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.

Allison

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

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 www.colinbossen.com.

Bossen

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).

Brown

Carla Cevasco

received her B.A. in English and American Literatures from Middlebury College in 2011. She studies colonial New England social and cultural history, with a focus on material culture and food studies, and is also interested in American agricultural history. Her dissertation will examine the impact of warfare between the French and British empires in the early eighteenth century upon the foodways of settlers, soldiers, and Native Americans in New England.

Cevasco

Holger Droessler

My research centers on the history of the long and global nineteenth century, especially U.S. and European imperialism. In my dissertation, “Workers of the Pacific: Land, Labor, and Difference in Colonial Samoa,” I explore the crucial role of labor in the making of empire in the South Pacific. Before coming to Harvard, I received a master’s degree in American Cultural History and Political Science from the University of Munich, Germany.

Droessler

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.

Egerstrom

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.

Farbman

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.

Fish

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.

Gill

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.

Gipson

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.

Goodman

Aaron Hatley

received a B.A. in Music and the Integrated Program in Humane Studies from Kenyon College in 2008. His current research focuses on radio, popular music, and automobile travel in the 1930s and ’40s, in an effort to understand the concurrent expansion of mass media and changing patterns of mobility and popular culture in the prewar period. His teaching interests include various facets of music, literature, and the arts in the context of American cultural history.

Hatley

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.

King

Pete L'Official

is a native of the Bronx, New York. He graduated from Williams College with a B.A. in English and from New York University with an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. His scholarly interests include the urban built environment, modern American art, urban and ethnic literatures, cultural history, and intersections therein, and his dissertation is an interdisciplinary examination of the concept of ruin as witnessed in the realities and representations of the South Bronx since the 1960s. He writes about art, sports, and culture for various publications.

L'Official

Anna Lvovsky

received a B.A. in literature and intellectual history from Yale University in 2007 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2013. Her research interests include Cold War American culture, the history of homosexuality, state and military regulation, science and technology studies, expertise, and the sociology of knowledge. She is currently writing her dissertation on the history of law enforcement against homosexuality in the twentieth-century, focusing on how policing techniques evolved along with evolving cultural stereotypes of the visible gay body.

Lvovsky

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, ethnicity, gender, and cultural representations of the immigrant experience. Her dissertation examines the production of ethnicity and authenticity among food entrepreneurs in twentieth-century New Orleans.

McCulla

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 Studies Program [http://www.umbra.org/academics/food-studies/] at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, Italy. He also likes bitter beer, wild edibles, and fonts (Caslon and Gill Sans especially). MIT Press recently published his translation of Why Architects Still Draw and his first book, Truffle: A Global History, is in production with Reaktion Press.

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.

Payne

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.

Petersen

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

My research interests are primarily based in the study of American popular culture—mainly music, film and literature from the Cold War through the late 1970s—and the ways in which performances of race, gender and sexuality, informed by social and cultural movements, intersect to create narratives of identity. My dissertation “The Great Black Way: Performing ‘Race’ in 1970s Broadway Musicals” is a cultural history of Black Broadway in the 1970s which details how it operates as a space influenced by, while seemingly separate from, larger social and political rhetorics of nationalism, nationhood, and citizenship, arguing that although the all-singing, all-dancing stage-bound performances of race may seem to mask certain struggles of black nationhood, they also reveal new strategies of community survival and identity. I think of this project as a specifically American Studies project because I’m able not only to utilize a vast array of texts through which to trace a trajectory of race and performance, but also because it allows for a expansive use of theory, history and analysis to think about the construct of the American citizen as a fluid and ever-changing marker of identity. My committee is made up of my chair Robin Bernstein, Carol Oja, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and my academic interests also include film and media studies, genre fictions, (sub)urban social history, and queer cultural history. Before coming to Harvard, I received an A.B. in American Civilization from Brown University, where I also taught classes in hiphop journalism and African American popular culture. A founding editor of VIBE magazine, I am also the author of HUNG: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America (Doubleday, 2006) and The VIPs: A Novel (Broadway/Random House, 2011).

Poulson-Bryant

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.

Price

Rebecca Scofield

I study 20th century body culture and fashion with an emphasis on gender and sexuality. I received my BA in East Asian History from Willamette University in 2008 after living in Japan for one year and completing a thesis which compared American romance fiction with Japanese girls’ comics. I earned my MA in Regional Studies: East Asia from Harvard University in 2011. My MA thesis was about race, class, and gender in the Japanese acrylic nail industry. Recently, I have become followed my interests in fashion and gender to the mythology of the cowboy and have started investigating the popularization of western wear in the 1970s and 1980s in connection with the conservative shift in American politics.

Scofield

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.

Shafer

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.

Spencer

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