Graduate Fellows and Projects 2015-2016, "Ethical Subjects"

Julia BowesJuliaBowes

Graduate Fellow
Department of History, Rutgers
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Julia Bowes is a fifth year doctoral candidate in the History Department at Rutgers, New Brunswick. Before moving to the United States to pursue graduate studies, Julia completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons I) at Sydney University, a Masters in Public Policy at the Australian National University and worked in the women’s non-profit sector. She is interested in the intersections between the history of the family and the history the state, particularly in looking at the patriarchal family unit as a mode of governance and part of the apparatus of the state in the nineteenth and twentieth century U.S.

Her dissertation, “The Government of the Family: The Child, the Growth of the State and the Remaking of Patriarchal Authority 1850-1930,” explores contests between parents and the state over who held authority over the child between 1850-1930. Since colonial times, the head of the household had been a central pillar of state power.The state governed through the patriarch who was vested with the authority and discretion to control his dependents. As “The Government of the Family” details between 1850 and 1930, governments introduced a host of new laws that directly regulated the lives of children: establishing compulsory schooling, outlawing child labor and mandating vaccination for school-aged children. In the same period, women gained limited rights as wives and mothers: to own property, to divorce and to custody of their children. Courts and legislatures began to treat women and children as legal individuals, with interests and rights that were separate from and more important than those of the sovereign family unit. The expansion of a paternalistic state threatened the patriarchal family.  Julia argues these shifts in the governance of the family provoked a cross-class and gendered anti-statist politics based on a defense of the “sovereignty” of the patriarchal family. Looking at a series of case studies in which parents challenged the authority of the state to govern their children, this dissertation concludes with an analysis of Meyer v Nebraska (1925) and Pierce v Society of Sisters (1925) that held the “right to control the upbringing of one’s children” was a fundamental liberty protected by the fourteenth amendment, transforming the concept of patriarchal sovereignty into a constitutionally protected, modern notion of family privacy.

Jenna BragerJBrager

Graduate Fellow
Department of Women's and Gender Studies, Rutgers
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Jenna Brager is a PhD student in Women's & Gender Studies at Rutgers University. Her research focuses on the visual culture of remembering violence, and interrogates the concepts of justice, witnessing, and evidence in human rights discourse. Her work attends to a visual and material archive that contends with contested narratives in the aftermath of genocide and crimes against humanity, supported by a critical philosophical interrogation of these concepts in a contemporary landscape.

"Imaging Colonial Genealogies in Holocaust Memory” places the Holocaust as an ideological event in relation to histories of German colonial violence and transnational racial struggle. Jenna assembles a visual and material archive of the 1904 Herero and Namaqua Genocide in Namibia, and the role of anti-Blackness as a trace or a specter in the archive. Working from a tradition of feminist history and cultural studies, she particularly focuses on questions of absent or obscured histories; what is not in the archive, what is not obvious to the eye or mind—especially in photographs and film. She engages the insights of scholars that link German colonial history to later Nazi expansionist and racist policies including the camp system, as well as postcolonial scholarship that contends with the period of decolonization that occurred after World War II, which helped shape views of the Holocaust—such as Aime Cesaire’s conception of the “boomerang effect.” Finally, she examines the erasure of these histories in contemporary Holocaust remembrance, and what insights are gained in the field of post-Holocaust conceptions of human rights by reasserting these earlier violences.

Rachel BunkerRBunker

Graduate Fellow
Department of History, Rutgers
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Rachel Bunker is a second year Ph.D. student in the History Department at Rutgers University. She received her master’s in history from the University of Georgia in 2012 and holds a master’s in teaching from Lewis and Clark College. She completed her BA in history at Agnes Scott College in 2009.  

Rachel’s dissertation examines the growth of the consumer information economy, specifically in the area of data collection by and between insurance companies and credit firms, in the United States and Latin America from the late nineteenth century through the present. While an RCHA fellow, she intends to focus her research on a question emerging from her larger dissertation project⎯what has the role been of credit and insurance companies in the United States in producing a type of corporate subjectivity that promotes the affective investment of individuals in making themselves legible, quantifiable, and governable to business firms and the state? This project will attempt to formulate a theory of corporate sovereignty and security in the twentieth century United States that seeks to better understand the relationship between business and the state in the building of the dual public/private welfare infrastructure in the U.S.

Isaac CowellIPowell

Graduate Fellow
Department of English, Rutgers
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Isaac Cowell is a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the Department of English at Rutgers University. His dissertation, “Wayward Authority and Secret Satisfaction in British Romanticism,” examines Romanticism’s formal tension between wandering and telos, particularly the ways in which fragmentation and dissatisfaction at the level of cognition and affect get transformed into aesthetic satisfaction at the level of literary form. In his argument, the poetics of unaccountability cultivates obstinate willfulness, even self-opposition, as the source of new forms of attention, intention, and mental presence. He has presented his work at conferences of the Byron Society of America and the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism.

Isaac's RCHA project engages ethical questions of subjectivity by way of representations of aesthetics and affect in British Romantic literature. In particular, he uses poetry and prose texts to ask: how do we open ourselves to recognizing the hidden or implicit demands that others make upon us—even when those demands seem outworn or obsolete? And can we internalize those demands—make demands upon ourselves—in such a way that self-reflexive otherness or obsolescence yields a new sense of personal agency? He approaches these questions by way of an affect of obstinate unfulfillment that Kant calls “the peevish wish (one that nothing satisfies)” (Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View). He  considers this peevish affect as a type of stubbornly inchoate desire, one that resists fulfillment and instead settles in the cognitive gap that Kant elsewhere describes as “purposiveness without purpose” (Critique of Judgment). The characters and speakers in his texts find themselves holding onto outmoded beliefs and desires: mental states that have lost their intentional objects. In turn, he argues that such forms of mental dispossession can enable an unanticipated openness to the world. His project will work to make the case that peevish affect can serve as the unexpected grounds for self-repossession: for recreating oneself as a desiring subject and ethical agent.

Jessica Lauren CrialesCriales

Graduate Fellow
Department of History, Rutgers
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Jessica Lauren Criales is a fourth-year PhD student studying colonial Latin America and Anglo-America, focusing on Native converts to Christianity. Last year, she presented her work at the Middle-Atlantic Council on Latin American Studies (MACLAS) conference in New Jersey, as well as the Colonial Christian Missions conference in Denmark, while her article “Indian Converts and La Gracia Triunfante: Biographies of Christian Indigenous Women in the Atlantic World of the 1720s” was published in the Atlantic Millennium. Born and raised in Minnesota, she has a BA in History from the University of Notre Dame and a Master's in Spanish and Latin American Linguistic, Cultural, & Literary Studies from NYU.

Jessica's work focuses on comparative religious history in eighteenth and early nineteenth century Anglo-America and Latin America. Specifically, she analyzes the ways in which indigenous people interacted with Christianity and used Christian ideology to defend or expand their autonomy against racialized attempts to limit them. Her dissertation will revolve around two case studies: the Cacicas’ Convent in Mexico and Brothertown community in upstate New York. In both places, indigenous people petitioned, campaigned, and negotiated for the establishment of a space that would be fully Christian but also exclusively inhabited by indigenous peoples. Contrary to European-based perspectives at the time, the men and women who participated in the construction of these places declared themselves to be self-sufficient ethical subjects who did not need oversight from white ministers or superiors in order to live out orthodox Christianity. While initially successful, both projects fell apart by the mid-19th century under the pressure of land-reform measures and new definitions of citizenship in both countries. The rise and fall of the Brothertown community and the Cacicas’ Convent provide a framework for the broader questions of her dissertation: Why did some indigenous people choose Christianity as a means of defending their autonomy, and how did they make their moral claims compelling to a wider audience? What changed in the nineteenth century to make these indigenous-only spaces less viable within their larger societies?

Courtney DoucetteCDoucette

Graduate Fellow
Department of History, Rutgers
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Courtney Doucette received a B.A. in history and Russian language at Lawrence University (Appleton, WI) in 2004 and completed her M.A. at the European University at St. Petersburg (Russia) in 2005. Now at Rutgers, she is a doctoral candidate in modern European history with an emphasis on the Soviet Union. Her dissertation evaluates the history of Perestroika, the period of intense reform launched by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 that ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Under the auspices of the SSRC-IDRF program, Courtney completed twelve months of dissertation research in Russia in 2014-2015 and is currently writing up her thesis.  

Courtney's dissertation, “Perestroika as a Moral Project: The Last Attempt to Create the New Soviet Person, 1985-1991,” investigates the late Soviet period when First Party Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev launched the most far-reaching reform program in Soviet history. In contrast to traditional narratives that suggest the language of socialism was hollowed out and rendered meaningless by 1985, her research suggests that reformers attempted to reinvigorate socialism and use it as the guiding light of reform. She then asks how Soviet people across the social spectrum engaged attempts to reinvigorate socialism. Close work with a collection of nearly 10,000 letters to the popular daily newspaper Komsomol’skaia pravda written in the late 1980s and early 1990s suggests reformers’ efforts gain traction across the USSR.While investigating the history of late Soviet ideology, her research also offers a new interpretation of Perestroika itself.  While other scholars have emphasized the economic and political dimensions of reform, she draws attention to the moral underpinnings of Gorbachev’s project. Reformers believed that reviving Soviet society required work on the person him and herself in addition to economic, political, and social reforms. People themselves had to change, becoming activated and demonstrating a stronger work ethic, in order for society as a whole to improve. Attempts to work on the self, alternately called the New Man Project and the Soviet subjectivities project, were the linchpin of Soviet socialism in earlier periods in Soviet history. That they continued to thrive in the Gorbachev era underscores the importance of socialism to the last years of Soviet history.

Maria I. Espinoza

Graduate FellowMEspinoza
Department of Sociology, Rutgers
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Maria I. Espinoza is a second-year graduate student in the Sociology Department. Her research interests include the privatization of health, as well as community response to epidemics and environmental risk, environmental health, biopolitics, and environmental racism. Prior to pursuing a graduate degree, Maria worked in the social sector as a venture coordinator for ASHOKA, in the Andean Region, seeking and obtaining financial support for social entrepreneurs. Moreover, as a consultant in her home country of Peru she conducted social and environmental assessment studies. Maria earned her B.A. from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, and her M.A. in Sociology from Syracuse University. She is currently working as a Teaching Assistant in the Human Ecology Department.
 
Maria’s RCHA project will investigate the emergence of a neoliberal rationale in the realm of health in Peru. By looking at public portrayals of disease and at the governance of epidemics, this research will investigate how discourses about lifestyle, individual choice, and efficiency have contributed to shaping a new ethical subject. In particular, this project will examine the sanitary discourses upheld by the current dengue and malaria prevention campaigns, as well as discourses upheld by the cholera prevention campaign in the early 1990s. Past research dealing with the social history of medicine and medical anthropology has documented how hygienist discourses have been used as tools for advancing civilization processes, stigmatizing the poor, the indigenous, and immigrants as carriers of disease (Evered & Evered 2012, Cueto 2003, Briggs and Martini-Briggs 2003, Mitchell 2002, Anderson 1995). Building upon this tradition, this project will contribute to critical health studies by focusing on the ways in which government authorities and media have introduced and reinforced notions of self-governance and notions stating that health care access is an individual responsibility. Special attention will be given to reviewing the pertinence of using the “governmentality” concept as an analytical tool for understanding health governance in non-Western countries where health reforms have not followed a ‘Thatcher-Reagan’ style of neoliberalism and where economic disparities exclude large parts of the population from fully participating in society (Ferguson 2009, Braun 2007, Davis 2004).

Kaisha EstyKaishaEsty

Graduate Fellow
Department of History, Rutgers
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Kaisha Esty is a fourth year doctoral student in the History Department at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. She earned a B.A. and M.A. in American Studies at the University of Nottingham in the UK. She studies 19th and 20th century African American Women's cultural and intellectual history

Her project examines how African American women reconciled, appropriated and disrupted dominant notions of purity (and moral authority) rooted in white womanhood after Emancipation. Her research specifically engages with the question of why black women became invested in mainstream purity politics within the context of the Social Purity movement. The Social Purity movement - a euphemism for sexual purity - emerged in the midst of Reconstruction out of conservative white fears of a society facing moral decline. Mobilized by middle-class white women, the movement focused on the political empowerment and sexual protection of women. I argue that Social Purity emerged in response to the citizenship gains of African Americans, particularly black men. By extension, Social Purity reflected white women’s attempts to re-establish and solidify the ideological, social and economic distance between black and white womanhood. It was constructed upon a racialized rhetoric and practice that effaced black women as subjects of the movement. Under a racially disparate capitalist system, black women’s sexual exploitability thus became discursively naturalized. Yet black women were never bystanders of mainstream purity politics. Many became radical emissaries, suggesting that they held their own notions of purity. Kaisha is interested in the intricacies of this history, and how black women tied a purity ideal to their meanings of freedom and citizenship.

Hannah FrydmanHFrydmanRCHA

Graduate Fellow
Department of History, Rutgers
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Hannah received her B.A. in History and French Studies from Smith College in 2012.  A third-year doctoral student at Rutgers, she works on modern European women's and gender history with a focus on France and additional interest in mass culture, sexuality, the history of the press and advertising, legal history, alternative histories of capitalism, and the relationship between fiction, literature, and history on one hand and feminist politics and history on the other. Her current research looks at the expansion of classified advertising in the daily and weekly press at the turn of the twentieth century in France in order to examine the relationship between market regulation and biopolitics.

Following the 1881 passage of freedom of the press—a linchpin of the French Third Republic—a growing print marketplace hid in plain sight in the back pages of accessible mass-run newspapers. These papers printed edifying and informative news stories the law had intended to promote, but also connected readers with goods and services often at odds with republican efforts to form (masculine) “ethical subjects.” Alongside ads for pornography and quack medicine, the classifieds assembled women workers—from prostitutes and stenographers, to midwives and fortune tellers—who sold goods, services, and sometimes themselves to male and female readers alike. Politicians and vice crusaders, as ethical protectors of the weak and small, legislated for new laws that would stem the tide of the immorality for sale through the press. But was theirs the only possible ethical position? In this project, Hannah claims as ethical the precarious actors making a living, scraping by, or cheating their way to relative comfort through the underbelly of the mainstream press. Looking at the small, “immoral” actions of these women from this new point of view helps us disarticulate and disentangle ethics from morality, and rethink how to write ethical history in a world of ever-growing inequality where ethical ideals continue to be coopted for bellicose, imperialist ends.

Laura MichelLauraMichel

Graduate Fellow
Department of History, Rutgers
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Laura is a second-year PhD student in the Department of History at Rutgers. She received her BA in History from Carleton College and her MA from the University of Liverpool, where she was part of the Eighteenth-Century Worlds Research Centre.

Informed by her previous work on juvenile delinquency and vagrancy law in early America, as an RCHA fellow Laura will investigate how the poor were included and excluded from conceptions of ethical subjecthood in the eighteenth-century Atlantic World. A period generally characterized by the institutionalization and criminalization of poverty, Laura is particularly interested in the ways in which growing rhetorical and legal exclusion of the poor from mainstream morality co-existed with vibrant and inclusive networks of philanthropy. As many of these benevolent organizations were concerned with the relief of a specific ethnic, religious, or social sub-group, she will consider how these groups constructed transnational spaces in which the poor were explicitly part of an expression of a broader communal – and ethical – identity.

Sarah WeirichSWeirich

Graduate Fellow
Department of Political Science, Rutgers
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Sarah Weirich is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at Rutgers University. She has completed two Master’s degrees: one in Near and Middle East Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), UK, and the other in Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. She has previously been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for her research on informal networks, social mobilization, and the women’s mosque movement in Jordan. Her dissertation involves the relationship between transitional justice, historical memory and the secret police in Tunisia.

Archives, Blackmail and Corruption: Power and Silence in Post-Revolution Tunisia:How are national pasts reshaped according to present interests? National narratives are essentially contested by collective identities. Both national and other identities are established and maintained through a variety of mnemonic sites, practices, and forms, including truth commissions. Truth commissions never exist in isolation but are always embedded in social and political structures that determine their mandate, outreach, set-up, impact (even their very existence). With the aid of narrative analysis and political ethnography, Sarah examines how the process of truth-finding informs what kinds of truth is revealed, how it is situated into prevailing discourses and – in the process – how it shapes state-society relations in post-revolutionary Tunisia. The regimes of Bourguiba and Ben Ali employed systematic torture, political killings, unfair trials, forced exile and punitive economic practices to instill a culture of fear and squash any opposition to their rule. What makes the particularity of the transitional justice system in Tunisia interesting is that it involves not only truth telling and fact finding, but also prosecutions. She thus traces how fragmented elements of memories are politicized over time and how they influence the way Tunisian society views its past, negotiates what happened and what it means for the new Tunisian state.

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