Congratulations to our 2022-2024 Ph.D. Fellows!

Julia Brown-Bernstein is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of History. Julia’s research examines the relationship between neoliberalism, citizenship, and belonging in the post-World War II era. Her dissertation is a history of the Eastern San Fernando Valley as it underwent demographic shifts and economic restructuring from the 1970s to the early 2000s. It examines how immigrants not only made the region a transnational crossroads, linking communities from the Southern Cone to South Korea but also how they shaped US political life and culture. Her work sheds light on how neoliberal policies of the latter twentieth century altered who belongs and what it means to be a citizen in a privatizing world. Julia’s article, “Under the Canopy: Finding Belonging at the San Fernando Swap Meet, 1976-2019,” was published in the Journal of American Ethnic History fall of 2021. Before pursuing her Ph.D., Julia was a public school teacher in the San Fernando Valley. She holds an M.Ed. from UCLA and a Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College.

Curriculum Vitae

Grace Franklin is a Provost Fellow and Ph.D. candidate in English at USC. Her dissertation, which traces the rise and decline of the gaslight network as told through transatlantic literature and culture (1807-1946), explores unprecedented relationships to power initiated by the first fossil fuel utility. Through digitizing archived materials and infrastructural mapping, she brings the history of our entanglements with fossil fuel into sharper focus, accentuating forgotten aspects of extraction-based life and elucidating how coal continues to figure in our imaginations (through the metaphor of psychosocial gaslighting, for example). In 2020, Grace co-organized the GREEN Conference, a national, carbon-neutral event, and coedited a corresponding issue of Nineteenth-Century Contexts. Grace received her M.A. in English from UVA, where she collaborated on Collective Biographies of Women, an NEH-funded digital humanities database. She has worked in marketing, arts & culture reporting, and instructional design.

Dissertation Title: “Power Play: Gas Infrastructure in Literature and Culture”

Curriculum Vitae

2021-2023 Ph.D. Fellows

Sarah Ciston (she/they) is a creative-critical coder and experimental writer of prose, poetry, and Python. As a PhD Candidate in Media Arts and Practice at USC and a Virtual Fellow at the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, their research investigates how to bring intersectionality to artificial intelligence by employing queer, feminist, and anti-racist theories, ethics, and tactics at every stage of AI’s development and implementation. Their computational media projects include a machine-learning interface to “rewrite” the inner critic and a chatbot that explains feminism to online misogynists. They also lead Creative Code Collective—a student community for co-learning programming using approachable, interdisciplinary strategies. Published in Ada Journal, ZYZZYVA, Hobart, and soon in Leonardo Electronic Almanac, they completed an MFA in Literature from UC San Diego and have been named one of San Francisco Weekly’s “Best Writers Without a Book.”

Sayantani Jana is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at the University of Southern California. She specializes in Comparative Genocide Studies with particular interest in the history of the Holocaust and the history of 20th century South Asia. She is currently developing a comparative project on the Kristallnacht of 1938 in the city of Berlin and the 1946 Great Calcutta Killings in India during the Partition era. Her project undertakes close micro-historical research on each event to understand the relationship of the urban landscape to violence, victim and perpetrator behavior, gendered experiences of violence, and the memory cultures that have developed around each event in the aftermath. Sayantani is particularly interested in using oral testimonies and police reports, along with mapping methods, to understand how victims and perpetrators navigated urban space during each event, as well as the conditions within the urban landscape that enabled, influenced and sustained the momentum of violence. On a macro historical comparative level, her project juxtaposes these two events to raise questions and complicate the existing international discourse around riots and pogroms. Sayantani currently holds research fellowships from the German Historical Institute and the Central European Historical Society. She received her Masters in English Literature in 2016 from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in India.

2020-2022 Ph.D. Fellows

Muriel Leung is the author of Bone Confetti, winner of the 2015 Noemi Press Book Award. A Pushcart Prize nominated writer, her writing can be found in The Baffler, Cream City Review, Gulf Coast, The Collagist, Fairy Tale Review, and others. She is a recipient of fellowships to Kundiman, VONA/Voices Workshop, Community of Writers, Blue Mountain Center, and Sundress Academy for the Arts. She is the Poetry Co-Editor of Apogee Journal. She also co-hosts The Blood-Jet Writing Hour podcast with Rachelle Cruz and MT Vallarta. She is a member of Miresa Collective, a feminist speakers bureau. She is a Dornsife Fellow in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Southern California where her creative and critical work focuses on the intersections of trauma studies, affect theory, and Asian American literature.

Dissertation Title: “Wild Grammars”

Current Position: Faculty in the School of Critical Studies, California Institute of the Arts

Michelle Vasquez Ruiz is a Ph.D. candidate and Provost Fellow in the department of American Studies and Ethnicity at USC. Through the usage of oral histories, archival research, and digital mapping, her work analyzes the ways Indigenous populations in Los Angeles have historically navigated spatial and racial inequalities in the city. Currently she serves as a researcher for the Mapping Indigenous LA project at UCLA and as a curator for the Boyle Heights Museum in Los Angeles. Since the museum’s foundation in 2017 she has worked with various universities, archival institutions and community organizations to create exhibits that highlight the enriching history of Boyle Heights. She strongly believes in the museum’s mission to “preserve and celebrate the multi-ethnic history of Los Angeles.” She holds a BA in Political Science and Chicano Studies from the University of California, Irvine and an MA in History from California State University, Los Angeles.

2019-2021 Ph.D. Fellows

Zachary M. Mann is a PhD candidate in English Literature at the University of Southern California with certificates in Visual Studies and Digital Media and Culture. Zach has additionally received fellowships from the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine; the Harry Ransom Center; the Hagley Library; and the Mellon-Council for European Studies (2020-21). Currently he is working on a dissertation which traces the co-evolutions of punch card technology and conceptions of authorship. The project combines technology histories of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with twentieth-century computer history and the digital humanities. Previously, Zach served as the founding managing editor of The Offing, a literary magazine, and the noir & mystery editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Before that, he worked in the tech and video game industries. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction, from California State University, Long Beach, and a BA in English Literature from the University of California, Berkeley.

Dissertation Title: “The Punch Card Imagination: Authorship and Early Machine Programming”

Current Positions: Associate Director, USC Levan Institute for the Humanities
Program Coordinator, USC Society of Fellows in the Humanities.

Ka Lee Wong is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures at the University of Southern California. Her research interests include the dialectic relationship between language and identity in transnational Chinese media. In her dissertation, she problematizes the hierarchy of Chinese languages by examining the political and historical factors which reduce Cantonese to a “dialect.” Using “vulgarity” as the central intervention, she discusses how Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia strategically resist linguistic homogenization and creatively imagine a local identity in a transgressive way in popular media. She is the recipient of a Phi Beta Kappa Alumni International Scholarship (2020) and a Junior Researcher Award from the Nordic Association for China Studies (2019).

Dissertation Title: “Speaking Back with Vulgarity: Sinophone politics and Cantonese media in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore”

Current Position: Postdoctoral Associate in Comparative Media Studies and Writing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

2018-2020 Ph.D. Fellows

Debjani Dutta

Debjani Dutta is a doctoral candidate in Cinema and Media Studies at the USC School of Cinematic Arts whose research connects the aesthetic and philosophical concerns raised by the movement of the earth to the visual and avisual movements of cinema and media. Her work places the scientific instrument of the seismograph within the late 19th-century landscape of media technologies that transformed sensory and spatio-temporal perception. She argues that the seismograph emerges as a medium for conducting the earth’s vibrations that bears close ties to the inscription and transmission of photography, phonography, and telegraphy. Debjani received graduate training in Sociology and Film Studies from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. She has previously worked for the Korean Cultural Centre in India as a film programmer, and has an abiding interest in the global and regional circulation of Asian cinemas.

Dissertation Title: “Tremulous Media: Nature, Technology, and the Seismic Imagination”

Aaron Rich

Aaron Rich is a Ph.D. candidate in the division of Cinema and Media Studies in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and a Visual Studies Graduate Certificate recipient. His dissertation, “The Hollywood Research Library: Visual Knowledge in the Republic of Images,” focues on the libraries found in every film studio that gathered images of places and people to guide studio craft departments in their recreations of the world. His work investigates how these picture collections emerge from a tradition in the West of visual knowledge of the past or present world. He is further interested in the history of private and public libraries, horology, and the commercial trade in Hollywood props and costumes. He received a M.A. in Cinema Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a B.A. in Art History and Film Studies from the University of Michigan’s Residential College.

Dissertation Title: “The Hollywood Research Library: Visual Knowledge in the Republic of Images”

Current Position: USC Marshall School of Business, Master of Management of Library and Information Science

Digital Humanities Ph.D. Fellows

2017-2019 Ph.D. Fellows

Dissertation Title: “Choreographing the Sinophone Body: Hong Kong Martial Arts Media and Embodied Language”

Current Position: Project Manager, ECA Management Consulting

Betsy Sullivan

Dissertation Title: “Immersive Shakespeare: Locating Early Modern Immersion in Contemporary Adaptations”

Current Position: Doctoral Candidate, Department of English

2016-2018 Ph.D. Fellows

Jonathan Dentler

Dissertation Title: “Wired Images: Visual Telecommunications, News Agencies, and the Invention of the World Picture, 1917-1955”

Current Position: Maître de conférences (Assistant Professor), US History, Département des Langues, Institut Catholique de Paris

Nike Nivar Ortiz

Dissertation Title: “Contemporary Sovereignty and the Spectacle of Global War: Visualizing U.S Intervention in Latin America”

Current Position: Program Officer in US Programs, American Council of Learned Societies

Maria Zalewska

Dissertation Title: “#Holocaust: Rethinking the Relationship Between Spaces of Memory and Places of Commemoration in The Digital Age”

Current Position: Executive Director, Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation

2015-2017 Ph.D. Fellows

Viola Lasmana

Dissertation Title: “Shadow Imaginations: Transpacific Approaches to Post-1965 Indonesian Archives”

Current Position: ACLS Teaching Fellow, Columbia University

Christopher McGeorge

Dissertation Title: “Mediums for the Masses: Stained Glass and Murals in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

Current Positions: Director of Operations, Wild Blue Studios 

Board President, The Federation of Worker-Owned Game Studios

Ambra Spinelli

Dissertation Title: “The Tablinum: A Space and Stage for ‘Private’ and ‘Public’ Rituals in the Houses of Pompeii and Herculaneum”

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies, Rome

2014-2016 Ph.D. Fellows

Amber Rae Bowyer

Dissertation Title: “The Application of Animation: Instruction, Instrument, Interface”

Current Position: Team Leader and Educational Services Representative at Usborne Books & More

Amanda Kennell

Dissertation Title: Alice in Evasion: Adapting Lewis Caroll in Japan

Current Position: Assistant Professor, East Asian Languages and Culture, University of Notre Dame