Student Interests

Christopher Allison

studies late 18th and 19th century America within the context of the broader Atlantic world. His particular focus is on the history of religion and reform. His work has dealt with the history of early American black abolitionism, the material culture of credit reporting, transatlantic intellectual exchange, religious conversion in urban spaces, and the role of religious memory in the American reckoning with slavery. He is also interested in innovative historical methods of analysis and teaching, from the use of GIS technology to map the past, to using objects as historical evidence in the classroom. He received his B.S. in Social Sciences Education from Olivet Nazarene University in 2006, and his M.A.R. studying American religious history from Yale Divinity School in 2010. His dissertation explores early American Protestant material culture, around the category of the relic, and argues for the emergence of a Protestant version of the cult of the saints in early America tied to broader shifts in the understanding of history in the Atlantic world.


John Frederick Bell

received a B.A. in History and Religious Studies from the College of William and Mary in 2007 and an A.M. in U.S. History from Harvard in 2013. He specializes in nineteenth-century American cultural and religious history. His dissertation will examine the relationship between religion, social reform, and higher education through a study of America’s earliest coeducational, racially integrated colleges. Before beginning graduate study, John worked as an analyst at the National Archives and as a high school social studies teacher with Teach For America.

John Frederick Bell

Andrew Block

‘s research interests meet at the intersection of performance studies, decolonial theory, and American literature, especially African American and Latino literature. My prospective dissertation centers on how twentieth-century novels and theatrical productions associated with black existentialism perform revisionism of not only (Western) history, but also (modern) conceptions of temporality.


Colin Bossen

’s work lies at the intersection of history, social ethics and theology. An ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, his current scholarship focuses on the relationship between religion and social movements, particularly in 20th century America. He has degrees from Denison University and Meadville Lombard Theological School and keeps a blog at


Steven Brown

studies American representations of utopia in literature, history, photography, and architecture. In his dissertation, he asks how we might cope aesthetically with the crowding, sprawl, and ruin of the twenty-first century. What alternatives to utopian pastoral tropes does American art and literature provide throughout history? With this in mind, Brown has pieced together what he calls an “aesthetic of waste.” Brown’s recent publications include “Planting My Cabbages (Photo: Death),” published in EARTH PERFECT? Nature, Utopia, and the Garden (2012) and “Agrivated Assault: Urban Design, Guerrilla Gardening, and the Age of Ecology,” The Good Gardener: Nature, Humanity, and the Garden (forthcoming).


Carla Cevasco

received an A.M. in American History from Harvard and a B.A. in English and American Literatures from Middlebury College. Her dissertation is a history of hunger in colonial New England and New France. Her research interests include the Atlantic world, food history, American Indian history, material culture, the environment, and medicine. She is the editor of the Graduate Journal of Food Studies.


Marisa Egerstrom

(AB Stanford University, 2003, American Studies; MFA New College of California, 2006, Writing) studies religion, rhetoric and American empire. Marisa’s historical interests have ranged from Puritan execution practices to 20th century legal and cultural constructions of race and ethnicity. Her dissertation investigates how the institutionalization of torture in American military and intelligence programs, beginning in the Cold War, has been shaped by the public’s understanding of the relationship of torture to American sovereignty. Marisa has been an organizer in the Occupy movement, out of which she led a Move Your Money and banking divestment campaign within the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. Marisa continues to organize church institutions and people of faith for economic justice initiatives through her work with Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation and as a board member of Episcopal City Mission. Marisa is concurrently in formation to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church.


Dan Farbman

works at the intersection between legal and literary history in the 19th century. He is particularly interested in overlapping legal and literary strategies employed by lawyers who were engaged in anti-slavery and racial justice struggles. He received his B.A. in English and Theater & Dance from Amherst College in 2001, spent a few years trying and failing to be an actor in New York, and then returned to school to get a J.D. from Harvard in 2007. Before returning to graduate study, he clerked for a judge in Los Angeles and practiced as a civil rights lawyer in Washington D.C. working on issues of racial justice in public education.


Amy Fish

studies twentieth-century American literature across cultures, with special interest in cross-cultural understandings, youth literature, and the ways in which young people protest social conditions. Her Master’s thesis examined June Jordan’s early works for children. Amy holds a BA in English and an MA in American Studies from Yale University. She previously taught at Year Up Boston and worked in community engagement and service learning at Bunker Hill Community College and Northeastern University.


Jenesis Fonseca-Ledezma

is an interdisciplinary scholar who studies 20th and 21st century American culture, immigration law, and literature with special focus on Latina/o and African American literatures. Her research interests include, but are not limited to: race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality studies, postcolonial theory, and poetry and poetics. Her work explores the ways in which performance poetry in the U.S. functions in relation to grassroots social activism, community reform, and political movements. Fonseca-Ledezma received an A.B. in English and a certificate in African American Studies from Princeton University.


Balraj Gill

‘s ever-evolving interests include 19th-century U.S. history, slavery and capitalism, class formation, women’s history, and the history of universities. She is part of the Harvard and Slavery Research Project, which seeks to uncover and raise awareness about the historical relationship between Harvard and slavery. Balraj holds an A.B. from Mount Holyoke College.


Kyle Gipson

received a B.A. in sociology from Bard College in 2013. His research interests include queer theory, cultural studies, and literary criticism. Before coming to Harvard, Kyle worked as a fellow for New York University’s Humanities Initiative under the auspices of the Leadership Alliance Mellon Initiative. He was also a Prison Litigation Intern for the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin, Texas in 2011. As a graduate student, Kyle plans to explore queer studies through urban culture and African American fiction.


Brian Goodman

studies the relationship between international political arrangements and the creation, transmission, and reception of American literature and culture. His current research attempts to map literary relations between the U.S. and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War in order to discover what happened when artists and their work moved between supposedly free and unfree political spaces. Brian received a B.A. from Stanford, where he wrote his thesis on the influence of Beat literature on Czech dissident culture. His master’s thesis at Oxford focused on Philip Roth and counterfactual history, reflecting an ongoing interest in the links between literary form and the historical imagination.


Michael King

studies African American literature and music, with a particular interest in the impact of sound on both forms. He sees sound as a practice that has allowed African Americans to construct communities in the midst of spatial and social constraints. More precisely, he understands sound to be both capable of deployment, whereby dominant narratives and exclusionary territories are contested and disrupted, and as a generative phenomenon through which intra-communal conversations can and do occur. Before coming to Harvard, he worked in a variety of music-oriented positions, including DJ, in-house writer for TrueGrooves Records, and as the primary house buyer for Capital City Records. He is also the co-author of songs on Elan Records, ROI and Wagram.


Theresa McCulla

received a B.A. in Romance Languages and Literatures from Harvard College in 2004 and a Culinary Arts Diploma from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in 2010. From 2004 to 2007, she worked as a European media analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency. From 2007 to 2010, she managed the Food Literacy Project for Harvard University Dining Services. Her research interests include food, race, ethnicity, gender, and material culture in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. Her dissertation, “Consumable City: Race, Ethnicity, and Food in Modern New Orleans,” examines the relationships between history, myth, and consumer culture in the Crescent City’s food industry.


Mary McNeil

an Afro-Wampanoag scholar from Louisville, Kentucky. She completed her undergraduate degree at Wheelock College (’14), where she double majored in American Studies and History. Mary is particularly interested in examining racial identity formation and material effect in 19th century and contemporary Afro-Native communities. She is also keenly interested in Radical Black Women’s History and Critical Hip-Hop Studies.


Laura Nelson

studies the free universities of the 1960s and 1970s, exploring how student activists across the world posed critiques of traditional colleges and universities and created their own alternative models of learning. She is interested in the ways these learning experiments brought together literature, politics, art and philosophy. Before starting the American Studies program, Laura studied Literature and Education at Oxford University, where she was involved with multiple projects thinking about the public role of the humanities and the university.


Zachary Nowak

received his B.A. from Kenyon College and M.A. from Middlebury College. He lived in Italy for 12 years and there got interested in food history as a way to engage histoire totale. He is interested in environmental history and sustainability, and is the associate director for the Food & Sustainability Studies Program [] at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, Italy. He also likes bitter beer, wild edibles, and fonts (Caslon and Gill Sans especially). Nowak is the author of Truffle: A Global History (Reaktion, 2015), the translator of Why Architects Still Draw (MIT Press, 2014), and the editor and translator of Inventing The Pizzeria: A History of Pizza Making in Naples (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).


Eva Payne

studies nineteenth and early twentieth-century social reform, religion, gender, and medicine. Her current research focuses on turn-of-the-century international networks of social reformers who sought to eliminate prostitution rather than regulate it, raise the age of sexual consent, provide children with sex education, and dismantle double standards that condemned women for sexual behaviors accepted in men. Eva is also interested in visual and material culture, and is currently helping to curate an exhibit at the Harvard Art Museum on the pop art prints of Corita Kent. She received a B.A. in Anthropology and Religious Studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and an MDiv from Harvard Divinity School in American Religious History.


Catie Peters

holds a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and a M.A. from the School of Oriental and African Studies in Anthropology of Food. A revised version of her Master’s thesis, which explored the reception of the domestic local food movement in rural Central Wisconsin, was recently published with the Graduate Journal of Food Studies. Catie has five years’ experience working on agricultural projects, both domestically and abroad.


Charles Petersen

received a B.A. in English literature from Carleton College in 2005. Before coming to Harvard he worked as a journalist and critic, writing for the New York Times, the Nation, and the New York Review of Books. He has been an editor at n+1 magazine since 2007. As a graduate student, he plans to study US intellectual and cultural history in the twentieth century.


Sandy Placido

works at the intersections of History, Literature, and Performance Studies in order to study migration (to, from, within, and around the United States, and ranging from forced to voluntary); U.S. history that focuses on diversity and simultaneity, and which is situated globally; the transnational history, politics, and effects of mass incarceration; colonial, imperial, and liberation processes; and social/political/cultural movements, with a focus on the labor and intellectual history of radical women, migrants, and popular culture producers of the Caribbean, (Latin) American, and African diasporas. Sandy was born in the Bronx to parents born in the Dominican Republic. She received her BA, with honors, in American Studies and Ethnicity, Race, and Migration, from Yale in 2008. Sandy was an immigrant rights organizer in Washington Heights, NYC, before she enrolled at Harvard.

Sandy Placido

Scott Poulson-Bryant

Scott Poulson-Bryant, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English as Fordham University. He is the author of HUNG: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America(2006) and a novel, The VIPs (2011). His scholarly work has appeared in PalimpsestThe Journal of Popular Music Studies, and American Studies. Before coming to Harvard foe his PhD, Poulson-Bryant worked as a journalist; his work appeared in such publications as The Village VoiceRolling Stone, the New York Times, and VIBE, the hip hop and urban culture magazine for which he was one of the founding editors. His research interests include 20th century African American literature and popular culture, gender and sexuality studies, and film and media. He is currently writing Bicentennial Black: Uplift, Citizenship, and the Cross-Racial Politics of 1970s US Popular Culture, based on his dissertation, overseen by Professors Robin Bernstein, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Vincent Brown.


Evander Price

studies 19th and 20th century American art history and literature, with particular attention to landscape painting, ecocriticism, poetry, silent film, alternative education, and Modernism. He is interested in moments of transcendence, inspiration, madness, and the expression of the incommunicable, as well as ways in which technology transforms the imagination. Before coming to Harvard, he was an curatorial intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New Bedford Whaling Museum. . He received his B.A. in Art History and English from Vassar College in 2011.


Allison Puglisi

graduated with a BA in History from Dartmouth College, where she wrote a thesis comparing the welfare-rights movement and Chinese-American labor movement. Her research interests include the Black radical tradition, queer of color critique, and feminist theory. As a graduate student, she is exploring how queer and transgender people of color use different media to resist assimilation. More generally, she is interested in documenting and critically engaging social movements to prevent their erasure.



works at the intersection of natural history, environmental history, and animal studies. Whitney received her B.A. in American Studies from Yale University, where she wrote her senior thesis on the nature fakers controversy of the early twentieth century. She has written about Nabokov’s butterflies and the science of flavor as a writer for the American Museum of Natural History, and she recently worked as a science editor for a microfluidics laboratory at Caltech. Her latest publication, co-authored with her Caltech labmates, is “Digital Biology and Chemistry,” published in Lab on a Chip.


Christofer A. Rodelo

A first-generation queer Latinx scholar, Christofer A. Rodelo is a PhD student in American Studies and Studies of Women, Gender, & Sexuality at Harvard University. He holds a BA in American Studies and Ethnicity, Race & Migration from Yale University. Broadly, his research interests include theater and performance studies, American literature, Latina/o studies, comparative ethnic studies, consumer cultures, affects and aesthetics, queer of color critique, digital humanities, and new materialism(s). His work thinks deeply the relationship between mess, precarity and potentiality in queer Latinx and Afro-Latinx cultural production from the 19th to 21st century. Central to his work is a steadfast investment in suturing notions of race, gender, and sexuality to the material, affective, and aesthetic. Christofer has presented work at the American Studies Association, Latina/o Studies Association, Northwestern Summer Institute in Performance Studies, and 2016 Hemispheric Institute Encuentro. His research has received support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Social Science Research Council, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and the Open Gate Fund of the Harvard Gender and Sexuality Caucus. He has upcoming publications in Journal of Homosexuality. At Harvard, he serves as a co-founder/co-coordinator of the Harvard Race and Ethnicity Working Group and Latina/o Studies Working Group.


Summer Shafer

holds a B.A. in American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently a PhD Candidate in the History of American Civilization at Harvard University. She is an active member in graduate student and campus politics as the current American Studies representative to the GSC and other organizations, and is the lead organizer of the new American Studies Perry Miller Society. Her dissertation, on the political economy of environmental catastrophe, brings together political, social and environmental history. Looking at both the causes and effects of “natural” disasters between 1880 and 1940, her research examines how particular inequalities were deepened and antidemocratic forces were strengthened during the infamous Johnstown Flood, the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, and the 1937 Mississippi Flood.


Jacob Spencer

American literature of the antebellum period. Historiography. Romanticism. The “long” Eighteenth Century as a transatlantic phenomenon. Intellectual history. Critical theory. Philology. My dissertation is on American biography, its development during the early-national and antebellum US.


Lucie Steinberg

holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Art History from Bryn Mawr College, and an M.A. from the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art. Her work at Williams focused on contemporary artistic engagements with American history. Her research interests include art and activism of the 1980s and 1990s, American esoteric religions, and critical theory.



is an early American historian from the People’s Republic of China. He obtained a BA in History from the Department of World History, College of History, Nankai University, Tianjin, and an MA in History with a focus on American history from the History Department of Peking University, Beijing. He is particularly interested in the proto-globalization and the connections between early America and his own part of the world. Previously, he had written articles on Hu Shi, contemporary Chinese politics, and early Canadian history.


4 Heads, Broadway, New York by William Klein, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Transfer from the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 2.2002.874, Photo by Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College