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 History from Harvard in 2013. He specializes in nineteenth-century cultural, social, and religious history. His dissertation, “Equality by Degrees: Abolitionist Colleges and the Dilemmas of Racial and Gender Integration,” examines early experiments in racial and gender coeducation to show how the pursuit of equality by young people of color and their white allies redefined social norms in nineteenth-century America. His work has appeared in Journal of the Civil War Era, Education’s Histories, and History of Education Quarterly (forthcoming). Before beginning graduate study, he 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.


Chloe Chapin

is a costume designer and fashion historian. She has a BFA in Performance from Cornish College of the Arts, an MFA in Design from the Yale School of Drama, and an MA in Fashion and Textile Studies from the Fashion Institute of Technology. Her current research is about the history of men’s suits and the way that historical clothing trends have had lasting effects on contemporary ideas of gender.

Chole Chapin

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.


Amanda Figueroa

is a graduate of Mary Baldwin College and The George Washington University. Her research focuses on Latina art and activism at the U.S.-Mexico border. She also works with museums to attract underrepresented audiences to institutions through curatorial and exhibition practices.


Amy Fish

received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies from Yale University and her A.M. in English from Harvard. Her dissertation examines literary collaborations between adults and children in 1960s-1970s anti-racist movements and argues for reading children’s adult-supervised creative productions as co-authored texts. She is a Student Associate Editor for Transition Magazine. 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, an A.M. in English from Harvard, and a Graduate Secondary Field in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality from Harvard. His research interests include nineteenth and twentieth century African American literature, queer studies, studies of material culture and book history. His dissertation examines African American book collecting practices from the early nineteenth to the early twentieth century.

Kyle Gipson Pic

Jonathan Karp

received his B.A. in English from Washington University in St. Louis. Before coming to Harvard, he researched material sites of segregation in St. Louis. Broadly, his interests include performance studies, jazz studies, material culture, contemporary literature, and critical race theory. More specifically, he is interested in how acts of performance and protest make place.

Jonathan Karp

Keish Kim

is a migrant from South Korea. She holds a BA in Women’s and Gender Studies and Geography from Syracuse University. She likes to think about migration, spaces, and impasse, and enjoys working with (re)membering memories through creative non-fiction writing.  Her research interests include postcolonial and transnational feminism, citizenship and belonging, intersections of education and activism, diaspora studies, queer of color critique, and decoloniality.

Keish Kim

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 (History), an M.A. from Middlebury College (Italian Studies) and Harvard University (History). He lived in Italy for 12 years and got interested there in food history and environmental history. He 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), the editor and translator of Inventing The Pizzeria: A History of Pizza Making in Naples (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), and the co-editor of Representing Italy Through Food (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017).

Zachary Nowak

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. She has five years’ experience working on agricultural projects, both domestically and abroad.


Charles Petersen

studies how change happens in a society’s view of itself and its possibilities—what theorists call the “social imaginary.” His primary interests lie at the intersection of two scholarly movements: the history of capitalism and the history of the democratic state. Focusing on the second half of the twentieth century, he studies how quintessential processes of democratization, such as inclusion through equality of opportunity, were mobilized to produce and legitimate vast inequality. He also has longstanding interests in the history of the American West, environmental history, the history of philosophy, and the study of literature. He received a B.A. in English 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. His personal website is here.


Sandy Placido

is an interdisciplinary scholar interested in women’s history, social movements, and the history and culture of Latinas/os/xs, the Caribbean, and the African diaspora. Sandy’s dissertation, “A Global Vision: Dr. Ana Livia Cordero and the Puerto Rican Liberation Struggle, 1931-1992,” is the first, in-depth study of Ana Livia Cordero, a Puerto Rican female physician and anti-imperialist activist. As a Cold War freedom fighter, Cordero dedicated her life to Puerto Rican liberation, and she forged rich ties with activists throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the United States. Sandy’s research on Cordero has taken her to Ghana, Puerto Rico, and various parts of the United States, and she has facilitated so that Cordero’s papers could be archived at Harvard’s Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. Sandy is a proud Mellon Mays and Ford Foundation fellow. Before beginning graduate school, she was an immigrant rights organizer in New York City who worked with Dominican communities impacted by racialized incarceration and deportation policies. During the 2016-2017 academic year, she will be based in the Africana Studies department at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is a Predoctoral Fellow for Excellence through Diversity.

Sandy Placido

Evander Price

studies American art history and literature through the peculiar lens of time theory, or chronocriticism. Time: it’s that thing that keeps everything from happening at once. So how does a particular culture’s temporal imagination affect its ethics?  Just how much future is there, anyways?  He is also very interested in ecocriticism, the history of science, cosmology, speculative fiction, and all things Herman Melville.  Before coming to Harvard, he was a curatorial intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and recently was one of the lucky few 38th voyagers aboard the whaler Charles W. Morgan. 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 early American history, the history of science and natural history, animal studies, and material culture. Before coming to Harvard, Whitney received her B.A. in American Studies from Yale University and worked as a science writer for the American Museum of Natural History and as a science editor for a global health laboratory at Caltech. Her dissertation examines the formative role nonhuman animals played in eighteenth-century natural history. She has two publications forthcoming in 2017: “Atlantic Disaster: Boston Responds to the Cape Ann Earthquake of 1755” in The New England Quarterly, which examines scientific, religious, and media responses to a major early modern earthquake, and an essay on flattened fish specimens in the book The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766-1820, edited by Ethan W. Lasser.


Christofer A. Rodelo

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, affects and aesthetics, queer of color critique, digital humanities, and new materialism(s). His work examines aesthetic/affective/material cultural productions by minoritarian subjects in the long 19th century, particularly as they relate to shifting notions of blackness and brownness. 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.


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