Student Spotlight: Eric Ross and Christina Riley Are Graduate Fellows at the Center for Humanities Research

Student Spotlight: Eric Ross and Christina Riley Are Graduate Fellows at the Center for Humanities Research

Congratulations to Cultural Studies PhD Candidates Eric Ross and Christina Riley, who have been recognized as residential fellows at Mason's Center for Humanities Research (CHR)!

In this brief interview conducted by Severin Mueller they talk about their current research, how they came to apply, and what that experience has been like so far.

Congratulations on your fellowship. Could you tell us a little about your motivation to apply?

Eric Ross: Pretty much immediately after the Center opened at Mason, I got involved with some of the reading groups (shoutout to the Space/Place reading group and the Memory Studies/Difficult History reading group) and attending the Center's events. I was really intrigued by the fellowship program. I liked the idea of working with other humanities scholars from outside my discipline both as a way of broadening my horizons and holding myself accountable with my writing. I originally thought I would try to apply for next year's cohort (2022-23), but when I saw that the theme for this year was Pasts/Presents/Futures, I felt like my project fit perfectly and decided to shoot my shot. 

Christina Riley: I applied primarily for the opportunity for cross-disciplinary discussions. Writing your dissertation can be such an isolating experience, so the ability to share in these interdisciplinary, collaborative work sessions through CHR has been really positive for me. 

The semester is still relatively young, but would you mind sharing your first impressions from your early meetings at the Center and this new environment for your research?

ER: It has been really great! Once you get to beyond the coursework phase of grad school, life can get kind of lonely and isolating. That has been especially true for me since wrapping up my Dissertation proposal. At times it has been hard to stay motivated and on task. The fellowship cohort has been a great cure for that so far. I'm meeting regularly with people that I wouldn't otherwise meet with, and I'm reading things I'd never otherwise read. But more than anything, the best part for me has been seeing my own work through new eyes. The other fellows have such different academic backgrounds and distinct perspectives from mine that it has allowed me to see my research from angles I hadn't considered before. So far, our meetings have been really generative and energizing. It feels like being back in class. In a good way!

CR: Yes, it's a bit like grad seminars but with no grades? 
I think everyone is excited to be granted the space to really dig into their projects in a way that we hadn't been able to before. Maybe we were too busy teaching or doing fieldwork, whatever it was. But working with the CHR cohort and in the actual Center itself, you get a bit more focused time to devote to your work. It's really nice, actually.

As fellows you will both present your research over the coming weeks. Could you give us a brief preview of your talks?

ER: I'm working on a chapter of my dissertation right now that focuses on an exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian here in DC called "Americans". My talk is going to focus on the ways that the exhibition uses Indigenous history and pop culture to reframe perceptions of the past/present/future of the United States.

CR: I will be doing a feminist historicization of the #MeToo movement. My research project has been charting the development of feminist digital collectives over time, and #MeToo comprises the final chapter of my dissertation. By analyzing the discursive spaces of #MeToo from its origin story to its whisper networks, I argue that this feminist digital collective represents a new feminist form. #MeToo's networked virality enables the hashtag to both absorb and rework past feminist beliefs, strategies, and dilemmas in productive and necessary ways. Additionally, I will discuss how the threat of more damaging influences such as platform capitalism and lean-in feminism potentially destabilize this feminist digital collective, threatening its subsumption in systems of technocapitalist exploitation.   

Mark your calendars!

Eric will present his research on October 19 at 12 PM, in a talk titled "'An Emphatic Refusal to Forget': Empathy and Memory at the National Museum of the American Indian."

Christina will speak on November 12 at 12 PM on "Women on the Web: A Study in Online Solidarity Struggles and the Emergence of the Feminist Digital Collective."