Anna Jones Abramson received her PhD in English from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2016. Her current project, “The Age of Atmosphere: Air, Affect, and Technology in Modernist Literature,” traces the convergence of meteorological, affective, and aesthetic atmospheres in transnational modernism. The study suggests that, in the early twentieth century, technological innovations such as poison gas, airplanes, and modern weather forecasting made air lethal, palpable, and legible in unprecedented ways. Rather than following the traditional narrative of sensational shock and rupture in the literature surrounding two World Wars, the project argues for an alternative “atmospheric modernism” which revises the most familiar terms in modernist studies: fast becomes slow, shock becomes absorption, event becomes environment, detonation becomes diffusion, and psychological becomes nonhuman or transpersonal. This book project reflects a broader interest in uniting affect theory and environmental studies, two scholarly orientations that often seem diametrically opposed. She has published work on Virginia Woolf in The Journal of Modern Literature, on J.M. Coetzee in Otherness: Essays and Studies, and on Joseph Conrad in Studies in the Novel (forthcoming).
Betsy Beasley holds a PhD in American Studies at Yale University (2016). Her book project, At Your Service: Houston and the Preservation of US Global Power, 1945-2008, examines the cultural, political, and economic development of the globally integrated economy through the lens of the oilfield services industry. Specifically, her research focuses on how the rise of oilfield services provided a way for US-based firms to maintain cultural and economic power in an era of postcolonial nations’ rising political strength. In a moment when US oil resources drastically diminished, exporting oil expertise offered a triumphalist explanation for the US transition from an industrial to a post-industrial economy. Her research has been supported by the Miller Center of Public Affairs, the American Historical Association, the New Orleans Center for the Global South at Tulane University, and the Coca-Cola World Fund. An article drawn from her work is forthcoming in an issue of Diplomatic History. She cohosts and produces "Who Makes Cents: A History of Capitalism Podcast" with David Stein.
Corey Byrnes is Assistant Professor of Modern Chinese Culture at Northwestern University, where he teaches courses in Chinese literature and visual culture, Sinophone cinema, and the environmental humanities. He received a PhD in Chinese Literature from the University of California at Berkeley in 2013. His current book project, “The Birth of a Chinese Landscape,” approaches the 2500-year-long representational tradition inspired by the Three Gorges region of southwestern China from the perspective of the recently completed Three Gorges Dam, which displaced well over one million people and radically transformed the ecology of the Yangzi River. Rather than a chronological account of the region’s aesthetic history, it focuses on the individual moments, people, and texts that have had the greatest impact on the imaginative and material production of this iconic landscape. By looking beyond the standard narratives about the origins of the Three Gorges Dam project, it locates the dam’s ultimate horizon of possibility in the aesthetic traditions that made the region both famous and central to the political mythology of multiple Chinese states. Byrnes’ newest work reflects on the relationship between artistic responses to environmental degradation and the global rhetoric of threat that so often defines China in contemporary global discourse.
Gösta Gabriel is postdoctoral researcher in Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany. He studied Ancient History, Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Business Administration, Design Thinking, and Philosophy in Chelmsford (UK), Leipzig, Malente, and Potsdam (all Germany). He received his doctorate in Ancient Near Eastern Studies in 2013 from Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, with the first overall interpretation of the so-called "Babylonian Epic of Creation" (enūma eliš). His project at the Mahindra Humanities Center – "A Mythical Critique of Violence" – is on the ancient concept of violence as it can be derived from Mesopotamian flood mythology (i.e. Epic of Atramḫasīs, Sumerian Flood Story, Epic of Gilgameš, ca. 2000–1000 BCE). The Biblical story of Noah and the ark builds on these Mesopotamian forerunners that depict a scenario in which violence is used to a vast extent. The portrayal of such extreme measures reveals an outstanding level of ancient philosophical deliberation on the nature of violence. As a consequence, the Mesopotamian sources also formulate a critique of the use of violence addressing gods and human rulers. In general, Gösta Gabriel is interested in Akkadian and Sumerian philology and intellectual history. His projects focus especially on the phenomenon of a "Mesopotamian philosophy."
Mark Anthony Geraghty received his doctoral degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2016. His current, PhD-based, book project ethnographically investigates the Rwandan state’s recent campaign against “genocide ideology” (ingengabitekerezo ya jenoside), which is prohibited in law as “thoughts” of ethnic hatred that threaten the recurrence of genocide. Based on four years of fieldwork, it examines the quotidian effects of this state campaign, in part, through research in military-run “re-education” camps (Ingando), state-organized genocide commemoration events, local-level genocide courts (Gacaca) which allowed laypersons to try and sentence their neighbors with up to life imprisonment, and the vast prison system, interviewing those incarcerated for crimes of genocide ideology. More broadly, his research interests in postcolonial contexts, in Africa and beyond, include: the politics of nation-building and efforts to stabilize new regimes of law in the wake of catastrophically violent political transitions; the (re)inscription of multiple forms of violence and racisms through the very processes claimed to effect their erasure; and constructions of, and responses to, “hate,” injurious, or potentially criminal, speech acts. His research has been supported by a number of institutions, including the United States Institute of Peace, the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation.
Callie Maidhof received a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2016. Her current project, "Borderline Settlers: Building the Suburban Israeli State in Palestine's West Bank," is an ethnographic inquiry into secularism and everyday life in Israel's West Bank settlement project. Based on twenty months of fieldwork in and around the settlements, her research considers the work of dispassionate anti-politics in the expansion and entrenchment of the Israeli state. She writes against the grain of a debate dominated by narratives of religious radicalism and extremist violence, refocusing instead on the structural violence undergirding the transformation of the West Bank from a war zone into the homogeneous, ethnically exclusive landscape of suburbia. This research has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Sultan Program in Arab Studies at University of California at Berkeley's Center for Middle East Studies.
Isaiah Lorado Wilner is a global historian of knowledge who researches at the interstices of race, modernity, memory, and ecology. He received his PhD in History from Yale University in 2016. Wilner’s current project connects cultural and intellectual history, Indigenous studies, narrative studies, and the history of science to investigate the influence of non-state people on the state. It focuses in particular on narratives of transformation: stories of self-alteration, reciprocity, and borderless travel developed as a survival strategy by colonized people facing the vectors of epidemic pathogens and state erasure, which resulted in the critique of race. Working with the Indigenous people of British Columbia and in archives and museums from New York to Berlin, Wilner reconnects knowledge to its origins and traces its global propagation. He thus studies globalization as a narrative process of transmission and reception, which connects and transforms intellectual ecosystems. Wilner’s 2013 article “A Global Potlatch: Identifying the Indigenous Influence on Western Thought” revealed the seminal impact of the Kwakwaka’wakw intellectual George Hunt and his people on the concept of culture. His forthcoming anthology for Yale University Press, edited with Ned Blackhawk, is called Indigenous Visions: Rediscovering the World of Franz Boas.
Interdisciplinary Dissertation Completion Fellows
John Harpham is a PhD candidate in the Department of Government. He studies political theory and the history of political thought. His dissertation argues that slavery took root in the English New World colonies within an historical context that was to a great extent innocent of the modern concept of race, and in which slavery was understood as a status assigned to certain persons on the basis of their actions or choices rather than any deep fact that inhered in their natures. The project is titled “The Intellectual Origins of American Slavery.” Although his focus here is early-modern England, he is interested in general in themes of freedom, slavery, and race in American political thought. He has substantial interests as well in literary history, legal history, and the history and memory of American slavery; his articles on these subjects have appeared in Criticism, Raritan, and Slavery & Abolition. He has held dissertation research fellowships from Harvard’s Center for American Political Studies, Charles Warren Center, and Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.
Kate Rennebohm is a PhD candidate in Harvard's Film and Visual Studies program. Her doctoral thesis, “Ethical Re-vision,” argues for the dramatic, but un-theorized, influence of cinema upon ethical thinking and philosophy. Drawing from the history of philosophy and the development of cinema, this dissertation illuminates how cinema has reconceptualized life as “reviewable,” and how this, in turn, has contributed to the formation of a positive program within ethical thought (both vernacular and philosophical), specific to the 20th century – a program that values the ability to see and experience something anew. Rennebohm has written for Cinema Scope, The Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Film & History, Offscreen and Synoptique, recently co-founded the Society for Cinema and Media Studies’ Film Philosophy Scholarly Interest Group, and has received the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Research Grant for both her Doctorate and Masters.