Ryan Bell, Department of Politics
Candidates running for office from marginalized backgrounds face added hurdles relative to comparatively privileged ones, but the effect of associations with marginalized groups on comparatively privileged ones is an undertheorized topic in social science literature. Ryan’s project explores further whether and how racism, sexism, and heterosexism impact voters’ perceptions of candidates with close ties to marginalized backgrounds and — using an intersectional framework —investigates how these biases might play out differently for members of different social groups.
The project first leverages the close ties between Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton with President Obama to demonstrate that Clinton is penalized more by racial resentment than Biden when each is associated with President Obama, suggesting that the racialization process is more complicated and can be affected by factors such as gender. In a second experiment, Ryan then manipulates the social identities of candidates running for office and whether those candidates are endorsed by groups advocating on behalf of historically marginalized groups such as women, people of color, and LGBT people. He finds evidence that these endorsements matter as much, if not more, in shaping people’s support for candidates running for office than the candidate's gender, race, and sexuality. Respondents appear to use these endorsements as indications of which groups a candidate will likely support while in office and whether the candidate will support or challenge the existing social hierarchy. Moreover, the evidence suggests that the effect of endorsements on candidate evaluations is stronger for some candidates than others, with comparatively privileged groups such as white men not being penalized as much as those that are (intersectionally) marginalized on the dimensions of race, gender, and/or sexuality. The evidence also suggests that the opposite result plays out under certain circumstances: respondents with low levels of sexism, heterosexism, and racial resentment are more likely to positively evaluate candidates with group endorsements than those without them. Together, these results suggest that the effects of a candidate's ascribed identity and in- and out-group evaluations are intimately tied to perceived group loyalties and are more complex and than ascribed identity alone.
Julia Hori, Department of English
To this day, the plantation house remains — long-after emancipation, decolonization, and independence — one of the most celebrated, protected, and profitable structures in the Anglophone Caribbean. Julia’s dissertation asks why. Her project examines the relationship between built space and violence in the legacies of British imperial rule and Caribbean plantation slavery. Julia investigates the battlegrounds of cultural memory in material sites and architectural rhetoric on both sides of the Atlantic, tracing the enduring powers of colonial planning, plantation aesthetics, and imperial nostalgia after Word War Two. Julia’s project analyzes architecture not just as the authored design of buildings but as the material organization of ideas and bodies in space and in particular, as archives of imperial narrative. By reading the narratives encrypted within built space, her project seeks to expand the approaches to postcolonial theory and the materials of literary study.
Rebecca Liu, Department of English
My project examines the temporal practices of Chinese indentured laborers, or “coolies,” in 19th-century Peru. As indentured laborers in the greater Pacific world, coolies toiled under brutal conditions on cotton and sugarcane plantations, and despite the promise of return, they were often coerced into serving indefinitely prolonged contracts abroad. Under these conditions, they resorted to suicide, defection, and particular burial practices that, when considered in relation to the spatial and temporal dislocations of diaspora, I argue institute a new experience of time in the Chinese diaspora. By examining coolie burial sites and archival accounts of coolie suicides in Peru, as well as archival documents related to Peruvian coolies’ defection to the Chilean army during the War of the Pacific and eventual post-war settlement in Chile, the project attempts to articulate a relationship between time and freedom in Chinese coolies’ negotiations of indenture and diaspora.
Brian Wright, Department of History
When the United States seized half of Mexico’s territory in 1848, the government and its settler legions had quite a bureaucratic headache ahead of them. What to do with all this conquered territory? How would they organize and govern the deeply ambivalent people of Mexico's former northern hinterlands? And what were they going to do with all the paper that these shaky frontier governments left behind?
Brian spent the summer trying to figure out how agents of the U.S. government, Indian peoples, upstart lawyers, everyday settlers, and a small army of oddball scholars encountered, collected, and thought about the archives of Spanish and Mexican California. Brian’s project hopes to trace how a series of ambitious Mexican governors made a last-minute effort in the 1830s and 1840s to give their colonization regime some legal force and put their vernacular state apparatus on paper. After the 1849 Gold Rush, land grant files, sketch maps, Franciscan diaries, government correspondence, and administrative treatises found their way into courtrooms and living rooms across the new state. Hispanic settlers plucked personal records from their basements to prove their claims to some of California’s most valuable and fertile land. White historians quietly plundered private homes and abandoned missions for scraps of what they saw as a long-departed Spanish paradise.
As they got more and more acquainted with the material residue of the past (and more distant from the past itself), Californians of all stripes agonized about the world they’d wrought. How would they remember the dramatic transformations introduced by American conquest? By the turn of the 20th century, scrappy antiquarians and restless academics had churned out stacks of enormous history books chronicling every recorded moment in the history of the region. And yet the quest for the past remained elusive. The Mexican archives would not simply relinquish the truth of yesteryear or explain the meaning of America’s “Wild West” — those mysteries would endure.
Diana Enriquez, Department of Sociology
Freelancers walk a challenging line between being employees of their clients and running small businesses. This can make pricing challenging: clients prefer to pay for the time where the freelance is providing a specific service for them, but freelancers must also find a way to financially manage slower business seasons, when their energy must focus on marketing themselves and finding new work, rather than being paid for their primary skillsets. Diana spent the summer interviewing American freelancers in technology, design, media, marketing, and entertainment learn about the ways that freelancers set their prices and learn to negotiate their contracts. She learned about what kinds of social networks are important for survival as a small business and how freelancers gather information about the market and their clients to help them through their negotiations.
Susanne Schwarz, Department of Politics
In modern democracies, the provision of social welfare is one of the main functions that the state takes on. Yet, both the scope and nature of welfare state policies vary considerably across place and time. Susanne’s project asks how ideational discourse has shaped welfare policy regimes over time, with a particular focus on the United States. Ideas can play an important role in policy development: they can alter how we perceive the nature of the social problem at hand and affect the solutions we propose to solve it. What is more, ideational frameworks can help explain why some welfare policies remain relatively unchallenged — and unchanged — over time while others are highly contested and eventually abandoned. And ideational discourse can shed light on the emergence (or the lack thereof) of social and political mobilization to change welfare policy-related legislation. Using a mix of archival work, interviews with welfare recipients, and survey research, Susanne seeks to understand what ideas underpin various welfare policy regimes in the U.S. (e.g. old-age assistance, poverty relief, affordable housing policy), and how these ideas have influenced the political development of these policy regimes.
Shelby Sinclair, Departments of History and African American Studies
In 1831, Maria W. Stewart boldly went where no woman in recorded American history had ever gone: behind a podium. In an impassioned display of righteous discontent she spoke publicly to an audience of men and women, urging them to preserve their intellectual production and determine their historical legacy for themselves. The specter of Stewart’s exhortation to leave extant text never quite left Boston’s Black community alone. Turning our attention from New Negro internationalisms in New York City and toward the eastern seaboard, Shelby’s project asks what made Boston rife for the creation of such important Black feminist texts as The Combahee River Collective’s “A Black Feminist Statement” (1977); for the inaugural National Convention for the Colored Women’s Clubs of America (1895); and for the first public speech delivered by a Black woman (1831). Using the archives of Boston’s YWCA, NACW, and NAACP, Shelby works to craft an intellectual genealogy that takes seriously the ideas and theories that Black women discussed as students of their own social condition. By examining the fraught historiography of sexual violence as a theme in Black internationalist thought, her project attempts to uncover the ways that theory on space, place, citizenship and subjecthood is intimately linked to Black women’s bid for personhood and sexual respectability in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Jessica M. Cooper, Department of Anthropology
Mental health courts (MHCs) are novel criminal courtrooms that aspire to move individuals whom the state has convicted of a crime and diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder out of jails and into community mental health programs. Rather than merely outsource clinical care, these criminal courts actively manage and administer mental health care to individuals in their charge. Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in MHCs and their attendant clinical spaces in the San Francisco Bay Area, this dissertation examines the systems of evidence and ethics practiced in courtrooms-made-clinics. How does structural change in the criminal justice system reorganize political and affective relationships between offenders — considered clients in this context — and the state? The project hews closely to interpersonal relationships between clients and courtroom professionals to ask how care influences and directs statecraft.
Ahmad Greene-Hayes, Department of Religion
In 1975, Alice Walker penned “Looking for Zora,” which appeared in Ms. Magazine. Within the piece, Walker documented her own journey to find Zora’s unmarked grave, sequestered under moss and weeds in a segregated cemetery in Eatonville, Florida. Like her final resting place, her literary work too had been forgotten. Taking Walker’s lead, as a scholar of Black religions, African American and Africana religious histories, and gender and sexuality in the context of Black church communities, and also as the descendent of conjurers, healer women and preachers from Americus, Georgia, Ahmad Greene-Hayes’ work “looks for Zora Neale Hurston” in the Southern Lowcountry, but also in the archives of Black religious life, especially as it pertains to Black Pentecostalism in the Americas. In particular, his project charts genealogies of relation, transformation, and resonance between African rituals and religious traditions, Hoodoo/Voodoo, conjure, Black magic, and other Lowcountry Black rituals to Black Pentecostalism in the 20th century, through the repertoire of Zora Neale Hurston and the Black people of faith she worshiped with and chronicled in her novels, academic texts, and folklore projects.
Janet Kong-Chow, Department of English
Scholars rightfully note that black print culture in the American South had to overcome particularly arduous obstacles and hostile circumstances, from its earliest beginnings during the era of slavery. In Mississippi, as one example, law and custom decreed slaves were not allowed to learn to read or write, and at any Black assembly — including religious gatherings — whites also had to be present. It was, furthermore, illegal to train any Black persons as typesetters. The relative scarcity in surviving copies of Southern Black periodicals makes it even more difficult to formally outline a history, let alone fully discern the “culture” part of Black print culture. To theorize on Black print and the Black press is often to consider the production of space within white culture — itself a production of a similar kind of space (the “mainstream” press), but controlled by a hegemonic class. Broadly speaking, this project seeks to interrogate race and cultural production within highly constrained environments and circumstances, asking: what do the intersections of precarity, radicalism, and (re)memory offer us as tools for understanding new forms of citizenship and belonging?
Sarah Matherly, Department of History
In the 19th-century United States, hundreds of experimental communities formed and dissolved, characterized by a combination of chiliastic zeal and a faith in the rational and progressive basis of society. The communitarians behind these endeavors were motivated by the discrepancies in American life between freedom and bondage, affluence and want, capital and labor. They sought not revolution but reorganization: they viewed their communities as laboratories, where social scientists searched for the fairest and most efficient ways for people to live and work. My dissertation tells the story of one of these communities, Topolobampo, founded on the northwestern coast of Mexico in 1881 by a civil engineer named Albert Kimsey Owen. Topolobampo was to serve as the terminus for a transcontinental railroad he designed. It was to be a marvel of technological innovation, commercial vigor, and global trade, but it was also to be a worker-owned cooperative and a model of how capitalism and community might reinforce each other rather than competing. With its combination of rigorous social examination and the business of railroads, shipping, and agriculture, Topolobampo illustrates vividly the ways in which communitarians, far from withdrawing from mainstream society, were in fact deeply engaged in the project of national and global development. Communitarianism was neither a utopian dream nor a passing moment in American antebellum reform, but rather a malleable and enduring international movement that evolved in order to address the increasing imbalance of wealth and power in the late 19th century.
Shay O’Brien, Department of Sociology
Local elites have long marketed Dallas, Texas as racially harmonious and business-friendly, even as they work to maintain dominance over what remains a highly unequal city. The tension between those interests has been particularly salient during the “racial crises,” highly visible disruptions to or consequences of the racialized social stratification system, that have punctuated city history since its beginning. I will begin my work this summer examining two crises in particular: the rise and fall of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s and school integration in the 1960s. Dallas is a perfect case study for tensions like these due to the city elite’s exceptional level of control and focus on city image. Further, as Dallas shares exaggerated versions of many of the features of cities in the middle and Southern U.S., and because it has only been the focus of a handful of works by historians and journalists, it is sorely in need of attention from social scientists.
EB Saldaña, Department of Anthropology
EB’s work focuses on adolescent psychiatric residential treatment facilities (PRTFs) in Kentucky. Her work focuses on how organizations that provide long-term residential care and treatment to young women in Kentucky's child welfare system articulate care giving, service labor, and relationality in the commonwealth. This summer, she is exploring meanings of family, kinship, and accountability among staff in these types of facilities, and how caregivers understand the role of “the family” in treatment outcomes for their clients. She is also delving more deeply into the history of child welfare institutions in the Commonwealth, contextualizing youth institutions within the broader history of religious welfare organizations. She is particularly interested in the writings of Saint Mary Euphrasia, who founded several child welfare institutions across the United States.
Richard Anderson, Department of History
My dissertation, “The City That Worked: Machine Politics and Urban Liberalism in Chicago, 1945-69,” examines public administration and electoral politics in the archetypal Democratic city to trace the arc of urban liberalism in the postwar United States. While many observers, at the time and since, allude to “Chicago politics” or “the Democratic machine,” few have investigated just how the machine system worked or how it came to be. My dissertation explores the means and motives of the Cook County Democratic Organization led by Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, the most resilient urban machine in the United States and a bulwark of the national Democratic Party. Popular memory of the Chicago machine remains fixated on the late 1960s, when political repression and public corruption discredited the Daley administration. By recovering an earlier period when Daley represented the apogee of postwar liberal governance, my project recasts our understanding of urban machine politics and modern liberalism itself. Moving beyond the rigid distinctions scholars have drawn between conservatism and liberalism in the United States, my project argues that postwar liberalism was much more protean. The Democratic machine under Daley represented multiple liberalisms. At heart, the history of machine politics in Chicago challenges narratives of “liberal decline” and “conservative ascendency” that have dominated the literature on 20th-century U.S. political history. I demonstrate that progressive and reactionary tendencies co-existed within American liberalism throughout the postwar era.
Grace Carey, Department of Anthropology
Grace’s work explores the meaning of place and community among Charismatic and other devout Catholic communities in the United States, primarily in southeastern Michigan and southwestern Florida. She is interested in how these communities and spaces are dreamed, constructed, and lived through place-making, economic and legal systems, and imaginaries of nostalgic and utopic space. Her work focuses on the history of Catholic intentional community since the Charismatic Renewal Movement of the 1970s into the present with the building of a privately owned town centered around a Catholic University and promoting Catholic values and lifestyle. She is interested in what it means to be a moral citizen as an individual that co-interacts with these privatized spaces and the legal system at large and the processes of developing social organization and infrastructure to manifest vision into material space.
Chaya Crowder, Department of Politics
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has ignited dialogue and action about racial politics across the United States and internationally and it has worked to activate an “intersectional” political consciousness among young Black people in particular. This paper combines information from face-to-face interviews that I have conducted with BLM organizers with text analysis of BLM-related organizations’ postings on the micro-blogging platform Twitter to explore the extent to which the intersectional frame of the Black Lives Matter Movement is reflected in its online and elite-level discourses. In particular, I use this evidence to analyze the extent to which and the ways in which BLM organizers’ claims to place intersectionally marginalized groups such as women, queer, transgender, and disabled folks at the center of the movement are evident in the issues they address in their online activism. Does their professed commitment to intersectional liberation embolden them to address issues within the Black community that have been ignored by traditional mainstream Black leaders and organizations?
Liora Goldensher, Department of Sociology
How do ordinary people in the United States interact with and shape science and politics in their most intimate familial moments? When expectant parents in the contemporary United States decide where and how to give birth, private decisions are placed on public terrain. Birth and early parenthood constitute a brief — yet widespread — moment of encounter and sometimes conflict between family, state, and medical and scientific institutions. My research examines the practices of parents and care providers in the contemporary natural birth community in the United States. I pay particular attention to questions of political subjectivity, online communities and the place of machines and technology in natural birth, and care providers’ and parents’ engagement with scientific and social scientific knowledge.
James Sasso, Department of Politics
Scholars have investigated the expansion of federal judicial power as a relatively secular phenomenon; governmental growth along with statutes inviting increased litigation have pushed more issues to be decided in courts. Political scientists and legal scholars have also documented how politicians attempt to use the courts to their advantage when they would rather avoid sensitive issues such as abortion, a form of judicial empowerment reliant on political choices. This project adds a third dynamic — political polarization between national Democrats and Republicans — and hypothesizes that federal courts are becoming increasingly powerful because political parties, either through allied interest groups or on their own, have decided to litigate each other. In a polarized era, the unlikelihood of legislative action has made the courts attractive to politicians. The project will attempt to establish a pattern of litigation for important pieces of federal legislation (i.e. who brings lawsuits and how quickly) and then will examine groupings of cases (i.e. health care, environmental, or voting rights) as evidence of this changing judicial role.
Jennifer Soong, Department of English
Before it found a place in the canon, the project of Modernist American poetics in the 20th century emerged as a performative and creative act, successful only insofar as it believed in the validating function of its own linguistic practice. Often drawing from its own unestablished authority, the avant-garde, though reactionary, claimed to be the last reactionary endeavor, at once liberating change from “change from” or “change as against” the status quo. The poetic manifesto and critical establishment of a new “set of measures, standards, voltometers” legitimized Modernist experimentation by setting itself up as both a creative and social act: the critique (of culture, politics, language) and the poem could not longer belong to separate spheres, as each would come to depend on the other. My project — which stems from an interest in radical poetics — thinks about how the Poundian tradition of self-education came to influence the various modes of curation, correspondence, performance, pedagogy, and publishing in the middle and late 20th century. Taking Ezra Pound as the multifarious figure of a subsequently diverse counter-tradition, my project attempts to locate the “margin” as both a physical and nonphysical/stylistic space in American poetic history. What is the aesthetic and political space of appearance and participation — which is to say: what is its form and formation? How do physical points of convergence in bookstores, readings, and publishers themselves fit into the alternative stories told by letter correspondence, literary dissemination, and the self-creation of an abstract but open tradition that interweaves styles as distinct as those of Leslie Scalapino, Lew Welch, Michael Palmer, Gary Snyder, etc.?
Kellen Funk, Department of History
Since the late 19th century, the administration of civil justice in America has diverged sharply from the rest of the world’s legal systems. Relative to other countries, American lawyers command more prestige (and higher salaries) than judges and exert more control over litigation. My dissertation, “The Lawyers’ Code: The Transformation of American Legal Practice,” explores the origins of this trend, which began in 1850 when a commission of New York trial lawyers drafted a code that reoriented legal practice towards their interests. The code abolished all regulation of attorneys’ fees, gave lawyers the power to waive jury trials, and allowed pretrial investigation outside of judicial supervision. The code proved popular among elite American lawyers, as over thirty other states and territories enacted it by 1900, and the 1938 federal rules of practice closely followed its reforms. My dissertation seeks to understand legal practice within its political and cultural context and thus examines Jacksonian political appeals of lawyers who conceived of law as an artisan craft and Protestant theological assumptions that made “common sense” pleading and oath-taking secure indicators of legal truth. State code commissions were some of the first administrative lawmaking bodies in the American constitutional order, yet political and cultural distrust of centralized expert authority bound their work to the rhythms of the legislative calendar. With too little time for commissioners to draft — or legislators to review — comprehensive statutes in a single session, states opted to copy New York’s code and allow a powerful cadre of lawyers to substitute for a robust administrative state.
Casey Hedstrom, Department of History
At the end of the 19th century, the United States Civil War pension system was the largest welfare administration in the world and accounted for nearly one third of the federal government’s expenditures. My project, “Political Bodies: Defining Disability, Dependency, and Citizenship in the U.S. Civil War Pension System, 1862-1907,” looks to the archives of this sprawling federal program to historicize “disability” as a legal, political, and cultural status. These records reveal the meaning of disability in late 19th century America was in flux, subject to revision by not only the claims of petitioners and politicians but also the daily administrative practices and decisions of the Pension Bureau’s agents. Drawing on my research at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., my presentation will highlight claimant’s applications and the often formulaic but also deeply personal ways that veterans and their dependents presented their cases for disability before the federal government. These cases illuminate not only late 19th-century understandings of the body, labor (and one’s capacity for it), but also the economic and moral relationship between citizen and the growing federal state.
Sofia Pinedo-Padoch, Department of Anthropology
What is left of life after death? My research explores the legal and bureaucratic articulations of lives after individuals pass away without a last testament or any known next of kin. I have been conducting fieldwork at the King’s County Public Administrator’s Office, which is tasked with administering the estates of all Brooklyn, New York residents who die intestate. My focus is two-fold. First, I explore what “matters” after an individual passes away without beneficiaries — which remnants of a life become important and which disappear? What kind of life story takes shape when the State administers an estate? Second, I look at how estates are then dealt with en masse by an office with limited resources. Cases arrive in the office constantly from every neighborhood and enclave in Brooklyn. The “decedents,” as the deceased are called, run the gamut from multi-millionaires to the homeless. The work of the public administrator delves into the specifics of myriad life stories and kinship connections, but at the same time, is forced to treat individual stories as systematically organized files in a rapidly expanding archive. How is this tension between the specific and the systematic negotiated in daily office life? I hope to use my work at the public administrator’s office as a unique lens through which to view the dynamic and diverse population of New York City.
Matt Tokeshi, Department of Politics
My dissertation examines a neglected but important puzzle in American election campaigns. Despite notable African American gains in elections, success at the statewide level has been elusive. Only five states have ever elected an African American governor or U.S. Senator. Why are African American governors and Senators still so rare? To answer this question, I conducted a set of original voter surveys in real-time during actual campaigns, combined with a content analysis of news, campaign spending, and election results in all relevant states, and supplemented this data with two original experiments. The results offer four major findings. First, African American candidates are attacked more often than comparable white candidates on themes that evoke racial stereotypes, such as crime and welfare. Second, these attacks diminish support among white voters with ambivalent or negative attitudes toward African Americans — a wide swath of voters in statewide elections. Third, the attacked candidates use a variety of rhetorical strategies to respond to these attacks, and some are vastly more successful than others. Fourth, when I systematically analyze each strategy, I find that rebutting these attacks by calling attention to their racial nature backfires against African Americans but serves identical white candidates well, pointing to a racial disadvantage for African American candidates. However, a number of other rebuttal types restore their favorability ratings. Together, these analyses demonstrate that although African American candidates are constrained by race, they can nevertheless find effective ways to respond to attacks they tend to encounter when attempting to reach the highest offices in the United States. My findings advance a central line of research in American racial politics on the conditions that activate racial animosity. Existing studies find that campaign messages that highlight negative stereotypes of African Americans can activate racial stereotypes, fears, or resentments among white voters. However, this research has not taken into account an important fact: that attacked candidates often respond to these negative messages. Elections are not a single-shot event, and messages that activate stereotypes do not exist in isolation. I find that some rebuttals succeed in deactivating racial animosity. Thus, while the existing literature focuses on how campaigns activate racial prejudice, my research shows the circumstances that overcome prejudice.
Sean Beienburg, Department of Politics
My project seeks to provide an account of American states’ rights and federalist discourse by understanding the presence and causes of constitutional backlash from state legislators, governors, and electorates to national policies involving individual rights and liberties. My dissertation provides a political history of such resistance to the national government after Reconstruction, rooted primarily in state legislative journals and local newspaper accounts. I argue that constitutional opposition to the national government is continuous and deeply embedded in the American polity, but that the intensity of state constitutional resistance more closely tracks the evolution of the American party systems than it does regional or other causes. With the national parties only weakly differentiated from each other in their constitutional visions from 1880 until the New Deal, state level Republicans and Democrats alike, from both conservative and progressive wings, produced vociferous but weak constitutional resistance across a wide set of issues such as prohibition or state cooperation in national welfare policies. Previous accounts of state level constitutional politics tend to miss this ongoing resistance because they typically conclude their studies with the coming of the Civil War or focus on Washington, D.C. This tends to confine our understanding of state constitutional resistance as based in southern racial conservatism while downplaying other expressions, such as the nation’s strong progressive decentralist tradition. I conclude that with the singular, though crucial, exception of race, the North and more recently the West have actually been more likely to invoke states’ rights claims throughout American history.
Alice Cotter, Department of Music
Since the mid-1980s when American composer John Adams, director Peter Sellars, and librettist Alice Goodman set out to make opera relevant to contemporary American experience with Nixon in China (1987), their efforts have continued to be provocative. Each of their collaborations explores among the most contentious geopolitical challenges of our times: ideological conflict in Nixon, radical Islamophobia in The Death of Klinghoffer (1991), and the threat of nuclear annihilation in Doctor Atomic (2005). My dissertation charts the genesis, compositional development, and post-premiere revision histories of Nixon, Klinghoffer, and Atomic. Relying on hitherto unknown sources from Adams’s private archive, I explore the processes and the problems that shaped each work. Among the challenges faced by the creators involved finding a means to reflect upon subjects of devastating magnitude, subjects to which, in the words of Sellars, “the bathetic failure of representational artifice is an unacceptable risk.” As a result of this ethical dilemma, the creators' strategies shifted dramatically over the span of each opera’s creation. Moreover, Adams continues to revise the operas in relation to pressures ranging from the logistical to the political. By viewing his revisions in their historical contexts, I argue that these works are part of a larger communal dialogue. Important undercurrents of meaning lie in what can be reconstructed of the dynamic processes leading up to the operas as we know them, offering insight into not only Adams’s compositional practice, but also into how art can — and cannot — respond to tragedy.
Justene Hill, Department of History
Over the past three decades, historians have investigated the history of enslaved peoples’ experiences not simply as slaves, but also as consumers and producers in their local communities. We now understand that African-American slaves dedicated their free time to cultivating gardens and tending livestock to sell to one another, slaveholders, neighboring merchants, and poor white consumers. As early as the 1690s, African slaves in Charleston made themselves visible in the local marketplace as sellers, a tradition that they maintained well into the 1850s. However, there remains much to be learned about the independent economic lives of enslaved people between the American Revolution and the Civil War. Thus far, historians’ have not fully interrogated how the slaves’ economy changed over this period of time. Studies of slaves’ profit-making enterprises remain separate from the literature on economic and legal transformation in the early national and antebellum slaveholding South. My dissertation, “Felonious Transactions: Legal Culture and Business Practices of Slave Economies in South Carolina, 1787-1860,” connects slave economies to broader economic and legal transformations that occurred in South Carolina between the post-Revolutionary period and the Civil War. It argues that slaves’ moneymaking pursuits were an integral aspect of the southern plantation economy. I also show that enslaved people took advantage of inconsistencies embedded in state statutes to participate legally in their local market economies.
Ashley Lazevnick, Department of Art and Archaeology
My dissertation considers the paintings, photographs, and poems created by a group of early 20th-century artists affiliated with American Precisionism. Painters such as Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, and Georgia O’Keeffe were among those who cultivated a “machine aesthetic” style, defined by photorealist techniques and industrial landscapes. The term Precisionism was applied to their work retroactively: to create in hindsight a group that was never coherent during the 1920s and 1930s, when these artists were most active. Because the term Precisionism seems to support the myth of America’s mimetic modernism — its mere copying of European styles and modern subject-matter — it has been largely jettisoned by revisionist art historians. In contrast, my project seeks a nuanced understanding of the term “precision” in period discourse. At the time precision was colloquially associated with science, but often in a generalized manner. What are the stakes of using precision to categorize artistic production? To answer such a question, I look beyond art criticism to philosophical writing, in the essays of American Pragmatists William James and C.S. Peirce, and poetry, in the work of Marianne Moore and William Carlos Williams. An odd mix of logic, romanticism, curiosity, and imagination constellate these figures around the term “precise.” From this mix, I develop a richer notion of aesthetic precision that is better suited to investigate the enigmatic, multivalent canvases of Precisionist painters.
Heath Pearson, Department of Anthropology
“The whole problem in these small towns is the families that move in to be close to the inmates,” a Corrections Officer said to me in the prison’s parking lot. According to the muscly officer, the prison itself was not “the problem.” Instead, what followed the prison into town was “the problem.” Contrary to popular opinion, prisons are not stagnant structures, concrete and barbwire fences, that simply house transplanted offenders and employ local residents. Instead, prisons are things that leak from all sides — Corrections Officers that go back to their neighborhoods and families after work, “illicit economies” that attach to the prisons and create new pathways in these towns, and families that move from urban environments to these rural environments, to name only a few. My ethnographic fieldwork is an exploration of these things that leak. My project is an attempt to expand on the research revolving around the Prison Industrial Complex. Much of the current conversation explores the topic as if it is self-contained and stable, a phenomenon to be studied on its own. And though this research has been and continues to be invaluable for understanding the larger, historical picture, it leaves many lingering questions. What happens in the actual (often rural) towns where federal prisons are built? When a family with an imprisoned loved one moves to the “prison town,” how do they negotiate their new landscape? These are only two (of my many and always-expanding) questions, but they help to localize the conversation that can sometimes appear detached and immaterial. My work is an effort to continue exploring the “whole problem” at the local level.
Emily Prifogle, Department of History
I am currently working on a dissertation prospectus examining New Deal resettlement communities, asking what does it mean — legally, physically, culturally, socially — to make a new community? The proposed project examines planned communities created by three New Deal agencies in the 1930s. These planned communities provide an opportunity to evaluate New Deal policies at multiple scales of analysis. I expect to use micro-histories of families who lived in the New Deal communities to analyze larger questions about the federal government’s land use policies and local government law in rural areas. My analysis will include close attention to the ways in which federal land use policy involved intimate interference in the domestic sphere of community residents. I plan to use a braided-narrative method of historical writing to weave together families’ experiences, legal battles, mid-level bureaucracies, and national law and policy. In so doing, I hope to answer questions about race, gender, and class in New Deal policies and examine ways in which federal policy and legislation was created, implemented, and experienced.
Jessica Cooper, Department of Anthropology
My research explores the translocation of health policy into the domain of American criminal justice. I probe this overlapping of domains by conducting ethnographic research on the San Francisco Behavioral Health Court (SFBHC), a unique, nonadversarial criminal courtroom designed to adjudicate offenders with psychiatric illness. The SFBHC works to remove these individuals from carceral settings and shift them to therapeutic housing sponsored by the Department of Public Health and local community service organizations. The court plays an active role in monitoring offenders’ progress towards mental health through weekly conferences with clinical and legal teams, in conjunction with face-to-face reviews with the offender and judge. My research investigates the multi-level ramifications of the importation of healthcare into the criminal justice system. First, I consider shifts in subjectivity as all actors, from lawyers to indigent clients, are forced to grapple with a novel method of adjudication with implicit assumptions for the notions of responsibility and health. On an institutional level, I examine the processes of the court itself. The court configures itself as a tight-knit working group with a unique perspective on governance and the therapeutic role of the state. Lastly, I turn to the epistemological impact of the combination of medicine and law by untangling the ways in which clinical and legal actors translate their respective languages of expertise to one another.
Henry Cowles, Department of History
What is science? What makes something (or someone) scientific? These are questions with real stakes, both in the present and at various moments in the past. My dissertation explores one such moment. In the wake of the Civil War, amidst unprecedented cultural and intellectual flux, many Americans reached to science in search of a new foundation. Over the next few decades, a group of influential Americans — scientists and philosophers, psychologists and social theorists — grappled with what it meant for something to be scientific in an uncertain age. In light of evolutionary theory and the emerging human sciences, key terms like “experiment” and “experience” were redefined and, in the process, what it meant to be human was recast in terms of what it meant to be scientific. As my dissertation shows, “the scientific method” as we know it today — an orderly procedure for testing hypotheses — had its origins in these messy debates over the scientific and the human in modern America.
Jennifer Jones, Department of History
My dissertation, “The Fruits of Mixing: Homosexuality and the Politics of Racial Empowerment in the South, 1945-75” chronicles the manner in which characterizations of gay men and lesbians were an important aspect of southern-based campaigns for and conflicts over Black racial equality. Advocates and opponents of racial equality used these characterizations to delineate whom should have access to the full benefits of national citizenship and race-defined communal belonging. African American institutions and communities articulated and engaged with concepts of homosexuality during various campaigns for racial equality and civil rights. Undermining historical assumptions of Black communal silence on such issues, African Americans alternately included and excluded gay men and lesbians from political visions of racial and national belonging. Segregationists, conversely, characterized African Americans and racial liberals as homosexuals in their attempts to counter their challenges to white supremacy. This rhetoric, which emerged during the late 1950s, steadily increased during the 1960s and 1970s, reflecting segregationists’ anxieties over political marginalization, Black political gains, and the increasing visibility of gay life. This thesis contributes to the fields of American political history, the history of sexuality and African American history. It argues that, in general, southern racial politics reinforced social, political and state efforts to exclude gay men and lesbians from full citizenship.
Sara Marcus, Department of English
My dissertation — which incorporates literary criticism, history, and sonic and popular cultures — is an interdisciplinary investigation of literary and cultural traces of political disappointment in the United States between 1929 and 1989. The history of American political movements in the last century is marked with temporal condensations of fervor and belief, moments when commitments and passions seem to coalesce, and dramatic transformation of lives and structures seems not only possible but inevitable. The afterlives of these moments occupy decades-long swaths of time, and such “afters” — which in many ways invent the moments that supposedly set them into motion — constitute a major subject for and formal influence on literature, sound, art, and mass culture. The fiction writer Tillie Olsen and the poet Adrienne Rich, who were both political activists as well as renowned writers, present two distinct case studies. The two writers were close friends for years, but while Rich continued to actively support and write about radical feminism after that movement’s initial momentum had begun to flag, Olsen’s fitful career and production hint at the difficulties of living out the disappointed afterlife of 1930s working-class and Communist organizing. By attending to Olsen, Rich, and other mid-century figures, as well as to the soundscape of the birth of Black Power, my project examines how political disappointment is written into aesthetic production and difficulties with production, as well as into political activity itself.
Olivier Burtin, Department of History
Using archives from the American Legion headquarters in Indianapolis as a starting point, my project is to explore the many ways in which veterans influenced local and national U.S politics and society in the post-World War Two era. Virtually the single most important veterans’ organization, the Legion was involved in creating local community programs throughout the country, bringing together millions of veterans from different wars, ensuring their access to an efficient healthcare system, honoring the memory of those who had died in service via monuments and cemeteries, and last but not least, lobbying tirelessly the U.S Congress on topics ranging from the Department of Veteran Affairs to national security and “Americanism.” Through these various activities, I seek to understand, for instance, how patriotism became deeply embedded in the everyday life of Americans or the unique place of veterans in the expanding U.S welfare state.
George Laufenberg, Department of Anthropology
George works at the intersection of medical anthropology, political anthropology, and the anthropology of religion; he is interested in relationships between embodied practices of spirituality, healing, and community formation in contemporary North American life. His fieldwork explores modes of knowledge production and representations of experience in the teaching and learning of metaphysically-oriented practices of “Complementary” and “Alternative” medicine, as well as the connections practitioners make between allopathic clinical mental health care, healing traditions in native North America, and European esoteric traditions.
Ronny Regev, Department of History
My 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 its “Golden Age,” c. 1930-50, by examining the effect that work relations and politics had on cinematic production and content. It is a social history of Hollywood that will recover the organization of both labor and the creative process through which movies were produced. Surveying the archives of producers, directors, writers, and actors as well as those of the studios, I aim to reconstruct the industry’s division of labor — the different roles created by it, how they were experienced by the people who occupied them, and to what extent this experience affected the on-screen result. It is an attempt to understand how everyday routines and interactions shape entertainment through the industry and time period that transformed this profession from a local experience to a national and global one.
Beth Stroud, Department of Religion
Beth spent two weeks in Minneapolis researching the influence of eugenics on Progressive-era social reform movements at the Social Welfare History Archives at the University of Minnesota. She investigated settlement houses, maternity homes, and anti-venereal disease organizations, using the SWHA’s extensive collections of the papers of social reform groups. She found that liberal Protestant reformers often exploited fears of “race degeneration” in their public discourse about reforming American sexual behavior. Even as they advocated for frank discussion of human sexuality, an end to the sexual double standard, and curbs on the exploitation of women, they framed those efforts in terms of protecting the reproductive power of the white, middle-class family.
Sean Vanatta, Department of History
“Filching the American Dream: Credit Card Fraud in Historical Perspective” seeks to uncover and reconstruct the agency of credit card criminals, who sought by questionable means to procure the promises of American prosperity, while also detailing the efforts of credit card issuers and state authorities to meet the evolving challenges posed by these malefactors. Using archival evidence from the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and the New York City Municipal Archives, the project traces the cycles of crime, prosecution, and legislation which attended the rise of the bank credit card industry from the late 1950s through the mid-1980s. In doing so it explores how innovations in both credit card technology and criminal practice shaped the boundaries of card crime, and how prosecutors, along with federal and state politicians sought to police those boundaries.
Grant Wythoff, Department of English
The canonical story about Hugo Gernsback is that he launched the genre of science fiction as the founding editor of extensive archival research, I provide a new picture of modern science fiction as a genre that emerged out of what was more or less an electrical supply catalogue. In the 1910s and ’20s, one could find in the pages of these publications a literary treatise on what the genre of “scientifiction” should look like alongside a blueprint for a homebrewed Nipkow disk television set or a pocket wireless receiver. Long before Gernsback founded Amazing Stories in April of 1926. Gernsback treated the magazine as merely a commercial venture, wrote in a “crude and heavy-handed” style, and now usually receives little more than a cursory, one-sentence nod in critical works on the genre. Focusing only on the period from Amazing and after, this inherited version overlooks the wider context of the genre's birth in Gernsback’s fleet of electrical experimenter magazines as well as his work as a pioneer in wireless technologies and amateur broadcast activist. “The Perversity of Things,” named after a Gernsback essay on the influence that objects exert on thought, will be a critical edition of these writings. Through Amazing Stories, writers used speculative fiction to find a language for emerging media such as radio, television, or the more exotic osophon and telegraphone. This collection occasions a reappraisal of both the “hard” technical roots of American science fiction and the highly speculative orientation toward media technologies in the period.
Brittney Edmonds, Department of English
“Black Inque(e)ries: Space and Time in Post-Stonewall NYC, 1969-81” focuses on the contours, movements, and tenors of Black queer bodies in New York City from 1969 to 1981. That Blackness and queerness manifest so variously, in human bodies, in human politics, in social spaces, and in political rhetoric, is testament to their endurance as modes of disciplinary classification and their requisition as sites of potentially libratory identification. This seeming plasticity — the ability for both Blackness and queerness to be purposed to differing, sometimes contradictory ends — inspires my research to find moments, if ever, when Blackness and queerness are less yielding, when human bodies, geographical space, political necessity, and temporal specificity fix, however fleetingly, their coordinates. By focusing on Black queer bodies, and further locating them within a particularly charged historical period — beginning in 1969 following the Stonewall Riots to 1981 before the widespread public acknowledgment and admission of the AIDS epidemic — my research attempts to apprehend Blackness and queerness in moments of crisis and upheaval, and too, in moments of resistance. Through engagement with various ephemera (ranging from club flier to queer manifesto to lesbian weekly), my project seeks to answer questions about identity formation, community constitution, and the political limits and potentials of this unique period.
Nika Elder, Department of Art and Archaeology
Nika Elder’s dissertation, “Show and Tell: Representation, Communication, and the Still Lifes of William M. Harnett,” interprets the eclectic work of the late 19th-century American artist within his cultural context. It analyzes the drawings and paintings he created over the course of his twenty-six-year career in conjunction with the intellectual discourses that they reference to suggest that Harnett attempted to depict humanity without recourse to the body. He employed man-made objects, syntactical compositions, and laborious techniques to enact and thus embody the cognitive process. A Summer Research Prize from the Program in American Studies generously supported the research and writing of two chapters, which draw on fields as diverse as anatomy and semiotics, physiology and the decorative arts.
Jessica Lowe, Department of History
Jessica Lowe studies 18th and early 19th-century American legal history. Her dissertation, “Murder in the Shenandoah” focuses on a 1791 Virginia murder in which a young gentleman killed a laborer during a fist fight. Jessica’s dissertation tells the story of the case as it wound its way through the various stages of Virginia's criminal process, and uses this narrative to explore republican law reform in Virginia in the era of the Constitution’s framing and adoption. A Summer Research Prize enabled Jessica to travel to Williamsburg, Virginia, where she spent time reading the papers of Judge St. George Tucker (1752-1827) and completed an article on the judge, entitled “Guarding Republican Liberty: St. George Tucker and Law in Federal Virginia,” forthcoming in Signposts: New Directions in Southern Legal History, eds. Sally Hadden and Patricia Minter (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012).
Dael Norwood, Department of History
Dael Norwood’s dissertation, “Trading in Liberty: The Politics of the American China Trade, c.1784-1862,” investigates how Americans’ Asian commerce served as a motive and a medium for politics in the early republic. Tracing changes in the material reality and ideological import of the China trade through contemporary published materials, the files of mercantile firms, and the archives of the American and British governments, “Trading Liberty” reveals that the capital, goods, and people that made up the China trade became intertwined with the struggles over states’ rights, slavery, and expansion that defined the early American state. Support from the Program in American Studies enabled Dael to complete his research at government archives in Washington D.C. and in merchants’ papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Rebecca Rosen, Department of English
Rebecca Rosen’s research on women’s commonplace books and scribal canon formation began in Philadelphia and continued this past summer during her research in the Boston area, with the majority of her research taking place at the Houghton Library, the Massachusetts Historical Society and the American Antiquarian Society. There she conducted a comparison between colonial and eighteenth-century Boston and Philadelphia sources in order to better understand how women’s manuscript writing practices evolved in the early Republic across geographic and religious lines. During research, two separate projects evolved: one which looks at women’s commonplace books in the two cities as serving different but overlapping literary purposes, and another on the development of early American autobiography as a process of individual and collective writing. The wealth of material in these archives — starting with commonplace books, but including documents such as land grants, records of sermons delivered and census counts in Puritan and Native American communities — shows the elaboration of local canons and values, as well as the collective illustration of a community’s members, from the copied passage to the list as life writing.
Roy Scranton, Department of English
Roy Scranton’s research on Harry Mathews and his connections to both the New York School poets and the Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle has developed into multiple projects. The main project resulting from his research, “Dear Moon Governor,” will be an edited volume of the selected letters between John Ashbery and Harry Mathews, including an introductory essay discussing Mathews’s friendship with Ashbery, his role in the so-called New York School, and the transatlantic coteries in which they moved. The second project, “Talking With Harry,” will be to document and edit the long interview Roy conducted with Mathews this summer in Grenoble on his career, work, life, and coterie. In addition, Roy’s research at the Houghton Library at Harvard, at the Annenberg Library at the University of Pennsylvania, and in conversation with Mathews himself, thanks to the gracious support of a Summer Research Prize, has fed and will feed into other work on postwar American literature.
Kameron Collins, Department of English
Kameron Collins’ project, “Injurious Rites: White Supremacist Melancholia on the Terrorist Stage,” will use trial transcripts and editorial ephemera (magazines, newspapers, etc.) to investigate the problem of legal consciousness and national subjectivity among white Southerners during and after the Reconstruction. Specifically, he will read these materials through the prisms of legal, literary and performance theory in order to trace the relationship between the feeling of “lost” citizenship and the ability to reclaim it through specific instances of speech and violent gesture.
Maeve Glass, Department of History
Maeve Herbert Glass will explore the role of law and agency in North America’s borderland wars, 1764 to 1890. Maeve’s study of how Native Americans and Euro-Americans drafted, enforced, and adjudicated peace agreements as well as convened, participated in, and contested military trials will include the analysis of treaty records, military records, ethnographic records, and personal papers archived at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the National Archives, and state archives in Ohio, Minnesota, and Oregon.
Lindsay Reckson, Department of English
Lindsay Reckson’s dissertation, “Realist Ecstasy: The Afterlife of Enthusiasm in American Literature, 1880-1920,” explores the intersections of religious, political, and aesthetic experience in American literary realism. Tracing the rhythmic returns of “enthusiasm” in late 19th- and early 20th-century literary and cultural production, “Realist Ecstasy” argues that American realism registered widespread anxiety around contagious religiosity while transforming ecstatic outbreaks into new modes of social affiliation. With support from the Program in American Studies, Lindsay will conduct research in the William James Collection at Harvard University’s Houghton Library.
David Reinecke, Department of Sociology
Far from total anarchy, privateering by the late 18th century was a heavily state regulated activity in order to prevent outright piracy. The central regulatory institution was the prize court, which adjudicated over the lawful capture of enemy ships. Reinecke’s archival research project, “Claiming the Prize: Rationalizing Adventure Capitalism and Privateering in Revolutionary America,” draws primarily upon prize court cases during the American Revolutionary War to reconstruct the moral foundations and justifications of state-sponsored privateering vis-à-vis other emerging forms of capitalism.
Sofya Aptekar, Department of Sociology
Sofya Aptekar’s dissertation, “Immigrant Naturalization and Nation-Building in North America,” is an empirical examination of tensions in the social construction of nationhood at the critical juncture of citizenship acquisition by foreigners. Sofya’s study of nation-building in the United States and Canada uses a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches that overlap with other disciplinary traditions. Sofya’s work explores both the perspectives of the state actors and the immigrants themselves and the meanings they attached to becoming members of the polity.
Matthew Axtell, Department of History
Matthew Axtell’s project, “The Policing of the Ohio River, 1830-61,” will explore the regulatory life of the Ohio River during the mid-19th century. As a legal historian of the American environment, Matthew's study of how U.S. geography has shaped American law, and how law has in turn reshaped urban and rural U.S. geography will include the analysis of court records, police records, public health records, and navigation records in civic, state, and federal archives in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
J. Michelle Coghlan, Department of English
Michelle Coghlan’s dissertation, “Revolution’s Afterlife: the Paris Commune in American Cultural Memory,” traces the Commune’s uncanny persistence in the U.S. literary and cultural imaginary into the Modernist period, unearthing the ways Americans represented and consumed the spectacle — and the specter — of the Commune and its fiery aftermath across a variety of literary forms and mass-cultural mediums. With the support of a Summer Research Prize, she conducted research on her fourth chapter in the S.Guy Endore papers and the Socialist and Labor Movement Pamphlets collection at UCLA's Special Collections.
Justene Hill, Department of History
Justene Hill’s research project will focus on the ways in which enslaved women participated in informal economic activities in Charleston, South Carolina and Bridgetown, Barbados where slavery thrived during the 18th and early 19th centuries. Justene will conduct research at various archival locations, including the Barbados Archives, the Barbados Historical Society, the National Library Service in Bridgetown and the South Carolina Historical Society.
Saul Schwartz, Department of Anthropology
Saul Schwartz will spend two months this summer living in White Cloud, Kansas, near the reservation of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, where he will be an assistant to Jimm Goodtracks at the Ioway, Otoe-Missouria Language Project. He will study the Ioway language with Mr. Goodtracks and assist in a number of tasks related to cultural preservation and language revitalization. This experience will allow Saul to collaborate with Ioways on the direction of future research possibilities.
Jamie Sherman, Department of Anthropology
Jamie Sherman’s dissertation, “The Color of Muscle: Play, Performance, and Everyday Realities in a Brooklyn Body Building Gym,” looks at the way everyday practices of self-improvement and self-transformation articulate, address, and engage dominant ideological tensions in contemporary American society. Looking narrowly at social relations and bodily practices at a Brooklyn bodybuilding gym, this project asks what kinds of moral worlds are constructed through the disciplining of self and body and how these serve to address the particular challenges of social inequality in America’s urban centers.