Past Fellows

CHR Residential Fellows- Fall 2023

Steven A. Barnes, Associate Professor (History and Art History), "Women’s Experiences of the Concentration Camp: A Global Comparative History."

My CHR project is to write a synthetic global history of women’s daily lives in the concentration camp, a key tool used by the modern state to control and often dispose of populations. The project starts from the hypothesis that women’s experiences of daily life as inmates of the various historical instances of the concentration camp are key to understanding a gendered reconfiguration of concepts like combatant, security risk, suspect population, and racial or social contamination that enables and enacts a modern politics of population control, forced relocation, social engineering, and/or excisionary violence. The project will grapple with the use of the concentration camp in both authoritarian and democratic regimes, and what that tells us about the tenuousness of the presumed distinction between authoritarianisms and democracies. It asks important questions of the degree to which prisoner agency continues to operate under conditions of extreme control and what that agency reveals about the uses and the limits of the concentration camp as an instrument of disposal. Finally, the project asks how and why this quintessentially modern form of population control emerged when it did and why the control of women was at its heart.

Laura Brannan Fretwell, PhD candidate (History and Art History), "Forgetting the Freed for the Park and the ‘People’ in Richmond, Virginia."

This project examines the history of the creation of a local city park in Richmond, Virginia, in the 1870s that displaced an entire community of free African Americans who lived on site. I argue that the creation of the park, and subsequent displacement of the Black community, reflected the larger Southern trend of “White backlash” in the late Reconstruction era, the period after the American Civil War.

Today, the Chimborazo site in Richmond remains a city park that houses the Confederate Medical Museum, which was established by the National Park Service in 1959. The history of this park during the 1870s is only one part of a larger story that demonstrates how Richmond’s Black freed community was displaced, or “disposed of,” and ultimately “forgotten” on the Chimborazo site over time, while White residents and city officials selectively remembered the Confederacy by establishing the NPS museum. This project is an intentional, much-needed remembering, recovering, and archival “repair” of the history of the freed community who once lived on Chimborazo Hill.

Stephanie Rambo, Assistant Professor (English), "Picturing Black Girlhood."

At the intersections of memory, literature, and print culture, my book project explores visual and literary depictions of Black girls and girlhood within Black women writers' aesthetic traditions. I chart how Black women writers and artists utilize memory across genre and time to forge their own distinct narratives with Black girls at the center. In so doing, I demonstrate memory as integral to understanding girlhood as not only a tangible stage and temporal space, but a site of return and recuperation, evidencing new modes for reading and conceptualizing Black girlhood while shifting traditional ideologies around childhood.

Jonathon Repinecz, Associate Professor (French and Global Affairs),  “Toward Peacebuilding Humanities: A View from the Great Lakes Region of Africa.”

This project seeks to build a well-theorized bridge between literary and conflict studies through the increasingly important lens of narrative. By drawing the focus of peace activists in Central Africa to language, I hope to articulate a strategy of “narrative repair” that can be used in real communities. Repair is a central theme of this year’s CHR call for fellows.

Jennifer Ritterhouse, Professor (History and Art History), "A Feminism for Hard Times and Places."

As America’s own internal “other,” the South has long served as the nation’s ideological garbage dump and is the last place most people would look to find feminist activism. Yet the Southern Women’s Rights Project conducted in the region from 1977-1981 provides a compelling case study of southern feminism that was racially inclusive and dedicated to the needs of poor and working-class women. An outgrowth of the Women’s Rights Project founded for the American Civil Liberties Union by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the southern project reveals ACLU feminists’ interest in organizing and educational work, on top of their precedent-setting litigation. Southern project director Betsy Brinson’s organizing strategies also provide an especially relevant model for doing feminism in hard times and places—times of backlash (like our own) and places where feminist gains were always hard-won, if they were won at all.

Ian Sinnett, PhD candidate (Cultural Studies), "Hip Hop Sampling and the Aesthetics of Temporal and Spatial Repair."

My project aims to look at the aesthetic and formal practice of hip hop sampling to analyze the ways in which it acted (and continues to act) as a means of cultural, spatial, and temporal repair amidst the fragmentary conditions of postindustrialism. Through this research, the project will explore the theme of disposability, democracy, and repair through multiple avenues. First, with a particular emphasis on New York City, I will outline the ways in which various policies of the 1950s-1970s rendered urban working class communities and their cultural forms and social relations disposable. Following this, I will investigate how hip hop arose in the Bronx in the 1970s as a type of democratic public sphere through which communal repair was pursued. I then seek to analyze and articulate the continuing role that hip hop sampling has in attempts to repair patterns of spatial and temporal disjuncture through the aesthetic realm.

 

CHR Residential Fellows- Spring 2023

personJoan Bristol, Associate Professor (History and Art History), "Marginalization and Belonging in a Secret Community: Esperanza Rodríguez, 17th-century Mulata Crypto-Jew"
 
This project examines the case of Esperanza Rodriguez, a free African-descent woman convicted of practicing crypto-Judaism by the Mexican Inquisition in 1646. Esperanza’s experience reveals how early modern identity could be formed through collective, private, and even secret practices, and how such practice-based identities interacted with official Spanish colonial categories of race. Crypto-Judaism was likely an essential part of Esperanza’s self-identity: she seems to have maintained her crypto-Jewish practice over decades spent moving around Spanish America and she became part of Mexico City’s crypto-Jewish community upon arrival in the capital. Esperanza had a central role in this community; she and her fellow believers trusted each other with the dangerous secret of crypto-Judaism and shared communal rituals. At the same time Spanish (i.e. White) crypto-Jews were very aware of Esperanza’s racial and class status and their testimony shows that some did not fully accept her. Esperanza’s participation in Mexico City’s crypto-Jewish community illustrates how racial and religious identities can both alienate and connect individuals within a community. 
 
 
personAleezay Khaliq, PhD Candidate (Sociology and Anthropology), "Sense of belonging, and Community participation of Second-generation Muslim immigrants in the DMV area"
 
My project explores the sense of belonging, community participation, integration and well-being of second-generation Muslims living in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia. Social integration through participatory activities is an integral part of immigrant life. Social participation not only shapes their identity but inculcates a sense of belonging and promotes well-being. Social participation facilitates the formation of strong socialties and bonds, that turn into long-term connections. Therefore, my project examines the association between belonging and well-being among Muslim immigrants settled in the area.
 
personSumaiya Hamdani, Associate Professor (History and Art History), "Surviving the State: Muslim Community and Identity Across the Indian Ocean"
 
This is the provisional title of a book project that I will be working on as a CHR Residential Fellow in Spring 2023. It will investigate the connections between religious elites in Yemen and India in the early modern and modern periods that allowed for the construction of communal identity for a particular Muslim minority. In particular, I'm interested in how the cultural capital of religious scholars enabled them to negotiate the preservation of a communal identity that at one and the same time connected the community with the larger Muslim world, and created a distinct identity that enabled it to withstand the indifference or hostility of states that governed it. 
 
personSarah Nidia Ochs, PhD Candidate (Sociology and Anthropology), "A City’s Journey through Racism, in Four Statues"

In the United States, historically-mediated concepts of race and racism have influenced the shape of many policies, practices, and laws. These are “racial projects” (Omi and Winant 2015); they help develop race as an organizing social force and shape its significance within identities and social structures. My research explores a racial project of the present moment as it purports to move toward social justice: contemporary discourses of antiracism and their associated political outcomes.

Using public discussion on four Richmond, VA monuments as cases of study, I explore how communities form around these changing notions of racism. I ask, how does racial meaning become formulated in public spaces and how might it advance, or hinder, progress? These four monuments represent a tension between one kind of hegemonic community, attempts to disrupt that community, and the potential for democratic space to be created between them.

personRashmi Sadana, Associate Professor (Sociology and Anthropology), "The Power of Place and the Built Environment in India’s Central Vista Redevelopment Project"

The Central Vista, Delhi’s equivalent of D.C.’s National Mall, encapsulates the idea of community writ large and symbolizes what Jawaharlal Nehru called India’s “unity in diversity.” However, the Central Vista Redevelopment Project being enacted since late 2020 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party ruling coalition is a top-down demolition and redesign of the entire area. The redevelopment is seen by many as causing a great “disconnect” between people and their monuments, history, and urban space. My project will analyze the competing narratives about the Central Vista and its redevelopment in order to understand how ideas of community and alienation are being employed and deployed by architects, urban planners, activists, petitioners, politicians, and the Indian judiciary. How are vocabularies of belonging and not belonging, heritage and progress used to imbue debates over aesthetics and the built environment? How is the site itself a canvas for national reckoning, assertions of power, and a struggle over meaning?

personLevi Van Sant, Assistant Professor (School of Integrative Studies), "Land Claims: Ownership, Stewardship, and Belonging in the Shenandoah Valley"

From the recent occupations of federal lands by white male ranchers in the US West to the revolutionary Indigenous demands for LandBack, it appears that the politics of land in the US are increasingly central to broader struggles. Less dramatic than these contestations, but perhaps equally important, are recent changes in the land market – as wealthy individuals and institutional investors increasingly view land as a desirable financial asset. This project examines the political dynamics of land ownership changes in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Over the past two decades the valley has experienced an increase in “amenity migration” – development of vacation homes, resorts, and short-term rental properties – a trend that intensified due to increased telework during the COVID-19 pandemic. When layered on top of the declining agricultural economy, the punctuated expansion of tourism and amenity migration are significantly reshaping the Shenandoah Valley. My research analyses the formation of political communities in the context of increasing tensions over land use and ownership change in the Shenandoah Valley, highlighting the ways that notions of stewardship and belonging are continually contested and reworked.

CHR Residential Fellows - Fall 2022

personJo-Marie Burt, Associate Professor (Schar School), "Rebuilding community after atrocity: Human rights prosecutions in Guatemala"
 
Researchers have documented the long-term impact of mass atrocity crimes on victims, families and communities. But victims of such crimes are also driven by a very human need to know the truth about their missing loved ones and to see those responsible answer for their crimes. My CHR project explores the way Guatemalan mass atrocity victims have overcome fear and isolation and built new forms of solidarity and community in their ongoing pursuit of truth and justice.nThese efforts to rebuild solidarity, trust and community —at the village level, through the creation of victims’ associations, and building alliances with key civil society allies— are an essential and ongoing part of this process, and are at the heart of my book exploring how Guatemala became a “least likely case” of successful post-conflict justice.
 
personHatim El-Hibri, Assistant Professor (Film and Media; English), "A Media History of the Arab Street"

The term 'Arab Street' conjures a racialized iconography of public disorder, volatile political passions, and communicative excess. This book project interrogates the discursive shifts in the valences of this concept as one that from emerges and transforms at the intersection of four key elements—the spatial tactics and communicative practices of protest movements, the governmental practices meant to manage them, technological transformations in mediated circulation, and contested and racialized imaginaries of Arab public life. This transnational and multi-sited history reveals how the materiality of media systems are embedded in and continue to express the aftermath of decolonization.
 
personSamuel Clowes Huneke, Assistant Professor (History and Art History), "Forging Community under Fascism: Lesbians in Nazi Germany"

Forging Community under Fascism examines the lives of lesbian women in Nazi Germany. Although female homosexuality was not explicitly criminalized under National Socialism, lesbians faced various forms of discrimination, stigmatization, and persecution. This project unearths not only these forms of persecution but also how lesbians and other queer individuals connected with each other, building queer community even in the face of a hostile fascist state. In so doing this project seeks to recuperate a past that for far too long was relegated to the margins, while also using that past to forge queer solidarity in the present. 
 
personTed Kinnaman, Associate Professor (Philosophy), "Language and Power in Hamann’s Criticism of Kant"

For Immanuel Kant, Enlightenment was the gradual coming-to-reason of humanity in general. For Kant’s acquaintance and contemporary Johann Georg Hamann, the preeminence of reason is the preeminence of the reasoning class—intellectuals, government ministers, and officials of the established Lutheran church. In one of the very first published responses to the Critique of Pure Reason, he connected this political “metacritique” to a philosophical one, diagnosing language as the blind spot of Kant’s critical enterprise. Philosophers grasp for power over common people, but pretend they are doing nothing of the sort, and in analogous fashion in his philosophical writings Kant tries and fails to suppress the origin of his rationalistic project in ordinary language. Or so Hamann sees it. My project involves connecting the political side of Hamann’s critique of Kant with the philosophical, and exploring possibilities for a Kantian rejoinder.

personChar Roone Miller, Associate Professor (Schar School), "Paul: Living in the Last Days"
 
This book project focuses on our orientations to the future, especially a future already experienced in the shared anticipation of apocalyptic climate disaster. No one has directed more responsive energy to the end of time than Paul from the Hellenistic Roman city of Tarsus. In this political theory book project, I treat Paul as our contemporary. He can help us reflect on how to live with a future that seems to be passing away, especially, his reflections about how to act politically and affirmatively without a secure future. 
 
personPavithra Suresh, PhD Candidate (Cultural Studies), "Triangulating Despair: Normative Subjectivity and Crises of Despair in the South Asian American Community of Research Triangle, North Carolina"
 
My project explores what kinds of experiences second- and third-generation immigrants have under these specific historical circumstances. Preliminary evidence suggests South Asian American communities are marked by a reluctance to seek mental health treatment and consequently face negative outcomes, with particular pressure placed on young women and queer folks in the communities to stay silent on their struggles. The CHR theme of Connecting/Not Connecting provides a key opportunity to consider the far-reaching implications of community; through this project, I seek to untangle community ideals about what it means to be a ‘good’ Indian American (what I’m calling normative subjectivity) and what relationship normative subjectivity has with mental healthcare. I intend to explore if and how individuals in the community are self-managing symptoms of mental illness. I propose to examine the core stress factors informing how mental health crises are treated or not treated, specifically considering gender, sexuality, and caste. Furthermore, I aim to determine how community members belonging to these marginalized positions understand care and care avoidance, and to what they attribute this behavior. 
 
personMargaret Zeddies, PhD Candidate (Sociology and Anthropology), "Postcolonial Study Abroad and Young People's Labor."
 
Questions of connection and global community are central to the aims of modern study abroad. However, study abroad has been critiqued by numerous scholars for centering on the individual transformation of the American student into a 'global citizen' while belying the premise of a larger global community. My project takes up this critique by examining postcolonial study abroad through political economy that considers how study abroad is itself part of global systems of power and inequality. A postcolonial approach to study abroad takes issue with the premise of global citizenship unless systemic and historical issues of power are addressed as well. I focus on how study abroad could be considered a form of labor in order to make visible the different ways that young people from the sending and host communities contribute value to the program, and how this contributes to or challenges the social reproduction of neocolonial relations.

Spring 2022

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Emily Brennan-Moran

 Assistant Professor (Communication)

“Naming the Dead: Performing Memory Beyond Monumentality”  

 This project performs encounters with everyday memorial objects and the named and unnamed dead to whom these objects draw us. Through these encounters, I seek an ethics of remembering. This ethics takes the proper name as its critical beginning, recognizing the name as both a possibility and a danger, as both a sign of respect and acknowledgement and a site for the re-enactment of old violences. As it draws from and enacts performance theory, “Naming the Dead” animates the metonymic displacement of the name, framing the name as a signifier that is not enough and so often all we have as we remember the dead. While the dead can never be contained, discursively and finally, to the page, I argue in this project that we must nonetheless forge ahead, writing better futures into and out from the insufficiency of the name.  

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Jacqueline Burek

 Assistant Professor (English)

“Memory and History in Medieval Britain, c.800 - c. 1400”  

My project, "Memory and History in Medieval Britain, c.800 - c.1400," studies how medieval memory theory shaped the writing of history in medieval England and Wales. In the Middle Ages, certain objects, such as books, buildings, coin purses, and even beehives were associated with the memory. In medieval rhetorical treatises, these objects function as metaphors that help explain how human memory works, while in literary and visual artworks, their appearance prompts audiences to activate their memories. My project investigates how medieval historians use mnemonic objects in a similar way, in the hopes of spurring their readers to reflect on, and learn from, history. In this way, I show how medieval memory theory allows historians to trouble the boundaries between past, present, and future.  

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Samaine Lockwood

Associate Professor (English)

“Queer Routes: Sexuality, Feminism, and Racialized History in American Culture, 1865-1950"   

Queer Routes: Sexuality, Feminism, and Racialized History in American Culture, 1865-1950; In this project, I examine how African-American and Anglo-American women writers and artists used racialized histories in their work to imagine different futures, futures variously involving racial justice, inter-class white supremacist sorority, women’s enfranchisement, increased mobility for single women, and queer familial formations. More specifically, I look at the various ways that African- and Anglo-American women writers and artists theorized their present and imagined these possible futures through retelling histories of white European exceptionalism, histories of ancient Greece and Rome, of Vikings and medieval English knights, and of imperial England and New England. In examining how US women writers and artists deployed racialized histories, I make visible both the complexity of early feminist and queer feminist discourses as well as their racial roots and racist fault lines.  

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Yevette Richards

Associate Professor (History and Art History)

“The Intimacy of Racial Violence in Northern Louisiana: Tracing Terror through Family Networks”  

My book project examines Black and white family interactions across generations and parishes as a framework for understanding not only the interconnectivity of violent eruptions but also the interpersonal oppression Blacks faced who lived near and worked within the family networks of their tormentors. In identifying the members of white family networks, which included legal authorities, the study exposes the high level of collusion that sustained a system of racial terror. A major goal of this study is to break the silences imposed on Black survivor families and witnesses by creating new narratives from the records of the dead and the memories of the living. The past recycling through new narratives helps make the present decipherable and leads the way toward changing future trajectories.  

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Matthew Scherer

Associate Professor (Schar School)

“Past, Presents, and Futures of 'Religion' and 'Democracy'”   

As a Residential Fellow at the Center for Humanities Research in association with the Center's theme of temporality, "Past/Presents/Futures," I propose to complete work on two chapters of my manuscript concerning the Muslim Brotherhood, Political Islam, popular uprisings, and the promise of democracy in Egypt. These chapters are deeply concerned with the thematic of temporality in many respects. In the most general sense, following Talal Asad’s (2015) argument that Islam should be understood as a tradition, my study of Politcal Islam as a tradition focuses on its practices, relations, and patterns of authority that draw the past into the present with the intention of shaping the future. A wide range of questions about time emerge as this specific temporality of tradition crosses the temporal structures endemic to the practice of democracy (cf. Derrida (2015) Democratie à venir, Wolin (2018), fugitive and episodic democracy, or Stout (2004) democracy as tradition). Yet another range of questions emerges at the intersection with the temporality of revolution (revolution as a crisis and break in time; but also revolution as indeterminate duration, a duration only consolidated through retrospective narration that determines the existence/non-existence of a revolution, as well as the temporal boundaries). Moving beyond these fundamental theoretical questions, as their tenth anniversary passes, the Egyptian uprisings bring a number of specific questions about time into focus: How do commemoration and the historical reverberation of the uprisings shape the present of democratic political practice (and how were the uprisings themselves, in the first instance, conditioned by similar historical reverberations and echoes)? How do we now understand the uprisings’ significance in light of a decade of scholarly inquiry into their dynamics, and how can this historical remove produce a critical perspective on the ways in which they were framed at their point of emergence? From the present historical vantage, how can we understand the consequences of the uprisings (beyond identifying relative stability in Tunisia, civil war in Syria, counter-revolution in Egypt) both with the knowledge of how events would play out, and the advantage of being able to situate them within the much longer trajectories of popular politics that preceded them? What futures became possible and impossible to imagine as democracy, crossed in a new configuration with religion, passed in and out of existence in Egypt’s revolutionary moment? How have those alternatives echoed through to the present? 

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Greta Swain

 PhD Candidate (History and Art History)

“Potomac Bound: A Spatial Analysis of Enslavers and Networkers (1780–1825)”   

As a fellow at CHR, Greta Swain will work on her dissertation which tells a more inclusive story of George Mason IV—the namesake of our University—his family, and his enslaved laborers as they forged a social and economic dynasty along the lower Potomac during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. More specifically, in her chapter entitled “Potomac Bound: A Spatial Analysis of Enslavers and Networkers (1780–1825),” she explores how the Potomac River and its surrounding waterways supported the Mason family’s cycle of enslavement while also providing a set of networks and occupations such as a ferryman or messenger which enabled their enslaved people to pursue their own paths to freedom. Her work employs digital methods such as social network analysis and multi-vocal deep maps. These techniques can break through the temporal bounds which often uplift some narratives while obscuring others—capturing experiences of multiple actors occurring simultaneously in the same space and recovering silenced narratives and connections. This work brings more truth to our present understanding and acknowledgement of the legacies of slavery bound to George Mason University, and is a first, yet critical step for affecting change in the present and future.  

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David Zeglen

PhD Candidate (Cultural Studies)

"Uneven and Combined Cultures: The Temporal Ideologies of Modes of Production"

The latest phase of capitalism has inaugurated a significant moment in human history: the entire world is now capitalist. Consequently, the primary way that capitalist societies have historically interacted with other societies – via economic exploitation such as the ongoing underdevelopment of Africa, and political domination such as America’s geopolitical escalation with China - is now virtually unchallenged. Determining whether these forms of intersocietal interaction are contemporary phenomena or universal throughout history has become central to social struggles for more egalitarian international relations between modern societies in recent years. My research considers how modern societies gradually developed cultural norms about how to interact with other societies as capitalism spread across the globe. Specifically, I examine the rise of the modern idea of history as “development” - the notion that history progressively unfolds as “backward” societies advance into higher and more “advanced” socio-economic stages, while receiving external assistance from other societies to develop through these stages, before culminating into a capitalist society. Through my historical investigations, I conclude that the idea of history as development only first emerges in Western Europe as capitalism gradually spread in the aftermath of the bourgeois revolutions in the Dutch Republic, England, Scotland, and France. I argue that contemporary international relations between societies is driven by this cultural conceptualization of time as “development” within nationalist discourses. This finding suggests that economic exploitation and imperialist domination is determined by a historically contingent cultural conceptualization of time that is implicated in this exploitative world system. Consequently, we can consider temporal alternatives to find more peaceful and socially just ways of negotiating interaction between different societies in the global community.

Fall 2021

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Yasemin İpek

(Assistant Professor, GLOA)

"Crisiswork: Everyday Activism, Ethics, and Class Mobility in Lebanon"

My project theorizes the relationship between politics, ethics, and temporality by examining the popularization of activism in contemporary Lebanon. What I call “crisiswork” refers to activist practices that sought to transform both individual moralities and affects and political and social structures of sectarianism to respond to Lebanon’s crises. Approaching future as a central political category which operates as a “cultural fact,” my research centers on narratives of hope and future that informed present struggles for social change. Drawing on twenty-four months of fieldwork conducted between 2012 and 2015 as well as follow-up research between 2018 and 2021, my ethnography lays the groundwork for understanding the increasing political mobilization in Lebanon. Rather than studying activism either as reproduction of or resistance to power, Crisiswork employs a decolonial perspective that centers on competing practices of doing politics resulting from class and other differences among activists. This project's emphasis on difference as a generative space of ethical, affective, and temporal formations reveals co-constitutions of long-standing power structures and alternative imaginations. 

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Michael Malouf

(Associate Professor, English)

“Oil and Cultures of Transition”  

Arising from a popular course on Oil and Culture that I have taught since arriving at Mason in 2005, my project is concerned with how petroliterate cultures imagine and resist energy transition. Contributing to the field of Energy Humanities and Petroculture Studies, this project reads media artifacts of petroculture as shaped by contested ideological visions of imagined post-oil futures. In my new project, I understand “transition” in Gramscian terms as an interregnum between dominant ideological formations. It is during these periods of interregnum that Gramsci says a “war of positions” takes place among emerging and latent ideological formations and it is these “wars” that I often study – contested relations between older Irish and newer Caribbean writers, or, in the case of World English, the British empire between anti-colonial activism and the rising power of the U.S. During such wars of position, temporality is deployed as a weapon as efforts to define narratives, imagine progress, or resist it and maintain a “durative present,” are precisely the objects that are made available for cultural studies analysis.

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Brian Platt

(Associate Professor, History and Art History)

“Wind, Worms, and Weeds: Rescuing the Past in Early Modern Japan”  

In the early 18th century, people at all levels of literate society in Japan, motivated by an impulse to rescue the past from obscurity, began to engage in acts of historical salvage. By the mid-19th century, just before Japan’s encounter with Western imperialism precipitated its modern revolution, they had produced thousands of volumes, mostly unpublished, of family history and local historical research. They engated in other historical practices as well, erecting monuments at local historical sites, unearthing and investigating the origins old bells, swords, mirrors and other artifacts, and researching and preserving castle ruins, sculptures and artwork they deemed to be of historical significance. My research project examines the emergence of these practices and connects them to a transformation in how people conceived of the relationship between past and present, a transformation brought on by the dramatic political and social upheavals over the 17th century.  

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Christina Riley 

(PhD Candidate, Cultural Studies)

“Women on the Web: A Study in Online Solidarity Struggles and the Emergence of the Feminist Digital Collective”  

Throughout my project, I trace how digital terrain references and refashions past feminist beliefs, strategies and schisms. By examining the movement’s archives of texts, groups, strategies and events, I underscore how these elements shape current manifestations of feminism through the emergence of the feminist digital collective. As feminism has moved online, it has been forced to reckon with its unresolved struggles over solidarity due to the capacious and mercurial nature of digitally-based collectivity. In the process, feminism has encountered new threats to its progress, including platform capitalism and digitally-based patriarchic violence. By creating a historiography of this burgeoning form of feminism, I highlight how past tensions shape our present world(s) in the hopes that such knowledge may engender greater space for the movement's advancement.  

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Eric W. Ross

(PhD Candidate, Cultural Studies)

“Remembering Democracy: Activist Museums and the Politics of Memory”  

I will be working on my dissertation, "Remembering Democracy: Activist Museums and the Politics of Memory" which looks at the ways that several newly opened history and culture museums in the United States and Canada navigate the spaces between history/memory and past/present to open up new possibilities for politics. My project aligns with the Center's 2021-22 theme through the ways that these institutions that I call activist museums are challenging traditional museum practices and historical narratives by making connections between the past and present for the future. What makes these museums activist museums is precisely their desire to undo the conceptions of time that have, historically, delimited what we are able and unable to see. Each one, in different ways and for different reasons, tries to center or recenter narratives, voices, and people that they perceive to have been erased or marginalized in our traditional narratives of history.  

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Vanessa Schulman

(Associate Professor, History and Art History)

“The Past, Present, and Future of Emancipation: Vincent Colyer and Thomas Nast Envision Freedom in 1863”  

My project, "The Past, Present, and Future of Emancipation: Vincent Colyer and Thomas Nast Envision Freedom in 1863," examines two visual depictions of freedom created by white, northern artists in the winter and spring of 1863. Each artist presents his narrative of emancipation within a different temporal construction: graphic artist Thomas Nast presents future freedom as an optimistic contrast to a horrific past, while painter Vincent Colyer envisions a more complex and ongoing process. By evaluating these nineteenth-century visual responses to emancipation, we can uncover and understand white artists' and viewers' assumptions about progress, freedom, and self-reliance, attitudes that continue to shape American race relations. This project will be a chapter in my larger book project about genre painting during the American Civil War. 

Spring 2021

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Ashley Gaddy

Doctoral Candidate

Ashley Gaddy is a Black Southern Educator, Scholar-Activist and Researcher.  Ashley received her Bachelor’s in Communication Studies and Master’s in Liberal Studies from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and is currently a doctoral candidate at George Mason University in the Cultural Studies PhD Program. Ashley’s areas of interest include Social Justice Education, Empowerment, Social Change and Authentic Leadership. The power of Black Women’s bodies and the happenings of 2020 inspired her project “Reproducing Through 2020: Reproductive Liberation Strategies of Black Women Welfare Recipients in Washington, DC during Floyd, Trump and Covid-19”. Ashley is also a Dog Mom to Bobo and a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

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Nathaniel Greenberg

Associate Professor of Arabic

Nathaniel Greenberg is an Associate Professor of Arabic in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at George Mason University. A comparatist by training with a background in literature, his research looks at the history and aesthetics of soft power technology in the modern Middle East and North Africa. His most recent book How Information Warfare Shaped the Arab Spring: The Politics of Narrative in Tunisia and Egypt (Edinburgh 2019) offered a first-person account of the opening weeks of protest in Cairo, in 2011, and examined the rhetorical disparity between opposing parties as the battle to define the Arab Spring unfolded. As a CHR fellow he will be focusing on an earlier revolutionary period with a project titled “Salvaged Archives: The Social Photography of Kamil al-Chadirji and the Image of Revolt in Iraq (1920-1958).

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Annie Hui

Doctoral Candidate

Annie is a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies. Her research examines the aesthetics of transnational social movements via visual and narrative appropriations of mass culture in contemporary protests. Her dissertation, “Visual Resistance and Political Be/longing: The Politics of Mass Cultural Symbols in Sites of Protest” examines how citizens imagine their cultural and national be/longing (both an existing belonging to and a longing for inclusion) and the ways that mass culture facilitates democratic participation while also challenging hegemonic neoliberal frameworks that consistently work to silence vulnerable and marginalized populations.

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Niklas Hultin

Assistant Professor in the Global Affairs Program

Niklas Hultin is Assistant Professor in the Global Affairs Program. With a background in both law and anthropology, Professor Hultin’s research interests focus on human rights, political culture, and the politics of information in West Africa. As a CHR Faculty Fellow, Professor Hultin will work on his book manuscript preliminary titled Human Rights and Autocracy: The Gambia under Yahya Jammeh, 1994-2017. Drawing on Professor Hultin’s two decades of research in the Gambia, the book explores how the language of human rights shapes and sustains dissent when up against an autocratic leader who literally pledged to rule for a billion years.

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Sam Lebovic

Historian of US Political and Cultural Life

Sam Lebovic historian of U.S. political and cultural life, and is particularly interested in the ways that information and ideas circulate – and don’t circulate – through the U.S. public sphere.  Studying this problem has led to work in a variety of fields: the history of civil liberties; media history; American Political Development; intellectual history; political economy; the history of U.S. foreign relations and national security. He is the author of the Free Speech and Unfree News: The Paradox of Press Freedom in America (Harvard, 2016), which provides a revisionist account of America’s free press in the era of corporate consolidation and state secrecy, and which won the Ellis Hawley prize in political history from the Organization of American Historians and the Paul Murphy Prize in civil liberties from the America Society for Legal History. He has recently finished a book on the political history of cultural globalization in the years after World War II (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2021).  As a fellow at CHR, he will be writing the first narrative history of the Espionage Act.  Under contract with Basic Books, the book uses the history of this controversial law to explore the censorship of anti-war dissent and the rise of U.S. state secrecy over the past century.  His writing on history, media, and politics has appeared in a number of leading scholarly journals, as well as such publications as the Boston Review, the LA Review of Books, the Boston GlobePolitico, the Columbia Journalism Review, and Dissent.

Jessica Scarlata headshot

Jessica Scarlata

Associate Professor of English

Jessica Scarlata is an associate professor of English and film and media studies and the director of the FAMS minor in CHSS. Her work addresses the intersection of visual culture with contested geographies, national memory, incarceration, and state-of-emergency discourses. Her book, Rethinking Occupied Ireland: Gender and Incarceration in Contemporary Irish Cinema (Syracuse University Press, 2014), studies films that explore Irish history from the perspective of those marginalized within or ejected from Irish and British national narratives, offering a chance to reevaluate what constitutes political cinema and political resistance. She is currently working on a book tentatively titled Geographies of Irish Visual Culture that looks at film, video, television, and photography made in or about Northern Ireland after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. This project seeks out works that deliberately or haphazardly open Irish history up to a wider global history of oppression, occupation, and emergency legislation. She is interested in the representation of contested spaces, places, and memories in the North, particularly in works that dissent from dominant narratives of the Troubles by inviting associations to other contested sites/sites of contest within and beyond Ireland and the UK. Her main focus in teaching is world cinema, particularly that of postcolonial nations, and her courses have covered Third Cinema and its legacy, multiculturalism and migration, and geographies of violence, all from a wide range of national/cultural contexts.