Mason's Center for Humanities Research announces 2024-25 Residential Research Fellow Cohorts

The Center for Humanities Research is pleased to announce its fall 2023 and spring 2024 cohorts. All were chosen to work on research projects related to CHR's 2023-24 annual theme, "Democracy, Disposability, and Repair."

Congratulations to all of our new faculty and graduate fellows! Learn more about their projects below.

 

Fall 2024

Dan Howlett (PhD Candidate, History and Art History) is a PhD candidate in History working on his dissertation titled "Embodied Providence in Early America." He previously worked as a research assistant at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.  His research interests include body and disability history, digital history, and early New England gravestones.

Fellowship Project: "Embodied Providence in Early America."

This dissertation investigates the relationship between disability and religion during the 1660s to the1820s in the northeast American colonies and states. As the Enlightenment and religious movements reimagined the link between a person's physical body and their supernatural soul, the interpretation of the visible and invisible worlds led magistrates and ministers to ascribe morality and immorality to bodies. Authorities used this theology to support witchcraft accusations in Salem, Massachusetts, while victims and their descendants argued an alternative, less restrictive interpretation. By the early Republic period, the alternative became mainstream.

Rachel Jones (Associate Professor, Philosophy & Program Faculty, Women and Gender Studies) is the author of Luce Irigaray: Towards a Sexuate Philosophy (Polity, 2011) and has published essays on the work of Cavarero, Hartman, Irigaray, Kant, Lyotard, and Maximin in journals and edited collections. Her research focuses on questions of materiality, natality, embodiment, and difference as approached through continental philosophy, sexual difference feminisms, queer theory, critical philosophies of race, and decolonial thought.

Fellowship Project: "Between Lisbon and Haiti: Sexual Difference, Race and the Human After Kant."

In 1756, Immanuel Kant published three essays on the earthquake that devastated Lisbon a year earlier and that became a defining moment for Enlightenment thought. My project reads these essays as exposing an unease about human beings’ relation to the earth that Kant seeks to resolve via his later critical project. At the same time, I displace Lisbon by taking the 2010 earthquake in Haiti as an orienting point from which to read Kant’s work back through the Black Atlantic and reinterrogate his conceptualization of race, reproduction, and moral agency. Drawing on continental philosophy, sexual difference feminisms, Black feminist thought, and Caribbean philosophies, my project asks how we might respond otherwise both to an earth that moves and to the diverse human beings who cohabit the earth, without repeating gendered and racialized hierarchies or logics of capture and extraction.

Young Jung (Assistant Professor, Modern and Classical Languages) is a Korean Studies scholar whose research focuses on the intersection of migration, translation, gender, race, and class in modern and contemporary Korean literary, visual, and social texts. 

Fellowship Project: "Monstrous Others in Early Korean Science Fiction."

Early Korean science fiction published between the Japanese colonial era and the 1960s through literary magazines and newspapers was symptomatic of a heightened anxiety toward Western concepts of science. Most telling of this anxiety was a bold new figure on the Korean literary landscape: the “scientist.” Represented as monsters, idealists, Buddhas, and dreamers, the scientists emerge as an image of horrors, while machines are depicted as affective entities emitting fragrance and creating harmonious music. The contrasting images of scientists and machines suggest the poetics of curiosity and fear deeply embedded in early Korean science fiction. The representations of monstrous scientists and affective machines reveal an ambivalent desire toward science and technology. My project traces the distinctive introduction and adaptation of science fiction in the early Korean literary landscape. During my CHR fellowship, I will focus on two chapters of my monograph tentatively titled A Poetics of Early Korean Science Fiction: “Images of Scientists in Early Korean Colonial Fictions” and “Affective Machines, Affectless Humans.” 

Rick Smith (Assistant Professor, Sociology and Anthropology) is a biocultural anthropologist working at the intersections of genomics and feminist, queer, and Indigenous Science and Technology Studies (STS). His work traces how shifting conditions of power become molecular. As both a geneticist and a critical scholar of science, Smith uses the concept of “molecular” not only to account for the conjoined histories of social, political, ecological, and genetic change over millennia – but also to analyze the ways in which normative genome science, as a technology of colonialism, has attempted to naturalize colonial orders and their epistemes.

Fellowship Project: "Possessed: Plantation Ecologies on the Texas Blackland Prairies."

This project critically intervenes in the colonial histories of the Blackland Prairies Ecoregion of Texas, which became the westernmost expanse of the cotton plantation system beginning in 1821. This work uses a biocultural approach to analyze how the emergence of the plantation system, and its attendant reinventions of the categories of Man and Nature, moved to possess and radically reconfigure bodies and land. Rather than relegate the plantation to a bygone era, this work multiple meanings of “possession” to account not only for the colonial land relations and bondages of plantations past, but also to account for the ways that its bodily and ecological attachments linger into the present and continue to govern life and death in Texas today.

Suzanne Smith (Professor, Department of History and Art History) specializes in African American history with a particular interest in exploring how the history of African American entrepreneurship can transform our understanding of African American culture.  Her current research agenda focuses on the history of African American religion in modern America. She regularly teaches courses in African American history, American popular music, and civil rights and citizenship.

Fellowship project: "The Best-Known Colored Man: Race, Religion, and the Rise of Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux."

In 1934, Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux, radio evangelist, popularly known as the “Happy Am I” Preacher, was declared “the best-known colored man in the United States.” Michaux broadcast on WJSV, a Washington, D.C. radio station originally owned by the Ku Klux Klan. From this improbable start, Michaux created his “Radio Church of God,” America’s first virtual religious community. Michaux used his radio pulpit to gain access to the White House; to support the black community; and to create modern evangelism. Using radio to transgress the color line, Michaux became the first crossover religious celebrity in American history. Michaux’s career proves that twentieth century African American religion was not segregated from mainstream culture, but central to the formation of modern America.

Sevil Suleymani (Ph.D. candidate, Sociology) studies the intersections of gender and globalization. Her research interests are nationalism, minorities in the Middle East and social movements, gender regimes in Middle Eastern communities, and feminist and queer movements in Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Iran. She is currently a GTA in the Communication department and working on her dissertation. 

Fellowship Project: "Resistance, Subjectivity, and Construction of Turk Identity in Iran."

This study analyzes the relationship between nationalism and historiography by discussing the concept of Aryanism as a race and the role of racialization processes in constructing the Iranian national identity. The Aryan race ideology had become fundamental for building the nation and determining which communities would be included in the country's national identity, which resulted in the adaptation of Persian identity as superior by forcing other groups and communities to assimilate and Persianize.

Spring 2025

Johanna Bockman (Associate Professor, Global Affairs) uses comparative and historical methods in her research and teaching, moving beyond studies of nation states to explorations of transnational trends, such as neoliberalisms, gentrification, socialisms, and the non-aligned movement. Currently she is completing a book on gentrification on one block in Washington, DC. She will then return to her book on "minor creditors" and the 1980s debt crisis. 

Fellowship Project: ""How the Second and Third Worlds Created the Global Economy: Returning to the 1980s Debt Crisis."

The world has long been divided into debtor countries and creditor countries. This book project recognizes that all countries are both debtors and creditors. Countries of the Second and Third Worlds in particular sought to create a new global economy, which might permanently dismantle (neo)colonialism. Bockman examine three especially important "minor creditors" -- Costa Rica, Tanzania, and Yugoslavia. As a CHR fellow, Bockman will complete two draft chapters, which examine two of these countries. 

Caroline Greer (PhD Candidate, History & Art History) is a PhD Candidate working on a dissertation entitled “Sites of Spectacle and Sites of Sacrifice: The Female Itinerant Preacher’s Body in the Nineteenth Century.” This dissertation analyzes the lived experience of American female itinerant preachers through the lens of their body, which had a dual-use during this time. First, female preachers sacrificed their bodily health to sustain their itinerancy, and second, they utilized the novelty of a woman presenting her body before public audiences to gain crowds to hear their sermons. During this fellowship, she will be researching Black female preachers, their relationship to their body and their ministry, and their efforts to humanize themselves as religious authorities. She has worked as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the History Department, and has also received a Digital History Fellowship at the University of Luxembourg.

Fellowship Project: "Sites of Spectacle and Sites of Sacrifice: The Female Itinerant Preacher's Body in the Nineteenth Century."

This project analyzes the lived experience of women preachers starting in the early American republic through the end of the century. By focusing on itinerant women, their bodily experiences become pronounced, first, because of the sacrifice of one's health needed to sustain a traveling ministry. Second, because a woman presenting herself before a mixed audience and claiming religious authority was so radical, many gathered crowds simply because of their gender. She became the spectacle, but this was a useful conversion tool. The dissertation follows female preachers to the end of the century, when someone began to be formally ordained in their denominations, and looks at how women's bodily experiences change as their ministry did. 

Urszula Horoszko (PhD Student, Communication) researches migrant and refugee health, global health, and health communication. Horoszko also hold a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Before coming to Mason, Horoszko served as the Head of Public and Cultural Diplomacy at the Polish Embassy in Washington, DC.

Fellowship Project: "'Refugees' and the 'People from the Border': Constructing 'Others' at the Nexus of Health and Migration Policies in Poland, 2020-2023."

The project—rooted in qualitative health communication inquiry, narrative analysis, global health scholarship, and policy studies—interrogates the nexus of migration, integration, and health policies in Eastern Europe. More specifically, it examines recent policy developments (health and migration policies, in particular) in Poland and the consequences of their disparate application for various migrant and refugee (M&R) groups. In particular,  Horoszko focuses on analyzing the discourses emerging around "migrants," "refugees," and "asylum seekers" in Poland and the links between those discourses and the daily practice of migrant-relevant policies to better understand the role of policy in creating various categories of "others" and enacting the distance between M&R groups and the local populations. In this context,  Horoszko also asks how the discourse of the protracted "migration crisis" on the EU border has been mobilized in Poland to accelerate the introduction of new migration management technologies and the outsourcing of migrant services to private actors. 

Huwy-min Liu (Assistant Professor, Sociology and Anthropology) is a cultural anthropologist specializing in Sinophone cultures (Chinese-speaking societies). Her research engages in anthropological discussions on subjectivity, citizenship, and governance. The core of her research is to understand how individuals arrive at, understand, and navigate their everyday lives under specific political regimes as they interact with specific cultural ideas, social norms, institutions, flows of capital, and other forms of power. She is the author of "Governing Death, Making Persons: The New Chinese Way of Death" an ethnography of politics, ritual, and subjectivity in funerals in authoritarian China.

Fellowship Project: "Decolonizing Formosan Black Bears in Taiwan."

Formosan Black Bears are the only indigenous bear species in Taiwan. Most Taiwanese people, however, did not even know that Formosan Black Bears existed before conservationists called people's attention to conserving these bears in the 1980s. Over the next three decades, well after they entered the public sphere as one of many endangered wildlife species, these bears have been transformed from being a conservation subject critical to maintaining biodiversity to, today, being a key totem of Taiwan as an “imagined community.” This project seeks to unpack this transformation process. By asking how this process happened and whether and how far Taiwanese have gone toward decolonizing a non-human animal and their relations with the animal, this research provides an alternative approach to understanding “humanities” as cultural construction.

Mike O'Malley (Professor, History & Art History) specializes in the history of the U.S. in the 19th and 20th centuries and is particularly interested in cultural history and the history of technology. O'Malley helped establish the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at GMU, and was one of the early pioneers in the use of digital media. He has published and presented on web design for historians and remains active in the field.

Fellowship Project: "Feedback Mechanisms: Music, Machinery, and the Human."

This project investigates the historical relationship between musical mechanisms and musical aesthetics. The manuscript this project will be apart of analyzes the link between music and machines, focusing on the aesthetic taste for uniformity in modern music--drum machines, pitch correction, and dynamic range compression.

Randolph Scully (Associate Professor, History & Art History) is a social and cultural historian of early America, with a particular focus on issues of religion, race, and gender. His book, Religion and the Making of Nat Turner’s Virginia: Baptist Community and Conflict, 1740-1840 (University of Virginia Press, 2008), won the Frank S. and Elizabeth D. Brewer prize for best first book on church history from the American Society of Church History in 2009. 

Fellowship Project: "Of Some Nations and People: Religion, Slavery, and Empire in Seventeenth-Century Barbados."

This project traces a contentious debate about religion and slaveholding centered on English Barbados in the 1670s and 1680s. This multifaceted debate between Anglican and Quaker missionaries, government officials, and the Barbadian slaveholding elite provides revealing a window into the complex dynamics of inclusion and exclusion that shaped English practices of empire and slavery at a crucial moment in their evolution. Issues of humanity and otherness stood at the heart of the debate, which revolved around the implications of Christian universalism—the idea that all humans were part of a common creation, equally subject to God’s commands, and equally eligible for his grace—for a slave society based on violent exploitation and emerging forms of racial exclusion. The questions that the debate raised were only ever answered in provisional ways, and they remained central to the tensions within the relationship between slavery and empire in the British world for more than a century.