Dissertation Year Fellows

Chad Anderson is a doctoral candidate in history. A historian of the early American republic, Chad is interested in the convergence of three related historical developments in the early nineteenth century: westward expansion and environmental change, the dispossession of Native Americans, and the formation of an American national identity. He is especially interested in uncovering the stories written on the landscape around us, sometimes hidden in plain sight or concealed in a place name.

His dissertation, “The Storied Landscape of Iroquoia: Landscape and Memory on the New York Frontier, 1750-1840” examines the relationship between changes to the built and natural landscape of the New York frontier and the meaning attached to this landscape by the Haudenosaunee (the Iroquois Six Nations) and European Americans, from approximately 1750 to 1830. During that period, Haudenosaunee control of the New York frontier, a region also known as Iroquoia, gave way to settlement by European Americans. He explores how settlers imposed a new vision of the landscape on Iroquoia, invented new traditions associated with this transformation, and remembered or distorted the land’s Indian past.


D.A. Caeton is a doctoral candidate in the Graduate Group in Cultural Studies. In his dissertation, “Reading Between the Dots: Tactile Writing Systems and the U.S. Ethos of Independence, 1830-1932,” D. A. Caeton investigates how the pursuit of a standardized method of literacy for blind people was informed by divergent beliefs about blind people’s assimilability into the dominant sighted culture.  He holds a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Women’s Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and he has been trained in braille literacy by the Hadley School for the Blind.


Vivian Choi is a doctoral candidate in sociocultural anthropology. She came to Davis in 2004 by way of Sri Lanka, where she was a Fulbright Scholar, New York, where she worked in US welfare policy reform, and Pomona College, where she studied anthropology as an undergraduate. During her first year at Davis, the Indian Ocean tsunami ravaged Sri Lanka’s coastlines, and she focused her research on the aftermath and reconstruction of the tsunami. In the midst of her fieldwork in Sri Lanka, the civil war between the government of Sri Lanka and the insurgent rebel group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) drew to a tumultuous end. This historical moment shed light onto her understanding of post-tsunami reconstruction, especially in the war-affected community where she conducted much of her field research.

In her dissertation, “After Disasters: The Persistence of Insecurity and Violence in Sri Lanka,” Vivian is creating a critical ethnography of disasters both natural and man-made. She weaves together the aftermaths of the tsunami and the war, assessing the possibilities of peace through new processes of nation-building and reconstruction in a post-tsunami and post-war context. By examining how both disasters unfold socially and politically, she aims to unsettle the very terms by which we understand phenomena as either “natural” or “man-made” – that is, “natural” and “cultural.”


Matthew Russell is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. His principal research areas are contemporary Spanish cultural studies, literature, film, and intellectual history. Matthew’s dissertation project “Postmemory, the Holocaust and the Re-Moralization of the Spanish Civil War in Contemporary Spanish Cultural Production” examines how contemporary Spanish novelists, filmmakers, graphic novelists, and authors of testimony use the moral trope of the Holocaust in order to understand, mediate, and construct memories of Spain’s contentious history of violence. He argues that in most cases, the invocation of Holocaust in the Spanish context serves an exclusively Spanish agenda tailored to Spanish concerns. His study aims to suggest a more nuanced and critical view of the globalization of memory discourses and how the universal trope of Holocaust informs and hinders local memory practices in marginally related contexts.

Matthew holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz and has been a student at the University of Granada, the University of Paris 3, Sorbonne Nouvelle, and the University of Michoacán. He can be reached at mbrussell@ucdavis.edu



Summer Research Stipend Recipients

Gina Caison is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English with a Designated Emphasis in Native American studies. Her dissertation, “Being, Feeling, and Seeing Red in the Native South,” examines issues of indigenous history and land claim in the literature of the U.S. South. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Mississippi QuarterlyNorth Carolina Literary Review, and The Velvet Light Trap: A Critical Journal of Film and Television.  She is also a co-producer of the collaborative documentary film project, Uneasy Remains, which examines the history of studying and collecting indigenous human remains at UC Davis and how this history has been informed by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Amy Champ is a fourth-year doctoral student in Performance Studies with a designated emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research. She is a Sivananda yoga teacher with 18 years of experience in yoga and meditation. She researches yoga’s impact on female bodies, transnational feminist collaboration, and women’s ritual arts. Her theoretical interests focus on energy and consciousness, democratic practice, lived aesthetics and ecological models of political change. Her project is titled “Feminism from the Inside out: The Hidden Story of Women and Yoga in America.”

Megan McMullan is a PhD candidate in French at UC Davis. She is currently on fellowship in Paris, France, where she is doing research and writing her dissertation about the ideological, aesthetic, and political stakes of the notorious controversies surrounding three plays by Moliere: L’Ecole des Femmes, Tartuffe, and Dom Juan, all composed in the three years between 1662 and 1665. Her project is titled “The War of All and The Ship of Fools: Molière’s Quarrels.”


Joshua Waggoner completed his B.A. at UC Davis in 2000 and his M.A. at New York University in humanities and social thought in 2004. He then returned to the comparative literature department at Davis where he studies trauma theory, early modern Italian literature, war literature, and theories of comedy. His dissertation “Repetitions of the Fall: The Concept of Trauma as a Special Theory of Irony” concerns the relationship between trauma and irony. Through the examination of texts such as Oedipus Rex, Hamlet, Jerusalem Delivered, and Mrs. Dalloway, Joshua’s dissertation traces the structural similarities shared by both the trope of irony and the psychological experience and effect of traumatic events.



UC Humanities Correspondents

Sarah McCullough is a Ph.D. candidate in Cultural Studies interested in body-technology relationships. Her dissertation on the history and culture of mountain biking considers how the cultural landscape of the Northern San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s produced off-road riding, and the unexpected legacies of this new form of bicycling. Sarah also enjoys teaching bicycle repair at the Davis Bike Collective, blogging about riding and writing, and eating the fresh produce of the Central Valley.

This page was last updated: October 3, 2011



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