Social Sciences Blog
My research and writing focuses on the Republicans of the Civil War era and how they ultimately reconciled a sincere commitment to two incompatible goals -- destroying the power of slaveholders while preserving the antebellum Constitutional structure of the Union. An adequate solution to the specific issues of ending slavery and protecting black civil rights required a much broader reconceptualization of the American political system as a whole. But, crucially, most Republicans did not see it that way at the time.
My research focuses on the circulation of discourse around complaints that see ‘vulgar’ television comedy programming as a potentially negative social influence on youth in Japan. Such complaints frequently center the potential for schoolchildren to imitate (mane) comedic routines and speech without fully appreciating the social impact on those around them. Such discourses argue that what appears as a funny teasing imitation to some may actually become painful bullying (ijime) in the experience of others.
This summer, thanks to grants from the Division of the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago and the Project on Middle East Political Science at the George Washington University, I had the unique opportunity of conducting research in Iraqi Kurdistan at a momentous, yet difficult time in the region’s recent history. I had planned to come to Iraqi Kurdistan to study how the Kurdish liberation movement had used international diplomacy to advance its cause over the past several decades.
It takes about six hours to take the ferry from Prince Rupert on the northwest coast of British Columbia to the island archipelago of Haida Gwaii, the sovereign territory and home since time immemorial of the indigenous Haida Nation. It’s a ride with something of a reputation for nausea, as the Hecate Strait over which the ferry passes is well known for being shallow, difficult to navigate, and prone to storms. All stomach discomfort aside, though, it’s a ride that is special for me.
Insanity, Intimacy and Institution: Governance and Care Under the Mental Health Legal Reform in Contemporary China
On May 1st, 2013, the first national mental health law in China came into effect. While proclaiming the patient with mental illness to be a sovereign individual, with rights to autonomy in hospitalization and discharge, the law simultaneously subjects the patient to his family’s guardianship. It grants family members the rights to consent to patients’ treatment and to decide upon involuntary commitment of those who pose a risk to themselves, as well as the responsibility to provide for, look after, and rehabilitate the patients.
The Social Sciences Division summer grant allowed me to spend significant time in the Joseph Regenstein Library using non-circulating items, notably Eduard Schwartz’s Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum. The plentiful hours that became available to me as a result of the grant were used to work with texts in the original Greek, which many of the documents were written in, if not Latin. As a result, I was able to make significant progress on my dissertation proposal. Currently, I am working with my adviser on making revisions to my proposal in order to prepare it for defense.
Why is rape, in particular, used during armed conflict? What presumptions about gender and sexuality are necessary for rape to be efficacious during war? Focusing on the widespread use of rape, as was the case during the Sierra Leone civil war (1991-2002), my dissertation utilizes an urban-rural within case comparison that combines original archival research, life-history interviews, and conflict analysis to locate what it is about rape that makes it a useful form of violence during armed conflict.
From the middle of the eleventh century through the end of the twelfth, religious thinkers across Europe poured nearly all of their intellectual energy into letters, writing thousands that embodied any and every way to understand or explain the divine. Despite this massive body of evidence, however, scholars tend to downplay the significance of letters in the historical development of high medieval religious thought and intellectual culture. My dissertation examines how letters reflected and determined the practice of religious thought during the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
My dissertation, tentatively titled “Goroka: The Shared Account in Assam’s Kingdom of Magic,” investigates how, why, and in what ways emergent political and economic relationships and the forces mobilized in coincidence with them have become new sources of (and perspectives on) both prosperity and intersubjective memory in Assam—a state in India’s northeastern periphery beleaguered by so-called “ethnonationalist” violence.
Existing research on bilingual populations has focused primarily on the differences and/or similarities in the performance of monolingual and bilingual children and adults in cognitive and linguistic tasks; less research has focused on their social communication abilities. Language though, is inherently social. We use it as a tool to communicate with others. Through my doctoral thesis, entitled: Perspective taking: the exposure effect, I demonstrate that early exposure to multiple languages may increase children’s social communicative abilities.