and deception in Graham’s literary work. In her personal life, Graham had a complicated relationship to the truth. She lied about aspects of her personal life (e.g. her age, the number of children she had, her marital status). Her own brother called her a “skillful liar.” At the same time, public truth-telling was core to her political projects and her literary works. I argue that Graham used deception and truth strategically to navigate the conditions of white supremacy and patriarchy.

 

What drew you to this topic? 

I see this thesis topic as the eventual conclusion of my studies in Black Studies and political philosophy. I came across Shirley Graham as part of research for a final paper in a class I took with Professor Clayborne Carson. I was surprised to find that I did not know anything about Graham despite her illustrious life. Upon my initial research for my application to write a thesis, I knew it would be an honor and privilege to retrieve, get to know, and think with Graham.

 

How are you conducting your research? 

I am using archival methods to study Graham, her life, and politics. I have been reading everything from her writings in the press, correspondence, and more from the papers of Shirley Graham Du Bois. I am also using literary analysis of her plays to extract her political thought from her literature. Lastly, I am using secondary literature both for Graham and my own theoretical framework.

 

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on? 

Shirley Graham Du Bois also found herself in civil servant roles to serve Black artists and Black soldiers in Roosevelt’s Works and Project Administration and the USO, respectively. Later in her life, Graham also had bureaucratic roles in Kwame Nkrumah’s government in Ghana. Even later, Graham lives in Beijing and is a committed Maoist.

 

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic? 

Shirley Graham is terribly interesting as a political and historical actor. I believe she had a lot to offer to her contemporaries in her time and for us in our precarious political moment today. She was committed to creating more freedom in the world for masses of people through lots of different means: theatre, biography, organizing, government service. Graham challenges us to ask ourselves what are our own individual instruments for bringing about more justice.

 

How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?

I see immense growth within myself as a young scholar because of my thesis project. I am still so early into the process of making "The Private Li(v)es and Public Truths of Shirley Graham," but it has come a long way since the initial thought bubble. I know that I am training to do substantive academic work as I am building out what will hopefully be a really successful thesis. I am excited about the project's progress thus far. I have been increasingly more patient and compassionate with myself in trying to create original knowledge, and I am proud of that personal growth.

 

How do you anticipate the fellowship will be able to support your research? 

With the Hume Fellowship, I have another intellectual community to co-think and co-create knowledge with. I like to embrace the idea that research and writing are not isolating, but instead collaborative. We always gain and create knowledge in community, and we will do so as Hume Fellows I hope.

Paloma Moreno Jiménez

Urban Studies

Project: The Effects of Testimonio on Migrant Mothers: A Closer Look at Desahogamiento

Advisors: Sharika Thiranagama, Ramón Martínez

When I was nine, my family and I immigrated to the United States in pursuit of a better education and the certainty of safety. My current neighborhood of Chula Vista is located ten minutes from the border, where the majority of residents are first-generation U.S. citizens and immigrants, and also the place with the second best tacos (first comes my hometown of Tijuana, crossing the border). I grew up witnessing the fear instilled by border patrol in my people. At the same time, I also felt a sense of comfort being surrounded by folks who had similar backgrounds to me in regards to my economic and legal status. Today, my research, advocacy, and personal interests continue to be guided by my lived experiences as a first-generation, low-income student and a queer immigrant woman of color.


What is the focus of your current research?

My research project expands on the current literature of testimonio by exploring its therapeutic process and its potential relationship to desahagomiento, with a focus on the intersectionality of migration and motherhood. Lindsay Pérez Huber best describes testimonio as, "a verbal journey of a witness who speaks to reveal the racial, classed, gendered, and [xenophobic] injustices they have suffered as a means of healing, empowerment, and advocacy," (2009, pg. 643). “Desahogamiento” is a cultural term in Spanish used to verbally express an alleviation of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. 

 

What drew you to this topic?

After immigrating to the United States, I witnessed the fear, depression, and stress that our legal status along with the terrorization from border patrol brought to my family. My mother, as a low-income immigrant woman of color, carried the weight in regards to our family’s safety, finances, and immigration process. Throughout my teenage years, it was not uncommon for me and my mother's conversations to develop into emotionally heavy discussions, or what I now know now as “testimoniando”, in which she would also utilize the term "desahogarse" (we did not have access to mental health resources due to our legal and economic status). Today, these conversations and my relationship with my mother have greatly impacted my research.

 

How are you conducting your research?

I was able to travel to Lima, Peru the summer after my sophomore year to conduct testimonio sessions with a group of Venezuelan refugee mothers. Additionally, this summer, I utilized a library-based research methodology to locate 30-40 secondary sources. After compiling a large secondary data set, I have proceeded to use a theoretical and thematic analysis to conduct a comparative investigation between the literature and primary data from Peru to form a discussion on the healing process of testimonio, its impact and role in Latiné migrant mothers, and its relationship to desahogamiento.

 

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?

I believe that my topic is highly relatable to immigrant mothers and women of color who have been recipients of the intergenerational trauma experienced by the women in their family. In this case, I think it is surprising to see how common the issue I am exploring is globally.

 

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?

I want my work to be a transformative resource for Latiné mothers who lack access to mental and holistic health resources. My goal is to demonstrate the powerful effects of testimonio as a resource for holistic health, and to develop a curriculum for mental health specialists that is culturally informed and empowers immigrant womxn, particularly mothers, who only have their desahogamientos to find temporary comfort. 

 

How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?

Through my honors thesis, I have been able to explore the histories of the women in my family through a different lens. Using the method of testimonio has taught me the importance of listening and compassion, as well as the rich knowledge and theory that comes from our lived experiences. Academically, it has allowed me to explore how I do research, and pushed me to think critically about my positionally and the effects of my research on the population I am focusing on.

 

How do you anticipate the fellowship will be able to support your research?

The Hume Fellowship will provide me with a space to engage in mutual-growth and intellectual exploration alongside a group of peers who are also going through the honors thesis writing experience. Moreover, this opportunity will expand my writing skills, my knowledge of resources accessible to honors students, and, in trying times, a feeling of motivation cultivated by the community of undergraduate fellows and the staff at the Humanities Center. Lastly, as a first-generation and low-income student, the fellowship's stipend would support me in purchasing research materials, such as a personal desk and chair where I can work and write from my own living space.

 
Eunice Jung

Anthropology and International Relations, Minor in Education

Project: Undesirable Girls: The Politics of Desire, Love, Self-Making in Dropping Out of School to Work

Advisor: Christine Min Wotipka

Eunice Jung is a senior studying Anthropology, International Relations, Education and a coterm in Sustainable Science and Practice. Although originally from Oakland, California she has grown up in two other places she calls home: Guadalajara, Mexico and Seoul, Korea. She is interested in corporate social responsibility, especially addressing issues of sustainability and human dignity for corporate investments into communities, especially those in the developing world. 


What is the focus of your current research?

My thesis explores the way girl subjects are defined and crafted by large international pushes for investments into girls’ education in the Global South. While there are many efforts to invest into girls’ education, there are still persistent gaps in achievement, opportunities, as well as girls out of school. I hope to challenge what neoliberal forms of girls’ empowerment look like through the lens of agentic pleasure, self-making, and desire. 

 

What drew you to this topic?

Throughout my time at Stanford, I have taken a lot of classes on the developing world that create a certain image for the "girl in poverty." During the Spring Quarter of my junior year, I took a class with my current thesis advisor on different theories, policies, and approaches in girls’ education and learned that there are much more efforts and (un)learning that is required to support and empower girls out of poverty.

 

How are you conducting your research?

My thesis is very interdisciplinary and uses many different methods to provide a theoretical framework on conceptualizing the Third World Girl as a subject. Drawing from ethnographies, policy documents, and critical theory, I hope to write a thesis that proposes a new way of thinking about gender, poverty, and empowerment.

 

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?

I think people would be surprised to learn that there are many different explanations for why girls drop out of school! Such a decision requires a lot of calculus and is not made lightly; therefore, it is important to center the girls’ point of view and their decisions when looking at girls’ education policies. 

 

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?

Since the Girl Effect, the marketing campaign to invest in girls’ education as an economically sound solution, recently took off in the past decade, there will be many more corporations and venture capitalists that will dedicate large sums of money into girls’ education. Thinking about how such investments could be the most effective, community-based solutions is critical to the development of corporate social responsibility and international development. 

 

How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?

I am super proud of myself for choosing to write a thesis on something that I am interested in not as an academic subject, but also as part of a long term career in international development and corporate investments into the developing world.

 

How do you anticipate the fellowship will be able to support your research?

I have found it extremely valuable to be able to talk to friends of a variety of backgrounds and studies about my thesis, constantly putting my thesis in conversation with different perspectives and lenses. I hope to be able to push my thesis, and others’ theses, through conversations enabled by this fellowship! 

 
Angel Marie

African and African American Studies Major/Creative Writing

Project: (Dis)Order of Race: Historical Limitations and Fictional Imaginaries

Advisor: Aileen Robinson

Angel, aka Ace, the storyteller is an African and African American Studies major from Chicago. Their performances challenge racial hierarchies towards liberative justice and practices the elevation of our collective consciousness through spiritual healing and enlightenment. Previous projects include poetry, independent filmmaking, playwriting, and music production. Ace is a national award winning poet and co-founder of Esoteric Creations, a creative production company.


What is the focus of your current research?

Race as an instrument of domination plays into the very fabric of Black Americans' livelihood, with emotional and physical consequences. My research begins at the doorstep of Black death, the presumed spectacle of a life marked by social inferiority, economic inequality, and political disenfranchisement. If Black Americanness is phenomenologically enforcing links between “the womb and the tomb,” can speculative fiction create alternative space/times for the possibility of black life by (re)imagining Blackness through queer feminist narration?

 

What drew you to this topic?

All of my life I have felt misunderstood and out of place with my surroundings. For so long, I thought I was the problem. However, the last four years of research in AAAS have shown me how ingrained anti-blackness is in American institutions. The exploitation of black bodies, culture, and labor demand that I believe in the inferiority projected upon me. The liberation of Black Americans from Afropessimistic futures is important to my survival and the soul of our country. 

 

How are you conducting your research?

I take a phenomenological approach to Afropessimism in order to explore the impacts of racial hierarchy on Black Consciousness. The creating writing portion of my thesis is inspired by Black Feminist Tradition, as such I am studying the work of Toni Morrision, Alice Walker, and Octavia Butler.  The writing portion emerges out of meditative work to explore the affect of social death and how the experience of blackness impacts my own sense of self. 

 

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?

My research requires audiences to practice radical honesty about the violence fueling, the so-called, “American Dream.” I think people would be surprised to learn how deep rooted anti-blackness is even in modern society. As the world continues to change, we must address how and when race emerges or else new systems will only transform anti-black violence rather than eradicate it. Due to how deeply rooted anti-blackness is in the definition of what it means to be human, I don’t believe our liberation lies in America. I don’t believe it exists anywhere. I believe Black people have to create worlds of our own. 

 

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?

No one ever saw value in me until I got to Stanford. The success I achieved aligned with the conception of prosperity the world had already agreed upon. Who determines these value systems? Without confronting how a society comes to understand itself, there would be no differentiation between what systems are natural and what systems are by design. “It’s just how it is.” But when the “it” is a country enabling the social and physical death of Black Americans, we have to be held responsible for Black Liberation. I want to offer Black Americans a means of giving value to their own lives. I want Black Americans to know they are valuable because they exist not because they’ve achieved a metric of worth determined by white supremacy.  

 

How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?

My honors thesis challenges my perception of Stanford, America, and my own identity as a Black person. Every day I research violent histories that impact how I move in the present. These traumas require that I also practice regular self care and breathing exercises to remain capable of bearing the weight of my research. It is a weight I must bear to create a free world.

 

How do you anticipate the fellowship will be able to support your research?

The community of writers and faculty in this fellowship remind me how many other people are committed to creating a new world. I anticipate this fellowship will serve as a grounding force to think critically about difficult topics. While I am excited about my research conceptually, I am also excited to develop my writing skills in this fellowship. I look forward to bringing my creative and theoretical knowledge into a dynamic partnership with this thesis.

 
Emilia Porubcin

History, Minor in Computer Science

Project: Inequality in a Socialist Utopia

Advisors: Amir Weiner, Nancy Kollman

Emilia Porubcin is a senior from western Illinois majoring in history, with a focus on Russia and Eastern Europe, and minoring in computer science. She has long been fascinated by personal experiences of the political, and her exposure to subjectivity theory through Stephen Kotkin, Jochen Hellbeck, and other Soviet scholarship sparked her interest in her current thesis research. Her thesis explores a combination of literature, egodocuments, and Stalin-era party documents to construct an understanding of Stalinist-era subjectivity.
 
On campus, Porubcin's interests largely center on technology and human rights, and she hopes to eventually pursue a career at their intersection. Her work with privacy and the rights to free speech and expression closely informs her thesis research, and she is excited to continue exploring how historical and contemporary frameworks of thought compare.  She is eager to join her fellowship cohort in all manners of personal and intellectual community, and looks forward to sharing her excitement about marginalia and interesting footnotes with her peers.
Will Shao

Classics, Minor in International Relations and Modern Languages

Project: When Worlds Collide: Prophecy in Greek Tragedy

Advisor: Marsh McCall

Will Shao is a senior from New York majoring in Classics and minoring in International Relations and Modern Languages. One of the most fascinating topics for him within the context of the ancient world is the classical reception of Greek tragedy, a subject that concerns both modern adaptations of these texts and the enduring significance of their values and ideas. His thesis seeks to build upon the latter through exploring the role of prophecy and prophets in Greek tragedy as a means of understanding the importance and challenges around information interpretation and influence. Apart from his thesis work, Shao is the Editor-in-Chief of the Stanford Classics Journal Aisthesis this year, as well as a Peer Advisor for the Classics Department. Furthermore, his passion for technology policy has led him to become both a research assistant at the Cyber Policy Center and the co-founder of The GovTech Network. In his free time, Will pursues his love for music, surfing, and sailing.


What is the focus of your current research?

The prophet was a crucial figure in ancient Greek society, not merely as a religious authority, but also more generally as a source of information. Within the extant tragic corpus, we find various examples in which characters react contrary to information provided by their respective prophets. However, as opposed to merely generating dramatic effect, a closer analysis of these tensions may in fact raise broader fundamental concerns about the human condition. My honors thesis will therefore further explore these concerns through analyzing the role of prophecy and prophetic figures in three Euripidean plays: Helen, Ion, and Bacchae. My primary goal is to understand their implications on humanity’s perception of information disparity and misinformation in both the 5th century BCE and the Information Age today.

 

What drew you to this topic?

Ever since I first studied Sophocles’ Antigone in high school, I have been fascinated by the enduring value of classical texts and ideas in the modern day, believing that, in spite of the political, technological, and cultural advancements that the world has witnessed, our fundamental human nature and its dilemmas have not changed since ancient times. What drew me specifically to this particular topic were the challenges I observed and researched around misinformation and disinformation in the digital age, particularly following their exacerbation amidst the coronavirus pandemic. I subsequently came to believe that the fundamental nature of prophecy as a disparity of information may have significant correlations to the challenges of misinformation in the 21st century.

 

How are you conducting your research?

As a textually based thesis, the majority of my research focuses on an in-depth literary analysis of the role of prophets in the three aforementioned Euripidean tragedies, studying both the original texts and the secondary scholarly literature around the subject. However, in order to understand their significance in the contemporary 5th century BCE setting, I will additionally conduct a similar study of the concept of prophecy in other ancient Greek texts. The final component of this thesis shifts its analytical focus towards the 21st century and highlights the potential correlation between ancient prophecy and modern misinformation. Thankfully, due to the current pertinence of this topic, there are a variety of articles available online through JSTOR and other databases. 

 

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?

For many, the words "Greek tragedy" could immediately and understandably evoke gruesome images of murder and violence. However, what people may find surprising is that there are moments of humor and joy scattered throughout the extant tragic corpus, as is most certainly the case in the context of this particular subject of ancient prophecy. 

 

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?

I believe that the value of this thesis may stem from its fundamental spirit of classical reception. Firstly, our recent societal transition into the Information Age has meant that now more than ever, the clarification of information is critical to maintain the integrity of society. The lessons concerning human agency and the human condition from prophecy in tragedy, while far removed temporally, may therefore provide us with a fresh way to understand and approach these modern issues. And secondly, the conclusions from this analysis will hopefully provide us with a new angle to answer the fundamental question all Classicists seemingly find themselves asking at some point in their career: why Classics?

 

How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?

From an academic perspective, this thesis has granted me the opportunity to not only pursue my passion for Greek tragedy, but also to delve deeper into the intricacies of classical reception, a topic that I hope to explore further in my graduate studies. In addition, although my passion for Classics has never wavered throughout my undergraduate studies, I have occasionally felt the technologically centric environment of Stanford and its community challenging my perception of the modern applicability of a Classics degree. This honors thesis, in its connection between the ancient and modern worlds, therefore represents a step in my personal journey to discover the influential role that the Classics may play in our world today.  

 

How do you anticipate the fellowship will be able to support your research?

I am incredibly excited to be a part of this amazing cohort of humanities scholars for the rest of the academic year. Especially during this time of the pandemic, I believe that the diverse community of fellows will not only be a dynamic space to discuss our theses, but also will be a great source of inspiration as I continue to research and write about my own topic. The reason I decided to come to Stanford in the first place was to step out of my comfort zone and engage with people from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, and I cannot wait to experience that with this group.

 
Julianna Yonis

Science, Technology and Society, and Theater and Performance Studies

Project: Performative Algorithms: Content Recommendation and the Lost Autonomy of the User

Advisor: Paul Edwards

Julianna Yonis is a senior pursuing a dual degree in Science, Technology and Society, and Theater and Performance Studies. She is interested in how technology shapes storytelling—and by extension who we are. Her thesis explores this theme by analyzing the new algorithmic model of film distribution and consumption. Yonis is passionate about combining theory and practice, and her work beyond academia focuses on writing, producing, and performing. She is currently the Artistic Director of Stanford Theater Lab and on the board of Stanford Students in Entertainment.


What is the focus of your current research?

My honors thesis investigates the impact of content recommendation algorithmic systems on the cultural autonomy of the user. Tracing the history of the Netflix recommendation algorithmic system from its transparent origins to present-day black box, my thesis argues that the proliferation of user data gives the algorithms unprecedented power over user identity—both on and offline. My main research questions are: How do content recommendation algorithms on streaming service platforms perform the identity of the viewer? How does identity categorization by the algorithmic system redefine demographic categories like race, gender, and sexuality? How has the Netflix algorithmic system’s categorization of the viewer changed over time, moving from an empowered to a nonautonomous user? 

 

What drew you to this topic?

I not only consume movies constantly, but also want to work in entertainment post-graduation. I knew I wanted to write about film—not an individual artist or genre, but rather the ecosystem of the film industry. Over the past decade, I noticed my personal relationship to film and television consumption changing as streaming services rose to dominate the market. Film afficionados tend to have two attitudes about streaming: this will be the death of the cinema or it will democratize everything. I am interested in having a more nuanced conversation about how streaming services were built, how they wield their power, and how algorithmic systems have come to define us.

 

How are you conducting your research?

The wonderful thing about writing a history of recent technology is that so much information is available online. I began with four major sources: the Netflix Prize Forum, the Netflix Tech Blog, public remarks by Netflix developers, and Netflix patent applications. What I consider to be my archive has since expanded, and I am currently reading op-eds that were published when key changes to Netflix were implemented, which reflect the cultural reaction at the time. On the theory side, I read performance theory and work by scholars of algorithmic culture. Cheney-Lippold’s We Are Data is especially fascinating to me. My advisor and I just had a great discussion on Althusser, interpellation, and how algorithmic systems hail us. My current thesis work involves writing and revising, making big, messy outlines, and trying to find the connective threads between my chapters. 

 

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?

When people watch Netflix, I don’t think they realize that every aspect of their behavior becomes data. An action as small as pressing pause is given meaning by the algorithmic system. It is easy to take the algorithmic system for granted, to assume its recommendations are good ones, and to watch whatever is put in front of us. Yet the more aware we can be of how technology functions, the more in control we are of what we watch, what data we provide, and what kinds of stories we prioritize as a culture.

 

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?

Scholars currently focus on algorithmic culture as “corroborating” or “quantifying” identity in new ways, but they do not discuss the interpellation of the disempowered user. Users rarely interrogate how their data are being collected and used. Such complacency leads to imbalances of power wherein the human is subordinated to the algorithm. It is important for the public to understand the active power of data in order to recuperate autonomy both on personal and governmental levels. My project goes beyond existing criticisms of data complacency to draw attention to the ways in which algorithms are affecting who we are and what we consume.

 

How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?

This project not only gives me a better understanding of how algorithms function, but also serves as an in-depth lesson on the inner workings of the film industry. I realized (and argue in my thesis) that streaming services conflate consumption and satisfaction. I want to make films that focus more on the satisfaction aspect; not necessarily meaning that people like the films I make, but that my work positively contributes to people’s lives and a larger cultural conversation around equity and justice. My thesis leads me to be more conscious of what I consume and what stories I tell.

 

How do you anticipate the fellowship will be able to support your research?

I am thrilled to be in a cohort of brilliant people working in the humanities. My thesis is about technology, but I believe the humanities have the best tools for making sense of human experiences, even those that occur in a digital sphere. With the Stanford community scattered across the globe, I am grateful to have a community with which to share ideas, find inspiration, and provide encouragement. I always say that the best thing about Stanford is the people, and I am excited by the prospect of a yearlong research journey with a group of other passionate students.

AnQi Yu

Film & Media Studies; Minor in Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity

Project: The Cinema of Kelly Reichardt

Advisor: Karla Oeler

AnQi Yu grew up on Ute Land, in a region also known as western Colorado. She is interested in representations of race and nationality in cinema. At Stanford, she has worked on numerous productions with the Stanford Asian American Theater Project, is co-leading an Alternative Spring Break trip on Asian American Issues, and serves as an Undergraduate Council Member for the Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity program. 


What is the focus of your current research?

My thesis explores the work of the contemporary filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, who is known for making minimalist, realist films about the American West. Specifically, I’m interested in writing on three films that come later in her career, including Meek’s Cutoff (2010), Certain Women (2016), and First Cow (2019). I suggest that these three films illustrate an alternative mythology of the American West that is critical of the depiction of white settler conquest and Manifest Destiny in conventional genre Westerns. 

 

What drew you to this topic?

I grew up in a semi-rural, conservative, and predominantly white community in Colorado. As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, I’ve spent my entire life trying to understand my relationship to my hometown. When I watched my first Kelly Reichardt film in my sophomore year at Stanford, I was stunned to encounter a vision of a world that I was intimately familiar with but never thought would see realized on screen. Over the past couple of years, I’ve slowly made my way through the rest of Reichardt’s oeuvre (and also coincidentally got to meet her at a film festival where she was premiering First Cow). When it came time to choose a topic for my thesis, writing on Reichardt felt like the perfect culmination of my personal interests and the experiences I’ve had during my time at Stanford. 

 

How are you conducting your research?

One reason I love studying film is because research often entails close viewing—watching a movie over and over again, pausing during important moments, and being attentive to the various elements that make up a single shot (lighting, camera angle, sound, etc.). In addition to working through Kelly Reichardt’s films in this way, I’ve been reading the writings of Marxist and postcolonial studies scholars like Raymond Williams and Edward Said. I’ve found that the discipline of postcolonial studies especially, with its analysis of colonialism, indigeneity, the subaltern, etc., has been helpful in understanding the political landscape that Reichardt depicts in her portrayals of the American West.

 

What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?

While Reichardt’s work is beloved by critics and casual cinephiles alike, there are still a large number of viewers who dismiss her films for being too slow, plotless, and intellectual. I think these responses arise from the way we’re often socialized to prioritize certain cinematic pleasures (e.g., fast-paced action) over others. I love all kinds of movies, but my hope is that my thesis will also illuminate the aesthetic worth and political valence of slow, minimalist, arthouse films like Kelly Reichardt’s.

 

In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?

In an era of globalization and late-stage capitalism, it can seem like people no longer have attachments to particular places in the world, and that different places are becoming increasingly culturally homogenous. But there is power and political potential in the uniqueness of places and the communities that can coalesce around them. For me, Kelly Reichardt is an artist whose work is deeply invested in illustrating this relationship between people and place. As a result, her films have the ability to contribute distinctive insights about the sociopolitical forces that have shaped the United States in the 21st century. Interestingly, studying Reichardt feels even more salient during COVID-19, during a time when place has taken on new relevance as we mourn our ability to gather with others.

 

How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?

Working on my honors thesis has strengthened my love for both my hometown and the discipline of film studies. I’m not sure yet what the future holds for me career-wise, but I would love to continue exploring these questions of identity, colonialism, place, etc. through the lens of film and art.

 

How do you anticipate the fellowship will be able to support your research?

As someone who is writing a thesis that is interdisciplinary in nature (combining the methodologies of film studies, ethnic studies, and anthropology), I’m looking forward to being in the company of thinkers with such diverse academic backgrounds. And after meeting everyone in the cohort, I’m also just generally excited about getting to know people who are so interesting and brilliant!