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Current Mellon 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.

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. Ershova's work has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies.

Project Summary:

Ershova'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.

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.

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.

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 & 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.

Margarita Lila Rosa

Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Department of Comparative Literature, Stanford University

The Enslaved Womb: The Legislation of Black Maternity and Freedom of the Womb in Brazil

Margarita Lila Rosa received her PhD from Princeton University in comparative literature with a graduate certificate in African American studies in 2021. Her research explores Black womanhood and struggles against slavery and carcerality.

Project Summary:

Rosa’s current project, titled In Search for Freedom: Black Women’s Resistance to Carcerality in Early Twentieth Century Rio de Janeiro and Los Angeles, 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.

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:

Tennant'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.