images description

2016 - 2017 dissertation fellows

Bauman, on boat, looking forward (left)matthew bauman, german studies

Project Title: Wie man (im Osten) sieht: Exploring Subjectivity in East and West German Documentary (1961–1989)

My dissertation concerns the thematic and formal links between non-fiction cinema made in The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) during the Berlin Wall period (1961–1989). Specifically, the project focuses on documentary films that exhibit subjective, first-person, essayistic qualities. Often referred to as “essay films,” these films focus on filmmakers’ experiences making the films and their own opinions about the subjects of the films as much as—if not more so—than on the ostensible subjects of the films itself. Scholarship on these films has so far concerned itself almost exclusively with Western European and North American cinema. By comparing GDR documentaries with canonical essay films from the FRG, my work not only demonstrates these qualities in many GDR documentaries but also shows that they deserve to be included alongside their canonical West-European and North American counterparts in discussions of subjective, first-person, essayistic cinema. By expanding the “essay film” canon to include films produced in The GDR’s state-run, heavily censored film studio, DEFA, my project questions what is commonly understood when referring to a film as having “subjective” or “first-person” qualities and works toward a more global understanding of documentary film.

vanessa de los reyes, historyVanessa de los Reyes, 2016-17 Dissertation Fellow

Project Title: From Conformity to Protest: The Evolution of Latinos in American Popular Culture, 1930s-1980s

“From Conformity to Protest” examines the representation of Latinos in popular culture—specifically in film, television, and advertising—from the 1930s through the early 1980s. It follows the changing portrayals of Latinos in popular culture and how they reflected the larger societal phenomena of conformity, the battle for civil rights and inclusion, and the debate over identity politics and cultural authenticity. My project begins when Latin Americans largely accepted portrayals of themselves as cultural stereotypes and ends with Puerto Ricans and African Americans protesting in the streets of New York City against such portrayals. The chapters in between thematically and chronologically examine how mainstream cultural producers portrayed different Latino groups—including Chicanos (or Mexican Americans), Puerto Ricans, and Cubans—and how those groups reacted to those portrayals. It argues that as the U.S. moved to an era of seemingly greater equality and liberty in the postwar, Latino groups became more vocal about their place in American society. They demanded inclusion and social citizenship and pushed back against rhetoric and images that cast them as marginal and foreign. This project also analyzes the inter-ethnic coalitions that participated in this transformation and the occupying tensions within such relationships.

Photo of 2017 Dissertation Fellow Alan Grigsbyalan grigsby, sociology

Project Title: Black Social Life in a Diverse Suburb

In the past few decades the face of cities and suburbs has changed. The majority of Americans now live in suburbs and—because racial minorities have driven the most recent wave of suburbanization—today’s suburbs are becoming more racially diverse than ever before. To proponents of residential integration these trends may seem promising. However, most research on this topic is limited to statistical research designs that cannot fully ascertain the quality of race relations in this changing landscape. My research uses an ethnographic approach to investigate social life in one racially diverse suburb of Cleveland, OH: Shaker Heights. I will investigate how the black people who occupy this space—as residents, employees, and visitors—think about, describe, and participate in social life in a diverse suburb. This information will help us better understand dynamics of race relations in a neighborhood context that is both seldom explored and growing in demographic importance.

juan camilo galeano sánchez, romance languages & literatures

juan camilo galeano sánchez - headshot
Project Title: The Male Outlaw: An Intersectional Approach to Identities in Colombia's "Novelas de La Violencia" Written by Women

“The Male Outlaw: An Intersectional Approach to Identities in Colombia’s ‘Novela de la Violencia’ Written by Women” means to establish a dialogue between matters of gender, class, race, and national identity in the novels: Jacinta y la Violencia (1967) by Soraya Juncal, Cola de Zorro (1970) by Fanny Buitrago, Triquitraques del Trópico (1972) by Flor Romero, and Estaba la Pájara Pinta Sentada en el Verde Limón (1975), by Albalucía Ángel. All these novels deal with a particularly acute period in Colombia’s conflict, La Violencia (1946-1964), during which the radicalization of bipartisanship instigated a massive manslaughter of civilians, soldiers, and insurgents. My hypothesis is that these authors construct the male outlaw character as a counter-hegemonic individual that is able to build new identities by putting into question the patriarchal-made ones, allowing an analysis that emphasizes in the overlapping of the identities aforesaid, while exposing ideologies and political agendas through fiction. My theoretical framework combines a range Feminisms, Postcolonial Studies, and Queer Theory.

alexander jeuk, philosophyAlex Jeuk, 16/17 Taft Dissertation Fellows

Project Title: Embodied Understanding: A Phenomenological Approach

I develop a dissertation project on what it means to understand something. For instance, what it means to understand what a cup of coffee is or what it means to understand to perform an action like running. I work on this topic from a phenomenological perspective, which means that I seek to establish those conditions that make it possible that we understand something through an analysis of those aspects of our experience that are invariant. Working on ideas that have been developed by Immanuel Kant, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, I develop a comprehensive conception of understanding that addresses the following issues: What is the structure of understanding so that it can inform skillful action? I argue that understanding has to be concernful (i.e. affective) and that it has to be about the world through spatiotemporal schematic structure. I further work on the problem, famously treated by Hubert Dreyfus and John McDowell, what the relationship between embodied understanding and conceptual understanding is—and I develop a phenomenological conception of embodiment that can inform further philosophical accounts of understanding.

Ma Pulong 16/17 Taft Dissertation Fellow - headshotpulong ma, mathematical sciences

Project Title: Hierarchical Spatial and Spatio-Temporal Models for Massive Spatial and Spatio-Temporal Datasets

This project aims to develop novel hierarchical spatial and spatio-temporal statistical models for massive spatial and spatio-temporal datasets from remote sensing, climate science, and environmental sciences. Using classical statistical methods such as kriging for analyzing big data is challenging even for spatial-only data and more cumbersome in spatio-temporal setting. To tackle this issue, I have developed a hierarchical spatial model, which provides flexible covariance function for modeling different spatial scales, and also allows fast and exact computation for massive spatial datasets. I have been also working on developing hierarchical dynamic spatio-temporal statistical models, where distributed inference will be carried out for massive spatio-temporal datasets in both empirical hierarchical modeling (EHM) and Bayesian hierarchical modeling (BHM) frameworks, and novel methods based on loss functions in statistical decision theory will be developed to quantify communication, computation, and prediction cost.

anwar mhajne, political scienceAnwar head shot

Project Title: Political Opportunities and Strategic Choices: The Case of the Muslim Sisterhood in Egypt

This paper examines the mobilizing strategies of the Muslim Sisterhood in Egypt during various regime changes between 2010 and 2014. More research is needed to examine how women’s organizing interacts with shifting political opportunity structures. This comparative analysis draws on and contributes to the literatures on political opportunity structures in particular. I will juxtapose the strategies the Muslim Sisterhood employed during various regimes with this extant body of literature, using interviews, social media posts and newspapers articles as primary sources of study. During Mubarak’s regime, the Sisters focused on socioeconomic rights and did not articulate gender demands for audiences outside of the organization. During Morsi’s government, due to the opening of the formal political arena to religious women, the Sisterhood focused on mobilizing its supporters in the formal political arena and raised women’s rights issues. Finally, during the military backlash against the Brotherhood, the sisters utilized the informal political arena to support the Brotherhood and made their arguments with a global language of socioeconomic and political rights.

simon workman, english

Simon Workman

& comparative literature


Project Title: A Criminal Strain Ran In His Blood: Medical Science, Criminology, and Empire in the Sherlock Holmes Canon

Nearly a century and a half after their initial publication, it is clear that Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and novels continue to be a cultural phenomenon throughout the world. However, less clear are the ways in which those works emerged in response to—and as an example of—cultural anxieties surrounding advancements in science, particularly in the fields of biology and medicine. Advances such as Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection not only called into question basic long-standing assumptions about man’s relationship to the universe; they also promised to improve the investigation of crime, as well as potentially justify certain imperialist beliefs about racial difference—beliefs that themselves influenced the development of criminal investigation. This project seeks to demonstrate how the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories both respond to and participate in the ideological nexus of medical science, criminology, and British imperialism by examining the ways in which certain key texts in the Holmes canon deploy medical discourse, criminological theory, and imperialist assumptions in the creation of a rational, “scientific” worldview through the characters of Dr. John Watson and Sherlock Holmes.

past dissertation fellows

Skip Navigation Linksresearch > dissertation fellows > 2016 - 2017 Taft Dissertation Fellows