Postdoctoral Fellows

Valeria G. Castelli received her PhD in Italian Studies from New York University in 2016, with a dissertation on the rhetoric, ethics, and politics of contemporary Italian documentary film. Her current project examines Italian documentary films made over the last ten years that deal with migrants’ journeys to Europe through the central Mediterranean route (the route that includes Lampedusa), as well as their precarious lives once in Italy. Given its geographic centrality over more than a decade and the high number of lives lost in the Mediterranean, Italy has been a very important observatory for migration analysts, and migration stories have attracted the attention of many documentary filmmakers. Her research project shows how documentary film has become a uniquely effective medium in Italy for challenging stereotypical accounts of migrants’ lives and journeys, and how the genre contributes to the cause of migrants’ rights. The communicative design of the documentaries analyzed in this project is conceived as a means for advocacy and social change. By modifying or reinventing specific representational and rhetorical strategies, these documentaries unmask enclaves of injustice, discrimination, and exploitation. In so doing, they not only bring these issues under ethical scrutiny, but they also help create political resistance, social awareness, popular indignation, and the possibility for social change.

Jon Connolly received his PhD in History from Stanford University, as well as his JD from Stanford Law School, in 2017. His research interests involve antislavery, emancipation, and empire, and histories of race, law, labor, and freedom. His current project considers the normalization of Indian indentured labor migration after the abolition of slavery in the British empire. It argues, broadly, that new ideas about race and political economy reshaped the category of free labor around the middle of the nineteenth century. Linking ideological and structural change, it also explains how local and global economic dynamics helped legitimize indenture as a form of “free labor.” Connolly’s article, “Indentured Labour Migration and the Meaning of Emancipation,” is forthcoming in Past and Present.

Onur Günay holds a PhD in Anthropology from Princeton University (2017). His book project, Becoming Kurdish: Migration, Labor, and Political Violence in Turkey, examines the processes by which displaced Kurdish migrants become urban laborers in Istanbul. Based on two years of fieldwork with Kurdish migrant workers in the service and construction sectors of Istanbul’s economy, his research shows how ethnic and cultural differences are recast through labor, as these differences mark migrant Kurdish men’s bodies, sexualities, life prospects, and senses of belonging in the city. His writing foregrounds how Kurdish migrant workers articulate their understandings of self, community, and rights in relation to their struggles for economic survival and social mobility—all this in the context of dramatic economic restructuring and the rise of political Islam in Turkey.

Onur’s work as a filmmaker is integral to his work as anthropologist and storyteller of the lives of his informants. His last documentary, Garod [Longing], made with ethnomusicologist Burcu Yıldız, portrays the lives and the musical stories of two Armenian American musicians using their trip to the family’s lost hometown of Diyarbakır as the central narrative arc. Garod focuses on the remaking of a musical tradition and explores the ways in which the Armenian community in the United States coped with pain and loss through music and art.

Sumayya Kassamali holds a PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University (2017), where her dissertation focused on the lifeworlds of migrant workers in contemporary Lebanon. Her book project, tentatively titled Black Beirut, examines an informal labor sector where African and Asian domestic workers and Syrian refugees have come together to transform the city in recent years. The work discovers a Beirut where inhabitants excluded from political citizenship have built a set of religious and commercial establishments, informal services, community rituals, internal codes, ways of speaking Arabic, and underground spaces for leisure, consumption, and desire. Her larger research asks how belonging is forged under conditions of structural exclusion, and she is additionally interested in the politics of post-9/11 America, the War of Terror, and the cultures of the contemporary Middle East.

Matthew Kruer is Assistant Professor of Early North American History at the University of Chicago. He received his PhD in History from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015. His book project, The Time of Anarchy: Colonial Rebellions and the Wars of the Susquehannocks, 1675-1685, examines a tumultuous decade during which Virginia colonists rebelled against their government, Maryland colonists launched two uprisings, and North Carolina colonists initiated a full-blown revolution. These colonial insurrections were closely connected with a spasm of wars affecting virtually every Native American nation between the Great Lakes and the Deep South. Framing this chaotic violence as a single event, the Time of Anarchy, his work shows that these apparently distinct conflicts were connected by the migrations of the Susquehannocks, a once-powerful Indian nation of central Pennsylvania. Expelled from their homes by colonial militia and scattered across much of eastern North America, these refugees exerted a political influence wildly disproportionate to their numbers, in the process reshaping both Indian nations and English colonies. This project explores the forms of power exercised by seemingly weak and vulnerable indigenous migrants, who in their struggles for survival and resurgence drove political struggle and social change in early America.

Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi received a PhD in the History of Art and Archaeology from the New York University Institute of Fine Arts, and her historical and ethnographic research focuses on spatial politics, urbanisms, and modernist culture and discourses, drawing from primary research in East Africa and South Asia. Siddiqi is writing a book manuscript entitled Architecture of Humanitarianism: The Dadaab Refugee Camps and Emergency Urbanism in History; it examines a history of forced migration through liberating and coercive settlement in Kenya and the Somali borderlands, the visual rhetoric of the Dadaab refugee camps, and humanitarian spatial practices, material culture, and iconography from the eighteenth century to the present. She is conducting research on the figuration of the modern architect and field of architectural practice in imperial South Asia for another book project, Vocal Instruments: Minnette De Silva and an Asian Modern Architecture; it examines constructions of and claims on craft, patrimony, heritage, and modernism in the discourses and practices of the Archaeological Survey of India, the colleges of architecture and engineering, and the journal MARG, refracted through the intellectual work of architect Minnette De Silva and those in her spheres. Siddiqi’s work has received support from the Fulbright Scholar Program, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Social Science Research Council, the Graham Foundation, New York University, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She co-edited the volume Spatial Violence, and practiced architecture in the United States and India. She will be joining the faculty of Barnard College in 2018.

Interdisciplinary Dissertation Completion Fellows

Neelam Khoja is a doctoral candidate in Histories and Cultures of Muslim Societies in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations department at Harvard. Her dissertation, tentatively titled “The Power of Politics in 18th century Punjab: Space, Culture, and Identity,” inquires how changes in political power led to new or reimagined representations of land and space, language and culture, self and community in eighteenth-century Punjab. More specifically, she investigates the implications of Iranian Nadir Shah Afshar and Afghan Ahmad Shah Abdali’s intermittent rule of Iran and the western frontier of Hindustan from roughly 1738 to the 1772. She analyzes emerging narratives in competing, overlapping, and complementary discourses about power, space, religion, ethnicity, and gender in Persian, Punjabi, Urdu, and English histories, memoirs, travel writing, administrative records, and literature. She argues that Nadir Shah Afshar and Ahmad Shah Abdali’s political, spatial, and cultural sovereignty disrupt accepted views on political legitimacy, identity politics, and spatial conceptualization. For archival research in South Asia and Europe, Neelam received support from the Fulbright Program; American Institute of Pakistan Studies; American Institute of Iranian Studies; and the South Asia Institute and Asia Center at Harvard.

Argyro Nicolaou is a filmmaker and PhD candidate in Comparative Literature and Critical Media Practice at Harvard University. Her dissertation project, titled "Europe and the Cultural Politics of Mediterranean Migrations," examines case studies of displacement in the Mediterranean region through literary texts, political memoirs, and film, looking specifically at the ways in which such narratives of migration have shaped the geopolitical and cultural imaginary of Europe. In 2016 Argyro was awarded a Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies Dissertation Research Fellowship, which she used to travel and conduct research in Greece, Cyprus, Sicily, and Tunisia. Media projects include In Half, a short narrative film about artistic censorship and politics, screened in festivals in New York, Romania, and Cyprus; George Ph. Ioannides (Trikomitis), a multimedia installation about the fate of digital artefacts after death for a European Capital of Culture 2017 exhibition in Paphos, Cyprus; "In the Same Boat: Morocco's Migration Lessons for Europe," a one-hour podcast she co-produced for the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative in January 2016. Publications include: "Cyprus and the Not-so-soft Power of Cultural Politics: Lawrence Durrell’s Bitter Lemons and Rodis Roufos’ The Age of Bronze" in The Journal of Mediterranean Studies (May 2017); and A Waste of Time (short story) forthcoming in Writing Nicosia… Beyond Barriers Anthology (winter 2017).