You are here

Research Assistants

Call for Applications: 2021-22 Undergraduate Research Assistants 

Each year, pending funding from the Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE), the Stanford Humanities Center hires undergraduate Research Assistants (RAs) to assist Humanities Center faculty fellows with research projects over the winter and spring quarters. Undergraduate RAs work eight to ten hours a week, and are paid the undergraduate rate of $15/hr, for a total of $1,500 per quarter (paid in one lump sum at the end of the quarter). The faculty leader of each project provides guidance and mentorship (e.g., weekly meetings and reviews) as the research progresses. RAs are also invited to participate in specially-tailored events at the Humanities Center during their two quarters of research.

For more thant 40 years, the Stanford Humanities Center has been a hub for advanced research in the humanities. With over 50 scholars in residencies of various lengths, the Humanities Center supports inquiry into major questions and problems in philosophy, art, literature, music, history, and religion. Research Assistants at the Center have worked with faculty fellows (from Stanford and visiting from outside universities) on a wide range of scholarly topics and research methods, including data management, network analysis, digital humanities, archival documentation, and more. RAs bring their own expertise to the faculty projects and expand their skills through working with their mentors, developing their understanding of humanities research and how it might play a role in their future studies and professional paths.

How To Apply:

  1. Read the Project Descriptions listed below and determine which project(s) you are interested in applying to.
  2. Reach out directly to the faculty leader at the email provided in order to indicate your interest and discuss next steps in the application/interview process.

List of Project Titles for which RAs are sought. 
Full descriptions of the projects, including research assistant qualifications, follow below.


Project Title: Sonic Cyberfeminisms: Creating a Feminist-Informed Vision of Robotic Technology in an Immersive Performance

Faculty Leader: Patricia Alessandrini, Music/CCRMA, Stanford University (Assistant Professor), 

Project Description: The question at the core of this project is to explore how technologies currently in development—including robotics—may be (re)conceptualized through distributed, non-hierachical feminist frameworks. Drawing upon cyberfeminist and technofeminist theory, as well as recent developments in sonic cyberfeminisms, this project will explore feminist perspectives on present and future technologies through the development of a multimedia performance in an imagined interplanetary setting, created in collaboration with author Alexandra Kleeman and two coloratura soprani, Marisol Montalvo and Donatienne Michel-Dansac. The project examines how robotic technologies (enacted in this “duodrama” through physical computing systems used to produce acoustic sound) and feminist frameworks may be useful in grappling with the social and ethical problems associated with these technologies.

Research Assistant (RA) Responsibilities and Learning Outcomes: The RA will gain familiarity with practice-based research methodologies and a range of creative projects, ranging from physical computing design to musical performance. Tasks for this RAship may include locating sources, creating summaries and reference lists, compiling resources and documentation, and performing research on institutions and repertoires in the performing arts, as well as in-depth studies of certain technological aspects, such as the history and development of musical automata. The RA should be open to interdisciplinary research and have an interest in feminist theory and perspectives on technology. They may have previous studies and/or experience in one or more of the following areas: contemporary music, sound art, opera, performing arts, networked performance, audiovisual performance, immersive experience, theatre, gender studies, futurist literature, physical computing, computer science, engineering, ethics of technology.


Project Title: Into the Choice Box: Choice Architects and the Analog Origins of Digital Capitalism

Faculty Leader: Eli Cook, History, University of Haifa (Associate Professor)/SHC External Faculty Fellow,

Project Description: Tracing the emergence of Choose-Your-Own Adventure books, Cosmo quizzes, stock market simulations, standardized tests, behavioral "choice experiments," market research machines, and much more, this project examines how 20th century American life was restructured by an endless array of interactive, multiple-choice “menus.” While such novel, choice-centric formats led Americans to genuinely feel as if they were wholly individual subjects entirely free (and thus also responsible) to choose their own fate, this project traces the origins of our current era of platform capitalism by uncovering the powerful “choice architects” that structured the choices made available to them while also using such menued choice to collect reams of profitable data that uncovered what makes Americans tick-and pick.

Research Assistant (RA) Responsibilities and Learning Outcomes: The RA will be introduced to an interdisciplinary array of historical methodologies and analyses surrounding the cultural, intellectual and social history of American capitalism in the twentieth century. This includes the history of economic thought, psychology, education, consumerism, finance, market research and more. The student will gain valuable experience in collecting primary research from archival papers, public opinion surveys, school tests, business magazines, various newspapers, government reports, TV guides, and much more. Lastly, the RA will learn how to synthesize these materials into a historical narrative arc which tracks change over time.


Project Title: Stanford LGBTQ Oral History Project 

Faculty Leader: Andrea Davies, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Stanford University (Lecturer)/Associate Director, Stanford Humanities Center,

Project Description: For the past 10 years, the Stanford LGBTQ Oral History Project has documented the rich history of LGBTQ students at Stanford University. This oral history project  has recorded over 100 LGBTQ Stanford student stories, which span from the 1960s to the present. This vital historical record is archived in the Stanford University library, and available for current and future academic research projects, including this effort to analyze the history of interview records for pertinent themes. 

Research Assistant (RA) Responsibilities and Learning Outcomes: The RA will be trained in oral history methodology in order to conduct oral history interviews with LGBTQ Stanford alums. In addition, the RA will work with the faculty leader to learn new methods of interview analysis. This new undertaking will result in an academic article to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. The RA will also prepare oral history recordings and transcripts for submission to the Stanford library archives. Regular meetings will be scheduled with the faculty mentor to discuss progress and to gain input on the methods, research design, and findings. Learning outcomes include competency in oral history methodology and the archival process. The RA should have completed coursework in LGBTQ history and have an interest in oral histories. 


Project Title: From the Margins: Indexing Grassroots Comics

Faculty Leader: Margaret Galvan, English, University of Florida (Assistant Professor)/SHC External Faculty Fellow,

Project Description: This project examines the centrality of comics art to contemporary social movements by building an online database to index comics and cartoonists as they appeared in American progressive grassroots newspapers and other media (1960s-1990s). In such publications, comics are often plentiful, yet many of the artists are little known and their cartoon theorizations of social movements—including feminism and LGBTQ activism—have been largely forgotten. By building an online index of the comics, cartoonists, and periodicals, this project aims to locate these comics and recover these cartoonists’ legacies for research.

Research Assistant (RA) Responsibilities and Learning Outcomes: The RA will gain an in-depth understanding of the role of cartoon art within grassroots social movements and learn how to conduct archival research with digitized sources in order to locate comics and cartoonists. The RA will participate in and learn about the process of building and sustaining a digital humanities project. In prototyping the online index, the RA and faculty member will examine other relevant digital humanities projects, create standardized fields of data to be indexed, and design the layout and information architecture of the online index. The RA will assist the faculty mentor in establishing partnerships with relevant digital archives and in identifying future sources of grant funding for the project. Experience with WordPress and databases is a prerequisite for this RA position; fluency with computer programming and data structuring would be ideal.


Project Title: Ante-Possession: The Afterlives of Dispossession

Faculty Leader: David Kazanjian, English and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania (Professor)/SHC External Faculty Fellow,

Project Description: This project examines legal cases from turn-of-the-18th-century Yucatán and New England, showing how they call for a revision of contemporary theories of dispossession. While dispossession entailed the theft of labor, bodies, and land, those who suffered from that theft did not always understand what was stolen as belonging to them prior to the theft. Dispossession itself often entailed the imputation of possession to the dispossessed as its condition of possibility. As a result, dispossessed people often challenged such theft without making claims of prior ownership and without seeking the return of their putatively prior possessions, thereby refusing or unsettling possession as such. While drawing on research into scores of legal cases, this project focuses on two representative cases from the 1690s, centering on enslaved black men: the cases of Adam from Boston and Juan Patricio from Yucatán. This project reconstructs these cases from original archival research and re-narrate them as quotidian histories to show how seemingly local conflicts have much to teach us about ongoing, structural relationships of dispossession across the Americas.

Research Assistant (RA) Responsibilities and Learning Outcomes: The RA will gain an in-depth introduction to the dynamics that characterized the beginnings of racial capitalism in the Americas: the theft of labor, land, and bodies from black and indigenous people, as well as the efforts by those people to oppose such theft. As those efforts were often characterized by an opposition to the possessive logic of capitalism itself, they have much to teach us about how to challenge dispossession today. The RA will have the opportunity to create digital depictions of key cases using tools such as ArcGIS StoryMaps. This would include translating information gleaned from archival documents into compelling, contemporary multi-media formats. The RA can also be involved in translating sections of the 1690 court case from Yucatán as well as conduct further archival research on court cases involving dispossessed black and indigenous people in New England and/or Yucatán. Fluency in Spanish, particularly colonial Spanish, would be helpful but is not required.


Project Title: Audiation: Listening to Writing 

Faculty Leader: Lucia Martinez Valdivia, English, Reed College (Associate Professor)/SHC External Faculty Fellow,

Project Description: This project imports and introduces the concept and keyword of audiation from music education to literary criticism and sound studies, describing the faculty by which we “hear” in the mind. For literary criticism, audiation facilitates a focus on the mental soundscapes text can convey, on the range of non-lexical and non-vocal sounds alphabetically represented language can record and communicate, and on its capacity to create mental experiences of sound that exceed the possibilities of physical speech and the acoustic worlds available to our physical senses. Surveying and reconsidering the sound-related phenomena and vocabularies that typically attach to literary critical and neurocognitive discussions of silent reading in general, and of reading lyric poetry in particular, this project models possible affordances of the concept of audiation for theorizing literature and sound. 

Research Assistant (RA) Responsibilities and Learning Outcomes: The RA will help identify and interpret relevant scientific studies from fields such as linguistics, psychology, and neuroscience, learning to put them in dialogue with humanistic lines of inquiry such as literary criticism and sound studies. In so doing, the RA will also refine skills in secondary research and literature review. The ideal candidate will have some lab experience, up to and including experiment design, and an interest in cognition and/or language processing. 


Project Title: Beyond Loving: Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Black Freedom Movement

Faculty Leader: Traci Parker, African American Studies, University of Massschusetts (Associate Professor)/SHC External Faculty Fellow,

Project Description: Beyond Loving examines African American romantic encounters in the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. It argues that these movements informed African American romantic relationships (including those that were casual and committed, as well as heterosexual and homosexual) and these relationships, in turn, revolutionized gender and sexuality, family and community, and activism. Black activists whose radical ideas were forming and shaping these movements explored unconventional ideas related to the structure of their romantic relationships (i.e. aspired to legal monogamous marriages, embraced cohabitation or open relationships and/or challenging traditional gender-role expectations), hoping to advance liberation for individuals and the race. The reclamation of the black family, for example, was almost every strand of Black Power and thus had profound impacts on Black Panther romances.

Research Assistant (RA) Responsibilities and Learning Outcomes: The RA will gain an in-depth introduction to historical research and analysis through their efforts investigating the history of African American love and the black freedom movement. They will acquire and refine skills such as primary and secondary research (i.e. archival research on the Black Panther Party and its members and a literature review of scholarship on the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Feminist Movements). Knowledge of the twentieth-century black freedom movement would be ideal.


Project Title: Literature Crossing Ethnic and Racial Boundaries 1600-1700. 

Faculty Leader: Nigel Smith, English, Princeton University (Professor)/SHC External Faculty Fellow,

Project Description: This project will examine the emergence of the idea of a ‘global’ literature over a century before it is usually supposed to emerge in the mercantile entrepôts of early modern Europe (c. 1500-1700), and in the context of their global trading and colonial relationships. While important work exists on the role of European letters in encounters with people and places in the Americas, this will be the first detailed literary study of the coming together of different cultures and creeds embracing Europe, Asia, Africa and America, as the early modern trading entrepôts made connections globally and began to produce populations at home or in colonies that manifested multi-racial identities. There is here a measure of respectful co-existence and mutual interest even as brutal subjection manifested itself. Some of this literature contains early anti-slavery statements, and this project is committed to revealing non-European as well as European viewpoints.

Research Assistant (RA) Responsibilities and Learning Outcomes: The RA will gain an in-depth introduction to literary and historical research and analysis as they gather and assess primary and secondary materials. They will acquire and refine skills and familiarity with different kinds of literary and historical analysis (which may involve the creation of a database cataloging the materials). At the same time they will necessarily improve their language skills and knowledge. The RA will gain experience in analyzing comparative findings between countries and regions across time periods. In order to help find primary and secondary sources, it is preferred (but not required) that the RA has any level of competence in one or more of the following languages: Arabic, any African language, Persian, Sanskrit (or any South Asian language), any East or South-East Asian language. Familiarity with Latin or other European vernaculars (e.g., French, German, Spanish, Italian) might also be relevant and helpful.