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Past Postdoctoral Fellows
in International Humanities

The Postdoctoral Fellows in International Humanities will explore and enhance Brown’s commitment to the humanities in an international context by teaching one class per semester, participating fully in the lives of their home departments, meeting at the Fellows' Seminars on a regular basis to discuss their work in progress, and convening a bi-weekly seminar on the humanities and the transnational university.

Lorenzo Benadusi
PhD, University of Rome "La Sapienza"
2007-09 Fellow
Research Interest: "The Image of the Soldier: Militarism, Masculinity and Nation from the First to the Second World War."  Lorenzo's research aims at analyzing how the image of the soldier and masculinity has been exploited by nationalism and fascism for their own political ends. The research looks at army education and life, publications by the army and the activity of war veterans, as well as paintings and iconographic representations, novels and comics, newspapers, magazines and books, all contributing to define the image of the soldier between the two wars and highlighting the tight link between masculinity and militarism. Lorenzo will also examine the ways in which this image permeated culture and society, leaving its mark on the political system as well as on artistic, literary and scientific production and profoundly affecting the common mentality.

Lorenzo is now an assistant professor in Contemporary History in Italy at the University of Bergamo (Faculty of Humanities Sciences).

Rivi Handler-Spitz
PhD, University of Chicago
2009-10 Fellow
Research Interest:  Rivi’s research focuses on parallels and interconnections between sixteenth century Chinese and French literature, particularly essays and literary criticism.  Her dissertation, “Diversity, Deception, and Discernment in the Late Sixteenth Century: A Comparative Study of Li Zhi’s Book to Burn and Montaigne’s Essays,” relates these authors’ anxiety over falsification and the role of self-contradiction in their works to large-scale economic and technological changes taking place in early modern societies East and West; it also analyzes how certain formal aspects of these texts encouraged contemporary readers to break free of authoritative interpretations and arrive at their own personal judgments. 

Rivi is an Assistant Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures at Macalester University.

Yukiko Koga
PhD, Columbia University
2007-10 Fellow
Research Interest: “The Double Inheritance: The Afterlife of Colonial Modernity in the Cities of Former ‘Manchuria.’” Yukiko's research explores the process of coming to terms with the past in urban Northeast China, former site of the Japanese puppet state Manchukuo, where Japanese are once again present, this time as businessmen and tourists. Through an ethnography of three major cities––Harbin, Changchun and Dalian, Yukiko illustrates how the location and function of China’s colonial past within the historical narratives of each city has significantly shifted through the process of capitalizing on their colonial inheritance and interactions with the former colonizer.  In so doing, she locates the issue of coming to terms with the past within the daily articulation and pursuit of modernity in the emerging political economy of the new China.

Yukiko is now an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Hunter College, CUNY.

Meida McNeal
PhD, Northwestern University
2007-09 Fellow
Research Interest: "Choreographing Citizenship in the Gayelle: Performing Trinidadian Nationalism." Meida is revising her dissertation into a book. This comparative ethnographic study focuses on four Afro- and Indo-Trinidadian dance companies.  Analyzing the relationship between cultural production and variables of difference (race/ethnicity, class and gender), the study contributes to current discourse about citizenship and nation-building in the post-colonial Caribbean through the arena of cultural production as both a local and globally situated enterprise.

Meida is the Manager of Performance Arts Learning and Special Projects at Changing Worlds.

Silvia Valisa
PhD, University of California, Berkeley
Fall semester 2009
Book-length project: “Gender in the Novel: The Ideology of Character in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Italian Literature.” Gender in the Novel argues for an understanding of characters and gender as non-referential notions in critical discourse, and explores different ways in which characters, bodies, and ideology shape genres and texts. Silvia defines characters as “dissonant vehicles of gender” insofar as they stage, enforce or critique at the thematic level the very ideological conflicts that are being explored at the narrative and epistemological level. Within the shared context of an ideological analysis of Unified Italy, Silvia is also pursuing research projects on the gendered representations of the nation in Italian culture, and on the history of a post-Unification Italian publishing house, Sonzogno.

Silvia is an Assistant Professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics at Florida State University.

Betsey Biggs
PhD, Princeton University
2009-11 Fellow
Research Interest: "Everyone Play: Sound, Space, and the (Re)Making of Place." Betsey's research explores the ways that sound can be used in public art to intensify the public's engagement with the spaces surrounding them, as well as their own creativity. Through investigations into the strategies of physical interactivity, cinematic listening, and sonic psychogeography, Betsey's work explores the confluence of sound, memory and geography, exposing the beautiful in the mundane, actively engaging the audience, and transforming public space into sonic interface.

Betsey is an artist and composer at Betsey Biggs Studio.

Ipek A. Celik
PhD, New York University
2009-11 Fellow
Research Interest: "Realism, Violence and Representation of Migrants and Minorities in Contemporary Europe." Ipek's research explores the ways in which the categories of criminality and victimhood inform how migrants and minorities are represented in contemporary European media, film and literature. Examining narratives that document the colonial heritage of migration in France, the debates on Islam and terror in Germany, and illegal migrant labor and criminality in Greece, her work analyzes the renewal of the realist mode in literature and film. Her teaching and research extends to minority cultures in Turkey and the Levant.

Ipek is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cultures, Civilizations and Ideas at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.

Adrián López Denis
PhD, University of California, Los Angeles
2007-09 Mellon Fellow and 2010 (Fall) International Humanities
Research Interest: “Public Health and Popular Healing in Colonial Cuba.” Adrián is writing a book about the impact of epidemics on the articulation of modern sanitary practices in the Spanish Caribbean during the long nineteenth century. Combining insights coming from the historiography of slavery, science, and colonialism, this work is an attempt to explain the emergence of hybrid forms of both healing and policing the body of the nation. His ultimate goal is to explore the epistemic consequences of recasting Western medicine as an Atlantic, rather than a European invention. Adrián spent the academic year 2009-10 as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow. He taught a class in Cuba in the fall and two classes for Hispanic Studies in the spring. He accepted an invitation to remain with the Cogut Center as a Postdoctoral Fellow in International Humanities for the Fall semester 2010.

Adrián is now an assistant professor in the History Department at the University of Delaware.

Shiva Balaghi
PhD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
2010-13 Fellow
Research Interest: Shiva Balaghi is a historian of the modern Middle East, with special interests in the interrelated histories of colonialism, nationalism, gender, and visual culture. As a Cogut International Humanities Fellow, she will be completing a book on the cultural history of Iran from the mid-nineteenth century through the present. She is the Vice-President of the American Institute of Iranian Studies and an editor of MERIP. Her publications include Reconstructing Gender in the Middle East (co-edited, 1994), Picturing Iran: Art, Society, and Revolution (co-edited, 2002), and Saddam Hussein: A Biography (2005). She has published numerous articles on Iranian intellectual history and visual culture, and her writing has been translated into Chinese, Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. She has taught History and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, the University of Vermont, and New York University.

Shiva is now a Visiting Professor of History in the History Department at Brown.

Bianca Dahl
PhD, University of Chicago
2010-13 Fellow
Research Interest: Bianca’s research looks at the social and individual effects of humanitarian aid interventions during Botswana's HIV epidemic. Her book manuscript (Great Expectations: Humanitarianism and the Invention of AIDS Orphans in Botswana) is an ethnographic study of Western charities aiming to provide “culturally sensitive” support to orphans and their kin. Focusing on the politically charged spaces forged at the interstices between foreign and local child-rearing ideologies, Bianca’s work demonstrates how orphans have emerged as symbols of demographic upheaval, as well as skilled political actors in their own right. Her manuscript seeks to rethink notions of "crisis" by tracing the interplay between material and emotional economies engendered by both aid and AIDS.

Biancais an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto.

Catherine Bliss
PhD, New School for Social Research
2009-11 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and 2011-13 Cogut Center Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities
Research Interest:  Catherine's research explores the sociology of race, gender and sexuality in medicine, though she is especially interested in scientific controversies in molecular science. Bliss's book Race Decoded: The Genomic Fight for Social Justice(Stanford University Press 2012) examines how genomics became today’s new science of race. Her latest research examines convergences in social and genetic science in the postgenomic age.

From 2009-11 Catherine was a Cogut Center Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow working in Africana Studies and BioMed. Catherine's Cogut Center Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Brown University Medical School and the Cogut Center. In 2011-12 she hosted the lecture series: “How Scientists Think.” For more about Catherine, see

Rina has joined the University of California/San Francisco faculty as an Assistant Professor of Sociology.

Michelle Cho
PhD, University of California, Irvine
2011-13 Fellow
Research Interest: Michelle's specializations are contemporary East Asian film, media, and cultural studies, globalization and diaspora studies, and media aesthetics. Primarily interested in the way the affective register of the geopolitical is expressed via
contemporary film and video, Michelle analyzes genre transformation as a complex and ubiquitous site of cultural translation in the context of contemporary South Korean screen
cultures and transnational East Asian cinema, more broadly. Her dissertation was"Generic Realities: The Transnational Spaces of South Korean Cinema." Michelle’s current project expands the focus on genre translation to the generic construction of diasporic identity in films from Korean-Japanese, Korean-Chinese, and Korean-American filmmakers, as well as a recent increase in South Korean films centered on the growing population of North Korean defectors and Korean-Chinese migrants, part of a network of post-cold war migrant flows and realignments.

Michelle is an Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies at McGill University.

Felipe Gaitan-Ammann
PhD, Columbia University
2011-13 Fellow
Research Interest: Felipe's research draws on both archaeological evidence and historical texts to trace a critical, object-based narrative of the Atlantic slave trade to the Spanish colonies in the New World. More specifically, my dissertation uncovers the social lives of white-collar slave traders established in the late-17th-century city of Panama, interrogating their private object worlds and figuring the logics of their consumption practices as part of their nowadays unthinkable capitalist project. From a theoretical standpoint, my work strongly engages with both classic and recent approaches to the rich concept of materiality, which allows me to present African slaves as powerful agentive objects that European merchants both fetishized and feared.

Felipe will be joining the Anthropology Department at the University of Chicago as an ACLS/Mellon Faculty Fellow.

Kevin Goldberg
PhD, University of California, Los Angeles
2011-13 Fellow
Research Interest: Kevin’s research examines the international trade in German wines between the French Revolution and the First World War. By investigating the period’s significant viticultural and winemaking transformations as well as regionally unique responses to the commercial challenges of a highly competitive trade, the work highlights nineteenth-century conceptions of taste, food politics, and marketing. Central Europe’s wine markets were distinct from those on the Mediterranean, in part, because of the high concentration of Jewish merchants. Kevin’s recent research explores the role of these Jews at the height of Riesling’s reputation in the late nineteenth century along with the concomitant evocations of the Jewish wine adulterator in popular and political culture. Recent publications include articles about the natural wine movement and German immigrant winegrowers to Northern California. As a Cogut International Humanities Fellow, Kevin will teach courses on nineteenth-century German Jews.   

Kevin has accepted a position as Adjunct Professor of World History at Kennesaw State University.