Shaun Armstead is a second-year doctoral student in the History department. Before her relocation to the northeast, she received her BA in history from Auburn University. She works on women’s transnational activism after World War II, particularly as it relates to the United Nations. The broad intellectual questions she enjoys thinking through include how activists conceptualized the nation-state in their visions of a global community, and how imperialism complicated their attempts to work together to establish universal peace, human unity, and gender equality.
She brings these two questions together in her current research project. Focusing on an international federation for women’s suffrage, the International Alliance of Women (IAW), from 1946 until 1958, she argues that one of the functions of global sisterhood in the IAW was to veil the efforts of members from imperial countries to teach their sisters from newly-independent and soon-to-be independent countries how to be democratic citizens and establish democratic governing institutions. Further, she considers how IAW women from places such as Ceylon, India, and French West Africa engaged with these attempts and how they used the notion of global sisterhood to call attention to the realities they faced as both women of color and either current or former imperial subjects. Shaun looks forward to thinking about and complicating these ideas more as a RCHA Graduate fellow.
Danielle Bradley is a doctoral candidate in Rutgers’ History Department. She has a B.A. from the University of Iowa, an M.A. from Reading University in medieval archaeology, and an M.A. from the University of Connecticut in medieval studies. She studies the history of communication, text production, and self-expression in medieval England.
Her dissertation, “In Via, In Camera, In Capella: Professionalization and the Construction of the Administrative Ideal in England 1150-1500,” examines administrators’ duties “on the road, in chambers, and in chapel” with the king. This project seeks to understand how administrative employees from varied backgrounds—clergyman and lay, wealthy and modest, schoolman and nobleman—constructed a bureaucratic culture enfranchising an administrative identity that cut across traditionally rigid social categories, by accentuating the indispensability of their scribal, legal, and fiscal skill-sets. It explores what administrators wrote about their job and life experience in texts like political treatises, letter collections, histories, theological tracts, satire, and poetry. Such non-official writing responds to persistent concern for financial and social insecurity.
At the RCHA, Danielle will explore questions of agency and identity by pulling into parallel the temporal extremities of her larger project, a twelfth-century theologian-cum-retainer to Henry II and a fifteenth-century secretary whose professional burden may have driven him mad. Both men, Peter of Blois and Thomas Hoccleve, experienced uncertainty and self-doubt in the form of pressure from peers not to write and work for the royal government. In the case of Peter, his conservative identity as a clergyman ought to have disqualified him from service to a secular and sinful royal court. Thomas’s colleagues refused to believe his mental illness healed and insisted he was in no shape to draft elaborate technical documents. Both men were pulled in two directions, and wrote literature defending their choice to commit to secular administrative careers. Peter participated in a genre of court criticism that advocated the presence of sage spiritual advisors to cleanse the royal court. Thomas, a lower-level scribe in an office distant from both the king’s oversight and Church promotion, used the trope of madness to examine where self fits into society and deployed poetry as his proxy to offer counsel at court.
Hilary Buxton is a sixth year doctoral student in the History Department at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. She received a B.A. in History from Smith College in 2011. She is interested in comparative histories of gender, race, and medicine in the British Empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Her dissertation, “Disabled Empire: Race, Rehabilitation, and the Politics of Healing Non-white Colonial Troops, 1914-1940” traces the intersecting histories of “racial science” and rehabilitative regimes during the geo-political apogee of the British Empire. It explains how race shaped the character and goals of bodily and psychological treatments that the British wartime and post-war state offered its non-white veterans. It also analyzes the impact non-white veterans had on how white British psychologists, orthopedists, hospital staff, policy makers and administrators understood trauma. Whether in the form of ethnic-specific diets and rations, the provision of impractical prosthetics, or the explaining away of trauma through racialized stigmas, colonial soldiers navigated a health system whose technologies, diagnostics, and treatments denied them the same quality and level of care as their white counterparts. Yet care was also determined by a complex matrix of race, army status, and masculinity, whose meanings shifted throughout the course of the conflict. WWI, she argues, acted as a crucible in which racial theories were tested and found wanting, as the specter of disability and trauma forced officials to question ideologies that posited fundamental physiological and psychological differences between British subjects. Her project highlights the need for global medical regimes to remain conscious of how cultural bias informs and inflects them, and how competing power structures shape the responsiveness and effectiveness of centralized bureaucracies.
Benjamin Foley is a PhD student in Sociology at Rutgers University. He is also the co-founder and advisory board member of the human rights video advocacy organization, Organization for Visual Progression. Benjamin is interested in the moral economy of humanitarian intervention, post colonial theory, race theory, feminist theory, and visual culture.
Benjamin’s project explores the latent functions of the humanitarian discourse of Teach For America (TFA). TFA is a nonprofit organization that recruits and trains non-education majoring college graduates to teach at schools in low income communities in the United States for two years. Although there is no evidence TFA is more successful at raising student test scores than career teachers at public schools, TFA experience, or what Ben refers to as the TFA ethical subjectivity, has become increasingly more valuable than that of a traditional teacher. This paper explores how TFA teachers, or “corps members” assert and maintain ethical subjectivities despite any evidence that TFA is more effective that traditional public schools at closing the achievement gap. Through a discourse analysis of “counter-narratives” written by former TFA corps members now critical of TFA, Ben considers the “moral” motivations driving TFA corps members both at the time they join TFA and at the time of their critiques. He argues that TFA corps members maintain their ethical subjectivity through a discourse which formulates an assumed hierarchy between corps members and the traditional career teachers and students in the low income communities in which TFA works. This discourse matters, not only because it bolsters the expansion of TFA, despite any evidence that TFA is actually closing the achievement gap, but also because it permits corps members symbolic and structural advantages unavailable to the career teachers and students in the low income communities in which they are placed. Thus, the ostensibly apolitical humanitarian discourse of TFA performs a political function.
Patrick is currently a third-year doctoral student in History with a concentration in modern Europe. His research examines the relationship between political thought and empire in Britain and France, and has encompassed slavery and abolition, counterrevolutionary thought, and concepts of culture. He is currently investigating the intellectual and political history of the French colonial emigration during the Revolutionary period. He received a B.A. in History-International Studies and Philosophy at Rhodes College in 2009.
Patrick’s project explores the cosmopolitan character of the Age of Revolutions through the prism of exile, specifically that of French and Savoyard émigrés with colonial backgrounds and their peregrinations between the British and French imperial spheres. He aims to turn from a familiar focus on the French Revolution’s impact on domestic British politics and intellectual life, particularly the emerging opposition between radicalism and reaction, by following the impact of these exiles on British overseas policy and debates surrounding slavery and evolving conceptions of imperial rule as well as revolutionary politics. The project demonstrates how “double exiles” such as Saint Dominguais planters and colonial Indian “nabobs” acted as crucial agents in remaking the global entanglement of the British and French Empires. The project aims to better understand how the moral and material challenges and contradictions of British “liberal empire” were implicated in the disintegration of the colonial world of the French Ancien Regime.
Daniel Manuel is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of History. Prior to attending Rutgers, Daniel received his B.A. and M.A. in history from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Daniel’s project considers the ways persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in Louisiana made their lives and experiences part of public discourse. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, PLWHA wrote letters to newspaper editors and congresspersons, gave TV and newspaper interviews, and spoke at forums and training sessions. Through their testimony, PLWHA countered images of themselves as victims of disease and spelled out the difficulties of finding care and treatment. Thus this project has two goals. First it takes seriously the voices of PLWHA, whose experiences and actions have often been sidelined in the history of AIDS. Second, it expands definitions of activism. Against efforts to demonize them, PLWHA narrated their lives as models of ethical citizenship and family life. As PLWHA spoke out, they also came out to their friends and neighbors. While their visibility humanized the epidemic, PLWHA critiqued the inadequate resources offered by state and national governments. In the process, PLWHA established themselves as the true experts on life with HIV/AIDS.
Catherine Harris Naeve
Catherine is currently a third-year doctoral student in the History Department at Rutgers. Her research focuses on the British Isles in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century, with an emphasis on state formation, immigration, citizenship and identity, and religious toleration situated in European and imperial contexts. She graduated with a B.A. in History, Plan II, and European Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014.
Her RCHA project focuses on the immigration of Huguenot refugees from France to the British Isles during the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries. The 1685 repeal of religious toleration of Protestants in France uprooted 200,000 Huguenots. She is interested in how Huguenots immigrated and integrated into pre-existing European and increasingly international networks as well as the structures for the relationship between the state, the local, and the individual in Britain. Through the letters, accounts, and legal documents in the family archives of the Huguenot Society’s Library in London, she aims to reconstruct a dynamic relationship between the refugees and their adopted home in the British Isles. Considering the Huguenot as immigrant and refugee questions how to define the ethical subject in the early modern context; the idea of the “refugee” moralized immigrants and their reception in Britain during a period of domestic religious conflict. Immigrants also changed the legal, political, and religious framework through their lived experience. Legislation on church conformity and the process of naturalization responded to tensions created by the presence of immigrant at the communal level. Immigration policies debated in Parliament were formed in the churchyard, in the workplace, and in the market. The Huguenot case thus challenges the division of “top down” and “bottom up” history in immigration studies.
Anna is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Rutgers History Department. She came to Rutgers with a BA in History and French, MA in International Relations and an MBA and now works on Modern European history. She focuses on the first quarter of the nineteenth century more broadly as well as on Imperial Russia under a guiding principle that Russian history studied as a core part of European history will enrich our understanding of both. Her more specific interests include European aristocracy and the uprisings of the 1820s, intellectual history, the post-Napoleonic time and space and how this temporality produced a particular understanding of the self.
The 1820s saw several uprisings throughout Europe led by aristocratic revolutionaries with a goal of a constitutional form of government. Russia’s turn came in 1825 with the Decembrist Uprising. However, for almost two hundred years, the debates around the revolt have been steered by clear political interests and its continuous mythmaking. The Decembrists have been written into and out of Russian history both as heroic fools and foolish heroes. This project is interested in the Decembrists before the myth. Based largely on letters and focused on the decade prior to the event itself, it seeks to understand how the unprecedented mobility of the Napoleonic wars and the particular sense of space and time it created functioned to produce a certain type of understanding of the self. How the experience of this specific temporality coupled with an aristocratic transcultural reality refracted the ideas of Enlightenment, Romanticism, Idealism, religion, and patriotism to produce a ‘revolutionary self’. Deeply conflicted on questions of violence, the Decembrists debated the type of action they should take but not action itself. The moment of decision-making renders a particular ‘self’ visible. And it is this particular ‘revolutionary self’ of the 1820s, its ethical subjectivity and how and why it came about, that Anna’s project seek to understand.
Melissa Parrish is a fifth year doctoral candidate in the English Department, where she studies twentieth- and twenty-first century American poetry and a postwar history of trauma and affect. She is interested in how postwar American poetry accounts for public crisis—as crucial forms of elegy, documentary, and protest. She has presented her work at conferences for the Modern Language Association, the American Comparative Literature Association, the American Literature Association, and the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present.
Melissa’s dissertation, “Emergency Poetics in the American Present,” focuses on the social role of poetry in postwar American history in relation to the affective and temporal parameters of public emergency, or a marshaling of resources (both formal and informal) intended to make crisis temporary. Questioning how postwar emergencies, from war to public health crisis to natural disaster, elevate particular ways of life while silencing others, the dissertation defines as “emergency poetics” the attempt to lay bare how the treatment of emergency can reify rather than amend enduring social injustices by erasing the realities of lived experience. The project turns to poetry because of its long history at the intersection of personal and public experience. The juncture of the personal and the public is a crucial one for this project, as it plays out in uneven ways as the urgency of publicly declared experience overwhelms the need to bear personal witness to crisis in the making, often played out most violently at the margins of public experience.
Alexander Petrusek is a second year doctoral student in the Department of History at Rutgers, focusing on modern European and German history. His area of study is the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany). His projected dissertation, Real Existing Idealism: East Germany and the Socialist Imaginary 1971-1995, traces the works of East German civic and socialist activists and their contributions to the development of European leftist thought. Employing the concept of the imaginary, it seeks to explore the generation and circulation of political understandings in a space beyond traditional liberal/totalitarian and representation/practice binaries.
Alexander's RCHA project, "Homeless Texts: Unification as Colonization in East Germany, 1990-1995," studies how former GDR activists navigated the transformed world of a unified Germany. It traces the works of leftists who prior to and during the revolution of 1989-1990 campaigned for reform of the GDR's communist system, and following unification spoke out against Western-led privatization of the formerly state-owned economy, advocating instead for the preservation of an Eastern identity and livelihood. Utilizing the conceptual work of Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, the project characterizes these activists' works as "homeless texts," those falling between or reaching beyond the borders of existing nation-states. Such texts help to trace the larger, flexible network of political understandings emanating from civic activism in the last two decades of the GDR's existence, and offer evidence of how former GDR activists reclaimed their moral and political agency from what Easterners widely perceived as a callous and vindictive colonization by the West. In exploring the comprehensive political, economic, and cultural displacement of the GDR's real existing socialism by Western liberal capitalism, this project seeks to more fully understand the lived experience of former GDR activists as ethical subjects negotiating and challenging a new social order.
Paul is a second-year doctoral student studying the history of science in early modern Europe. He is particularly interested in the role of science as a product and producer of emerging global markets and empires. He received his B.A. in History from the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas in 2011 and his M.A. in Early Modern European and Early American History from Marquette University in 2015.
Generally, Paul’s RCHA research asks how British natural philosophers attempted to employ chemical knowledge to resolve the tension between local and foreign natural products at the center of a booming global trade network. Specifically, his current research focuses on a group of early eighteenth-century apothecaries, physicians, and chemists who aimed to improve English medicines, create profitable new commodities, and inure the English body to foreign (and therefore unhealthy) imports. One of these men, Peter Shaw, even promoted his own scheme for a series of chemical experiments by investing in the production and sale of a “portable laboratory” which would enable its purchasers to apply chemical experiments to native and imported vegetables, animals, and minerals. Shaw hoped that this project would create new medicines, discover new commodities, and reinforce the free and rational character of the British nation while mitigating the negative effects of foreign imports. Through an examination of how thinkers like Shaw endeavored to accommodate English bodies and the local environment to new and exotic commodities in the eighteenth century, Paul aims to grapple with some of the moral and practical ambiguities of global trade and its impact on local economies and the environment.
Louis Segura is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at Rutgers University currently writing a dissertation which examines the legacy of the Nazi Occupation of France and the Resistance in French Literature and Film. He is currently a Part-time Lecturer in the Rutgers Honors College where he works with first-year students in a fundamentally interdisciplinary setting dedicated to global-problem solving and social innovation. His general research interests include Cultural Memory, Film History, the Holocaust, and Mythology.
Louis’ project investigates emergent cultural codes within French fiction during the post-Occupation Purge trials (1944-1949) as a means of demonstrating a collective consciousness of tenuous French national memory. The Purge, as it is commonly known in English, was a series of expedited trials that began before the liberation of Paris which served as the punishment of French citizens known or suspected to have collaborated with the Nazis during the Occupation. Known in French as the épuration, meaning “purification,” indicates that the Purge was often carried out in the spirit of reform. Louis contends that the Purge created an aesthetic and political shift in postwar fiction by constituting new sign systems to articulate public memory. In his work, Louis traces a development of a cultural memory through representations of the Occupation and the Résistance in French film and literature developed during the postwar period. He argues that the Liberation of Paris inaugurated a new mode in French history and culture, and that the post-Occupation Purge trials evoked a cultural stress not seen in France since the social flux of the 19th century revolutionary period. The title of his proposed project for the RCHA is “The Ethics of Liberation and The Purge: What are Words Worth?”
Nafisa Tanjeem is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Women's and Gender Studies of Rutgers University. Nafisa has extensive undergraduate teaching experiences at Rutgers University in the USA, University of Toronto in Canada, and University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. She has closely worked with various activist groups and organizations such as United Students against Sweatshops in the USA, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians in Canada, and Bangladesh Garment Sromik Sanghati (Bangladesh Garment Workers' Solidarity) and "Meye" (Women) network in Bangladesh.
Nafisa’s RCHA project analyzes ethical and political activism and activist discourses developed in relation to the deadliest garment industrial disaster in the human history - the 2013 collapse of Rana plaza, a factory building housing five garment factories in Savar, Bangladesh. Nafisa is particularly interested in the role of social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, as well as blogging sites) in facilitating new modes of transnational legal governance structures, moralities, and activist collaboration that generate both discursive (images, texts, ideas) and material (donations, funds) flows. Through the comparative analysis of Bangladeshi women garment workers, who produce clothes for multinational corporations such as Wal-Mart, and Bangladeshi immigrant women retail workers in the USA, who sell these clothes at Wal-Mart stores to American consumers, Nafisa investigates labor activism in the Global North and the South, diverging moral conceptions of workers’ rights, and the challenges that arise when these conceptions clash in virtual and physical spaces. Her work reveals how increasing use of social media opens up possibilities for transnational activist collaboration among women workers as ethical subjects, while reinforcing different forms of gender, race, and class hierarchies in both the Global North and the South.
Marian Ahn Thorpe is a fifth year doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. She received a master’s degree in Environmental Science from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 2010, and holds bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Studies and Ethnic Studies from Brown University. Her dissertation research on indigenous rights and development in Panama was funded through a Grassroots Development Fellowship from the InterAmerican Foundation.
Marian’s dissertation examines the international human rights concept of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) in the context of the Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous territory in western Panama. Her research shows how FPIC, a principle meant to safeguard indigenous peoples’ participation in development decisions, creates a common terrain for negotiation, contestation, and identity-making. Medical anthropologists Hoeyer and Hogle describe the concept of consent as “an empty signifier: an image onto which people can project very different hopes, concerns, and expectations.” Similarly, in Panama, where informed consultation exists in principle but seldom in practice, the concepts of consent and consultation give stakeholders shared terms with which to express very different sets of imagined relationships and subjectivities. For the populist, neoliberal, multicultural state, the president’s recent promise to strengthen consent laws affirms the state’s benevolent, inclusive self-image while eliding ongoing human rights violations related to hydroelectric development. Meanwhile, for Ngäbe indigenous leaders in western Panama, consent—and its opposite, refusal—invokes and reinforces a group narrative of centuries-long anti-colonial struggle. Ultimately, Marian argues that informed consent is more than a legal instrument for protecting indigenous self-determination: it offers indigenous peoples and states a joint arena for discursive and practical negotiations of identity, politics, and neoliberal development.
Kyle Edward Williams is a fourth year doctoral student in the Department of History at Rutgers University. He received a B.A. in history and classical languages from the University of Oklahoma in 2011. His research and teaching interests include nineteenth and twentieth century American cultural and intellectual history, political history and the history of capitalism, and religious history.
His dissertation is a study of the political idea of corporate legal personhood and corporate personality in the twentieth century. As scholars of corporate liberalism and the “organizational synthesis” demonstrated more than a generation ago, the corporation posed a number of challenges to the political and economic structures of American life at the turn of the century. It was the transformation of personhood and subjectivity that made room for this new institution in legal, political, and business theory. Corporate personhood—an idea that has provoked no small amount of controversy in American politics in recent years—has a long history that goes back to that period and earlier. His project explores how even after the corporate reconstruction of American capitalism, this powerful institution continued to pose significant challenges to both capitalism and liberalism throughout the twentieth century. These challenges of the relationship between public and private, the individual and the state, and the economic and the political were frequently adjudicated with reference to changing conceptions of the liberal person. At the “Ethical Subjects” seminar, he hopes to explore the way in which the articulation of the (artificial) life—and even soulfulness—of corporate bodies depended on an analogy to the personhood and subjectivities of “natural” human beings.