Fellowship

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DISSERTATION FELLOWS

The Antipoetry Work of Carlos Martínez Rivas: Parody, Humor, Pessimism and The Neo-baroque Program
Tomás Emilio Arce, Romance and Arabic Languages and Literatures

This work aims to define the antipoetry work proposed by Carlos Martínez Rivas. My research will demonstrate how his poetic work challenged the major poetic styles in the Spanish American poetry tradition, during the second half of the 20th. The defy was directed against the cultural establishment and its part of a neo-baroque program.

My research will address the following topics: 1. The influence on his poetic view of the pessimistic notions proposed by Arthur Schopenhauer. 2. The purpose of his neo-baroque program and how he deployed this plan. 3. How he achieves to combines in his poetry, elements from popular culture such as cinema and popular music in permanent tension with cult art expressions. 4. Identify the parodic dialogue that his poetic work had with the well-established poets of his era, like Octavio Paz and Ernesto Cardenal.

My theoretical frame is based on the poetic semiotic approach of Michael Riffaterre; the philosophical work of Schopenhauer; the Literary theories regarding the neo-baroque aesthetic and culture proposed by Erick Blandón, Omar Calabrese, Bolívar Echeverría, William Egginton and Mabel Moraña; the work on literary parody proposed by Linda Hutcheon; and the cultural studies approach of William Rowe and Vivian Schelling and Nestor García Canclini to popular art in Latin America.


You Can’t Talk About That in the #CancelCulture: Social Media’s Disparate Impacts on Racial Discourse and Ideology
Marcus A. Brooks, Sociology

In this project I use content analysis of social media discourse about cancel culture to explore how the ways in which we talk about and understand issues of race and racism are impacted by the online spaces where we have those conversations. Cancel culture, while not explicitly about race, is a topic of broad cultural discussion which is shot through with ideas and presumptions about culture, citizenship, and who has the right to speak in public. And in the United States these topics are deeply racialized. The sociological understandings about how racial discourse and racial ideology reproduce racism in the United States are largely based on pre-social media theorizing and research. We know that social media platforms have mechanisms that allow, encourage, restrict, and discourage certain content and discussions. It is important to understand how this technological mediation impacts the conversations, about race and racism, that produce public knowledge about these issues. By analyzing data from three platforms, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube, and comparing results across platforms, I will demonstrate the specific ways that our racial knowledges are impacted by the particular technologies that host these conversations.


It’s All About the Ladies (Auxiliary)
Nicholas Brown, History

The International Ladies Auxiliary of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was formed in 1925 to aid the union in their struggle against the Pullman Company and to improve black labor. The women of this organization are essential for the success of the Brotherhood and expanding economic rights for Black people, the women also made significant contributions in the Modern Civil Rights Movement. While working with the Brotherhood, the Ladies Auxiliary formed their own separate ideologies and goals in the Freedom Struggle, including fighting against lynching’s, improving Black education, better housing, voting rights, and the elimination of Jim Crow Practices. The International Ladies Auxiliary shows how many women’s organizations are largely ignored in history; this research helps tell a more complete history of the Modern Civil Rights Movement.


Analyzing and Improving the Nested Subset Differential Attack
Joshua Deaton, Mathematical Sciences

The ability to control information is incredibly important in modern society given the importance of the internet and digital communications. We thus need systems in place to ensure that our data is protected from adversarial third parties, and we also need to be sure just who sent us a given set of data. The solution to this is public-key cryptography which develops schemes that will allow us to have this control. A proposed scheme to help with this is LUOV, made by Beullens et al. in 2017 which was put forward in a cryptography competition for new standards. My project is analyzing and improving the two recent attacks SDA and NSDA on LUOV which I co-authored.


Treatable Conditions: Boundaries for a Mental Health Ontology
Andrew Evans, Philosophy

This project is an answer to the question: What conditions should the mental health community treat? While it may seem that there is already an adequate answer to that question—the mental health community treats mental disorders—I argue that the concept “mental disorder” is flawed. “Mental disorder” implies the presence of dysfunction. But people are rightly treated by the mental health community all the time without the presence of dysfunction. Therefore, I argue for a treatment and suffering centric account of mental health conditions. If we are able to reformulate our concept of what the mental health community does, the stigma of mental health treatment will be reduced, since people will not connect mental health treatment with something being “wrong with them.” I further develop this idea by exploring the ontological implicates of such an account. I argue that only a biopsychosocial process ontology would make sense for mental health. Given that, our currently mental health ontologies are inadequate.


Powerful Emergence
Bradley A. Griggs, Philosophy

Emergence appears to be everywhere, but few among us are willing to accept it. Emergent phenomena depend on something else for their existence and are in some sense novel with respect to their dependence base. Both special science entities and ordinary objects appear to meet both criteria. Nevertheless, many of us are hesitant to accommodate emergent phenomena into our ontologies because their existence seems to be inconsistent with physicalism. Debates about emergence tend to assume a Humean ontology that takes a deflationary stance on causal powers. I argue for an anti-Humean ontology of irreducible causal powers and develop a powers theory of emergence that is consistent with physicalism and overcomes the main challenge that faces its Humean competitors: Jaegwon Kim’s causal exclusion argument.


Bayesian regression with piecewise linear spline
Rui Huang, Mathematical Sciences

Bayesian regression with piecewise linear spline is a nonparametric regression technique. It is a flexible and interpretable modeling strategies. I assumed a smooth functional relationship between a response variable y and a set of predictor x. The functional relationship is constructed using piecewise linear spline and I used Bayesian method to estimate the regression coefficients of the splines. The model is applicable to heteroscedastic data as the unequal variance is also modeled using spline function.
I extended the model by adding a binary treatment effect as another additional spline function. A Gibbs sampling algorithm was used to estimate the coefficients of two spline functions simultaneously. I also extended the model to deal with multivariate data. The model can be applied to causal inference analysis for clinical trial data.


Archives of Empathy: A Creative and Critical Examination of Migration, Diaspora, and Identity
Yalie Saweda Kamara, English

My dissertation is comprised of two components: creative and critical, which contribute to an interdisciplinary study, “Archives of Empathy,” a long-term interdisciplinary project that invokes and elaborates narratives that have been masked and underdetermined in the historical record, geography, circumstance, and the vagaries of memory.
The creative component is “Besaydoo,” a full-length collection of poetry that addresses the role of “witness,” with particular emphasis on the complexity of intergenerational immigrant families, the vagaries and afflictions of postcoloniality, and female kinship in West African and Black American cultures.
The critical component is “Dressing as Diasporic Identity: The Case of Sierra Leonean Creole Women,” an ethnographical project that interrogates Sierra Leonean Creole material culture. This project will foreground the kabaslot—a valued cultural artifact of the Krio People circulating in the Black Atlantic.
The dissertation draws inspiration from artistic and academic works that examine migration, diasporic formations, and identity in the framework of postcolonial studies.


Statistical Downscaling of Climate Model Projections
Ayesha Kumari Ekanayaka Katugoda, Mathematical Sciences

We propose statistical downscaling methodologies to combine coarse-resolution climate model outputs and high-resolution remote sensing data to produce fine-resolution projections of climate change. Two methods are proposed with complementary properties, one with superior computational efficiency and the other with a coherent uncertainty propagation. We will apply these proposed methods to downscale the sea surface temperature over coral reef regions over the globe. Numerical analysis will be carried out to compare the proposed methods with the state of the art. We also propose a spatial statistical model to exploit the downscaled climate projection and to investigate its relationship with extreme events. In particular, we will use this model to study the coral bleaching conditions at the Great Barrier Reef.


(Don’t) Call It A Comeback: Contemporary German Jewish Identity in German Rap and HipHop
Brenda Lamboy, German Studies

My dissertation focuses on Jewish rap in Germany and how identity is transmitted through music. Much of the research on contemporary Jewish identity currently focuses on high art, film and literature while not looking at how this question of identity is tackled through the lens of popular culture; especially music. Rap is one of the most popular music genres in Germany and the United States and has historically been a tool to speak out against a multitude of differing social issues in both the USA and Germany. The rappers that I look at address Jewish identity through their music via their lyrics and music videos. Finally, I also investigate how Jewish identity anti-Semitism, are ‘thematized’ in German and American rap.

The Philosopher’s Path to San José: Toward a Cross-Cultural Radical Embodied Cognitive Science
Jonathan McKinney, Philosophy

This work contributes to, and expands upon, two emergent movements in philosophy and cognitive science. The first is the move in the Western world to study non-Western and non-canonical philosophical traditions in a comparative and cross-cultural context. The second is the shift in contemporary cognitive science toward phenomenological approaches in embodied cognition, including 4E (embodied, enacted, extended, & embedded) cognition, ecological psychology, distributed languaging, and enactivism. This intersection promises to be especially fruitful because it is relatively unexplored, there is resonance between the many perspectives of embodiment around the world and problems faced by each movement are complementary. Instead of looking to this work for a single path toward a genuine cross-cultural cognitive science without borders, it should be understood as an invitation to consider how each tradition fits within the same world and then to reconsider our places within it.


An Unconquerable Idea: The Southern Press and Confederate Nationalism
Kevin McPartland, History

My dissertation examines the way the Southern press helped to construct and sustain Confederate nationalism during the Civil War. Focusing mainly on smaller presses rather than those located in cities like Richmond or Savannah, my project illustrates the way small town editors were able to knit their local communities into a broader national identity that was dedicated to gaining independence for the Confederacy. Centrally, this project examines the way editors and their readers created meaning through the local wartime experience, such as the presence of US forces, issues with food supply, and the loss of men in the army. These ordeals, and the way editors translated them to their audience, played a crucial role in how Confederates understood themselves, their nation, and their place in it.


Beauty on Whose Terms? Black Women and Girls’ Beauty Work Across Settings
Brittney Miles, Sociology

The larger context of Black women’s beauty work is defined by Western and white beauty supremacy, anti-Black dress codes, Black hair discrimination, and under-appreciation for Black cultural aesthetics. I use photography and interviews with Black women and girls to explore how they use fashion, hairstyling, and makeup to navigate different spaces and manage their identities. I am especially interested in how they make their daily beauty choices relative to their experiences in schools, workplaces, and/or Black communities. I recruit diverse participants who vary not only in terms of major social locations such as age, class, and sexuality, but also in terms of body size and gender presentation. Such variation expands dominant narratives about how Black women and girls do beauty and how they are represented in the larger beauty discourse. The primary goal of my project is to understand how Black women and girls use beauty as a tool to traverse gendered and racialized institutions.


The Migration of Women from Nepal for Domestic Work to the Gulf States and the Impact of Nepal Government’s Policies Banning Out-Migration for Domestic Work
Sayam Moktan, Political Science

Nepali women have been migrating for domestic work for decades, particularly to the Gulf States. What makes Nepal especially useful to study is that as of 2017, the Government of Nepal imposed a ban on the out-migration of maids, formally preventing any women from migrating abroad for domestic work. Moreover, this is not the first time that a ban has been put in place. The government has periodically imposed several prohibitions on the migration of women for domestic work, mainly to the Gulf states, yet has never prohibited male-out migration. Although there is significant evidence that women face harm and exploitation when they migrate for domestic work and the bans imposed by the Government of Nepal might appear to be an appropriate response on one level, this disregards the economic needs, rights, and agency of poor and working-class women in Nepal for which migration for domestic work may be their only option. Through policy analysis, and in-depth interviews, I examine the reasons for and the impacts of this ban and earlier bans to determine if such “protective” measures, which do not extend to male migrant workers, endanger women more and what alternatives there may be to such measures.


“They monopolize the fruit, oyster and fish trades and are nearly all peddlers:” The Racialization of Italian Immigrants in Gilded Age Louisiana, 1870-1899
Anthony Russomanno, History

Following the Civil War, the state of Louisiana encouraged immigration from areas throughout southern and eastern Europe as a way of combating labor shortages. As a result, the region witnessed a massive influx of southern Italian immigrants seeking better economic opportunities. By the early 1890s, Italians had become the largest foreign-born group within the state’s vital port city of New Orleans, occupying a section of the Lower French Quarter, known as “little Palermo.” Anti-Italian sentiment grew rapidly after 1870 as the New Orleans’ press spread rumors of a developing underworld of organized crime. After more than a decade of fanciful speculation, growing nativism, and discriminatory policing procedures, New Orleans would become the site of the nation’s largest mass lynching, when a mob of angry citizens butchered eleven Sicilian-born men on the city’s streets.
Through the lens of this infamous event, this project contends that Sicilians operated on a self-prescribed periphery in which their disinterest in assimilating, combined with increasing economic competition and growing nativism among the city’s Anglo-American population, provoked a sustained level of dissonance. That tension culminated in an episode of violence that brought international attention to the Crescent City and vividly underscored the precarity of Italian immigrants in Louisiana’s complex racial landscape. The Italian immigrant experience in New Orleans reveals the complex malleability of whiteness in the late nineteenth century United States, an instability that shaped political dialogue, impacted economic relationships, and regularly provoked violent disruptions. The Italian immigrant story in the region further serves to inform contemporary readers of the evolving and deep-rooted nuances inherent within the politics of whiteness. Ultimately, perceptions of whiteness in nineteenth century America were neither static nor nationally uniform. Instead, whiteness was (and continues to be) a malleable and often regionally ascribed construct, which bestows explicit social and political privileges.


Willful Objects and Feminist Writing Practices
Rhiannon Scharnhorst, English & Comparative Literature

My research focuses on writing tools and emotional labor in feminist composing practices. I am keenly interested in how the tools we use to write help us navigate how to write, as well as shape what gets written. For my dissertation, Willful Objects and Feminist Writing Practices, I examine a diverse array of objects used by women writers throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including the typewriter, the kitchen table, the endpapers in cookbooks, and the hashtag. Drawing on feminist archival methodologies, Willful Objects begins not with a particular personality or writer but with the object itself, exploring how the affordances of an object shape, guide, and accompany writers. This expansive perspective on agency rejects anthropocentrism, starting instead with the assumption that all things have agentic potential. For scholar-teachers across the disciplines, my work draws attention to the everyday object and its overlooked impact on composing habits, an area of study particularly valuable for understanding the challenges students face when writing.


Topics in Bayesian Testing Procedures and Bayesian Hierarchical Model Applications
Vikram Suresh, Economics

The increasing popularity of Bayesian Inference has made it necessary to introduce Hypothesis Testing procedures that are easy to interpret and at least as powerful than their Frequentist counterparts. To this end, we introduce a Posterior Density Ratio (PDR) Hypothesis test to test the serial independence of Time Series model approximation errors. The PDR Test is seen to perform better than Breusch Godfrey and Ljung Box Frequentist Tests.

Bayesian Hierarchical Models (BHM) offer important service in the analysis of related groups of information that are yet distinct. The BHM when applied to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) datasets offer superior understanding of the efficacy of various treatments. Heterogeneous treatment effects are calibrated including the observed and unobserved individual patient effects. The hierarchical structure of the data is preserved while leveraging prior information from other studies to be incorporated into the model. The applications of BHM are further extended into the study of Minimum Wage and Income Dynamics. The various groupings of states and income levels make the BHM the most appropriate model choice given its distinctive features.

The combination of Bayesian testing procedures and inferences from the Hierarchical Models can be seen to be applicable in disparate fields of science. The research therefore is charting a new path in understanding medical treatments and economic policy applications.


My Apartment: Posthumanism, Ecology, and Poetry
Madeleine Wattenberg, English & Comparative Literature

My Apartment, a poetry collection, traces in verse the links between industrial farming, harmful algal blooms, and an urban-located speaker with the purpose of examining language’s role in defining the “human” and reconceptualizing the relation between humans and their environments. In section one, a sonnet sequence draws on the language of slaughterhouse architectural manuals to illustrate the links between architecture, language, and production; in section two, algal blooms resulting from farm-waste runoff rupture the boundary between dream and reality as the speaker visits a museum, then falls asleep; in section three, speculative poems posit a world where waste and pollution have radically altered the relationships between human and nonhuman agencies. A critical essay on typographical strategies, the posthuman subject, and Black ecological poetics, centering on Canisia Lubrin’s The Dysgraphxst, accompanies this creative dissertation.


 

 

PAST DISSERTATION FELLOWS:

 

Dissertation Fellows
2021 - 2022
2020 - 2021
2019 - 2020
2018 - 2019
2017 - 2018
2016 - 2017
2015 - 2016
2014 - 2015
2013 - 2014
2012 - 2013
2011 - 2012