Bilinski Fellowship Program

UC Davis has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the Russell J. and Dorothy S. Bilinski Fellowship Fund, a program of the Bilinski Educational Foundation. The grant allowed the College of Letters and Science to offer dissertation fellowships in six of its top-ranked programs in the Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies (HArCS) and the Division of Social Sciences (DSS). This generous fellowship program is designed to support students as they begin the advanced stage of doctoral study by offering funding during the quarter immediately following advancement to candidacy, providing summer research and writing support, and providing for a full academic year fellowship for dissertation writing. [more]

Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies

Division of Social Sciences

Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies

Valerie Billing received her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois before beginning her Master’s and PhD work in the UC Davis English department. She received a Master of Arts in 2010 from UC Davis. Her forthcoming publication, “‘Treble marriage’: Margaret Cavendish, William Newcastle, and Collaborative Authorship” (Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, 2011), discusses the relationship between discourses of marriage and collaborative authorship in the late seventeenth-century published work of an aristocratic English woman. Valerie’s broader scholarly interests include performance and performativity, gender and sexuality, age and life cycle, and discourses of size in the early modern world. Her current work blends these interests in a project that reaches beyond England to include literature from Spain and Italy.

Valerie’s dissertation, titled “Large and in Charge: Age, Size, and Gender in Early Modern England,” contributes to scholarly conversations regarding conceptions of early modern gender and age. In four chapters that examine early modern plays, poems, and letters concerning older women’s interactions with younger men, she argues that age, like gender, is performative and can be actively constructed by an individual through visual and verbal strategies. This construction of age occurs relationally, a function not only of life cycle, as other scholars have noted, but of size. Female figures rhetorically construct age through techniques of miniaturization in a way that infantilizes the men around them, thus enabling the women to overturn traditional gender hierarchies and exert surprising control over these male figures. In turn, the male figures are often complicit in their own infantilization, reaping various material or erotic rewards. This complicity indicates that challenges to early modern hierarchies are not necessarily socially disruptive: many early moderns themselves likely saw hierarchies as fluid and negotiable, and interactions between older women and younger men constitute one important and insufficiently studied site in which these negotiations take place.

Nicole Kenley is from Poway, CA, in San Diego’s North County region. She got her BA in English and French at UC Berkeley and her MA in English at NYU, where she wrote her MA thesis on the concept of play in Hawthorne’s literature for children and its relationship to his novels. Since entering the PhD program in English here at UC Davis, she has focused on 20th Century American literature, specifically California literature, Faulkner, Chandler, and detective fiction. This last interest led to her dissertation project, Detecting Globalization, which focuses on American detective fiction’s shift from a national literature to a global one post-1970. Detecting Globalization tracks this shift through examining how the detective interacts with changing communities, technologies, cityscapes, and crimes to produce the emerging genre of global detective fiction.

Detecting Globalization brings contemporary American and international authors together to discover how the detective responds to the crises of economics, information, borders, and punishment globalization creates. The first chapter explores the relationship between the post-1970s boom of intersectionality in the genre and the rising popularity of postmodern detective novelists like Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem, looking at the ways in which both alternatives to traditional detective fiction trouble the concept of the solution. The project continues in this vein by reading the urban face of globalization through Michael Connelly and Paul Auster and the paradoxical relationship between the massive nature of globalization and the minutiae of forensic science through Patricia Cornwell and Jeffrey Deaver. The project concludes by positing the future of the genre, the emerging fully global detective novel, through John Burdett, Leonard Chang and Stieg Larsson. The last in particular provides a popular touchstone for the future of the genre–the detective as computer hacker. Ultimately, the project demonstrates how detectives are the perfect figures to mediate globalization because of their skill in locating and distributing a measure of subjective justice.

Sampada Aranke is a Ph.D. candidate in Performance Studies. Her work engages with Black aesthetics in the wake of black radical politics in the United States. Her current research interrogates the intersection of corpses and corporeality during the Black Power era. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz in Politics. Currently, Sampada lives and writes in Oakland, California.

Aranke’s dissertation, “Black Power/Black Death: Images and the Circulation of Affect in Black Radical Politics,” examines the intersection of race, class, and revolutionary praxis in Black Power politics. Specifically engaging the undertheorized function of death and dying within Black Power politics, Aranke’s research compels an understanding of the generative capacity of death in radical politics. She looks at Black Power politics as a structural analysis that articulates death as constitutive of blackness in the U.S. imaginary, therefore situating ‘liberation’ alongside an understanding of revolutionary praxis that may eventually lead to death. In order to further this theory, she examines the role of lynching photography and political education documentary in the Black Power era. From Emmett Till’s open casket photograph in 1955 Jet Magazine to Panther Fred Hampton’s 1969 murder in his Chicago home, Aranke charts these fourteen years as they visualize and narrate the generative capacity of death in Black Power. She asks: does Black Power politics necessitate the understanding of death as constitutive and inevitable in revolutionary praxis? Does an articulation and practice of revolution acknowledge that one may die in pursuit of liberation? This ‘may die’ was amplified alongside the materiality of poverty, police brutality, and various other systemic violences perpetrated against black communities. The project is interdisciplinary in nature as it engages methodologies from Performance Studies, Critical Race Studies, and Studies in Visual Culture to form an intersectional analysis of Black Power politics. By using scholarship across disciplines, this project mobilizes a more complex and thick understanding of the complex nexus between blackness, violence, working class consciousness, and radical politics.

Keith Hennessy received his MFA in Choreography at UC Davis in 2007 and is currently a PhD candidate in Performance Studies. His interdisciplinary research engages improvisation, ritual and public action as tools for investigating political realities. Engaged with the tactics of queer, feminism, and critical race studies, Hennessy is writing a selective history of 1970s Bay Area dance/performance collectives. He is director of Zero Performance (, lives in San Francisco and tours internationally. Recent awards include a NY Bessie (2010), two Isadora Duncan Awards (2009), the SF Bay Guardian’s Goldie (2007) and artist/writing residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell and Djerassi. Hennessy’s 2010-11 calendar includes The University for Dance & Circus (Stockholm), American Dance Festival (Durham NC), Bluecoat Performance Space (Liverpool), The New Museum (NY) and short-term teaching residencies in Vienna, Kiev, Budapest, Berlin and Poznan Poland.

Hennessy’s dissertation is entitled “Archives of an emergent culture: West Coast Performance Collectives, 1975.” Following the social and cultural ruptures of the 1960s, San Francisco (and the West Coast more generally), was a vibrant site for renovating dance and performance practice. Improvisation, collective process, feminism, gay liberation and hippy culture motivated genre-blurring experimentation in all aspects of cultural production. Addressing the paucity of critical and historical consideration of San Francisco and West Coast dance and performance, Hennessy is writing a critical and historical archive of three pioneering performance collectives founded in 1975: Mangrove, The Wallflower Order and the Gay Men’s Theatre Collective. Integral to this restaging will be the reviving of an emergent culture that anticipated, enveloped, and succeeded these groups. This entails a discussion of Bay Area women’s performance collectives, the activism and culture of gay liberation, the development of contact improvisation, a shift from mass mobilization to a politics of personal living, and the tenacity of whiteness and normativity in cultures that position themselves as alternatives to the norm. Hennessy will consider each of these movements and moments as sites of gender reconsideration and subversion, with a particular focus on patriarchal disruptions and queer masculinities, as well as how improvisation challenges fixed and authoritative structures of representation.

David Verbuč (from Slovenia) is a third year graduate student in ethnomusicology at UC Davis, California. He received his MA degree in ethnomusicology at UC Davis, and his bachelor degree in music education from the Academy of Music, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia (under a supervision of dr. Svanibor Pettan). David worked as a music journalist for Slovenian papers Muska and Mladina, and as a music journalist, radio DJ and music director at a Slovenian independent and alternative radio station, Radio Student, Ljubljana. He wrote over 250 musical transcriptions for several publications of Slovenian folk music and wrote a chapter on Slovenian folk music for a 4th grade elementary school textbook. Between 2000 and 2008, he conducted field work research in Upper Savinja Valley, North Slovenia, where he also recorded over 100 singers and collected around 1300 folk songs. In 2008 he published a selection of 108 songs (and other folklore texts) from his collection on a double CD Gorših ljudi na svetu ni: terenski posnetki ljudskih pesmi iz Zgornje Savinjske doline / There are No Finer People in the World: Field recordings of folk songs from the Upper Savinja Valley (official site, in Slovene language:

David’s dissertation project is titled, “Alternative music house concert scenes in the US: music, space, language, and community.” House concerts are public or semi-public live music events organized in private houses by the people who live in them. Many different types of events fall into this broad category. Some are focused primarily on classical music, others on improvised music or on folk music. David’s research focuses on house concerts that are organized primarily by young people with interest in multiple genres ranging from singer-songwriter and folk music to various alternative rock and punk genres to more experimental styles (occasionally also live electronic music). These individuals are interested in building alternative communities and alternative ways of self-action, circumventing traditional, commercial, and institutional channels. They organize house concerts partly out of a necessity, because of a lack of regular venues for alternative music-making, and partly because they enjoy freedom from restrictions encountered at regular concert venues and are proponents of do-it-yourself ethics and aesthetics.

Division of Social Sciences

Andrew Kerr grew up in the desert of western Colorado and received his BA in History from Haverford College. After graduation, Andrew lived in Seattle, Spain, and Providence, RI before serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras. After two years in Central America, Andrew returned to the States and worked in immigration law and in special education. He’s currently pursuing his PhD in History with interests in U.S. Empire as well as Latin American, Environmental and Post-Colonial history. His dissertation is tentatively titled: “The Fight for Vieques, Puerto Rico – A Story of Empire and Environmentalism during the Cold War.” His research analyzes the contested relationships between the U.S. military and communities located in the margins of the American empire. It also examines the intersection of environmentalism and the politics of national security. When he’s not reading and writing, or thinking about the next World Cup, Andrew enjoys playing sports, cooking, and coaching at soccer camps for refugee students in Oakland.

Lia Winfield earned a B.A. from UC Santa Cruz in 2008 before entering the UC Davis History Department’s PhD program. Her research interests include women’s identity, women’s military service, citizenship, and civil-military relations. Her dissertation, tentatively titled, “Claiming Their Place: Women in the United States Army, 1973-1993” examines women’s integration into the army from the beginning of the all-volunteer force through the Gulf War. Lia’s work is based on archival sources as well as oral history interviews from women and men who served in army during that time. She is particularly interested in how female soldiers perceived the transition to an all-volunteer force in 1973 and the civilian second wave feminist movement of the 1970s and 1980s. She hopes to investigate how studying women in the army complicates our understanding of feminism. Lia is also very interested in exploring not only how the all-volunteer opened up more opportunities for women in the army but also how the new volunteer military effected civil-military relations in the late twentieth century. Her dissertation also pays close attention to how race and class influenced women’s military service.

Debra Leiter is a PhD Candidate in the Political Science Department at the University of California, Davis. She is a native Californian, and received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego. Her major fields of research are comparative politics and American politics. Debra’s work has been featured in the British Journal of Political Science. Debra’s research focuses on the intersection of elections, voters, and political parties, emphasizing Western European elections. Her dissertation, entitled “How Individual, Party System, and Institutional Factors Mediate Voter and Party Emphasis on Valence and Ideology,” attempts to parse out when citizens emphasize candidate and party qualities that lead to good governance, such as competency, honesty and integrity, and under what conditions political parties emphasize these traits during elections. Her dissertation also examines whether and under what conditions voters make tradeoffs between parties and candidates who emphasize voters’ preferred policy outcomes, and those who emphasize the characteristics that lead to good governance. This research has important implications for the study of democratic accountability and representation.

Michelle Schwarze is a third-year Ph.D. student in Political Theory who received her B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science in 2008 from the University of Nevada, Reno before moving to Davis. Her research centers on moral philosophy and psychology, with a particular focus on Scottish Enlightenment thinkers like David Hume and Adam Smith and the psychological mechanisms behind reciprocal and cooperative behaviors. She is also an active member of the Graduate Association of Political Science Students (GAPSS) and an organizer of the UC Davis Political Theory Workshop Series, a forum in which both faculty and graduate students in political theory can present work in preparation for academic conferences and publication.

In her dissertation, “The Motivation for Justice: Moral and Political Psychology in the Scottish Enlightenment,” Michelle investigates the psychological mechanisms behind moral action by drawing on both the moral sense theories of David Hume and Adam Smith and the experimental psychology and economics literatures. While both political theorists are well known for their contributions to modern philosophy and economics, their moral theories provide a detailed psychological account of the motivation for just action. Michelle’s dissertation reconstructs these accounts in order to establish a comprehensive understanding of moral motivation and to address some of the cooperative dilemmas identified by rational choice theory, while providing a theoretical basis for empirical findings in experimental economics and psychology on cooperation and altruism as well.

David Simon is a doctoral student in Economics, with a BA in Economics and Religious Studies and an MA in Applied Economics. He has a broad intellectual interest in how family inputs made during early childhood influence long term health, and labor market outcomes, as well as the intergenerational transfer of inequality. David’s research focuses on evaluating how government tax and transfer policy affects a family’s health decisions and investments in their children. The central chapter of his dissertation, “Anti-Tobacco Policy and the Long Term Impacts of In Utero Exposure to Cigarette Smoke,” looks at the long term effect of smoking during pregnancy on a child’s health and education. He uses in utero exposure to state level anti-tobacco policy as plausibly exogenous variation to early life exposure to cigarette smoke. He is also co-authoring a paper titled Income, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Infant Health with Hilary Hoynes and Doug Miller. This paper investigates how income improves birth outcomes using changes in income generated by expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit which increased the affluence of many low-income families throughout the 1990s. Finally, he has a research project investigating the causal impact of education on birth outcomes and infant health using policy changes in compulsory schooling laws to identify changes in parental education.