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Current Mellon Fellows

Ksenia Ershova

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Linguistics, Stanford University

Participant Encoding in West Circassian

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

Project Summary:

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

Seungyeon Gabrielle Jung

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, Stanford University

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

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

Project Summary:

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

Nick Mayhew

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Stanford University

Queer Traditions in Early Modern Russia

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

Project Summary:

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

Carlos Alonso Nugent

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of English, Stanford University

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

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

Project Summary:

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

Michelle K. Oing

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University

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

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

Project Summary:

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

Rhodes Pinto

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Philosophy, Stanford University

The Treatment of Motion in Presocratic Philosophy

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

Project Summary:

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

Amanda Reid

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Theater and Performance Studies, Stanford University

To Own Ourselves: Dancing Caribbean Radicalism in Independent Jamaica

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

Project Summary:

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

John Tennant

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Classics, Stanford University

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

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

Project Summary:

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

JNese Williams

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of History, Stanford University 

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

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

Project Summary:

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

Adrien Zakar

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities 

Department of History, Stanford University 

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

Adrien Zakar received a PhD in history from Columbia University in 2018. His research and teaching interests are in the late Ottoman Empire, the modern Middle East, political, social and cultural histories, science and technology studies, war studies, and spatial history. He is currently developing his dissertation into a manuscript, titled Ottoman Geocracy: Territory, Society, and the Instruments of Empire (1850–1950) 

Project Summary:

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