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Current Center Fellows

Ana Mariella Bacigalupo

Marta Sutton Weeks Faculty Fellow

Department of Anthropology, SUNY-Buffalo

The Subversive Politics of Sentient Places: Climate Change, Collective Ethics, and Environmental Justice in Peru

Ana Mariella Bacigalupo (PhD, UCLA) is a cultural anthropologist of Latin America and professor at the State University of New York-Buffalo. Originally from Peru, her research focuses on Mapuche shamans from southern Chile and shamans on the North coast of Peru, their communities, and their critics. Her recent books include Thunder Shaman: Making History with Mapuche Spirits in Patagonia (University of Texas Press, 2016) and Shamans of the Foye Tree: Gender, Power and Healing Among the Chilean Mapuche (University of Texas Press, 2007). Bacigalupo’s work has been funded by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Max Planck Institute, the Radcliffe Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation, the School of Advanced Research, the National Humanities Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Foundation, The Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American Association of University Women, and the Divinity school and the Center for World Religions at Harvard University. 

Project Summary:

Dr. Bacigalupo is writing a book titled The Subversive Politics of Sentient Places: Climate Change, Collective Ethics, and Environmental Justice in Northern Peru. The books is about how poor mestizos in northern Peru respond to climate change and environmental devastation and challenge the governance of late liberalism by engaging indigenous sentient landscapes as leaders of environmental movements and co-creators of an interethnic world. They attach transformative moral agency to the natural world and open up a new kind of political debate. By defining “community” and “well-being” as humans-in relationship-to-places-as-persons, poor mestizos resignify “nature” itself as an anchor for social justice. Dr Bacigalupo shows how poor mestizos in Northern Peru offer new theories of posthumanism and sentient landscapes in terms of environmental justice, collective ethics, and health. Their models transcend the limits of ontological cosmopolitics and political ecology. 

Keith Baker

Violet Andrews Whittier Faculty Fellow

Department of History, Stanford University

Jean-Paul Marat: Prophet of Terror

Keith Baker is professor of early modern European history and, by courtesy, of French and Italian, J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor in the Humanities, and Jean-Paul Gimon Director of the France-Stanford Center. His research focuses on intellectual history and the history of political culture, and on the cultural and political origins of the Englightenment and the French Revolution. He is the author of Condorcet. From Natural Philosophy to Social Mathematics and Inventing the French Revolution. Prof. Baker has held a Guggenheim Fellowship, has been named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, and is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Philosophical Society. In 2014, he won the American Historical Association's lifetime achievement award.

Project Summary:

Keith Baker is currently working on an intellectual biography of the French Revolution’s prophet of terror, Jean-Paul Marat.

Rhae Lynn Barnes

Digital Humanities Faculty Fellow

Department of History, Princeton University

Darkology: When the American Dream Wore Blackface

Rhae Lynn Barnes is an assistant professor of history at Princeton University. Barnes is president of the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography, co-founder of US History Scene, and executive advisor with Henry Louis Gates Jr. to the PBS series Reconstruction: America After the Civil War.

Project Summary:

Darkology: When the American Dream Wore Blackface uncovers the pervasive world of amateur blackface minstrel shows in the United States between the American Civil War and Civil Rights Movement. Darkology reveals the cultural origins and consequences of amateur blackface minstrelsy, maps its political geography, and recaptures its print culture, which remains unstudied. 

Munia Bhaumik

External Faculty Fellow

Department of Comparative Literature, Emory University

Tales of Translation: Lyric Routes Between South Asian and Latin American Avant-Gardes

Munia Bhaumik (PhD, UC Berkeley) is a scholar of comparative literature, law, and philosophy. The corpus of her writings and first monograph, In Liberty’s Shadow: The Noncitizen in American Letters and Law, is most animated by the ethics of accounting for the specific quandary of racialized subjects denied rights. Highlighting the importance of literary form to studies of restrictive politics and law, her research has been recognized by numerous national and international awards for offering re-conceptualizations of democracy and citizenship rights. 

Project Summary:

Tales of Translation is Professor Bhaumik's second book, uncovering a crucial but rarely considered poetic network circulating, not from metropole to colony, but between the Global South/Sur. While continuing to interface political and aesthetic themes, she turns in this book to interpret poetry in transit between Urdu, Bengali, Anglophone, and Spanish languages as a body of political theory at the margins of European modernity. Through archival research and original readings, the project aims to offer a new model of “comparative philology” important for linking theses about decolonization and democracy to avant-garde poetry.

Frederic Clark

External Faculty Fellow

Department of Classics, University of Southern California

Dividing Time: Ancients, Moderns, and the Invention of Historical Periods in Early Modern Europe

Frederic Clark is assistant professor of classics at University of Southern California, and is a cultural and intellectual historian who specializes in the afterlife of classical antiquity in medieval and early modern Europe. He is the author of The First Pagan Historian: The Fortunes of a Fraud from Antiquity to the Enlightenment (Oxford University Press, 2020). 

Project Summary:

Dividing Time offers one of the first comprehensive accounts of the origins of our notion of the historical period. From the 14th-century humanist Petrarch to the 18th-century historian Edward Gibbon, it recounts the rise of our now standard three-part scheme for separating time into ancient, medieval, and modern phases, through case studies in everything from bibliographical scholarship and historical chronology to classical philology and ecclesiastical history. The prehistory of this deceptively simple scheme was anything but simple; rather, it caused endless theoretical and ideological debates—just as it does today. Dividing Time reconstructs the neglected roots of a problem that remains central to the 21st-century humanities.

Ksenia Ershova

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Linguistics, Stanford University

Participant Encoding in West Circassian

Ksenia Ershova received her PhD in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago and completed her undergraduate studies at the Russian State University for the Humanities. Ksenia is interested in the structural nature of language, with a particular focus on the syntactic and morphological constraints observed in languages with complex morphology. Her research focuses primarily on indigenous languages of the Russian Caucasus and is based on data collected through fieldwork in the region. Ksenia’s work has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies.

Project Summary:

Ksenia’s current project focuses on the syntax of participant encoding in West Circassian, a language spoken in the Republic of Adygea, Russia. The goal of the work is to both provide a comprehensive account of the syntactic structure of West Circassian, and to inform our understanding of cross-linguistic variation in the domain of argument encoding.

Denise Gill

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of Music, Stanford University

Aurality and the Craft of Deathwork

Denise Gill is an ethnomusicologist and sound studies scholar specializing in silence, sonic, and musical practices of western Turkey and former Ottoman territories. She is the author of Melancholic Modalities: Affect, Islam, and Turkish Classical Musicians (Oxford University Press, 2017), which received the Ruth Stone Book Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology. Professor Gill is a kanun musician of Ottoman art and Mevlevi music traditions and has performed on radio and television programs and in concert halls in Turkey, throughout North America, and in multiple cities in Europe.

Project Summary:

Denise Gill’s current book project, Aurality and the Craft of Deathwork, explores women’s labors in Gasılhane of Istanbul, Turkey—institutions in which local Muslim rituals for washing, reciting to, and shrouding the deceased are sponsored and monitored by the state. A trained gassâle (“corpse-washer”) herself, Gill’s ethnography ruminates on questions of sound, tactility, listening, and the perceived sense experiences of the literal posthuman.

Usha Iyer

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of Art & Art History (Film & Media Studies), Stanford University

Indian Cinema and the Caribbean: Rhythmic Flows and Cultural Migrations Between South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean

Usha Iyer, assistant professor of film and media studies, is the author of Dancing Women: Choreographing Corporeal Histories of Hindi Cinema (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2020), which examines constructions of gender, stardom, sexuality, and spectacle in Hindi cinema through women’s labor, collaborative networks, and gestural genealogies, producing a corporeal history of South Asian cultural modernities. 

Project Summary:

This book project studies the deep affective engagement of Caribbean spectators with Indian cinema in relation to discourses of belonging and citizenship that have developed around the histories of African enslavement and Indian indentureship in Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and Guyana. Examining as well the impact of Caribbean cultural forms on the Indian film industry, the book engages with transnational perspectives on race, ethnicity, performance, and migration to produce a multi-sited analysis of the traffic of sensory, embodied forms of knowledge across informal networks between South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. 

Elizabeth Jacob

Stanford Humanities Center Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of History, Stanford University

Gender, Family, and the Politics of Public Motherhood in Côte d’Ivoire

Elizabeth Jacob is a PhD candidate in African history at Stanford University. Her current project explores gender, family, and politics in West Africa, with a focus on Côte d'Ivoire. Other research interests include pan-Africanism, decolonization, and feminist history and theory. She received her BA in history and french and francophone studies from Columbia University. 

Project Summary:

Queen mothers and women warriors figure prominently in West African tradition. Yet in modern political systems, African women’s influence often appears marginal. Elizabeth Jacob's dissertation examines this apparent gulf between “tradition” and “modernity” by tracing the history of public motherhood in Côte d’Ivoire. It narrates the fraught relationship between gender, motherhood, and politics, demonstrating how maternal authority emerged as both a site of female power and a locus of political contestation over the course of the 20th century.

Seungyeon Gabrielle Jung

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, Stanford University

Toward a Utopia Without Revolution: Globalization, Developmentalism, and Design

Seungyeon Gabrielle Jung studies politics and aesthetics of modern design with a focus on South Korean and Silicon Valley design. She received her PhD in Modern Culture and Media from Brown University in 2020. Trained in graphic design, Gabrielle also writes on the issues of design and feminism.

Project Summary:

Design as we think of it today is a modern invention. "Modern design," which appeared during the Industrial Revolution to solve the problems of modernity, came to dominate our understanding of design. “Toward a Utopia Without Revolution” questions this prevalent definition of design “as problem-solving” and contends that modern design produced more serious and enduring issues than those it was intended to resolve. This project looks at political and aesthetic problems that modern design projects generated in South Korea, a country that has experienced not only rapid economic development but also immense political progress in less than a century, from the end of the World War II to the beginning of the new millennium.

Marci Kwon

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of Art & Art History, Stanford University

American Art and Anthropology

Marci Kwon is assistant professor of art and art history at Stanford, where she focuses on the art and culture of the United States. Her first book, Enchantments: Joseph Cornell and American Modernism, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press in early 2021.  

Project Summary:

Kwon’s current book project explores the epistemic shift from scientific racism to cultural pluralism in 20th-century anthropology, and its ramifications for the history of American art.  By examining the work of artists who engaged with anthropological theories and modes of display, including Marsden Hartley, Zora Neale Hurston, Jacob Lawrence, Miguel Covarrubias, Betye Saar, Albert Chong, and Carlos Villa, this project examines the racialized divide between “art” and “artifact.”  

Sangyop Lee

Stanford Humanities Center Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Religious Studies, Stanford University

The Soteriology of the Soul: The 'Shen bumie' Discourse and the Impact of Indigenous Buddhism in Early Medieval China


Sangyop Lee is a PhD candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford. The focus of his research is the intellectual and institutional history of early Chinese Buddhism. In addition to his dissertation project, he is working on a digital humanities project on the statistical and social network analysis of early Chinese Buddhist hagiographies. 

Project Summary:

Lee's dissertation is about the history and legacy of the soteriological and metaphysical theories developed in the Buddhist discourse on the imperishability of the soul (shen bumie) in early medieval China. By studying these theories in relation to their socio-historical, institutional, hermeneutical, and intellectual context, it newly identifies their unique and central role in the formation of the Chinese Buddhist conception of human nature and religious liberation, and proposes an alternative model of religious propagation that can offer a more satisfactory account of these seemingly non-Buddhist theories’ lasting influence on Chinese Buddhist thought.

Daisy Leigh

Stanford Humanities Center Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Linguistics, Stanford University

Style in Time: The Online Perception of Sociolinguistic Style

Daisy Leigh is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Linguistics at Stanford. She completed her BA in linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, and her MA in language and cognition and King’s College London. Her research examines how linguistic perceptions are jointly mediated by cognitive and sociocultural factors. 

Project summary:

Leigh's dissertation examines how and when listeners take notice of socially meaningful sounds in speech, and how the meanings associated with those sounds contribute to a holistic perception of a speaker’s persona. Using methods from the cognitive sciences, these questions are investigated experimentally; these quantitative insights are then analyzed and contextualized by drawing on sociolinguistic theory and interdisciplinary models of linguistic production and perception.

Xochitl Marsilli-Vargas

External Faculty Fellow

Department of Anthropology, Emory University

Silencing as Care: Narratives in Minors' Asylum Petition Cases

Xochitl Marsilli-Vargas’ work centers on the reception and circulation of mental health discourses, media technologies, intercultural communication, linguistic analysis, and listening practices. She received her PhD in cultural and linguistic anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. Her book Genres of Listening, Psychoanalysis as a Social Fact in Buenos Aires (under review) is an ethnography of listening practices. It proposes that listening can be categorized into genres: just as there are many ways of speaking, there are many possible ways of listening.

Project summary:

Silencing as Care analyzes interactions between unaccompanied minors from Central America who entered the United States to seek asylum and USCIS officers. My analysis highlights two crucial aspects of these interactions. Marsilli-Vargas’ focuses on how the minors’ narratives are constructed through diverse discursive formats, translations, and media technologies in order to fit the legal category of asylee. Second, I analyze how, sometimes overtly, often implicitly, the concept of care is embedded in these interactions through the juridical principle “the best interest of the child” (BIC), and how it plays a central role in judicial decisions about child welfare and child asylum or legal residency applications.

Laura Martin

Distinguished Junior External Fellow

Department of Environmental Studies, Williams College

Saving Species: The History and Politics of Ecological Restoration

Laura J. Martin is an assistant professor of environmental studies at Williams College. Her research and teaching lie at the intersection of environmental history, history of biology, and conservation biology.

Project Summary:

Martin's book project examines the 20th and 21st-century history of ecological restoration as an idea, practice, and scientific discipline. It analyzes how ecologists sought to manage wildness in the context of climate change. At the Humanities Center, Martin will also develop projects on the environmental history of Agent Orange, and on the history and ethics of forestry-based carbon offsets.

Nick Mayhew

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Stanford University

Queer Traditions in Early Modern Russia

Nick received his PhD in Slavonic Studies from the University of Cambridge in 2018. He is interested in gender and sexuality in Russia.

Project Summary:

Nick is currently working on a book project illustrating that queerness formed a meaningful part of Russian Orthodox culture in the early modern period. His next book project will focus on the criminalization of homosexuality in Russia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in comparison with Northern Europe. It will explore legal discourses of homosexuality and their lived consequences.

Bernadette Meyler

Ellen Andrews Wright Faculty Fellow

Law School, Stanford University

Common Law Originalism: The Constitution's Contested Meanings

Bernadette (“Bernie”) Meyler is the Carl and Sheila Spaeth Professor of Law, and professor (by courtesy) of English at Stanford University. She is the author of Theaters of Pardoning (Cornell UP, 2019), and co-edited The Oxford Handbook of Law and Humanities (Oxford UP, 2020) and New Directions in Law and Literature (Oxford UP, 2017).

Project Summary:

During her residence at the Humanities Center, Meyler will finish her book Common Law Originalism, which examines the multiple 18th-century common law meanings—both colonial and English—of various constitutional terms and phrases. Based on this variety, as well as on the practices of common law interpretation with which members of the Founding generation were familiar, the book argues that we should, in large part, reject the pursuit of a singular and determinate original meaning; instead, it contends, we must embrace a more vigorous debate in the present over contested constitutional meanings.

Carlos Alonso Nugent

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of English, Stanford University

Imagined Environments: Mediating Race and Nature in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

Carlos Alonso Nugent is a literary, cultural, and environmental historian. He holds a PhD from Yale University, and his articles have appeared or are forthcoming in American LiteratureISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, and Modernism/Modernity Print Plus. After spending 2020-21 at Stanford University, he will join the faculty of Vanderbilt University.

Project Summary:

Nugent’s current project is a comparative cultural history of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands from 1848 to the present. It focuses on the region’s “imagined environments”—the frameworks through which its human groups have represented, related to, and resided in their more-than-human worlds. Because these imagined environments have influenced aesthetic judgments (e.g. “the Grand Canyon is sublime”) and ethical evaluations (e.g. “the Grand Canyon must be preserved”), they have come to seem normal and even natural. However, they have taken shape through cultural conflicts among Natives, Latinxs, and whites. By showing how these imagined environments have circulated in John Wesley Powell’s essays, María Ruiz de Burton’s novels, Ansel Adams’s photographs, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca’s memoirs, César Chávez’s speeches, and many other media, Carlos’s project charts a new course for the environmental humanities. Along with existing scholarship, it describes how literature has fueled environmental activism—how it has helped us love places we have never been and care for creatures we have never met. At the same time, though, it demonstrates that literature has entrenched environmental unconsciousness—that it has allowed us to disguise (or disregard) our use (and abuse) of the planet.

Michelle K. Oing

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University

Puppet Potential: Visual and Kinetic Mimesis in Late Medieval Sculpture, 1300-1525

Michelle K. Oing received her PhD from Yale University in the history of art and architecture. Her research centers on the intersection of sculpture and performance in late medieval Northern Europe, considering how material, crafted objects were used to negotiate between earthly and divine realms.

Project Summary:

Oing's current book project examines the role of moveable sculpture in Northern Europe through the conceptual framework of puppetry. At the core of this project is a new definition of puppetry that emphasizes the interactive relationship between puppeteer, puppet, and audience, as well the puppet's ontological status as both inert object and perceived life. By tracing the "puppet potential" of sculpture, this monograph places conceptions of representation and mimesis at the center of the turbulent changes in artistic and religious expression in late medieval Northern Europe.

Shailaja Paik

External Faculty Fellow

Department of History, University of Cincinnati

Becoming ‘Vulgar’: Caste Domination and Normative Sexuality in Modern India

Shailaja Paik is associate professor ofhHistory at University of Cincinnati and the author of Dalit Women's Education in Modern India: Double Discrimination (London and New York: Routledge, 2014). Her scholarship and research interests are concerned with contributing to and furthering the dialogue in human rights, anti-colonial struggles, transnational women’s history, women-of-color feminisms, and particularly on gendering caste, and subaltern history.

Project Summary:

Becoming ‘Vulgar’ offers a multisite and microhistorical analysis of how Indians of various castes and classes paid intensive attention to managing social danger and moral disorder to make “decent” communities. Based on ethnographic and archival research and utilizing hitherto unexamined oral, legal, musical, and performative evidence, alongside vernacular textual sources, my research exposes how vulgarity became a political project for advancing the hegemonic interests and identity of elite Indians in 20th-century Western India.

Rhodes Pinto

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Philosophy, Stanford University

The Treatment of Motion in Presocratic Philosophy

Rhodes Pinto studies the philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome. He received his PhD and MPhil in classics (ancient philosophy) from the University of Cambridge and his BA in philosophy and classics from Villanova University.

Project Summary:

The project offers the first comprehensive study of motion in early Greek (Presocratic) philosophy by tracing through the Presocratics the presence and combinations of seven themes: causation of motion, circular motion, self-motion, soul, mind, immortality, and divinity. By letting the evidence on each Presocratic’s conception of motion and other philosophical views illuminate each another, the work offers new interpretations of the philosophy of the Presocratics and a re-evaluation both of the importance of motion in early Greek philosophy and of the development of Plato’s and Aristotle’s metaphysics.

James Reichert

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Stanford University

Wages of History: Media, Ideology, and Popular Historical Fiction in Japan, 1913–1940

Jim Reichert is an associate professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Stanford University. His area of specialization is modern Japanese literature. He has written on representations of male-male sexuality in Meiji-era literature, silent Japanese film, 19th-century illustrated books, newspaper novels, and the role of fetishism in the writing of Tanizaki Jun’ichirō.

Project summary:

Reichert's project considers various permutations of popular Japanese historical fiction from the 1910s to the 1930s. It organizes its examination around the principles of media theory, but endeavors to challenge the technological determinism of that theoretical model by positing genre as a medium, every bit as immersive, disruptive, and pervasive as other forms of new media arising in Japan at that time. Primary materials under consideration include novels, films, essays on mass literature, and translations.

Amanda Reid

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Theater and Performance Studies, Stanford University

To Own Ourselves: Dancing Caribbean Radicalism in Independent Jamaica

Amanda Reid received her PhD from the Department of History at the University of Michigan, and her BA from Williams College. She writes about dance, cultural policy, queer studies, and Caribbean black radicalism. Her research has been supported by the Mellon Mays Program, the Social Science Research Council, and the University of Michigan Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

Project Summary:

Reid’s manuscript project is a political history of the West Indies that forefronts dance as a decolonizing epistemology. Reid examines the choreographies and transnational political communities formed by state-affiliated concert dance companies in Jamaica, Trinidad, and Guyana (1930-1976). She argues that West Indian performers used their bodies to theorize freedom as a practice of self-ownership in response to the failures of the state’s vision of post-coloniality.

Veronica Shi

Stanford Humanities Center Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Classics, Stanford University

Writing and the Origins of Greek Intellectual Influence

Veronica Shi studied classics at Princeton (BA 2011) and the University of Oxford (MPhil 2013, Worcester College), before arriving at Stanford in 2014.

Project summary:

Shi's project explores the reasoning behind the origin of Western thought in Greece. Instead of seeking explanations for the birth of “reason” or “critical thinking,” it ascribes the long intellectual shadow cast by Greece to the emergence there of an unusual literary culture—an event which, far from occurring in the normal course of a literate society’s development, required an extraordinary series of historical accidents to come about.

Juliana Spahr

Marta Sutton Weeks Fellow

Department of English, Mills College

Literature’s Troubled Democratization

Juliana Spahr is professor of literature and languages and Dean of Graduate Studies at Mills College. Her research focuses on literature’s complicated relationship to nation state politics, with a special interest in its relationship to resistance movements. Her most recently scholarly book is Du Bois’s Telegram (Harvard U P, 2018).

Project summary:

Literature’s Troubled Democratization begins with the recognition that contemporary literary production in the United States is vexed and uniquely complicated as it is experiencing big and often contradictory changes-increasing production, increasing institutionalization, and decreasing consumption—and the ramifications of these changes are under-recognized. Using a range of approaches, including data collection, computational analysis, archival research, and close reading, Spahr's project explores how large scale changes to contemporary literary production impact not just the demographics of US literary production but also understandings of literature’s role in the public sphere, its relationship to various sorts of politics, and the role that it plays in multiculturalism. 

Kathryn Starkey

Donald Andrews Whittier Fellow

Department of German Studies, Stanford University

The Stuff of Epic Poetry: Textiles and Poetics in Medieval German Literature

Kathryn Starkey’s work focuses on medieval German literature of the 11th to the 13th century. She is the author of Reading the Medieval Book: Word, Image, and Performance in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s “Willehalm” (Notre Dame, 2004) and A Courtier’s Mirror: Cultivating Elite Identity in Thomasin's "Welscher Gast" (Notre Dame, 2013).

Project Summary:

The Stuff of Epic Poetry investigates the intersection of medieval poetics, economies of exchange (politics, money, marriage), and material culture in medieval German epic poetry, a literary corpus that emerges for the first time in the second half of the twelfth century (e.g., Tristan, Parzival, the Nibelungenlied). The project focuses particularly on textiles, which take center stage in this literature as metaphor, object, and medium of literary production

Alice Staveley

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of English, Stanford University

Virginia Woolf: Making Books, Building Networks

Alice Staveley is senior lecturer in English, director of honors, and director of the digital humanities minor at Stanford University. She co-founded The Modernist Archives Publishing Project (MAPP), a critical digital archive on 20th-century publishers, and co-authored a related book, Scholarly Adventures in Digital Humanities (Palgrave 2017). She is completing a book on Virginia Woolf as modernist publisher and co-editing Women in Publishing 1900-2000 (Edinburgh University Press).

Project summary:

Staveley's project takes a feminist materialist, book historical approach to understanding the transformative impact on Virginia Woolf’s career of founding her own printing press, The Hogarth Press, in 1917. It situates Woolf's experiences printing her own books within the long and contentious history of women’s work in the 19th-century book trades; explores the press’s catalytic impact on her formulation of a feminist modernism; uncovers networks of unheralded or archivally ‘lost’ women writers and publishing professionals who helped cultivate her public intellectualism; and delves into unexamined financial records to understand the breadth and depth of her public reception.

John Tennant

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Classics, Stanford University

Proverbial Plato: Proverbs, Gnômai, and the Reformation of Discourse in Plato’s Republic

John Tennant’s research concerns the transmission of cultural wisdom in Greek prose and poetry and how this transmission was called into question in the late fifth century BCE – coming to a head in works by authors such as Euripides, Thucydides, and especially Plato. John explores how proverbs, aphorisms, and other rhetorical commonplaces become particularly important at times when shared discourse breaks down, when language itself becomes an object of mistrust. John received his PhD in classics from the University of California, Los Angeles (2019) and his MA in classics from Stanford University (2013). The transformative potential of figurative speech employed in proverbs became apparent to John while practicing as a union labor lawyer, his previous profession. The law itself is arguably composed in large part of just such phrases, with similar normative aspirations. John received his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, where he first became interested in the seeming connections between modes of discourse and speakers’ ethics and moral values. In 2002-03, John received a Fulbright Post-Doc Research Fellowship to work with police unions and immigrants' rights advocates in Paris, France, studying the ways in which tensions might be reduced in the Parisian suburbs between rank-and-file police officers and the communities they serve, composed primarily of Muslim immigrants from the Maghreb.

Project Summary:

John’s current project (a continuation of the subject of his dissertation) is to frame Plato’s Republic as an attempt to reform the state of discourse in a politico-discursive crisis that occurred toward the end of the fifth and beginning of the fourth century in Athens, by focusing on the previously unexplored role that proverbs and gnômai play in Plato’s creation of the ideal polis. Plato uses such commonplaces not solely for the purpose of lending his dialogue a more authentic character. Rather, they both elucidate the dynamics of power that inhere in the prevailing modes of Athenian discourse and provide a locus for Plato’s critique of the improper use of language. Plato reveals how discursive reform is inseparable from social and political reform. Proverbs, gnômai, and other rhetorical topoi serve collectively as one of the building blocks of a just society. Put simply, wordcraft isstatecraft.

Kerem Ussakli

Stanford Humanities Center Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Anthropology, Stanford University

Trust, Sovereignty and Social Lives of Displacement in Iraq

Kerem Ussakli is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology, with a focus on political anthropology in the Middle East. His doctoral research was funded by the National Science Foundation, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Kerem holds BAs in political science and sociology from Bogazici University in Istanbul, and an MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago.

Project summary:

Kerem’s dissertation project, tentatively titled Trust, Sovereignty, and Social Lives of Displacement in Iraq, looks into a particular sponsorship agreement called kafala, which has a long-standing, multivalent, and complex history in the Middle East, and has emerged as a way of regulating internal displacement in Iraq after 2003. It shows how these sponsorship agreements, which are made between Iraqi Arabs and Kurds, are articulated through a host of practices and social relations: of trust, hospitality, friendship, kinship, accusation, and security. This research draws from Kerem’s long-standing interest in ethnographic, philosophical, moral, and conceptual-historical writings that critically examines the relationship between sovereignty and autonomy.

Leonardo Velloso-Lyons

Stanford Humanities Center Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Comparative Literature, Stanford University

Inventing the Hinterlands: Africa in the Sixteenth-Century Transatlantic Imaginary

Leonardo is a PhD candidate in comparative literature who specializes in early modern literatures and cultures from the Hispanic and Portuguese transatlantic world. He is particularly interested in the framing of colonial spaces as hinterlands in early modern works. His research and teaching interests include the relation between literary and historical discourses, the writing of global and local histories, the interaction between cartographic objects and literature, and comparative approaches to early modernity from the fields of transatlantic, postcolonial, and decolonial studies. Leonardo often combines his specialized engagement with early modern works in Spanish and Portuguese with a comparative approach to sources in Italian, English, Latin, Quechua and, when he feels a bit daring, French and German. He holds a BA and an MA in history from the Federal University of Espirito Santo, Vitoria, Brazil, where he studied from 2007 to 2013.

Project summary:

He is currently writing a dissertation titled Inventing the Hinterlands: Africa in the Sixteenth-Century Transatlantic Imaginary in which he examines Miguel Cabello Valboa’s Miscelánea antárctica, André Alvares de Almada’s Tratado breve dos Reinos de Guiné do Cabo Verde, and Luis de Mármol’s Historia de la rebelión y castigo de los moriscos del Reyno de Granada. He analyzes how each of these works mobilize ideas about the African continent in their accounts of South American, West African, and Southern Iberian history. In doing so, he shows how conceptual binaries (such as centre-periphery, global-local, Europe-America and Europe-Africa) cannot grasp the fluidity with which ideas about the different parts of the world appear in the works of early modern writers.


JNese Williams

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of History, Stanford University 

The Texture of Empire: Botanic Gardens, Science, and Governance in the British Empire, Late 18th and Early 19th 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.

Matthew Wormer

Stanford Humanities Center Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of the History, Stanford University

A Most Bewitching Luxury: Opium, Economic Thought, and the Making of Britain's Free Trade Empire, 1773-1839

Matthew Wormer is a PhD candidate in British history at Stanford. His research explores the evolution of liberal capitalism in the context of the modern British Empire. He holds a BA in history from Fordham University and an MA in European studies from Yale University.

Project summary:

Matthew’s dissertation is a study of the British opium trade in South and East Asia from the late 18th century to the outbreak of the First Opium War in 1839. Combining East India Company records with hitherto unknown papers from Calcutta mercantile firms, it traces how shifting understandings of economic value reshaped struggles between state officials, private traders, and Indian laborers over the control and distribution of profits from the emerging global traffic in narcotic drugs.

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. His research and teaching interests are in the late Ottoman Empire, the modern Middle East, political, social and cultural histories, science and technology studies, war studies, and spatial history. He is currently developing his dissertation into a manuscript, titled Ottoman Geocracy: Territory, Society, and the Instruments of Empire (1850–1950) 

Project Summary:

Ottoman Geocracy demonstrates how late imperial modes of governance and knowledge production were grounded in the materiality of cartography and geography. Drawing on extensive archival research in Ottoman, Turkish, Arabic, and French, it explores a neglected question in late Ottoman and modern Middle Eastern histories: how did maps and geographical books become part of everyday life beginning in the mid-nineteenth century? The global proliferation of maps, the book argues, generated various forms of cartographic reasoning, sustaining competing social and institutional structures in the late Ottoman world— including continental and colonial empires, missionary orders, reformist movements, and insurgent organizations. Tracing the roots and trajectories of struggles over mapping across disparate parts of the Ottoman world throughout the transition from empire to nation-states, it aims to offer a geopolitical thriller that expands our understanding of the relationship between technological instruments and the institutional, social, and cultural histories of the modern Middle East. Adrien's second book project, titled Suggestion and Ottoman Power centers on the transformation, roughly in the same period, of Ottoman therapeutics, pseudo-sciences, mesmerism, understandings of matter, and imperial ideologies.