President’s Fellowship and Research Assistantship Program

Until 2010, the DHI oversaw two fellowship programs for first-year graduate students in the humanities. Both groups of graduate fellows participated in DHI seminars and events, received mentoring on research and grants from Institute fellows and staff, and remain affiliated with the Institute throughout their graduate studies at Davis. From 2008-10, graduate fellows also worked collaboratively with DHI support staff to coordinate a public event highlighting graduate research in the humanities.

With the reorganization of graduate funding through the new UC Humanities Network in 2010, these two recruitment fellowship programs were replaced in by dissertation support through the UC Society of Fellows.

Sylvie Bissonnette, Performance Studies

2006-07 Research Assistant in the Humanities

Filmmaker and poet, Sylvie Bissonnette holds a master’s degree in Film Studies and she is doing her Ph.D. in Performance Studies at Davis. She contributes to the online periodical Nouvelles «vues» sur le cinéma québécois and has published articles on theatricality in film, film adaptation and Quebec films. Specialist of Robert Lepage’s theatre and films, she also explores the cultural relations between cinema and science through animation films, complexity, poetics, magic, phenomenology and cognitive sciences.

Dylan Bolles, Performance Studies

2007-08 Research Assistant in the Humanities

Dylan Bolles makes sound/theatre works for people and environments, many of which involve the design and construction of new musical instruments. His background in performance includes performance-based collaborations, time-based arts, and sound compositions. These works strive to unify the performer/audience split and to build communities based on shared temporal experience. He seeks an alternative to the divisions wrought by industrialization, consumerism, and passive media formats, and he considers performance structure to be a powerful analog to social structure. Dylan developed site-specific performances which explored these issues during his time as an affiliate artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California. This work developed into performances that appeared at the Lincoln Center in New York City and the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

At UC Davis, Dylan wishes to develop both a formal and cultural translation of p’ansori, a Korean oral narrative form rooted in ancient Shamanist rituals. His research in performance studies seeks to trace the effects of modernization and globalization on Korean p’ansori, and the ways in which p’ansori continues to adapt to the needs of its audience. Internalizing the salient aspects of p’ansori from the perspective of the performer/author, he will create a parallel performance theatre style which is of its own time, relating the contemporary history of the unaccountable number of internationally adopted Korean orphans and Korean birth mothers.

Gregory Brueck, History

2005-06 Research Assistant in the Humanities

Gregory Brueck received his MA in History from San Francisco State University in 2005 and his BA in History from Reed College in 1995. He studies the history of the North American West, and his current research focuses on land distribution and homesteading on the Great Plains during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Margaret Cayward, Music

2003-04 President’s Predoctoral Fellow

Margaret Cayward is a native of the SF Bay Area. She holds an undergraduate degree in Mathematics from Santa Clara University, where she later conducted her MA thesis research. Margaret is a member of the initial class of the Ethnomusicology doctoral program in the Department of Music at UC Davis, which is now in its fifth year.

Margaret received her MA in Music from CSU East Bay (then Cal State Hayward). Her thesis was published in 2006 as the monograph Musical Life at Mission Santa Clara de Asís, 1777-1836. Her dissertation treats musical life among the Spanish, the Franciscans, and the California Indians in mission-era northern California. Through UCD’s Department of Native American Studies, she has formed a research partnership with California Indian descendants, supporting their efforts towards cultural renewal with her archival research and analysis and her work on the John P. Harrington fieldnotes. She is also interested in Spanish-language poetry, theatrical music, and liturgical drama.

David Dennen, Music

2008-09 President’s Predoctoral Fellow

David Dennen is a musician and ethnomusicologist. Principally a student of the bamboo flute in the Hindustani and Odissi music traditions of India, he has also studied Western art and popular music and Sundanese gamelan. David’s broader research interests center on questions of identity, both personal and social/cultural. Related issues that he continues to explore are: the intersections of musical and nationalist expressions; art during and after colonialism; and the role of art in shaping personal identity and social behavior. He received his BA from The Evergreen State College.

Andrea Dooley, Cultural Studies

2008-09 President’s Predoctoral Fellow

Andrea Dooley received her BSS in Interdisciplinary Studies at San Francisco State University in 2003, where she wrote a senior thesis focused on 1990s New Urbanism architectural strategies and spatial segregation. She completed an MA in Visual Criticism at the California College of the Arts in 2006. Andrea’s master’s thesis entitled “It Seemed the Earth Could Not Hold Them: Public Genocide Memorials in Rwanda” interrogated emerging strategies of memorialization and public discourse. Her thesis focused on the politics of representation, personal narrative and the dialog between place and trauma. Andrea conducted field research in Rwanda 2005, which included interviews with genocide survivors, non governmental organizations and memorial site visits. At UC Davis, she plans to further investigate such issues as multivalent memorial space, implicated geographies marked by historical trauma, place and reconciliation and the language of the unimaginable in the context of genocide.

Doris Duangboudda, Anthropology

2008-09 Research Assistant in the Humanities

Doris Duangboudda’s primary research interests are Chinese migrant and diaspora communities with emphasis on nationalism and transnationalism. She also researches a range of issues relating to immigrants, internally displaced people, refugees, and human trafficking. She received her Master’s degree in anthropology with a focus on international development at the George Washington University in Washington, DC; and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology, Chinese studies, and global studies with a focus on international development at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington.

John Ryan Fischer, History

2001-02 President’s Predoctoral Fellow

John Ryan Fischer’s research explores the environmental history of the effects of introduced cattle and horses on the peoples and environments of California and Hawai’i from 1769 to 1848. These animals created new opportunities for trade that helped to connect a “Pacific World.” They changed cultural and economic relationships to the land in both regions and the colonial exploitation of Indian and Hawaiian labor led to enduring native cattle cultures, represented by vaqueros and paniolos.

Examining these native responses will enhance historical understanding of the interlinked flows of culture and biota in an increasingly interconnected world, which may offer valuable lessons as modern humans deal with the environmental, economic, and cultural results of globalization.

Jessica Fowler

Jessica Fowler is a Ph.D. student in History having recently completed her M.A. at the University of Georgia. Her research involves tracking a particular heresy throughout the Spanish empire via the intellectual network of inquisitors that prosecuted it.

Kelley Gove

Kelley received her B.A. in English and psychology from the University of New Hampshire, her M.L.I.S. from Simmons College, and her M.A. in American Studies and Environment and Natural Resources from the University of Wyoming. Her M.A. thesis was entitled “Nature as Other: Debating Wyoming’s Red Desert.” Her research interests include cultures of nature, landscapes and power, environmental consumerism, tourism, food, visual culture, and science studies.

Brynne Gray, English

2000-01 President’s Predoctoral Fellow

Sparked by the question “Why did Jane Eyre turn down an opportunity to work as a missionary?” Brynne Gray researched the representations of Christian missionaries in nineteenth-century British literature and completed her doctoral dissertation in 2006. Her research demonstrates that too hasty assumptions regarding missionaries’ complicity in the British Empire’s colonial expansion have prevented scholars from appreciating the complex relationship between the missionary project and other cultural concerns. For women writers especially, the missionary figure becomes a trope through which to explore alternative means of cultural authority and to express female ambition. Currently, Dr. Gray is a lecturer in the English Department at UC Davis and is researching nineteenth-century British women writers’ engagement with the poetess tradition, as exemplified by Felicia Hemans and L.E.L.

Giovanna Montenegro, Comparative Literature

2007-08 President’s Predoctoral Fellow

Giovanna Montenegro received her MA in Comparative Literature from San Francisco State University and her BFA in Photography from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her research focuses on female sexuality in early twentieth-century German, French, and Latin American literature. She is also interested in topics related to migration and second language acquisition in American and German multilingual literature. Giovanna is also a Graduate Student Representative for the American Comparative Literature Association.

Praba Pilar, Performance Studies

2007-08 President’s Predoctoral Fellow

A Bay Area/Colombian multi-disciplinary artist, Praba Pilar has worked on multiple public sphere initiatives through performances, installations, and interactive projects.

Her research focuses on aspects of technology that generate new forms of economic, environmental, and sexual exploitation and erasure that have explicit political, class, gender, and racial dimensions. As a person deeply involved in the public life of the Latino communities in the Bay Area, Praba has raised these questions through performances, installations and artworks that present counternarratives to the overarching rhetoric about the beneficence of biotechnology, information technology, and nanotechnology.

Zoya Stanchits Popova, Comparative Literature

2007-08 Research Assistant in the Humanities

Zoya Stanchits Popova received her first Doctorate Degree from Saint Petersburg State University, College of Oriental Studies. Her dissertation was written on Modern Chinese Writer Shen Congwen (1902-1988). She next attended the University of Colorado, Boulder, studying Comparative Literature and Humanities. Now at UC Davis, Zoya’s fields of interest include comparative studies on Modern Chinese and Russian Literature.

Sayyeda Zehra Razvi, Comparative Literature


Sayyeda Zehra Razvi received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Comparative
Literature at University of California Davis where she studied Arabic and completed a senior
thesis on the redistributive potential of the Islamic levy Zakat in Pakistan. Her research interests include twentieth-century Arabic and Urdu Literature with an emphasis on Postcolonial experience and questions of identity and privilege.

Ami Sommariva, Cultural Studies

2005-06 Research Assistant in the Humanities

A 3rd year graduate student in the Cultural Studies doctoral program at UC Davis, Ami Sommariva spends most of her time these days preparing for her qualifying exams. Her research, which bridges ethnography, literary criticism, and visual analysis, explores the histories that people produce about their own families. From written to oral narratives, from scrapbooks to scrap heaps, these histories span a range of representational forms. How are these representations produced, how are they interpreted, and what cultural work do they accomplish? What differences and similarities can be seen between these representations and those produced by professional historians? In exploring these questions, Ami is focusing on family histories produced by children and grandchildren of WWII Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors in the Americas.

Prior to joining the Cultural Studies program at UC Davis, Ami completed an undergraduate degree in Communication at The University of Michigan (1997) and an MA in American Studies at The University of Kansas (2005), where she was the recipient of The University of Kansas Outstanding Thesis Award (2006).

Christopher Tong, Comparative Literature

2007-08 Research Assistant in the Humanities

Christopher Tong’s research interests include British-German literary relations; Chinese-language film, literature, and theater; contemporary American theater; translation; critical theory; architecture and urban studies; and the relationship between literature and scientific thinking. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Stanford University and Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University.

Andrew Ventimiglia, Cultural Studies

2008-09 Research Assistant in the Humanities

Andrew Ventimiglia received his BA and MA in Cinema Studies from New York University as well as a Certificate in Culture and Media. His research focuses on the circulation and use of media in New Age and spiritual communities in the United States, with a particular interest in transcultural contact in the growing spiritual tourism industry. His other interests include the intersection of science and religion, the rise of secularism and post-secularism, and the history of atheism as both a belief system and a set of