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Current Undergraduate Fellows

Amir Abou-Jaoude

Art History and American Studies

Advisors: Jody Maxmin, Richard Meyer, and Christian Whitworth

Amir Abou-Jaoude is majoring in art history and American studies. He is fascinated by American cinema of the 1950s, primetime soap operas of the 1980s, the Broadway musicals of Stephen Sondheim, and the ballets of George Balanchine. His paper, “A Pure Invention: Japan, Impressionism, and the West, 1853–1906,” was published in The History Teacher in November 2016. He has also contributed to the Stanford University American Studies newsletter, and his film criticism has been featured in The Stanford Daily, where he served as managing editor of the Arts & Life section. His current research explores how the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe employed classical Greek motifs in his work. He was awarded the Hoefer Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Writing for a paper on Mapplethorpe entitled Perfecting the Photographic Process.


What is the focus of your current research?

My art history honors thesis examines how Robert Mapplethorpe alluded to antiquity in his works. Mapplethorpe was the preeminent chronicler of queer culture in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s. As he progressed from an up-and-coming collagist to a peerless photographer, LGBTQ Americans experienced the excitement of Stonewall and the scourge of AIDS. Therefore, Mapplethorpe’s invocations of ancient Greece not only illustrate his development as an artist, but also provide insight into a crucial period in gay history. By citing a culture that flourished millennia ago, Mapplethorpe was better equipped to speak to his own moment.

 

What drew you to this topic?

In the winter of my sophomore year, I took Professor Jody Maxmin’s course on classical Greek art. Although the works we examined dated from the 5th and 4th-c. BCE, they seemed strikingly modern. Sculptors like Praxiteles and Skopas challenged common conceptions of gender and presented sexuality provocatively. When the course concluded, I was eager to continue exploring ancient aesthetics. In the spring, I took another compelling class—Professor Elizabeth Kessler’s seminar on American identity. We read Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids, which focuses on her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe. When we analyzed some of Mapplethorpe’s photographs in class, I was immediately captivated. After looking more closely, I noticed some similarities between Mapplethorpe’s images and the Greek art I admired. It has been thrilling to work on this topic since it unites two of my passions in art history.
 

How are you conducting your research?

This summer, I received a UAR grant to visit the Mapplethorpe archive at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The archive is expansive—it contains the photographer’s work, correspondence, and personal belongings. My grant also allowed me to travel to the Cornell University Archives, which holds additional ephemera relating to Mapplethorpe. While working on this project, I have not only had epiphanies in the archive, but have also made discoveries in the library. I have broadened my knowledge of artists in ancient Greece and 20th-century America. Scholarship by Martin Robertson, J.J. Pollitt, Roland Barthes, and Susan Sontag has proven particularly illuminating. Finally, I have drawn on the expertise of my advisors within the department, Professor Jody Maxmin and Professor Richard Meyer.

 

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

Mapplethorpe found inspiration in a potpourri of places. Some of his influences dated not from antiquity, but from the Victorian period. The homoerotic photographs of the Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden and the sensual sculptures of Sir Frederic Leighton were sources of inspiration. Mapplethorpe also drew on male muscle magazines from the 1950s. Physique publishing pioneers like H. Lynn Womack referenced antiquity to make ordinary models appear as studs. Mapplethorpe adopted their approach. In his own photography, he would often employ classical aesthetics to make his subjects more desirable. Thus, my thesis is not only about the legacy of the ancient Greeks, but also considers a conglomeration of kitsch.
 

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

The achievements of the ancient Greeks have been endlessly interpreted and appropriated. For example, Southern aristocrats modeled their plantation houses after Greek temples. Northern veterans drew inspiration from the Temple of Zeus at Olympia in designing the Lincoln Memorial. The Nazi Party extolled the ancient Greeks as exemplars of Aryan perfection, while physique publishers like H. Lynn Womack employed classical aesthetics to envision a more inclusive world. Mapplethorpe’s allusions to antiquity have never been studied in detail, and his references add richness to this larger story. Furthermore, Mapplethorpe’s connection to the Greeks underscores the omnipresence of the past. In Mapplethorpe’s era, gay leaders were setting precedents and surmounting unparalleled obstacles. Still, Mapplethorpe looked back to his forebears. His art reminds us that in order to move forward, we must acknowledge our history.
 

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

Academically, my thesis research represents the culmination of my Stanford education. It allows me to unite my expertise in art history and American studies. It provides me with the opportunity to hone my scholarly skills and work with advisors I admire. It gives me the chance to reflect on the knowledge that I have acquired here. Professors Kim Beil, Valerie Kinsey, Emanuele Lugli, Michele Elam, and Jennifer Burns all were integral to the development of this project. Most importantly, my work gives me a new appreciation of an artist I revere. Robert Mapplethorpe sought to create “magic” through his photographs. Being able to see his pictures with fresh eyes is a magical experience for me.
 

Isabelle Carpenter

International Relations and Comparative Literature; minor in Middle Eastern Literatures, Languages, and Cultures (Arabic)

Advisor: Alexander Key

Isabelle is a senior from Austin, Texas double majoring in International Relations and Comparative Literature with a minor in Middle Eastern Literatures, Languages, and Cultures. Specializing in Arabic and the Arab World, her work focuses on gender, education, and language in the colonial and post-colonial context. In particular, she is fascinated by concepts of Arabic literary modernity and will be writing her honors thesis on Ahmed Faris Shidyaq, an early pioneer of the nahda movement. Outside of academia, Carpenter is the president of the Stanford Polo Club and works with Syrian Youth Empowerment, an organization dedicated to helping Syrian high school students apply to universities globally.


What is the focus of your current research?

My thesis examines Ahmed Faris Shidyaq’s masterpiece, Leg over Leg, as an inversion of the colonial travelogue and a reflection on the sexual anxieties that accompanied colonial masculinity. Leg over Leg, a four part, 1,000 page journey through the life of The Fariyaq (Shidyaq’s literary self) as he leaves his home on Mount Lebanon for Egypt, Malta, Tunis, England, and France. Where colonial travelogues attempt to render the unknown known, Shidyaq’s travel narrative offers a topsy-turvy glimpse into the religious, sexual, and social practices of each society that he encounters. I will look at the implications of this reversal and posit an alternative vision of modernity gleaned from Shidyaq’s radical views on education, language, and the role of women in society.
 

What drew you to this topic?

I actually first discovered this book during a visit to the archives at the American University of Beirut in Beirut, Lebanon. While I was studying abroad at AUB, I took a class on Islamic Art and Modernity and an early edition of Leg over Leg was pulled for us to discuss Arabic printing conventions. The brief description of the book piqued my interest and I soon fell down the Shidyaq rabbit hole. The central problem that I’ve faced while writing this thesis is that Leg over Leg is so rich that I can’t possibly write about everything that I’d like to. From the first moment that I opened Leg over Leg, I knew that I had to write about it and actually declared Comparative Literature for the express purpose of this project!
 

How are you conducting your research?

The bulk of my work is centered on textual analysis of Leg over Leg since it is so rich in both form and content, containing not only huge blocks of rhymed prose and poetry, but also lists of rare Arabic words presented in a lexicon-like style. Due to the dearth of work on Shidyaq in English, the majority of my secondary sources will be Arabic language commentaries and Shidyaq’s other, untranslated letters and books.
 

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

I think that many people have, consciously or unconsciously, static and conservative visions of Arab masculinity. A look into the life and writing of Ahmed Faris Shidyaq complicates such a notion. Through the Fariyaqiyyah, the wife and female embodiment of Leg over Leg’s protagonist, Shidyaq plays with female subjectivity and the very idea of gender binary. In my thesis, I hope to highlight the ways in which Shidyaq can be read as a visionary in his own right, advocating for reforms that were not only radical in an “Arab” context, but in a global one.
 

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

I believe that the value of this project can be found in the fact that Shidyaq is not only chronically understudied outside of the Arabic speaking world, but also serves as a powerful rebuttal to essentializing claims about what it is to be both Arab and modern. In an era of rising intolerance, it is critical to read works like Leg over Leg that consciously interrogate the ways in which the self is constructed against the foil of the other.
 

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

I am beyond thrilled that this passion project has been given the space, thanks to the Comparative Literature Department and the Humanities Center, to turn into a major research project. Having the time, space, and resources to explore this brilliant work of literature in the depth that it deserves is a privilege that has affirmed my interest in continuing my academic pursuits in graduate school and my ongoing need to improve my Arabic language skills.
 

Emily Elott

English

Advisors: Michaela Bronstein, Alice Staveley

Emily is a senior majoring in English, focused on British Modernism. Above all else, beautiful and strange language delights her. She is currently fascinated by the always contentious relationship between politics and aesthetics in literature. At Stanford, she is a co-founder of the literary journal, Caesura, desk editor for the Opinions Section of The Stanford Daily, and a columnist herself. Elott enjoys using Op-Eds to procrastinate on writing her honors thesis. In the past, she has worked at CESTA on the Modernist Archives Publishing Project, with her major advisor, Alice Staveley.


What is the focus of your current research?

My current research focuses on the unexcavated relationship between two British novelists, Virginia Woolf and Thomas Hardy. I am focused on two texts in particular: Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and Hardy’s Jude the Obscure. These texts both garner strength from their valiant yet flawed attempts to understand gender, class, obscurity, and otherness in modern England. I am attempting to perform a transhistorical reading, inspired by my advisor’s most recent book, Out of Context. By “transhistorical,” I mean that I wish to see how Woolf refurbishes Hardy for her own political and aesthetic aims, but also how Hardy’s novel might not acquiesce as quickly as Woolf wants to these demands.
 

What drew you to this topic?

My major advisor, Alice Staveley, is a Woolf scholar. She encouraged me to explore Woolf’s corpus-- and I quickly became enamoured of Woolf’s complex, dizzying language, and her capacity for heartbreaking elegy. When luxuriating in Woolf’s diaries one afternoon, I came across an entry she wrote about Thomas Hardy. I discovered that she conceived of A Room of One’s Own while composing Hardy’s obituary. When I realized that no lineage had yet been traced between the two, I found my honors thesis.
 

How are you conducting your research?

My research has an archival component to it. I received a Major Grant to consult the manuscript of Jude the Obscure at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England this summer. I now have a digitized version of the manuscript that I have been using to track Hardy’s aesthetic changes to Jude the Obscure. He was asked to heavily bowdlerize the novel in order for it to be read aloud in family circles. This meant that he needed to censor any overt references to female sexuality or lack of decorum. After consulting the manuscript this summer, I am now working on the formal aspects of both texts, including style and language, to mount my argument. I hope to connect my archival work to this intensive formal scrutiny.
 

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

Most people today read A Room of One’s Own for its overt feminist argument. The famous paraphrase is that a woman requires a room of her own and £500 a year to write fiction. As such, the text is often used in introductory feminism courses. It is woefully neglected as an aesthetically interesting art object—which it certainly is. Very few critics have considered the essay outside of its explicit political purpose. But this, I argue, is essential to understand the essay’s lasting import. It is much more than a well-argued polemic.
 

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

Implicit in this question is a larger one: what is important about English as a discipline? To answer this, I must first say that I believe the discipline is internally confused about this very question. Postmodern approaches to literary criticism, ranging from Derrida’s deconstruction fever to a reading practice centered in context / history to a highly specialized manner of writing that alienates all but a few scholars, have caused a crisis of faith in our discipline. Who are we writing for, and why? This is precisely why I feel my topic to be valuable. Over the course of writing this thesis, I hope to find a way of writing about Woolf and Hardy that attempts to answer this crucial question. In doing so, I may push the bounds of the discipline. 
 

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

This honors thesis has taught me to be more honest with myself. A feeling of panic comes over me when I think of all there is to read that I have yet to encounter. Once, this might have sent me into a tizzy. I might have tried to read Middlemarch, “Paradise Lost,” and the entire First Folio in a week. Now I know that I must be selective, for there will always be more books to read, but not more days in which to read them. I must balance my desire to read and learn with the other, important need to be a human.
 

Ravi Veriah Jacques

History

Advisors: Priya Satia, Kathryn Olivarius

Ravi Veriah Jacques is a senior majoring in history. His academic interests lie foremost in the long 19th century from the French Revolution to the First World War, an era of extraordinary change that saw the advent of industrialization and the expansion of empire with its corresponding racism to the flourishing of nationalism. His thesis—on an 1857 revolt in India against imperialism at the very height of British hegemony—draws on many of these themes. Ravi is a strong believer that history (and academia more generally) is at its most compelling and pertinent when it engages vigorously with the public sphere—a belief that informed The Stanford Sphere, a publication that he created in 2017. The Sphere seeks to enrich and broaden campus discourse primarily from a progressive standpoint and now has 20 writers. Outside his intellectual endeavors, Ravi is a talented violinist; in his native England he studies under the Royal College of Music professor Maciej Rakowski and has performed at many of London’s most illustrious venues.


What is the focus of your current research?

The Indian ‘Mutiny’ of 1857-8 gripped British political and social life, and forced a fundamental shift in the Empire, marking the demise of the early 19th century belief in the capacity of Indians to be crafted and civilized into modern English subjects. Following 1857, however, the British came to view their Indian dependents as inherently, racially inferior. My thesis seeks to understand the emergence of these notions of Indian difference through examining the racialized outcry aroused by the onset of the revolt. My research will help us grasp the complex anxieties and forces that served to harden British racism at a key juncture in the history of the Empire.
 

What drew you to this topic?

A product of imperialism myself–my Malaysian-Indian mother shared her first kiss with my English father on that old colonial outpost, Hong Kong—I have always been fascinated by the ways in which empire has shaped British society and, particularly, its attitudes towards non-white citizens and subjects. Empire, after all, largely explains the uplifting throngs of non-white faces that now populate England’s major cities—and the manner in which the white majority perceives those very faces. I was therefore enthralled by Catherine Hall’s Civilizing Subjects, a seminal work that explores mid-19th century British racism through the Morant Bay Revolt of 1865 in Jamaica. I wondered if a similarly interesting history could be written of racism in the metropolitan response to the 1857 “Mutiny,” and a trip to the Stanford archives quickly yielded a fascinating array of materials. Back in London that Christmas, I happened upon a statue of General Havelock (the key British military figure in 1857) in Trafalgar Square. I knew then I had to write this thesis, and that doing so would help me penetrate into the dark heart of British racism.
 

How are you conducting your research?

The early, highly racialized metropolitan reaction to the mutiny consisted foremost of meetings held to raise funds for British "sufferers" of the revolt in India alongside countless reports and letters from the subcontinent published in the newspapers of the day—materials that are, thankfully, digitized. Later in 1857 and 1858, a rich pamphlet debate emerged over the causes of the revolt and its implications for future patterns of British imperialism in India. Over the summer, I traveled to the British Library to view these pamphlets alongside early histories of the revolt published before the fighting had subsided.
 

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

Following the outbreak of the revolt, there were widespread (and utterly false) reports in the newspapers of the day that the "mutiny" was the work of subversive Russian ‘agents.’ Russophobia runs very deep within the West’s psyche indeed.
 

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

Britain continually struggles to think about itself in new paradigms. Indeed, its history since 1945 reads as a quixotic quest to discover a post-imperial role and identity. There were, of course, forward-looking moments, particularly the 1973 entry into the European Community. The 2016 Brexit referendum, however, signified a hasty retreat into an outdated imperial identity, reflecting a desire to return to an immemorial past when Britain enjoyed full ‘sovereignty’ and ruled the waves. With the resurgence of this imperial nationalism, the racism that has always simmered under the polite veneer of British society rushed to fore—wielded as a potent tool by the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage. In this troubling era when Britain is thinking about the world in increasingly parochial and prejudiced terms, it is crucial to probe the racism of the era that right-wing Brexiteers look to as Britain’s golden age.
 

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

Through my thesis, I am engaging with the complex and contradictory history of my own country. The brief moment in the 1850s that I am researching captures some of the most troubling elements of Britain, past and present; an inability ever to fully see non-white people as equals; a civilizational arrogance which deems British society to represent the very height of human achievement; and a true belief in the beneficence of the imperial project. All these notions endure to some degree and make it difficult for me to identify with my homeland. And yet, at the same time, I can’t help but feel awed by the Britain of the 1850s—an ambitious and pioneering nation that thought in highly innovative and global terms. From this perspective, Britain’s current retreat into its outmoded imperial identity seems to involve simultaneously retaining the worst vestiges of the 1850s—the racism and civilizational arrogance—while neglecting the extraordinary dynamism that so defined Britain at its mid-19th century apogee.
 

Won-Gi Jung

History/East Asian Studies

Advisor: Dafna Zur

Won-Gi is a senior majoring in History and East Asian Studies. He is interested in the transnational history of 20th-century colonialism in East Asia, focusing on its impact on the nation-building of Korea. In particular, he is looking at the representation of Chinese migrants in Korean popular imagination, using newspapers, magazine articles, and detective literature. One theme that emerges across my writing is how the configuration of physical space shapes imaginative space, and he enjoys thinking about the intersection of history and literature to explore this idea. He currently producing podcasts at the Stanford Daily’s Podcast team and is also a contributing writer at the Daily’s University beat.


What is the focus of your current research?

My research focuses on the history of Chinese migrants in Seoul and their representation in media and literature during the 1920s. Under the rule of the Japanese empire, Koreans struggled to define their nation. Urbanization and multiethnicity in metropolitan areas promoted Koreans to interact with foreigners, who were crucial to the domestic economy but also posed threats of urban crime, miscegenation, and market competition. I am interested in looking at how these socio-economic dynamics between Korean and Chinese migrants in Seoul shaped the Korean popular imagination of the Chinese people in the peninsula.
 

What drew you to this topic?

As an international student studying at an American university, I have been interested in understanding the micro-level impact of globalization. This interest led me to explore the modern history of colonialism, which I believe formed the basis of transnational interactions happening in the twenty-first century. Reading world detective literature inspired me to view this theme through the perspective of crime and policing because I encountered many instances of immigrants and minorities being accused of complicity in crime. By looking at the history of colonial Korea and multiethnic interactions in its cities, I wanted to understand how a criminal stereotype is formed and reproduce by media and popular literature.
 

How are you conducting your research?

I’m looking at Korean language newspapers, magazine articles, and detective literature published during the 1920s. I’m also using Japanese language sources because only the colonial state published the government reports at that time. I am first grounding my research on the historical context of Chinese migration between the 1890s and 1920s. I will then jump into literary analysis of social investigation reports and detective literature to see how this historical reality was represented in Koreans’ popular imagination.
 

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

When people think about colonialism in Korea, they usually view it with a dichotomous understanding of colonial society. In this binary perspective, everyone is categorized as either victim (colonized) or perpetrator (colonizer), leaving no space for ambiguities. People studying colonial Korea, or colonial history in general, would be surprised to see how complex the Korean society has been during its colonial period, especially in its urban areas. By bringing Chinese migrants to the traditional nationalistic historiography of colonial Korea, I also hope people can realize the limitations of the dichotomy in understanding colonialism.
 

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

East Asia is going through a rapid transformation as the decoupling of U.S.-China takes place. Even though collaboration between China, Japan, and Korea is becoming more critical, their historiographies based on nationalism born during the Cold War fail to address the long history of transnational experience in the East Asian regions. I believe more studies should be done to understand each nation’s heterogeneous past.
 

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

My interest in this topic started in my sophomore year class Program in Writing and Rhetoric 2. For two years, I have been thinking about Korea’s position in relation to its East Asian neighbors and the rest of the world. While I do not expect this thesis to provide conclusive answers, I hope it can at least prepare me for the questions I will continue to ask in the future. Also, I am planning to use this opportunity to develop my critical thinking and writing skills.
 

Adrian Liu

Philosophy & Religious Studies, Mathematics

Advisors: Lee Yearley, Rob Reich

Adrian Liu is a senior with interests in ethics, political theory, and Chinese philosophy. His thesis work is on incommensurable choices and how we must think about them differently when we move from more private to more public realms of morality. Liu is a resident tutor for Structured Liberal Education, a desk editor in Opinions for the Stanford Daily, and the curator of Complexity Theory, an opinions series in Ethics and Technology. As a classical pianist, he has presented solo recitals as well as performed in concerts of ensemble and orchestral music at Stanford.


What is the focus of your current research?

My research is about decision-making under incommensurability, where we say two choices are incommensurable if neither is better than the other but they are not equally good. We deal with incommensurability regularly in our lives, from choices between different vocations to choices of how to spend one's weekends—(for instance; with friends, or studying?). A radical example of incommensurability is the pupil of Sartre's, who had the choice between going to England to join the Free French Forces or staying with his mother and helping her to live. No moral framework, says Sartre, could give the answer, and Sartre says only that the pupil is free to choose.

Sartre's pupil, I suggest, may have the radical freedom to choose how he lives his life, but in cases of incommensurability in a public sphere, where one's choices will affect much more than one's own life, how much do we want to allow an individual human to make the decisions?
 

What drew you to this topic?

Under Lee Yearley, my major advisor, I studied the moral philosophy of Bernard Williams and Stuart Hampshire, both of whom are skeptical of the possibility of philosophical theories to provide systematic answers to ethical questions. Williams and Hampshire appeal instead to notions of individuality, integrity, and shared social understanding to guide ethical action, but both worry that in the public realm, ethical thinking must inevitably be more consequentialist. Under Rob Reich, my thesis advisor, I studied the topic of incommensurability in the context of analyzing the (largely consequentialist) frameworks of decision-making in economic and policy decisions. In both contexts, the central problem that interested me was the tension between the possibility that we may have no systematic framework to guide ethical decision-making and the fact that we *must make ethical decisions* anyhow.
 

How are you conducting your research?

I'm currently sifting through two bodies of literature: first, the philosophical and legal literature on incommensurability, and second, the philosophical literature on public and private morality. The next step in my research will be to investigate the intuition that those in positions of influence (whether it be a public office or a private company) must consider a different, though perhaps overlapping, set of ethical questions than those making decisions in their private lives. Is the intuition reasonable, and if so, what could explain the different questions relevant in public morality?
 

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

People I talk to quickly realize the significance of incommensurability and recognize that in their own lives—their choices of careers or spouses or other important life decisions—they will have to make choices given no obvious better option. Upon reflection, it's not hard to see that similarly hard and incommensurable choices must arise in decisions of public import, but it's still frightening to really think about it.
 

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

Many students graduate from Stanford in particular with the power to make decisions that will affect a lot of people, whether we be technologists, lawyers, or policymakers, for example. And if one is reflective, it quickly becomes obvious that there are no easy answers to the question how to go about making such decisions. My project, if successful, will give the Stanford graduate the beginnings of a way to think about decisions they may encounter in their careers—a way that, though not systematic, will provide a little more guidance than Sartre's "you are free to choose."
 

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

One thing that has been quite rewarding is that, since deciding to write an honors thesis, I've found myself spending far more time reading all manner of things unrelated to my thesis.
 

Clara Romani

History, French, and minor in Italian

Advisors: Rowan Dorin, Fiona Griffiths

Clara Romani is a senior double majoring in History and French with a minor in Italian. Her research focuses on the medieval period, with an emphasis on religious and gender history and a curiosity about the past’s seemingly lost voices. Off campus, her linguistic interests have led her to study in both Paris and Florence. A three-year veteran of the CESTA (Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis) internship program, she looks to incorporate digital methods into her project. She currently works as a research assistant for Rowan Dorin’s Law and Resistance project, a Structured Liberal Education tutor, and a peer advisor in the History department.


What is the focus of your current research?

In my work, I look at the social status of women in late Cathar society. The Occitan branch of this heretical sect had been persecuted by the Inquisition since the French conquest of their region in the early 13th century. Seeking to integrate the fiercely independent Occitania into their centralizing state through the help of the Catholic Church, the French monarchy lashed out against this popular dualist sect that believed in reincarnation and let women join their clergy. As the Cathars were driven into hiding in an attempt to hold on to their traditions, the women of the religion formed strong social networks whose influence and origins I hope to explore through the study of inquisitional depositions from the 1270s and 1280s.
 

What drew you to this topic?

I first discovered the Cathars in Fiona Griffiths’s medieval survey course, when I was shocked by how radically their beliefs diverged from Catholic orthodoxy, particularly with respect to female clergy. That women held such positions of spiritual power in any medieval society ran counter to everything I had ever been told about these “Dark Ages,” as their popular moniker would make them out to be. With an initial foray into original research on the peculiarities of this sect in my Writing in the Major course, I found more questions than answers about the women of Catharism. These questions are the force that drive my research today.
 

How are you conducting your research?

I am using a combination of both traditional and digital humanities methods in an attempt to evaluate what these two modes of academic inquiry have to offer, as well as what they may miss. The central source around which I have built my investigation is a recent translation of depositions given at Toulouse from 1273 to 1282. I am combining a close reading of these rich, incredibly human documents with a network analysis of the people that appear in them to explore what sort of role women played in these communities beyond their occasional appearances in the clergy.
 

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

The vividness of these people’s stories, removed from us today by centuries, is astounding. These accounts are not sterile, they are full to the brim of life in every sense of the word. We see the tears of the woman whose mentor dies without receiving his last rites after Cathar clergy flee the region; the recapture of the malcontent wife who absconds with a Cathar priest; the arguments of the man who denies the power of anything but the sun, the soil, and his own two hands in making the crops grow (no divine intervention necessary). They all have their stories to tell, just as we do today.
 

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

I seek to play a part in reclaiming the voices of those who have been downtrodden and eradicated. The Cathars were arguably the victims of a genocide, perpetrated by a Church and a colonizing power that sought to systematically eliminate their presence from the face of the earth. The people in these depositions are aware of the precarity of their position. They can sense their faith being extinguished, trial by trail, as their clergy are burned at the stake and flee the country. I hope to do them justice by recovering their stories—and the stories of the women doubly persecuted by patriarchy and Pope—even if only through the records of their oppressors.
 

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

My thesis has shown me that people may actually value what I have to say, which is incredible to hear at this point in my academic career. It has convinced me that no matter how small, I can make a contribution to and have a voice in academia to which someone will listen, and that is a powerful thing.
 

Alexandra Taylor

Political Science, Art History

Advisors: Rob Reich, Alexander Nemerov

Alexandra (Mac) Taylor is a senior double-majoring in Political Science and Art History. She is pursuing her honors thesis through the Ethics in Society program. Mac’s intellectual interests include constitutional law, abstract political theories of justice, mid-20th century painting, and American photography. Apart from her thesis work, Mac researches for ArtsWest, a program in the Bill Lane Center for the American West. She serves as a student member on the Student Affairs Judicial Panel, the Committee for Organizational Conduct, and the Committee for Undergraduate Standards. She is the current president of the Professional Art Society of Stanford, as well as an editor for the undergraduate Art History Journal, Untitled. A Colorado native, Mac enjoys few things more than hiking in the mountains with her two Labradors, Jack and Trout.


What is the focus of your current research?

I am primarily concerned with the intersection of law, ethics, and justice systems. Within this nexus, I seek to explore a specific aspect of American judgeship: judicial decision making as it pertains to sentencing procedure. The concept of recidivism--its role in a judge’s rationale and its overarching moral implications, is central to this study. To assess this arena, I aim to investigate the notion of recidivism, the standards individual judges hold themselves to, the federal Canons binding them, and the algorithmic tools provided for aid in sentencing guidance (as well as their respective bias potential). Contemplating these collective factors, my research aims to then analyze the ethicality of unique judicial decision-making in sentencing procedure. In so doing, I hope to achieve a better understanding of the landscape of contemporary judicial decision making in the American courtroom, identify ethical points of prominent concern, and generate solutions for amelioration.
 

What drew you to this topic?

I was reading a ProPublica piece, “Machine Bias,” when I first encountered the issue of algorithmic bias in the criminal justice system. Immediately, I was drawn to problems such as the bias-potential of technological aids like predictive algorithms, or issues of narrative intelligibility and transparency and looming questions of unconstitutionality. Investigating the algorithm at the heart of the ProPublica piece— the COMPAS system—I began to navigate judicial decision making in sentence procedure, paying attention to the algorithmic tools judges may be provided with and may utilize to reach a unique decision around a defendant’s future outcome. Eventually, this line of questioning has led me to not only consider judicial decision making, but also recidivism as a concept and its related ethical queries.
 

How are you conducting your research?

I am primarily conducting my research by reading written sources. However, in the winter term I also hope to interview at least one judge in the Bay Area in order to gain first-hand insight into the complexities of sentencing-procedure and judicial decision making, as well as the mentality at play behind each unique decision being made.
 

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

Though there is a fair amount published on this subject, I think most people would be surprised at the bias potential of algorithms currently at work in American courtrooms, and that even though this bias is reflected often in the predictive outcomes these systems produce, they remain in use. From a judicial standpoint, I think people would be surprised to learn of the reliance placed on the “unique conscience of a judge” in a courtroom setting—especially pertaining to questions such as sentencing. In this same vein, I find the relative vagueness of the Federal Codes of Conduct for American judges to be somewhat unnerving in that, for a post of such esteem, they remain largely abstract.
 

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

I believe any critical evaluation of a system of judicial proceedings and structure is a relevant, needed, and necessary project for a democracy reliant on that system. Consequently, I see my work as valuable because it allows me to investigate a specific and central tenet of our American democracy (the judicial body and its decision-making processes) in order to understand its flaws and strengths more acutely.
 

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

My honors thesis is pushing me to examine questions I see as fundamental for myself as an active, informed citizen of this democracy, but also as an aspiring political scientist pursuing a potential future in law. Exploring recidivism, judicial decision making, and algorithmic bias allows me to assess a specific area of a complex justice system, attempt to understand its internal function, and to then move forward as an educated individual with a strong understanding of a particular area of criminal justice law and function. To me, this is essential work. Academically, my thesis is forcing me to be consistent in my research and to design my schedule to ensure I have the time necessary to produce a body of work I am proud of.
 

Dayonna Tucker

African and African American Studies

Advisor: Allyson Hobbs

Dayonna Tucker was born and raised in Harvey, Illinois, a city right outside of Chicago, in a red bricked home filled with amazing Black women. Always curious about all forms of creativity, and willing to try almost anything once, she believes her purpose in life is to breed love in all endeavors—scholarly and personally—and to bring about a change in the world.


What is the focus of your current research?

The focus of my current research is how Black women are creating and breaking boundaries around their womb space. I ultimately declare the womb to be a place where Black women nurture and mother themselves.
 

What drew you to this topic?

My Chappell Lougee project during my sophomore summer was centered around expanding my understandings of my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother to see mothering as only a singular aspect of their lives. I created short stories to help me work through the fullness of their beings, as I was exploring the fullness of mine in college. After exploring the topic within myself and my family, I wanted to take it to my community of Black women here on Stanford's campus.
 

How are you conducting your research?

Through the close readings of the fictional texts Spell #7 by Ntozake Shange and Sula by Toni Morrison. They both have instances where characters take bold action involving their womb space and nurturing. I will also be conducting individual interviews with a select group of women to talk about how they insist on their own definitions of themselves and their wombs, and to collaborate on a visual representation of their womb energy for the creative component of the thesis.
 

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

I'm not quite sure. I think people are most surprised by my research of the womb outside of biology because many people view it as such a physical space.
 

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

Black women's biological wombs have been controlled and under attack from the structure of colonialism and capitalism since slavery. We know why and how these structures exist. I'm interested in imagining the ways I hope societies interactions with Black women to be. It's important to do the hope work.
 

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

It has changed the way I view myself as a Black woman, my family, and my community. Academically, it has opened up my perceptions of what I thought to be scholarly to include creation and everyday knowledge.
 

Jenny Vo-Phamhi

Classics and Computer Science

Advisor: Richard Saller

Jenny Vo-Phamhi is a senior majoring in classics and computer science. Her deep interest in Roman social and economic history was ignited in Professor Richard Saller's freshman seminar. To study human trafficking in ancient and modern contexts, she seeks to complement well-established qualitative methods with quantitative data from diverse sources to overcome the challenge of data scarcity. In addition to her honors thesis work, Jenny has been researching other aspects of ancient trade networks and primary sources. During Summer 2017, Jenny helped to excavate a 6th-century shipwreck in Sicily with the Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project. Since then, working with Professor Justin Leidwanger, she has been developing a computational tool which leverages structured light scanning and machine learning for morphological analysis of pre-modern ceramics. Jenny is also a section editor for the Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal and an accomplished concert harpist.


What is the focus of your current research?

As the dominant powers of their time, both the Roman empire and the modern United States have been major destinations for human trafficking victims. My honors thesis analyzes trafficking into the Roman world to shed light upon the mechanisms of trafficking into the modern United States and the opportunities to combat this scourge and access victims.
 

What drew you to this topic?

I stumbled across this topic in Professor Saller's seminar and, with his encouragement, wrote a paper comparing the sources of trafficking victims who have found themselves in the Roman world and the modern United States. Since it was only Autumn Quarter of freshman year, I tried to keep my mind open to other interests, but I found myself returning to the questions which lingered after that first paper and continuing to research the topic from different angles. What are some ways that government authorities have responded to legal and illegal human trafficking? (Context: Roman Egypt). What are the characteristics of human trafficking hotspots? (Contexts: Delos and Ephesus in antiquity). How does a human trafficking victim escape slavery, and what are the odds of a full life in the aftermath? (Contexts: imperial Rome and classical Athens.) What factors must be exploited to operate a cross-border human trafficking operation spanning a large portion of the known world? (Contexts: early medieval Scandinavia and the Mediterranean during the Roman republic.) On what philosophical grounds can a society deprive some people of their human rights? (Context: republican and early imperial Rome). My honors thesis feels like a natural progression from these questions.
 

How are you conducting your research?

Human trafficking data for both the ancient world and the modern world is notoriously scarce. In both Rome and modern America, individual cases surface at a rate which is infinitesimal relative to the estimated scale of trafficking and provide only glimpses of the underlying networks. Understanding is based more frequently on assumptions than hard data, which are sparse. The difficulty of modeling human trafficking networks with useful granularity poses a major barrier to combatting this scourge. To rigorously understand the means by which traffickers operate, scarce and fragmentary evidence must be innovatively synthesized from disparate sources.

The most useful types of ancient evidence have been literature, law, archaeology, epigraphy, and tax ledgers. For modern evidence, I draw upon raw datasets catalogued by the U.S. government and hosted in the public domain, news articles announcing charges and convictions of traffickers, and analytics of advertisements and similar communications across the deep web and dark web, the modern marketplaces of the slave trade. For both, the perspectives of modern scholarship have been invaluable.
 

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

Over the last two thousand years, the trafficking landscape has changed dramatically. Trafficking is now completely illegal under international law. At the same time, the internet is allowing traffickers and consumers to connect on a global, unprecedented scale that would have been inconceivable to the Romans, as much as they dominated their known world. I was stunned to learn that despite these fundamental changes in legality and connectivity, the basic strategies employed by traffickers and the source populations' characteristics have remained eerily unaltered across two millennia.
 

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

Speaking purely as a scholar of classics and history, a thorough reassessment of human trafficking in the ancient world from a social history perspective—a perspective which focuses on the traffickers and the victims—is long overdue. One must venture as far back as the 1970s and ‘80s for scholarship which asks the big research questions and proposes answers (often colored by the politics of the era) about the slave trade and its mechanisms. While that foundational literature is incalculably valuable, our understanding of slavery and the victim experience has grown significantly in the last few decades. An understanding of human trafficking is vital to any understanding of the Roman world, which could not have existed without its slaves.

I also hope this thesis will have value and impact for the modern fight against human trafficking. As I previously mentioned, my core goal is to study trafficking into the Roman world to better understand how trafficking works today, how to fight it, and how to access victims. With my work, I hope to emphasize the utility of an approach which leverages many types of evidence. Since all modern trafficking operates illicitly, multipronged approaches are essential for accessing victims who would otherwise be invisible to law enforcement and other entities who could provide assistance. I also hope to draw attention to the fact that trafficking is happening on an unimaginable scale all around us. In fact, due in large part to its geographic location and transportation infrastructure, the Bay Area is one of the country's top hotspots for trafficking. In many ways, we live much like the Roman writers who thought little of the trafficking victims among them until they themselves were personally inconvenienced or, on rare occasions, emotionally moved.
 

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

Pursuing this topic has given me the chance to pursue study in areas within classics ranging broadly from literature to art to law to history in order to study the silent population of trafficking victims from as many angles as possible. With my thesis work, I have also had the opportunity to meet brilliant mentors, colleagues, and friends for life at Stanford and also at Oxford University, where I further developed my foundation in Roman social and economic history last spring within a Classics faculty which richly cross-pollinates with our own.

For the modern side of my research, I seek out people who work at the front lines of victim rescue, including human rights lawyers, social workers, healthcare providers, international organizations such as Polaris, and local service and advocacy groups such as youth shelters and the San Francisco Mayor's Task Force on Anti-Human Trafficking. These experiences on the ground have made me passionate about the modern fight against human trafficking and determined to do more work in this area.