bvanwassenhove's blog

Letters, Publicity, and Religious Thought in High Medieval Germany

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.

Goroka: The Shared Account in Assam’s Kingdom of Magic

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.

Perspective Taking: The Exposure Effect

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.

Antipodean Agriculture in the Archives

 I returned to the United States this June after having spent well over a year in archival repositories throughout the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa with a digital mountain of unprocessed documents.  I always new that my dissertation project, “All Flesh Is Grass: Cultivation as Conservation in the Sown Grasslands of the British Empire, 1780-1850,” was an ambitious one.  It is a transnational project that relies almost exclusively upon manuscript materials, with an occasional printed text or map.  I visited sixteen different repositories, from the industrial-scale

Historicizing the Global Girls’ Empowerment Movement

In 1992, Lawrence Summers, then the chief economist of the World Bank, declared that educating girls “yields a higher rate of return than any other investment available in the developing world.” Summers’ argument converged with a growing consensus in the international development industry, which over the past two decades has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into transnational campaigns designed to “empower” girls – psychologically (via self-esteem), personally (via leadership training), and economically (via microloans).

Unsettled Territories in the American West

The establishment of federal Indian reservations was a critical, yet often neglected, turning point in the history of U.S. westward expansion during the second half of the nineteenth century.  In the thirty-seven year period between the organization of territorial governments in New Mexico (1850) and Arizona (1863) and the passage of the Dawes Severalty Act (1887), the U.S. federal government approved patents for many of the 42 Indian reservations that today comprise more than 23.5 million acres of land in the two southwestern states.

Custody and Democracy

Consider the following vignettes from my research: a clique of middle school students at a boarding school for at-risk youth leveraging adult advice networks to change a controversial dress code policy; mental hospital patients collectively advocating for an increase in food quality on their ward through an institutionally recognized Patients' Administrative Group; a group of inmates forming a labor union to negotiate with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections to improve prison conditions.

Using the Modern Archives of Crete for a Look Back into Ancient History

As a Ph.D. student in Ancient History at the University of Chicago, I am trained to use primary documentation of ancient texts as a main source for research. My dissertation, however, goes beyond traditional methods. I research how Crete’s archaeological heritage and ancient past affected political and intellectual discourse regarding Crete’s 1913 official unification (enosis) with Greece. Particular attention is placed on whether modern conceptualizations of Crete's ancient past affected the process of unification and vice versa.

Telescopic Nationalism in Post-Socialist Mongolia

I set out to look for cultural nationalism, focusing on three sites that as expected revealed a rich variety of manifestations. I specifically examined expert cultural practices (Mongolian calligraphy), national spectacles (Naadam), and projects of cultural and religious revival (Buddhist, semi-Buddhist and others). What I found has profoundly affected my understanding of how nationalism can work.