Alumni Affiliates

Sofya Aptekar, Department of Sociology

Sofya is currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.  Her areas of expertise are International migration; citizenship and nation-building; race and ethnicity; urban diversity and public space; sociology of culture; environmentalism and collaborative consumption.

Matthew Axtell, Department of History

Matthew Axtell is currently employed as Assistant Counsel for Environmental Law and Historic Preservation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, D.C.

Keisha N. BlainDepartment of History

As an assistant professor at the University of Iowa, Keisha N. Blain is an historian of the 20th c. United States with broad interdisciplinary interests and specializations in African American History, the modern African Diaspora, and Women's and Gender Studies. Her research interests include black internationalism, radical politics, and global feminisms. She completed a B.A. (Magna Cum Laude; Phi Beta Kappa) in History and Africana Studies from Binghamton University (SUNY) in 2008 and a Ph.D. in History from Princeton University in 2014. She is currently revising her doctoral dissertation into a book manuscript,Contesting the Global Color Line: Black Women, Radical Politics, and the Gendered Contours of Internationalism. The book explores the political ideas and activities of black nationalist women from the early twentieth century to the 1950s. It analyzes an array of primary sources ranging from government records and archival material to songs and poetry to uncover the crucial role women played in building radical protest movements in the United States and other parts of the African diaspora.

Dan BoukDepartment of History

Dan Bouk was a graduate student in the history department. His dissertation, "Science and the Culture of Capitalism: Life Insurance in the United States, 1850-1950," explained the development of a distinct economic culture shaped and directed by succeeding generations of scientific and medical experts employed within some of America's most important capitalist institutions—its life insurance companies. He also writes about killing mosquitoes in early-twentieth century suburbs and researching wildlife, while maintaining broader interests in American intellectual and cultural history, environmental history, the history of technology, and the history of capitalism. In the fall 2007 he had the pleasure of teaching for AMS 201.  Dan is now an Assistant Professor of History at Colgate University.

Adrienne BrownDepartment of English

Adrienne Brown was a PhD student in the English Department. Her dissertation, Reading Between the Skylines--The Scyscraper and the Frailty of Space in American Modernism, takes the absence of the skyscraper in modernist prose as its starting point, tracing this peculiar absence to broader anxieties about the instability of space emerging in the early 20th century.  Her other research interests include the American underclass, critical race studies, popular culture (particular music), narrative theory, and Modernisms.  She received her B.A. in English from the University of Maryland in 2005.  She is currently an assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago.

Michelle CoghlanDepartment of English

J. Michelle Coghlan was a graduate student in the English department. In the fall of 2007, she had the pleasure of teaching for AMS 201. Her dissertation, “Revolution’s Afterlife: the Paris Commune in American Cultural Memory, 1871-1933,” explored the spectacularly resilient afterlife of the Paris Commune in U.S. literary, visual and performance culture. Most recently, she’s published essays excavating the “aftertaste” of ruin in the writings of Henry James, queer sites of desire in Tarzan of the Apes, and unlikely frontiers of empire and radical memory in late-nineteenth-century boys’ adventure fiction. Thanks to a Mellon Foundation Fellowship at the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, she’s also begun work on a second book-length project that chronicles the rise of food writing and the making of American taste in the long nineteenth century. In the fall of 2013, she began a full-time appointment in English and American Studies at the University of Manchester (UK).

Kameron Austin Collins, Department of English

K. (Kameron) Austin Collins entered the English department in 2009 after receiving his A.B. in Literature and Comparative Literature from Harvard, where he wrote on black hood films post-Rodney King. His dissertation, The Age of Outrage, examines recent American films and the politicized prominence of online film culture and debate, from arguments over the importance of historical veracity and complaints about "poverty porn" to vehement defenses of superhero movies.

His published work, on films like Spike Lee's Chi-Raq and the '90s flop 54, has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books and the Brooklyn Rail, respectively. He is also an accomplished crossword constructor, with puzzles appearing regularly in the New York Times and elsewhere. 

 As of May 2016, Collins will be a staff writer for the culture site The Ringer, where he will write film criticism and related features.

Peter Conti-BrownDepartment of History

Peter Conti-Brown is an assistant professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. A financial historian and a lawyer, Conti-Brown studies central banking, financial regulation, and public finance, with a particular focus on the history and policies of the US Federal Reserve System. He is author of the book The Power and Independence of the Federal Reserve (Princeton University Press 2016), the editor of two other books, and author or co-author of a dozen articles on central banking, financial regulation, and bank corporate governance. He holds degrees from Harvard College, Stanford Law School, and Princeton University’s Department of History. He is currently at work on a single-volume, comprehensive political and institutional history of the US Federal Reserve, under contract with Harvard University Press.

Nika ElderDepartment of Art & Archaeology

Nika Elder is an art historian who specializes in American art and holds a particular interest in intersections between visual art and material culture. She received her Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2013 and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Modern/Contemporary Art at the University of Florida. Her book project, Show and Tell: Representation, Communication, and the Still Lifes of William Harnett explores how and why the late-nineteenth-century artist experimented with inanimate objects and pictorial strategies that make cognitive operations visible, material, and thus knowable. An article on the function of clothing in the early photo-text installations of contemporary artist Lorna Simpson is currently under review. Nika’s research has been supported by the Wyeth Foundation/Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, and Wellesley College, as well as the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the Donald and Mary Hyde Fellowship Fund, and the Program in American Studies at Princeton, where she co-organized the first American Studies Graduate Student Conference in 2009.

Erin ForbesDepartment of English

BA (Reed College). Erin Forbes joined the Princeton graduate program in English in 2003. Her interests include colonial, 18th-, 19th- and early 20th-century U.S. literature and culture; Enlightenment aesthetic, moral and political philosophy; African-American and women's writing; critical race theory; religion and literature; law and literature; the popular press and reform writing.  Erin's dissertation, "Genius of Deep Crime: Literature, Enslavement and the American Criminal" explores the relationship of slavery and penal reform to the literary development of the figure of the "criminal genius" from early national print culture through reflections on Emancipation in the 1890s. 

Her research was supported by awards from the Center for the Study of Religion, the Program in American Studies, and the American Antiquarian Society. Erin's dedication to undergraduate education has been recognized by a Cotsen Junior Teaching Fellowship, and in the Fall of 2008 she precepted for both "Introduction to American Studies: American Places" and "Introduction to Afro-American Studies."  Erin is now teaching in a tenure-track position at the University of Wyoming, where she teaches both American and African American literature.

Josh Garrett DavisDepartment of History

Josh Garrett-Davis is a PhD candidate in the history department. His dissertation explores American Indian engagements with phonograph and radio technology from 1890 to the mid-twentieth century. His other interests include American cultural history and the history of the American West. He majored in American studies as an undergraduate at Amherst College, and also received an MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia University. His book Ghost Dances: Proving Up on the Great Plains was published in 2012.

Justene HillDepartment of History

Justene Hill was a graduate student in the Department of History.   Her academic interests included African-American History, History of Slavery in the British Atlantic World, and Women’s History. Specifically, Justene was interested in studying the formation of informal and clandestine economies within enslaved communities in the United States and the British West Indies and specifically the ways in which gender shaped participation in informal economic activities.   Justene has a B.A. in Spanish from Swarthmore College and an M.A. from Florida International University in African New World Studies.   She is originally from Oakland, California.  She is currently a scholar of African-American history at the University of Virginia, specializing in the history of slavery in the United States.  Her book project, Black Markets: The Slaves’ Economy and Plantation Capitalism in South Carolina, interrogates the relationship between slave economies and plantation capitalism in South Carolina between the American Revolution and the Civil War.  Hill argues that enslaved peoples’ dedication to their own trading activities benefitted slaveholders’ investments in plantation profits more than it benefited slaves themselves.

Jennifer HuynhDepartment of Sociology

Jennifer Huynh was a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology. Her areas of interest included race/ethnicity, Asian American Studies, immigration, and transnationalism.  She received her B.A. degree from UC Berkeley and M.A. degree from the University of Bristol.  In her dissertation, “The City Within: Negotiating race, religion, and diaspora,” she examined the boundaries of the ethnic enclave for the children of Vietnamese refugees. Huynh recently completed a study of Vietnamese-American community organizations under the auspices of the Center for Migration and Development. Prior to attending Princeton, she worked as a sociology instructor in China.

Chin JouDepartment of History

Chin Jou graduated from the history department in 2009, writing a dissertation on nutrition and medical authorities' ideas about diet, health, and obesity at the turn of the twentieth century. She is currently a lecturer in the history of science department at the University of Sydney.

Rachel LindseyDepartment of Religion

Rachel McBride Lindsey's dissertation focused on vernacular photography and the visual archives of nineteenth-century American religion by employing deep material and visual culture studies approaches. The analytic paradigms of gender, sexuality, regionality, race, and the body help to locate some of the ways religious Americans incorporated various photographies into their devotional practices, domestic activities, and religious instruction. Rachel received her B.A. in Religious Studies at Missouri State University in 2006.  She is currently an Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at St. Louis University.

Jessica Lowe, Department of History

Jessica Lowe completed her Ph.D. in the History Department in 2013, and is now an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Virginia.  She works at the intersection of legal, cultural, intellectual and religious history.  Her first book manuscript, "Murder in the Shenandoah," is about a 1791 murder case, Commonwealth v. John Crane, and uses it (and its judge, St. George Tucker) to examine competing ideas of law and democracy in the fast-changing world of 1790s Virginia.  She is also beginning work on a second project, tracing the history of American biblical and legal textualism. 

Maribel Morey, Department of History

Maribel Morey wrote her dissertation on Gunnar Myrdal's An American Dilemma (1944);  a two-volume study celebrated as one of the most monumental texts of the U.S. civil rights movement. The dissertation deconstructed the Carnegie Corporation's reasons for commissioning, funding, and publishing Myrdal's study; and in the process, helped explain how this organization became a civil rights actor in the postwar United States. She received a J.D. from NYU School of Law, and a B.A. in Politics and Romance Languages & Literatures from the U. of Notre Dame. Currently, she is a twentieth-century U.S. historian with particular interests in the history of U.S. philanthropy, the sociology of knowledge on race and ethnicity, and public policymaking on minority groups at Clemson Universtiy. She is working on two book manuscripts detailing elite foundations' changing approaches to racial inequality in the United States throughout the span of the twentieth century.

Maribel's work has been published in journals such as Law, Culture, & the Humanities, New York University Law Review, and Reviews in American History. She is a co-founder and editor of HistPhil, a new web publication on the history of philanthropy. She is also a contributor for The Atlantic Online and Stanford Social Innovation Review. For more information on Maribel Morey, please go to

Dael Norwood,  Department of History

Dael Norwood is a historian of early America, specializing in the global dimensions of American politics and economics. He was a graduate student in the history department at Princeton, where his research was supported by an American Studies Program Summer Research Prize in 2011. His 2012 dissertation, “Trading in Liberty: The politics of the American China trade, c. 1784-1862," examined how the lucrative commerce between the U.S. and Asia became deeply intertwined with the political struggles over sovereignty, expansion, and slavery that defined the early American state. Now serving as the Bernard & Irene Schwartz Postdoctoral Fellow at the New-York Historical Society and the New School University, Norwood is revising his dissertation for publication, and working on a history of “the businessman” as a potent political and cultural identity in America.  Currently, he is an assistant professor of History at Binghamton University.

Anthony PetroDepartment of Religion

Anthony Petro was a graduate student in the Department of Religion, where he focused on religion in America. After finishing his degree, he first served for two years as Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow in the Religious Studies Program at New York University, before starting his current position in the Department of Religion at Boston University in 2012. His research and teaching interests include the study of modern Christianity, especially evangelicalism and Catholicism in the United States; the history of religion, medicine, and public health; and critical and feminist theories of religion. His current project, After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion, investigates the history of American religious participation in the AIDS epidemic and its role in the promotion of a national moral discourse on sex.  Currently, he is an assistant professor in the Department of Religion and in the Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program at Boston University.

Sonya Posmentier, Department of English

Sonya Posmentier was a PhD Candidate in the Department of English. Before coming to Princeton, she received a BA from Yale University and an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Oregon, and spent many years teaching high school. Her research interests include: poetry and poetics, literary modernism, critical race studies, and postcolonial theory. Her dissertation, “’The Unvarying Season’: Cultivation and Catastrophe in Twentieth Century Poetry of the African Diaspora” inquired into the relationships among poetic form, organic form, and cultural identity during the modern period and beyond. Currently, she is Assistant Professor, Department of English at Boston University.

Lindsay RecksonDepartment of English

Lindsay Reckson received her Ph.D. from the Department of English in 2011. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in English at the University of Texas at Austin; in fall 2013 she will join the faculty at Haverford College as an Assistant Professor of English. Her research focuses on 19th- and 20th-century American literature, African American literature, photography, performance, affect studies, religion, and gesture. Her first book project, Realist Ecstasy, examines American realism's complex effort to archive and re-animate subjects of religious enthusiasm, attending to the spectacular re-emergence of ecstatic bodies and to the perils and possibilities of ecstatic performance at the turn of the century. A second project, Experimental Gestures, explores the political and ethical resonances of gesture in early 20th century literature, dance, photography, and silent film. Her essays and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Arizona Quarterly,American Religious Liberalism (Indiana UP, 2012), Religion and Literature, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.  Currently, she is an assistant professor of English at Haverford College.

Ronny Regev, Department of History

Ronny is a Lecturer in the Department of History. She studies twentieth century American history with a particular interest in popular culture, the development of mass-media industries and labor history. Her dissertation, “It’s a Creative Business”: The Ideas, Practices, and Interaction that Made the Hollywood Studio System, seeks to reveal the day-to-day reality inside this industry during it’s golden age, c. 1930-1950, by examining the effect work relations and politics had on cinematic production and content. It is a social history of Hollywood that recovers the organization of both labor and the creative process through which movies were produced, and an attempt to understand how everyday routines and interactions shape entertainment. Ronny is an affiliate of the Princeton Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies. She graduated from Rutgers University in 2006 with a BA in history and philosophy. 

Saul Schwartz, Department of Anthropology

Saul Schwartz received his PhD in anthropology from Princeton University in 2015. At the University of Miami, he is a linguistic and sociocultural anthropologist, his research examines Native American language documentation and revitalization focusing on Chiwere and other Siouan languages. His work also explores Ioway and Otoe-Missouria ethnohistory and material culture, disciplinary cultures, and collaborative research. He is currently writing on the metadiscursive significance of Chiwere words and on the Native American Languages Act.

Roy Scranton, Department of English

Roy Scranton completed a B.A. at the New School and an M.A. at the New School for Social Research before joining the Princeton English department in 2010. His dissertation, The Trauma Hero and the Lost War: Political Theology, World War II, and American Literature, 1945-1975, investigated the politics of trauma in World War II literature and explored the hero as metaphor in military-industrial capitalism. Among the issues considered are the trauma hero in modern war literature, representations of strategic bomber crews as victims in “bomber lyrics,” the metaphor of the hero in Wallace Stevens and James Jones, and the rejection of heroism in Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow and the poetry of Kenneth Koch. His research has been supported by the Princeton Program in American Studies, the New York Public Library, and the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation.

Specializing in war culture and 20th-century American literature, Roy has published widely, including peer-reviewed articles in Contemporary Literature and Theory & Event, and essays, feature articles, and reviews in Rolling StoneNew York TimesBoston Review, and Bookforum. With the growing urgency of global warming as a decisive issue for the human species, he has turned toward environmental humanities as a field of research, most notably with his essay in the New York Times, “Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene,” which was chosen for inclusion in the Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014.  

Roy Scranton co-edited Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War (Da Capo, 2013), the preeminent literary anthology from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His philosophical meditation on global climate change, Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene, is forthcoming from City Lights Books next fall. 

Sarah Seo, Department of History

Sarah Seo is a legal historian of criminal law and procedure in the twentieth-century United States at the University of Iowa. Her current project examines the history of the automobile to explain the evolution of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and to explore the problem of police discretion in a society committed to the rule of law. Seo has published in the Yale Law Journal, Law and Social Inquiry, and Law and History Review, among others. She teaches criminal procedure and legal history.

Seo has received numerous fellowships in legal history, including the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation Fellowship, the Samuel I. Golieb Fellowship, and the Charles W. McCurdy/Miller Center Fellowship. She has also practiced at an international law firm and as a pro bono lawyer. She received her A.B. and Ph.D., both in history, at Princeton University. After earning her law degree at Columbia Law School, she clerked for Judge Denny Chin, then of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and Judge Reena Raggi of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Jamie ShermanDepartment of Anthropology

Jamie Sherman was a graduate student in Anthropology whose dissertation research involved a working class bodybuilding gym in Brooklyn, NY. Broadly, her work concerned the intersection of body politics and everyday life in the United States. Her work engaged with literatures of race and multiculturalism, gender and (in particular) masculinity, and post-industrial urban socialities. She is currently working as a research scientist with Intel Labs in Portland OR, where she does research on the dialectics between society and technology.

James SteichenDepartment of Music

James Steichen received his PhD in musicology with a dissertation on American modernist expression during the Depression Era, with a focus on the composers and artists surrounding choreographer George Balanchine.An interdisciplinary scholar of the performing arts in America, he has also published on the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” broadcast initiative and is a contributor to the forthcoming Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism. His reviews and translations have appeared in The Opera QuarterlyThe Yale Review, and TLS. His research has been supported by a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship and the Howard D. Rothschild Fellowship in Dance from Harvard University's Houghton Library.  At Stanford University, he is the Program in Writing and Rhetoric Lecturer for ITALIC, an arts-minded, residence-based academic program for freshmen. His teaching and research focus on the performing arts in twentieth-century America and beyond, including music, film, opera, and dance. His current book project--Balanchine and the Making of American Modernism (under contract with Oxford University Press)--concerns the early years of the ballet enterprise of choreographer George Balanchine and impresario Lincoln Kirstein. He is the author of a series of articles on the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” cinema broadcast initiative, reference articles for the forthcoming Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, and reviews for The Yale Review, Nineteenth-Century Theater and Film, and TLS.

Anne Twitty Department of History

Anne Twitty completed her PhD in history in 2010 after accepting a position as an assistant professor of history at the University of Mississippi. Broadly defined, Anne's research focuses on questions of nineteenth century American social, cultural, legal, and political history, including the history of the American South and Midwest, slavery and emancipation, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and gender and women's history. Her manuscript, Promiscuous Legality: Slavery and Legal Culture in the American Confluence, from the Northwest Ordinance to Dred Scott examines a collection of slave freedom suits that reveals the dense, tangled web of slaves, masters, attorneys, judges, and politicians who made and unmade slavery at the margins of the antebellum West. Before coming to Princeton, Anne received her B.A. in Political Science at The George Washington University in 2003.

Sarah WassermanDepartment of English

Sarah Wasserman is an assistant professor of English at Delaware University.  She received her PhD from the English Department at Princeton University in December 2012.  Her current book project, Material Losses: Urban Ephemera in Contemporary American Literature and Culture, is an interdisciplinary study that examines the prevalence of the vanishing object in American literature and culture since the beginning of the 20th Century.  Situated at the intersection of literary analysis, psychoanalytic theory and material culture studies, this project considers how ephemera encode the grief and anxiety inspired by particular moments in the nation's history.  Her other research interests include critical race studies, urbanism, popular culture, and visual studies.  Her writing appears in Research in English and American LiteratureContemporary Literature and Modern Fiction Studies. Sarah received her M.A. in Humanities from The University of Chicago in 2005 and her B.A. in English and Biology from Kenyon College in 2003.

Leah M. WrightDepartment of History

Leah M. Wright is an Assistant Professor of History & African American Studies at Wesleyan University. She received her B.A. in History from Dartmouth College in 2003 and her Ph.D. in History from Princeton University in 2009. Leah's research interests include 20th Century United States political and social history, modern African American history, and popular culture. Her writing has been published in the Journal of Federal History, Souls, Oxford African American Studies Center Online/African American National Biography, as well as in the anthology Making the South Red: When, Where, Why and How the South Became Republican. Her research has been supported by fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the National Archives and Presidential Libraries. She has delivered numerous public lectures and talks, and has made media appearances on Connecticut Public Radio, Virginia Public Radio, Huffington Post Live, NPR, and PBS.

Currently, Leah is working on a book, The Loneliness of the Black Conservative: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power; her project offers new insight into the relationship between African American politics, the American civil rights movement, and the Republican Party.