bvanwassenhove's blog

The Investigation of Collective Investigation

My dissertation research concerns the history of Collective Investigation, a late nineteenth-century international movement that involved the attempt to produce a new science of clinical medicine through the collection and distillation of clinical observations from large numbers physicians. The movement aimed to circulate knowledge from the center to the periphery and back again on the back of paper cards. These cards were designed by expert committees to capture the clinical information essential to a disease such as pneumonia or diphtheria.

Entertaining Japan: the Early Japanese Entertainment Television

In the summer of 2014, with the generous support of the Social Science Division’s summer grant, I was able to complete one of my dissertation chapters that deals with audience participation programs in the early Japanese television history (1953-73). Japanese television has been known for its sensational entertainment shows with violence, obscenity and nonsensical comedies. Since its inception in 1953, Japanese television has presented several entertainment programs that provoked fierce criticism of the “vulgarity” of television.

The Labor Wedge: New Facts based on US Micro Data

In the last few years, several researchers have shown great interest in both: level and cyclical behavior of the labor wedge - the ratio between the marginal rate of substitution (MRS) and the marginal productivity of labor (MPL)-. According to the neoclassical theory, after controlling for taxes and subsidies this ratio should be constant. Interestingly, many of these papers have shown that the labor wedge is actually counter-cyclical, that is, that this gap increases in recessions.

The Transformation of American Republicanism, 1858 -- 1872

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.

‘Laughing Until it Hurts’: Media Circulation as an Organizing Process

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.

My Summer in Iraqi Kurdistan: Researching the Past and Witnessing the Present

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.

Unsettling Presents, Indigenous Futures: Politics and Mobility on the Northwest Coast

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.

Studies on the Patriarchate of Constantinople

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.

Contextualizing Wartime Violence

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.