Samuel M. Anderson holds a PhD in Culture and Performance from the University of California Los Angeles. His project, Celebrity, Violence, and the Mystic Arts, explores the shared aesthetics of spectacular public performances staged by militias, NGOs, healers and herbalists, initiatory societies, and political parties in postwar Sierra Leone. Traversing these various social spheres in the company of a former militia commander turned popular touring showman, this research describes a continuous process of mutual reformulation between celebrities and their spectators. Through such spectacles, Sierra Leoneans steer transitions into and out of various forms of violence, as crowds are called together for many ends: to judge, to heal, to educate, and–most importantly in the postwar context–to effect personal and social transformation. Anderson uses visual ethnography of diverse performances to reinterpret the relationships between violence and its aesthetic representation. His other research interests include postcolonial subcultures, urbanism, medical anthropology, and transnational Islam, and his work has been funded by the Social Science Research Council and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation.
Hiba Bou Akar is Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Middle Eastern Studies at Hampshire College. Bou Akar received her PhD in City and Regional Planning with a designated emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies from the University of California at Berkeley. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the American University of Beirut (AUB) and Master in Urban Studies and Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has published on the geographies of planning and war, the question of urban security and violence, and on the role of religious political organizations in the making of the city. She is the co-editor of “Narrating Beirut from its Borderlines” (2011) and the special issue “Security in/of the City” in the journal City & Society (2012). At present, she is working on a book manuscript entitled “Planning Beirut: For the War Yet to Come” focusing on the spatial politics of Beirut’s post-war frontiers. Bou Akar is the co-editor of a leading online electronic journal on urban issues in the Middle East, Jadaliyya Cities. She has also worked as an architect and planner, and as a research consultant with local NGOs and international UN organizations in the Middle East.
Thiemo Breyer holds Masters degrees in philosophy, cognitive science, and historical and social anthropology from the Universities of Freiburg and Cambridge. He received a doctorate (2010) and a habilitation (2014) in philosophy from the University of Freiburg. After being a research assistant at the Karl-Jaspers-Chair for Philosophy and Psychiatry and coordinator of the research project “Embodiment as Paradigm for an Evolutionary Cultural Anthropology” at the Marsilius Kolleg of the University of Heidelberg, he was appointed to a Junior Professorship for Transformations of Knowledge at the University of Cologne (2014). His main areas of research are phenomenology, philosophy of mind, and philosophical anthropology. He is currently co-editing a number of volumes, including Phenomenology of Thinking (Routledge) and Normativity in Perception (Palgrave Macmillan). His research project at the Center is devoted to investigating various forms of visibility and their implications for the attribution of social statuses to individuals and groups. The connections between visibility and empathy on the basis of an embodied approach to perception and interaction are at the core of the analysis.
Alex Fattal received a PhD in Anthropology as well as a secondary field in Critical Media Practice from Harvard University in 2014. His book manuscript, Guerrilla Marketing: Information War and the Demobilization of FARC Rebels, examines the way the Colombian state deploys elaborate marketing campaigns and targeted intelligence operations to urge guerrillas to abandon the armed struggle. Based on two years of ethnographic research, the book illuminates the structures of surveillance and spectacle that undergird Colombia’s armed conflict, and theorizes the intersection of capitalism and counterinsurgency. He is also a videographer and photographer whose projects have featured in film festivals, art galleries, and advocacy settings. As a postdoctoral fellow he will polish his book manuscript and edit a documentary about former combatants from the FARC. The documentary was filmed in a truck transformed into a giant camera obscura. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, The Wenner-Gren Foundation, the U.S. Institute for Peace, and Fulbright IIE; and published by American Ethnologist, Anthropological Quarterly, Public Books, and Sensate. For more information, see his personal and academic websites.
Joseph Fronczak received a PhD in History from Yale University in 2014. His dissertation, “Popular Front Movements: Antifascism and the Makings of a Global Left during the Depression,” is a transnational history of the interwar world’s political economy. It takes, however, an unconventional approach to political economy, connecting popular politics—the everyday, local self-assertions of common people—to the world economy. To make sense of the global reach of fascism and antifascism between the World Wars, the dissertation suggests that these two political forms worked as the popular politics of the global economic order. An article, “Local People’s Global Politics: A Transnational History of the Hands Off Ethiopia Movement of 1935,” is forthcoming in Diplomatic History.
Ram Natarajan received his PhD in Anthropology from New York University in 2014. His research and teaching focus on violence, memory, human rights, and law. His current project, "The Power of Memory," is an ethnographic inquiry into the social worlds of officers accused of committing suppressive violence in service of Argentina’s 1976-1983 military government. This project also investigates how Argentina’s ongoing use of trials to hold the military accountable for the country’s human rights violations has produced new forms of interpersonal violence and conciliations with the law. The Andrew Mellon Foundation/Social Sciences Research Council, the Fulbright-Hays Program, the National Science Foundation, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation have supported his research.
Interdisciplinary Dissertation Completion Fellows
Sakura Christmas is a PhD Candidate in the History Department at Harvard University. She focuses on Japanese imperialism in the Chinese borderlands through the lens of space, science, and the environment. Her dissertation examines how the Japanese occupation combined social scientific theories with new quantitative methods to chart nomadic decline as a crisis in eastern Inner Mongolia. There, planners and researchers reconstituted the relationship between nomads, settlers, and the land through theories of Marxist materialism, Social Darwinism, and cooperative evolution. Aerial technology, archeological excavation, and economic surveys all figured as significant tools in marking out ethnic and ecological divides in an attempt to bring spatial clarity to the borderlands with an unprecedented degree of precision. Sakura holds an AB from Harvard College, and has traveled, studied, and taught in both China and Japan.
Tae-Yeoun Keum is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Government at Harvard University, where she studies political theory. Her research is on political myth, or narratives about political events or conditions that are taken for granted, and are not readily susceptible to critical evaluation. Her dissertation explores the relationship between myth and political thought in Plato’s writings and their modern reception. By reconstructing the discourse on myth in the Platonic tradition, it argues for a reassessment of the place of myth in politics and philosophy. Tae-Yeoun holds a BA in Humanities from Yale College and an MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History from the University of Cambridge. She also completed a secondary field in Comparative Literature at Harvard, and has broad interests in the history of political thought, both ancient and modern, and the intersection of political philosophy and literature.