Student Research Blog


Documenting the Existence of a Community of Letters in Late Medieval Spain and North Africa

Thanks to the generous support provided by the Division of Social Sciences Travel Grant, I have been able to spend much of the last year (July 2015 to May 2016) undertaking intensive research for my dissertation in Spain and Morocco. My dissertation project—entitled “Dynastic Ideology, Historical Writing and the Chancery in al-Andalus and the Maghrib: A Study of Itinerant Court Secretaries (Kuttāb) in the Late Medieval Islamic West”— explores the relationship between intellectual networks, historical writing and political power in fourteenth-century Iberia and North Africa.


Shedding Light on the Black Market in Syrian Antiquities

The SSD short-term research grant allowed me to compile new datasets to support my research program on art markets. I study contemporary and ancient art markets, both of which have interesting economic, sociological, and legal aspects. But the most exciting venture to emerge from my current work is a new project with broad public policy applications: Modeling the Antiquities Trade in Iraq and Syria (MANTIS).


Exploring Foodways Practices, Conversion, and Identity in Colonial Senegal

The Division of the Social Sciences Short-Term Research Grant supported a preliminary archaeological field season at my dissertation site in Ngazobil, Senegal. My project targets the archaeology and history of the Saint Joseph de Ngazobil Catholic mission, founded by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (known as Spiritans) in the mid-nineteenth century. My research examines the relationship between foodways (the cultivation, production, and consumption of food and drink) and the performance of identity in the context of colonialism and conversion in French West Africa.


Targeting race and class in South African advertising

The SSD Travel Grant allowed me to travel to South Africa to conduct follow-up dissertation research, both ethnographic and archival. My dissertation provides an analysis of how the advertising industry in South Africa targets markets according to race and class.


Peaceful Nuclear Innovation in the Andes

Thanks to support from the SSD Summer Research Grant, I was able to conduct historical research for my dissertation at the somewhat unusual site where Argentina’s nuclear energy program began. Bariloche is perhaps better known as a ski resort town with postcard views of a massive alpine lake than as a center of scientific innovation. Yet that lake – specifically one island within it – is the key to Bariloche’s outsized historical role in science and technology, despite nearly 1,000 miles of distance from Buenos Aires.


Sovereign default and changing government types

The SSD Summer Grant helped to support me whilst I was writing the central chapter of my thesis.  My research seeks to uncover governments' motives for default from patterns in the prices that they pay to borrow.  Most current explanations of sovereign default rely on changing government circumstances to explain why defaults happen; the economy deteriorates, tax revenues fall, and the outstanding debt becomes unaffordable. 


Navigating fields

Navigating Fields


Projects of Improvement in the shadow of Yellow Mountain

Wu yue guilai bu kan shan, huangshan guilai bu kan yue. “If you have seen the five famous mountains, you don't need to see any other mountain. [But] if you have seen Yellow Mountain, you don't need to see the five famous mountains.” This Chinese saying describes the legendary beauty of Yellow Mountain, which is located in southern Anhui province. Although Yellow Mountain (Huangshan) is spoken of as a singular 'mountain,' it actually is the highest peak of a low-lying and widespread mountain range which covers almost 3,800 square miles.


Finding global history in the Archives Nationales

For anyone studying the ancien régime society of eighteenth-century France, the Archives Nationales in Paris provide an invaluable but not unproblematic perspective. Fastidiously classified and organised, the archives help the uninitiated to navigate and make sense of  foreign world. Yet they also impose a sense of order on to a society that was made up of a patchwork of corporations, customs and loyalties that were often resistant to the centralizing and rationalizing aspirations of reformist ministers in the service of the monarchy.


How Human Cognitive Performance is Impacted by Pressure-Filled Situations

Sometimes it seems that no matter how hard we study for a test or prepare for an interview, we find ourselves completely failing when the pressure leans on us. We blank on test answers that we were sure we knew, or we get tongue-tied when our interviewer asks what our greatest weakness is. But why? Why exactly is it that these high-stakes situations cause us to fail? Past research within my lab has provided an initial explanation for the phenomenon: cognitive resources that could be used for one task are co-opted by thoughts pertaining to personal performance.