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Humanities Center Fellows

Rushain Abbasi

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Religious Studies, Stanford University

Beyond the Divine Command: A History of the Secular in Premodern Islam

Rushain Abbasi received his PhD from the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations at Harvard University. He was formerly an associate research scholar in the Abdullah S. Kamel Center for Islamic Law and Civilization at Yale Law School. His scholarly work seeks to bring the Islamic intellectual and cultural heritage to bear on contemporary debates in religious studies and social theory. His articles have been published in the Journal of Islamic Studies and Studia Islamica. His dissertation, “Beyond the Realm of Religion: The Idea of the Secular in Premodern Islam,” was awarded the Alwaleed Bin Talal Prize for Best Dissertation in Islamic Studies at Harvard University.

Project Summary:

Abbasi’s current book project is an intellectual history of the development of the idea of the secular in the premodern Islamic world. The study is aimed at undermining the current academic orthodoxy which maintains that the distinction between the "religious" and the "secular" is a modern European invention, and thus wholly at odds with an Islamic worldview. More constructively, however, the book illustrates how premodern Muslim thinkers engaged in sophisticated and complex secularizing strategies in order to resolve a variety of questions pertaining to theology, politics, law, and epistemology. In essence, the project is one which attempts to intervene in contemporary debates surrounding the relationship between Islam and modernity, but through a historically grounded investigation of a single concept (or rather, dialectic) in premodern Islamic thought.

Monique Allewaert

External Faculty Fellow

Department of English, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Luminescence: Insect Knowledge, Power, and the Literary: 1700-1814

Monique Allewaert is associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She works at the intersections of eighteenth and nineteenth-century hemispheric American colonialisms, the environmental humanities, literary and cultural studies, and science studies.

Project Summary:

Luminescence follows insect avatars through eighteenth-century Caribbean natural history, story, riddles, song, and poetry to elaborate counter-plantation knowledges and aesthetics. By exploring a constellation of problems and powers associated with West Indian bugs (imperceptibility, smallness, shapeshifting, co-metabolism; environmental change), the book shows that the constant, often insensible touch of insects as well as the tropical climate that they amplified informed a situated knowledge inspired by insects’ navigation of their environments.

Brandon Bark

SHC Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Classics, Stanford University

Working Languages: Metalinguistic Discourse and the Shaping of Latin Literature

Brandon Bark is a PhD candidate in the Department of Classics at Stanford University. His interests include the philosophy of language, ancient grammar, and language-policing in the ancient world, as well as book history and Latin paleography.

Project summary:

Bark’s dissertation project investigates metalinguistic discourse in ancient Greek and Latin literature. How did Greek and Latin authors write about language? How did generic expectations and literary precedent shape the form linguistic descriptions assume in Classical literature? Conversely, how did changing attitudes about language manifest in literature?

Vaughn A. Booker

External Faculty Fellow

Department of Religion, Dartmouth College

From the Back of the Church: A History of Irreverent Religion in African American Life, Emancipation to the Present

Vaughn A. Booker is associate professor of African and African American studies and religion at Dartmouth College. A historian of African American religion who focuses on the twentieth century, his first book is Lift Every Voice and Swing: Black Musicians and Religious Culture in the Jazz Century (NYU Press, 2020).

Project summary:

Booker's second book project, From the Back of the Church: A History of Irreverent Religion in African American Life, Emancipation to the Present, explores how African American Christians have created and sustained cultural traditions of religious humor that parallel traditions critical of belief. His project centers the ways that African Americans have embraced irreverence, from Emancipation to the present, to understand the persistence of African American religious life and the persistence of comedy about this important facet of Black culture. The book will establish irreverence as a mode of religious affiliation/belonging in African American history.

Meryem Deniz

SHC Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of German Studies, Stanford University

Ethereal Romanticism: Dynamic Materiality in German Thought in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries

Meryem Deniz is a PhD candidate in German studies with minor in classics at Stanford University. She studied German, Spanish, and Ancient Greek languages and literatures at Harvard University. Her primary research focuses on the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century German literature and poetics at the intersections of materiality, the history of science, and classical reception studies. Other areas include ecocriticism and contemporary transnational literature, film, and theater.

Project summary:

In her dissertation, Deniz explores how new scientific discussions around the conception of “ether” changed the way German Romantic writers conceived of humans’ interactions with nature and their environment and how literature and poetic forms are in turn transformed through such changes. She aims to show that this shift helped give rise to an emerging Romantic consciousness of a distributed agency, suggesting proto-ecological modes of thinking and ecopoetic modes of writing.

Gabriel Ellis

SHC Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Music, Stanford University

Anaesthetics: Popular Music and the Flight from Feeling

Gabriel Ellis is a PhD candidate in musicology at Stanford University. He writes on the aesthetics of contemporary popular music and sings with the vocal early music ensemble “Neuma.” Ellis's dissertation research has been supported by fellowships from the Stanford Humanities Center and the American Musicological Society. 

Project summary:

Popular music is often understood as an art form devoted to exploring and evoking strong feelings. How can we make sense of music that does precisely the opposite? In “Anaesthetics: Popular Music and the Flight from Feeling,” Ellis explores how experiences of nonfeeling are depicted in contemporary genres from shoegaze and dreampop to trap music and cloud rap. He argues that by embracing themes of numbness, coldness, and dissociation, artists in these genres are responding to the emotional demands of care and creative labor in the neoliberal era. At the same time, these artists are developing sophisticated aesthetic strategies for translating sensory deprivation into the sensuous medium of sound. He responds to this phenomenon by developing a theory of “anaesthetics”: the aesthetics of anaesthesia.

Lewis Esposito

SHC Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Linguistics, Stanford University

Covariation, Change, and Style

Lewis Esposito is a fifth-year PhD candidate in Linguistics at Stanford University. He completed his BA in Linguistics & Languages at Swarthmore College in 2016. His research interests center around sociophonetics, social meaning and style, language variation and change, and pragmatics.

Project summary:

Esposito's dissertation explores interspeaker covariation in California, and it aims in part to bridge the gap between theories of sociolectal coherence and bricolage in accounting for patterns of variable clustering.

Elaine Fisher

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of Religious Studies, Stanford University

The Meeting of Rivers: Translating Devotion in Early Modern India

Elaine M. Fisher is a scholar of South Asian religions and assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University. A specialist in the Śaiva traditions of peninsular India, her research reconstructs notions of religious subjectivity and the religious public in early modern Hinduism. 

Project summary:

In March of 2018, a new religion was born in India. Its story, however, has yet to be told. Fisher’s current book project, The Meeting of Rivers: Translating Devotion in Early Modern India, reconstructs the prehistory of India’s newest religion, known as Vīraśaivism or Liṅgāyatism, from its own voices, drawing on a novel corpus of unstudied and unpublished archival sources in a plurality of languages. In the process, the project brings religious studies and translation studies into dialogue, developing a new conceptual vocabulary for speaking about multilingualism across regions and humanistic disciplines.

Isabela Fraga

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Iberian and Latin American Cultures, Stanford University

Subjected to Feeling: Slavery and Personhood in Nineteenth-Century Brazil and Cuba

Isabela Fraga received her PhD in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian studies at the University of Chicago. She holds a BA in journalism and an MA in media and cultural studies, both from the Rio de Janeiro Federal University, Brazil. Her research focuses on literatures and cultures of slavery of Latin America and the Caribbean, with a specific anchoring in critical race studies, affect theory, and the medical humanities.

Project summary:

Isabela's research project, Subjected to Feeling: Slavery and Personhood in Nineteenth-Century Brazil and Cuba, traces a centurylong genealogy of writings concerned with the affective lives of enslaved and free people of African descent in the two most lucrative coffee- and sugar-producing regions of the nineteenth-century Atlantic world. Grounded in close readings of printed and archival sources from Cuba, Brazil, Spain, and Portugal, her project shows not only how colonial and imperial authorities were deeply invested in imagining the inner lives of those they enslaved, but also how Africans and people of African descent responded to such an investment.

Pheaross Graham

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Music, Stanford University

Visions of the Pianistic Self: Don Shirley, Rachmaninoff, and Music Performance Studies

Dr. Pheaross Graham is a musicologist and classical pianist examining the intersections of theory, practice, and lived experiences of concert performers. His PhD, CPhil, and MA in musicology from UCLA, MFA in piano performance from UC Irvine, and BA in music and BS in microbial biology from UC Berkeley have cultivated interdisciplinary and intertextual leanings in his research. He reads recorded performances as texts, demystifying musicians’ inner worlds. Dr. Graham asks how certain performers, pushed in plain sight to the margins on account of race, class, and identity, carve space for themselves in complicated musical networks. His forthcoming publications include essays on reconstructing Rachmaninoff’s subjectivity (Routledge) and Liberace’s democratic virtuosity (Univ. Illinois Press). He has presented work at the Annual American Musicological Society, Music and the Moving Image, and Music Performance Studies Today conferences. He enjoys initiating and organizing wide-reaching public conversations on performance.

Project summary:

Dr. Graham’s immediate book project focuses on African American pianist Don Shirley and his musical activity during the Civil Rights Movement. He profiles Shirley’s genre-blending, “Green Book Style” pianism, which aimed to stimulate “serious,” idealized, and engaged listening among audiences to approach the category of classical music, navigating through the problematics of racialized entertainment in the U.S. and concert hall anti-Blackness. His secondary projects contemplate immigrant experiences, self-erasure, and exile. Accordingly, Dr. Graham theorizes the American transplanted, Russian aristocratic pianism of Sergei Rachmaninoff, engaging micro-listening and concert emulation. Rachmaninoff’s inter- and post-Revolutionary negotiations of respectability amid dualities of idealist and public identities factor into his inquiries. 

Vera Gribanova

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of Linguistics, Stanford University

Ellipsis and the Identity Relation

Vera Gribanova is an associate professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Stanford’s Department of Linguistics in the School of Humanities and Sciences. Gribanova studies interactions between syntax (sentence structure) and morphology (word structure). Her work as a linguist focuses primarily on Russian and Slavic languages, but also includes the Turkic languages of Central Asia (primarily Uzbek). She is the recipient of the C.L. Baker Award, awarded by the Linguistic Society of America in 2022.

Project summary:

Gribanova’s research focuses on the interaction between the principles that dictate how words and sentences are structured with constituent ellipsis, in which a grammatically salient chunk of linguistic content is left unpronounced and is recoverable from the linguistic context. This approach yields mutually reinforcing insights that bear both on the fundamental nature of recoverability and redundancy in linguistic discourse, and on the unifying principles that underpin grammatical structure across the diverse range of human languages. 

Ana Ilievska

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of French and Italian, Stanford University

The Machine in the Novel: Fictional Human-Machine Interactions at the European Periphery (ca. 1870-1914)

Ana Ilievska received her PhD in comparative literature from the University of Chicago in 2020 and holds BA and MA degrees from the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen. Her teaching and research focus on Italian and Lusophone literatures with particular attention to the relationship between literature and technology from a philosophical and Southern European perspective. Ilievska is currently finishing work on a co-edited bilingual anthology of contemporary poetry from Sicily, forthcoming with Italica Press.

Project Summary:

Ilievska’s first book project traces the “voices” of technology in novels written during the Second Industrial Revolution. In The Machine in the Novel: Literature and Technology at the European Periphery, she outlines literary models for alternative attitudes towards technology in the works of Carlo Collodi, Luigi Pirandello, and Eça de Queirós through a comparison with works by Mary Shelley, J.-K. Huysmans, and Émile Zola. The project not only takes a fresh look at Southern European authors by catapulting them into current conversations about literature, technology, and Artificial Intelligence. It also questions Eurocentrism and its take on the Industrial Revolution from within the margins of Europe itself. Ilievska’s work has received recognition by the Fulbright Program, the U.K. Society of Pirandello Studies, the Fundação Eça de Queiroz, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Her second project will be a study of the interpenetration of Italian and Balkan literature in Sicily and Trieste.

Elspeth Iralu

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity, Stanford University

Technologies of Territoriality: Indigeneity, Surveillance, and the State

Elspeth Iralu (Angami Naga) will receive her PhD in American studies from the University of New Mexico in 2022. She writes about colonialism and decolonization, Indigenous geographies, and violence and visual culture. Her work has appeared in American QuarterlyThe New Americanist, and Antipode: A Journal of Radical Geography. Her current project examines the aerial perspective as a technology of colonial territoriality.

Project summary:

Iralu’s first book project examines the global spatial surveillance of Indigenous peoples, nations, and territories in the twenty-first century through a multi-site relational analysis of colonial surveillance and Indigenous resistance in the United States, India, and Palestine. The book takes up air as a material through which to understand contrapuntal relationships of colonialism to demonstrate how air and the aerial perspective actively shape what happens on and below the ground. Analyzing Indigenous graphic novels, video games, virtual reality, performance protests, and visual art, Iralu argues that Indigenous experiences of surveillance are not limited by the geographic and legal bounds of nation-states but are rather linked through global histories of militarization and resistance.

jem Jebbia

SHC Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Religious Studies, Stanford University

The Fruits of Their Labor: Religion, Race, and Resistance in California’s Central Valley, 1870-1960

jem Jebbia is a PhD candidate in religious studies at Stanford University. In her research, jem focuses on race and immigration, interfaith communities, and material religion in California. At Stanford, jem has taught courses in early Christianity, religion and material culture, Asian American religions, and ethics and activism.

Project summary:

jem's dissertation project explores interreligious labor movements in contemporary California’s Central Valley. This research considers why and how, after arriving in this region, immigrants, Indigenous, and Black laborers contested white supremacy while living in racial, religious, and national hierarchies that maintained it. Each of the four chapters in the dissertation presents a case study of a community or communities that catalyzed social change through the founding of new religious sites, participation in social movements, and the use of religion to resist white supremacist systems and powers. The project emphasizes how the study of religion in the American West is embedded in race, ethnicity, gender, class, physical landscape, and regional identity, and how religion both upholds white supremacy in a particular place and time and provides modes of resisting it. At the same time, the study of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and regional identity in the American West is embedded in religion—which scholars of the region often overlook. 

Jessica Jordan

SHC Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of English, Stanford University

Anxieties of Abundance: Book and Body in America's Gilded Age

Jessica Jordan is a PhD candidate in English at Stanford University. Her dissertation, Anxieties of Abundance: Book and Body in America’s Gilded Age, explores how the late nineteenth century “book flood” heightened the already-troubled sense that books were people with minds (and bodies) of their own. She is a winner of the Honey & Wax Prize, an award which recognizes an outstanding book collection put together by a woman under 30; the California Young Book Collector’s Award; Stanford’s Wreden Prize for Book Collecting; and of the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest.

Project summary:

In the late nineteenth century, Americans were drowning in books. Revolutions in printing and transportation technologies, reduced manufacturing costs, and a rabid reading public all coalesced to overwhelm the market with books of all kinds. Since what Americans read was believed to be a cipher for who Americans were, the task of choosing from among these varied offerings was a fraught one, made more complex by an ever-diversifying audience of readers. Jordan's research considers these unprecedented conditions of production, exploring how the “flood of books” proliferating throughout American space created new possibilities for how people made meaning from them, and what these new possibilities meant for the burgeoning literary culture of the United States.

Michael Kinney

Career Launch Fellow

Department of Music, Stanford University

Hearing Beyond Vocal Twilight: Aging Vocality in Contemporary American Opera Performance

Michael Kinney is a PhD candidate in the Department of Music at Stanford University. His research focuses on the politics of aging in contemporary vocal aesthetics. He is the recipient of the Alvin H. Johnson AMS 50 Dissertation Fellowship from the American Musicological Society.

Project summary:

Panic about the aging process has long impacted perceptions of what it means to grow old in the United States. Michael’s dissertation explores how age ideology has shaped how we listen to and evaluate singing voices in contemporary operatic performance. While it is more common to hear older voices in genres such as rock or jazz, older operatic voices are often criticized as being incapable of the high-performance voice use that characterizes operatic singing style. His project engages with voice studies, age studies, and disability studies to analyze examples of singers whose vocal longevity challenge opera’s relationship with concepts such as beauty and ability, as well as gatekeeping processes that lead to the inaudibility of aging. When older voices are given the opportunity, he argues, the borders of operatic vocal expressivity, storytelling, and even the genre itself are reshaped to become a more powerful medium of the human condition.

Matthew Kohrman

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of Anthropology, Stanford University

Filtered Life: Gendered Dwelling Amidst Environmental Distress

Matthew Kohrman’s research and writing bring anthropological methods to bear on the ways health, culture, and politics are interrelated. Focusing on the People's Republic of China, he engages various intellectual terrains such as governmentality, gender theory, political economy, critical science studies, narrativity, and embodiment. Recently, he has begun projects linking ongoing interests at the intersection of phenomenology and political economy with questions regarding environmental attunement and the arts. At the center of much of this has been questions about the promise of filter technologies as environmental and emotional remedy. Much of his writing during 2022–2023 at the Humanities Center will be about filters.

Project summary:

Around the world, fraught feelings about filters are on the rise, as people are enticed to sort the unwanted from the desired. Teleologies of purity are longstanding, but how people are being urged to use filters to cleanse their immediate environments has been intensifying in many locales. For instance, in China, apparitions like “airpocolypse” (kongqimori) and “novel coronavirus” (xinguanbingdu) have been triggering cascading cycles of affect and action regarding what one breaths. Urgencies and practices have been converging and multiplying in the PRC regarding how to filter out aerosolized contaminants. In response, many an expert, governmental representative, and entrepreneur now encourage people there and elsewhere to introduce air purification technologies into the intimate and highly gender-modulated spaces of the home. What forms of authority, including gender, are turned on and off with the uses of these technologies in residential settings? How are denizens reaching for visual media, including forms hosted by highly filtered internet platforms, to represent their experiences dwelling amidst filtration, and thereby positing new politics of ecological ruin?

Radhika Koul

Career Launch Fellow

Department of Comparative Literature, Stanford University

The Drama of Our World: Spectator and Subject in Medieval Kashmir and Early Modern Europe

Radhika Koul is a scholar of literature and philosophy of early modern Europe and medieval Kashmir. An interdisciplinary researcher at heart, she is interested in the ramifications of the thought of so-called "pre-modern" thinkers on contemporary research on how we perceive the world and fiction alike.

Project summary:

Is all the world really a stage? If so, how do we as subjects and spectators perceive the world? And does that relate with how we take pleasure in watching plays? At surface level, one might not think that thinkers from two cultures as removed from each other as the long tenth century in Kashmir and and the long seventeenth century in France and England might have much to say to each other on these abstract questions. And yet, in examining the thought of philosophers, playwrights, and literary critics from the long 17th century in France and England and the long 10th century in Kashmir, this dissertation argues otherwise. On questions of epistemology and metaphysics on the one hand and dramatic theory and aesthetics on the other, they shared surprisingly many common perspectives, including the critical intuition of their inter-dependence. These common threads are enough for us to create a conversation between them as equals at a table, and in doing so, disrupt a certain narrative of Western priority—precisely the kinds of narrative and conversation that were made impossible by colonization and its legacy.

Richard Martin

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of Classics, Stanford University

Homer and the World of Song

Richard P. Martin is Antony and Isabelle Raubitschek Professor in Classics at Stanford. He writes on archaic Greek poetry, culture, and myth, with a special focus on Homeric epic. His further interests include Greek religion, comedy, ethnopoetics, medieval Irish literature, and Modern Greek verbal art.

Project summary:

Martin's project moves the questions surrounding Homeric composition from the realm of philology into sociology. It takes as its guiding principle an observation by the Arabist and folklorist Dwight Reynolds: the “text” of an oral-traditional poem is really only the context for a performative event, whereas what strikes those of us from script-based cultures as “context” is really the text requiring interpretation. Homer and the World of Song tries to re-imagine the contexts of Homeric performance by drawing comparisons from six deep cultural traditions with enduring examples of heroic poetry: Greek and Irish, in both the medieval and modern periods; West African; Indic; Central Asian; and Egyptian.

Paul Nauert

Career Launch Fellow

Department of History, Stanford University

Climate Crucible: American Choices in Germany, Japan, and the Making of the Great Acceleration, 1939-1953

Paul Nauert is a queer historian, teacher, and community-builder. A history PhD candidate at Stanford, he engages questions of power, justice, and socio-environmental change from the local to the planetary scale over the twentieth century, including work on U.S. foreign policy, climate, labor, commodities, race, gender, and class.

Project summary:

Nauert’s current project presents a new interpretation of American responsibility in shaping trajectories of climate change and the planetary politics of climate (in)justice at a pivotal moment of the mid-twentieth century. He approaches this story through comparative study of American debates and decisions on industrialization, resource use, and reparations policy in the post-World War II occupations of Germany and Japan. Combining sources from U.S. military, diplomatic, and intelligence archives with economic and environmental data, Nauert bridges historiography of the U.S. in the twentieth-century world and environmental humanities scholarship while illuminating roots of twenty-first century challenges in the geopolitics of climate justice. You can learn more about Paul’s research, teaching, and community-focused work at paulnauert.com.

Bryan Norton

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of German Studies, Stanford University

Fragments of the Concrete: Ecology and Technical Media in German Romanticism

Bryan Norton received his PhD in comparative literature and literary theory at the University of Pennsylvania in 2022. He is a member of the German Research Foundation project Current Perspectives on Romanticism at Goethe University Frankfurt and is an alumnus of the Fulbright Foundation and German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) programs. His work examines the role played by technical media in the relationship between politics, aesthetics, and the life sciences. He has published articles in Theory, Culture and Society, the Goethe Lexicon of Philosophical Concepts, The Goethe Yearbook, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Project summary:

Bryan’s first book project, Fragments of the Concrete: Political Ecology and Technical Media in German Romanticism, explores German romantic speculation regarding the possibility of a perpetuum mobile, uncovering an experimental attitude towards technical media in the making of natural knowledge. A synergistic mode of material reciprocity found in Novalis, Schelling, Goethe, and Hölderlin, he argues, stages a new political ecology of spatial relations rooted in a more ethical approach towards the natural world. His second project will turn to the Czech-German media artist Michael Bielicky, whose work highlights the need to interrogate the relationship between technological discourse and the life sciences when discussing the social and political impact of new media. He is also co-editing a volume of essays on the late philosopher of technology, Bernard Stiegler.

Michelle K. Oing

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University

Puppet Potential: Late Medieval Sculpture and the Aesthetics of Play, 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.

Eve Oishi

External Faculty Fellow

Department of Cultural Studies, Claremont Graduate University

Partial Form: An Experimental History of Asian American Film and Video

Eve Oishi (she/they interchangeably) is associate professor of at Claremont Graduate University. Their primary research interests include Asian American cultural studies, independent and experimental film and video, transnational media, and gender and queer theory. They are recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship 2022-23.

Project summary:

Oishi’s book chronicles a particular history of Asian American film and video beginning with the first known film directed by an Asian American in 1916. Tarrying in the eras and spaces left out of comprehensive narratives of Asian American film and video, and placing this work within a history of transnational avant-garde visual art, literature, performance, and music, this book excavates and elevates the female and queer roots of Asian American cinema while simultaneously expanding and revising scholarly histories of U.S. avant-garde cinema. This project also proposes an analytic framework that examines formal and aesthetic innovation in relation to the fragile materiality of the media, a speculative methodology that offers tools of analysis for the study of media-based art forms more broadly.  

Christy Pichichero

External Faculty Fellow

Department of Modern and Classical Languages, George Mason University

Song of Saint-George: Racism, Resistance, and African Diasporic Lives in the Age of Revolutions (1750-1850)

Christy Pichichero (AB Princeton; BM Eastman; PhD Stanford) is associate professor of French and history at George Mason University. She is a specialist of the early modern French empire, race, and African diasporic studies and author of The Military Enlightenment: War and Culture in the French Empire from Louis XIV to Napoleon (Cornell, 2017; finalist, Kenshur Book Prize). Pichichero is the past president of the Western Society for French History, recipient of a 2021 Presidential Medal at GMU, and her public-facing work has been featured on NPRNBC NewsForbesThe Hill, and other venues.

Project summary:

Based on years of archival excavation across three continents, Song of Saint-George is the first in Pichichero’s two-part book series on African diasporic lives of the French empire between the seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries. Shedding new light on better-known figures like the famed composer-violinist-swordsman Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-George (1745-1799) and foregrounding understudied figures, such as Saint-George’s free Black mother Nanon and generations of African-descended families connected to the French armed forces, these projects restore the rich diversity of intersectional positionalities that coexisted in France during this era of global trade, war, colonization, and slavery. Pichichero’s research engages theories of race, gender, sexuality, and diaspora to trace the structural roots of modern racial formation and resistance amongst African-descended communities in West Africa, the Caribbean, and the European continent.

Eric Plemons

External Faculty Fellow

Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona

What To Make of Me: The Transgender Body As a Valuable Resource

Eric Plemons is a medical anthropologist focused on the politics and practice of transgender medicine and surgery. Primarily focused in the United States, he has also conducted ethnographic research in surgical clinics in Northern Europe and South America. Before joining the University of Arizona, Plemons was a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Michigan Society of Fellows.

Project summary:

Research is underway that would transform the tissues removed during transgender people’s reconstructive genital surgeries from medical waste into valuable resources. My project, What to Make of Me, investigates the conditions and interrogates the implications of the uses to which researchers hope these tissues might be put. In conversation with clinicians and patients, and through an engagement with medical history, bioethics, and the politics of care, What to Make of Me asks: What are the implications of identifying a trans person’s value in the utility of their body parts to others? How might the special case of genital and reproductive tissue sharing imagined in this work reconfigure current policies and theories of organ transfer that are based on concepts of debt and reciprocity?

Robert N. Proctor

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of History, Stanford University

Agnotology in the Archives: Probing Cigarette Invisibility and Cigarette Deception

Robert N. Proctor is professor of history at Stanford, where he writes on human origins, Nazi science, rockhound aesthetics, cigarette design, and the history of ignorance (agnotology). He was the first Senior Scholar in Residence at the U.S. Holocaust Museum and the first historian to testify against the cigarette industry in court.

Project summary:

Scholars spend a lot of time exploring knowledge, leaving ignorance largely in the dark. As if we had medicine without pathology, or the study of law without the study of crime. One focus of agnotology has been to look at how ignorance is produced through the disinformation engines created by Big Tobacco or Big Carbon. Proctor seeks to explore the production of ignorance inside large corporate entities—for internal consumption. Cigarette makers often used their own employees as a kind of proving ground for denialist campaigns, for example, with the goal also being to police morale and ensure corporate loyalty. Proctor explores how cigarette makers managed health and safety in the cigarette workplace, while perfecting the world’s deadliest consumer product.

Judith Rodríguez

External Faculty Fellow

Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, Indiana University-Bloomington

Impositions: The Aesthetic Blackening of Puerto Rico and its Diaspora

Judith Rodríguez is an assistant professor in the African American and African Diaspora Studies Department with a joint appointment in the Latinx Studies Program at Indiana University, Bloomington. She specializes in multi-disciplinary approaches to literary theory, Black and Latinx studies, and Caribbean philosophical thought. 

Project summary:

Rodríguez’s first book-project, Impositions: The Aesthetic Blackening of Puerto Ricanness, utilizes Afro-Latinx and critical black studies lenses to continue and expand interventions into the hemispheric concept of Latinidad. Impositions focuses on the existential and psychic invention of Puerto Rican identity through the (un)intentional antiblack sentiments of Puerto Rican ethnonational aesthetics. By reinterpreting an aesthetic archive—composed of twentieth-century literary allegories, Puerto Rican feminist poetics, the aurality of Borícua punk, trans/queer documentary filmmaking, and Black queer theatre and performance—“Impositions” contributes a new hemispheric understanding of antiblackness and whiteness that realigns the theoretical axes underlying aesthetic creation within Latinidad more broadly. In doing so, the project understands aesthetics as not removed from the realms of struggle, survival, and violence and shows how antiblack aesthetics play a crucial role in producing the Puerto Rican ethnonation.

Margarita Lila Rosa

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Comparative Literature, Stanford University

Partus Sequitur Ventrem: Hereditary Slavery in the Spanish and Portuguese New World Colonies

Margarita Lila Rosa received her PhD from Princeton University from the Department of Comparative Literature with a graduate certificate from the Department African American Studies in 2021. Rosa’s research explores the legal and social history of hereditary slavery across the Spanish and Lusophone Americas. Her current research also explores the expansion of the carceral state in the late nineteenth century in California and Rio de Janeiro. Rosa uses newspapers, court records, pamphlets, and other materials to expand access to the gendered Black historical archive in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Project Summary:

Rosa’s current project, titled Partus Sequitur Ventrem: Hereditary Slavery in the Spanish and Portuguese New World Colonies, explores customary law and legislation enforcing the dictum that “the child follows the condition of them womb.” Exploring archives from the Spanish and Portuguese Americas, Rosa reflects on how hereditary slavery became discursively naturalized, and how enslaved Black mothers used the discourse of “partus sequitur ventrem” to gain freedom for their children. Rosa’s concurrent research explores the lives of Black women after the abolition of slavery in Rio de Janeiro and Los Angeles, as women aimed to resist the increasingly carceral logic of their environments. This project uses prison records and newspaper clips to explore how Black women sought spaces of ephemeral freedoms and sought to create permanent spaces of freedom for themselves.

Londa Schiebinger

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of History, Stanford University

Global Review of Sex, Gender, and Diversity Analysis in Research Policies of Major Public Funding Agencies

Londa Schiebinger is the John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science at Stanford University, and Founding Director of Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment. Schiebinger received her PhD from Harvard University and is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards, including the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize and Guggenheim Fellowship.

Project summary:

For decades, Dr. Schiebinger's work has explored how humanistic methods and approaches can transform how we do science. Now Schiebinger seeks to use these approaches to help achieve greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in current scientific research and outcomes. As a next step, she proposes a “Global Review of Sex, Gender, and Diversity Analysis in Research Policies of Major Public Funding Agencies” across six continents in collaboration with colleagues from the Wellcome Trust, London, and a 14-person international advisory board that includes scholars from the Netherlands, South Africa, Brazil, and India. Importantly, sex, gender, and intersectional analysis developed historically in the humanities and social sciences. Schiebinger's is translational—translating critical, humanistic methods of sociocultural analysis into techniques palatable to colleagues in the natural sciences.

Susan Stryker

External Faculty Fellow

Department of Gender and Women's Studies, University of Arizona

Changing Gender: Memory, History, Manifesto

Susan Stryker, Professor Emerita of Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Arizona, earned her PhD in US History at UC-Berkeley. She is author of Transgender History, co-editor of The Transgender Studies Reader, co-founder of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, and co-director of Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria

Project summary:

Changing Gender: Memory, History, Manifesto constructs a unified historical narrative of gender-variance in North America from the 17th century to the present. It address the meta-historical problem of the historicity of the categories through which we think about embodiment and identity (such as the term “gender” itself), situates contemporary transgender phenomena in the long historical arc of biocentrism, and argues that trans issues are a key site of social struggle in the late Anthropocene.

Anna Toledano

Career Launch Fellow

Department of History, Stanford University

Collecting Independence: The Science and Politics of Natural History Museums in New Spain, 1770–1820

Anna Toledano is a PhD candidate at Stanford studying history of science. Her academic research focuses on natural history collecting in eighteenth-century Spain and Spanish America. Toledano is also a museum professional and has developed interpretive content at a variety of museum institutions. She holds an MA in museum anthropology from Columbia University and an AB in history of science from Princeton University.

Project summary:

Toledano's dissertation interrogates why certain plants, animals, and minerals made the journey to Spain from Spanish America—and why most did not—to develop a new, material interpretation of natural history collecting in the late Spanish Empire. Her use of diverse textual and object sources from Mexican, Guatemalan, Spanish, and Californian collections weaves together a holistic story of the history of science in the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

Fred Turner

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of Communications, Stanford University

Crisis of Representation: Media and the Politics of Difference in 1980s America

Fred Turner is Harry and Norman Chandler Professor of Communication at Stanford. He focuses on the ways that emerging media have shaped American life since World War II. He is the author of a number of books, including most recently Seeing Silicon Valley: Life inside a Fraying America, with photographer Mary Beth Meehan.

Project summary:

Between the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and the rise of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s, Americans witnessed a now-forgotten explosion in new media technologies (think cable TV, the Walkman, the VCR) and a simultaneous turn toward identity-centered politics on both the left and the right. Turner will be working on a book that explores how these events shaped one another and that argues that when they did, they helped set the stage for the polarized, hyper-individuated world we inhabit today.

Vannessa Velez

SHC Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of History, Stanford University

No Promised Land: Environmental Inequality in the Making of Globalized Atlanta, 1949-1996

Vannessa Velez is a PhD candidate in history at Stanford University. Her research broadly examines the historical impact of globalization on urban environments, with particular attention to environmental inequality.

Project summary:

Vannessa’s dissertation traces the environmental and political history of metro-Atlanta’s rapid economic development from the beginning of national urban renewal in 1949 to 1996 when the city cemented its status as a global hub after hosting the Centennial Olympics. She explores how Atlanta’s early and enthusiastic embrace of globalization led to great economic success and widespread celebration as the new ‘Black Mecca’ for African American business and culture, but these achievements ultimately came at the expense of the city’s most vulnerable communities and their local environments.

Heather Vrana

External Faculty Fellow

Department of History, University of Florida

Guerrilla Medicine and Disability in Cold War Central America

Heather Vrana is a historian of disability, revolutions, youth, and student movements in Central America and associate professor of modern Latin America in the Department of History at the University of Florida. Their current book project is Guerrilla Medicine and Disability in Cold War Central America.

Project summary:

Guerrilla Medicine and Disability in Cold War Central America reexamines the Cold War by centering disability in the civil wars of Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. To date, these conflicts have been understood mainly in terms of social class, foreign intervention, and death tolls. But disability was a critical outcome of the region’s civil wars and a major motive for combatants to take up arms. This project focuses on the lived experiences of disabled Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans before, during, and after the wars to understand the social conditions that created and defined particular attributes as impairments, to borrow from Julie Minich. In Central America, these social conditions included poverty, exploitation, and anti-Indigenous and anti-Black scientific discourses and practices. To counter these conditions, leftist militants formed specialized health systems around preventive and curative medicine, inclusion, and rehabilitation, often led by disabled comrades alongside community health practitioners and internationalists. These complex systems offered a proving ground for revolutionary ideals. As the three civil wars came to divergent conclusions, disabled combatants and civilians confronted distinct post-war conditions. Would disabled Central Americans form alliances with former enemies, participate within the state, work with NGOs, or take up the language of human rights? What can these choices tell us about the changing experiences and understandings of disability in the region? Using an archive of medic field journals, guerrilla film and radio broadcasts, government reports, case notes, public health publications, interviews, and ephemera, Guerrilla Medicine and Disability expands our understanding of disability as a cause of war, challenges the measures of loss that dominate truth and reconciliation scholarship, demonstrates how all sides of the global conflagration wielded health practices and discourses to achieve their geopolitical objectives, and shows how guerrilla medicine approached disability through interdependence and solidarity and challenged the biopolitics of human rights.

Esther Yu

Internal Faculty Fellow

Department of English, Stanford University

Experiencing the Novel: The Genre of Tender Conscience

Esther Yu is an assistant professor of English at Stanford University. Her work ranges across the poetry and prose of the early modern period through the eighteenth century, focusing particularly on the history of the emotions, popular politics, and traditions of religious dissent.

Project summary:

Experiencing the Novel: The Genre of Tender Conscience traces the origins of the early British novel’s hyperconscious narrator to the English Revolution and its invention of the “tender conscience.” First conceived as a sensitivity to sin, this spiritual ideal became a shared political principle in the 1640s. For those who publicly self-identified as “tender consciences,” even minor episcopal impositions induced unbearable pain. By discovering their tenderness, the subjects of Charles I acquired political voices; as an affective logic and moral language of resistance, this conscience ultimately justified regicide. A community-binding complex of cognition, feeling, and ethics, the tender conscience persists into the eighteenth century as the affective epistemology that drives Enlightenment thought from Lockean empiricism to Smithean sentimentalism. As it unfolds a vision of the long seventeenth century, Experiencing the Novel reveals an enduring culture of dissent whose recalibrations of affective norms shape popular politics, philosophy—and the culture of sensibility itself—from the margins

Adnan A. Zulfiqar

External Faculty Fellow

Law Department, Rutgers University-Camden

Duties to the Collective: Jurists, Islamic law and the Search for Cohesion, 945 to 1258 CE

Adnan A. Zulfiqar is an associate professor of law at Rutgers Law School. A legal scholar and historian, Adnan’s main fields are Islamic law, criminal law/procedure, and law in the Global South. His current research focuses on legal obligation, jihad and revolution, policing, and criminal codes.

Project summary:

Duties to the Collective is the first book written on the overlooked story of collective duties in Islamic law. It explores the dynamic way in which jurists, between the tenth and thirteenth centuries CE, responded to desperate circumstances by expanding legal responsibility to maintain civilizational unity. The book uncovers how they utilized Islamic law to build a theoretical framework for greater cohesion—social and political. To promote solidarity, jurists reached into Islamic law’s toolbox and retrieved its most powerful motivating tool: duty. Jurists tasked themselves with fashioning more robust and functional doctrines on the duties central to communal life. Collective duties (farḍ kifāya) became the vehicle through which jurists sought to define a singular moral community that could endure even when the polity did not.

Victoria Zurita

SHC Dissertation Prize Fellow

Department of Comparative Literature, Stanford University

The Paradoxes of Aesthetic Individualism: Fashioning Selves and Communities in Fin-de-siècle France and Spanish America

Victoria Zurita is a PhD candidate in comparative literature at Stanford University. She received a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and a Master’s degree in French and comparative literature from Paris 7 Denis Diderot. She specializes in nineteenth-century French and Spanish American literatures and conducts research on the history of subjectivity, literary modernisms, and value theory.

Project summary:

Zurita’s dissertation studies a constellation of ethical and aesthetic ideals common to three intersecting literary movements which flourished during the last three decades of the French and Spanish American nineteenth century: Symbolism, Decadence, and Modernismo. She has termed this constellation “aesthetic individualism”—the valorization of an individual’s uniqueness, self-determination, and integrity, and the cultivation of these qualities through art.  Her dissertation argues that positive and ambivalent representations of highly aestheticized individuals allowed prominent writers to problematize an array of social, political, and geopolitical issues, and to express their desire and anxieties about communal identities at multiple scales.