An interview with CHR's new GRA, Kristofer Stinson

by Catherine Olien

An interview with CHR's new GRA, Kristofer Stinson

CHR interviewed its new GRA, Kristofer Stinson, who has joined for the 2022-2023 year.

We're delighted to have you join CHR as our 2022-23 Graduate Research Assistant, Kris! You're also a Mason Presidential Fellow pursuing a History PhD and remain affiliated with RRCHNM, correct? What types of projects were you involved with at that Center?

I’m so excited to get to be part of CHR this year! Yes, that is my background here at GMU. The nature of RRCHNM is pretty eclectic in that the leadership tries to rotate graduate students through various projects so that they can gain a myriad of digital skills. For the past year or so, most of my time was spent working for RRCHNM’s new podcasting wing, R2 Studios, where I helped write and produce the narrative history podcast Consolation Prize, the center’s first podcast.

What are you most excited about this semester at CHR?

I think the first thing in my mind that gets me excited is our upcoming collaboration with CHSS and PBK to host Maya Jasanoff. Her work on empire and the English connection to Egypt and India in the early modern world has greatly impacted my own work. Also, her exploration of loyalists during the time of the American Revolution still stands out in my mind as one of those works that changes the way you think about a familiar topic. Next to her visit, I think I am most excited to get to be a part of the diverse, intellectual culture of CHR. I feel very lucky to be able to work alongside colleagues from across the humanities – from English, philosophy, and religious studies, to name a few! This is shaping up to be a great year of learning and collaboration.

Tell us a little bit about your own research-- what is your dissertation topic, how did you come to it, where are you in the writing process, etc.?

My research mainly revolves around religion in America. My dissertation is on the history of religion and archaeology and looks at the first generation of archaeologists, where they went digging, what inspired them to go in search for long-lost places, and how what they found impacted their own religious beliefs or the broader understanding of religion. I came to this topic mainly through research I conducted during my master’s degree, which eventually became my first article, that dived into the rediscovery of Babylon in the early nineteenth century and all of the stories and convictions that were wrapped up in Babylon’s image and ruins. In the dissertation, Babylon appears alongside the discovery and excavation of Herculaneum and Pompeii, Egypt, and Palestine, which folks in the early modern world referred to as the “Holy Land.” I am currently writing my final chapter and will most likely defend in the Spring!

CHR's mandate is expanding to include the Public Humanities this year and you'll be helping us make the transition! Do you have any particular connection to or interest in this realm? How will you be involved in promoting the Public Humanities within CHR?

Since I still have one foot in another center on campus (RRCHNM), I think it is very interesting and encouraging that there seems to be a larger, shared commitment to public facing projects, be it public history or public humanities. I think most of my time at Mason has fostered a connection to the public realm as an integral part of our work as humanists as public humanities ensures our work is not only done with the broader public in mind but oftentimes done in collaboration with the diverse publics themselves. At CHR I am very excited to be working with the team of “Alienation and Belonging” that partners with public institutions like Tenants and Workers United to reexamine and reframe the history of Northern Virginia.

What are some of your interests beyond your research and new role at Mason?

When I am not at CHR or working on my dissertation I spend my time with my dog (she’s a corgi and her name is Narya), playing kickball with Stonewall Baltimore, helping out at my local church in Mt Vernon (one of Baltimore’s historic neighborhoods), or reading books that have nothing to do with school!