Doctoral Fellowships

Doctoral Fellowships

The Rock Ethics Institutes offers two graduate fellowships: the Forrest S. Crawford Family Graduate Fellowship in Ethical Inquiry, and Center and Institute Fellowships.

 

Forrest S. Crawford Family Graduate Fellowship

The Forrest S. Crawford Family Graduate Fellowship in Ethical Inquiry provides financial assistance and recognition for graduate students whose work includes an ethical dimension on a topic in a discipline in the College of the Liberal Arts. This yearlong fellowship is awarded each year to one Ph.D. candidate in the College of the Liberal and covers the recipient’s tuition and provides a stipend. In addition, the student who receives the award is named a fellow in the Rock Ethics Institute, which provides them a $1,000 scholarship to support their research and related activities. Students cannot directly apply for this fellowship, but rather are nominated by the Director of Graduate Studies in their department. 

Forrest “Rusty” Crawford

‘57 BA- Mathematics, NROTC
‘69 MBA, University of Pittsburgh

Following graduation from Penn State and commissioning as Ensign, USN, Forrest married his first wife, Janet McKee (H&HD ‘56), and served three years on active duty in the Navy before commencing a 32 year career with U. S. Steel/USX in Pittsburgh. He continued serving in the U. S. Naval Reserve for 27 years and retired with the rank of Captain. Janet passed away in 2004. In 2007, he married Sally Foote, an attorney, who passed away in 2020.

A life member of the Penn State Alumni Association, Forrest and his late wife, Janet, endowed the Crawford Family Graduate Fellowship in Ethical Inquiry. Forrest has also established the Forrest Crawford Trustee Scholarship in the College of the Liberal Arts and the Crawford Family Director’s Fund in the Rock Ethics Institute. Forrest also is a member of the Mount Nittany Society, President’s Club, and Nittany Lion Club, and served on the Rock Ethics Institute Board of Visitors.

Rock Ethics Institute Doctoral Fellows

The Rock Ethics Institute offers graduate student funding via the Rock Ethics Institute Fellow awards in conjunction with the College of the Liberal Arts’ Humanities Dissertation Release program.

This combination of awards is for humanities graduate students who are working on ethics-related topics in their dissertations.

The Rock Ethics Institute Award augments the Humanities Dissertation Release by providing a $1,000 scholarship to support research and related activities for the semester in which the student receives a Humanities Dissertation Release. In addition, award recipients will have the title of Rock Ethics Institute Fellow.

The Rock Ethics Institute Fellows will be informed of all Rock Ethics Institute events and will be invited to participate in any events that are of interest to them or which would benefit their research. Our Fellows will profit from a stimulating research environment and gain recognition for their affiliation with the Rock Ethics Institute.

How to Apply: Graduate students applying for a Humanities Dissertation Release award who also would like to be considered for a Rock Ethics Institute Fellow award must complete the process as detailed here, on the College of the Liberal Arts’ Center and Institute Fellows Program page.

Meet the 2021-2022 Fellows

Lyana Sun Han Change

Lyana Sun Han Chang, PhD Candidate in Applied Linguistics (Center and Institute Fellow)

Dissertation: “Narrativizing Undocumented Status: How immigrants Position Themselves and Negotiate Identities and Discourses in their Reclaimant Narratives” 

Bio: Lyana Sun Han Chang is a 4th year PhD candidate in the department of Applied Linguistics at Penn State University. Her research interests include discourse analysis, narrative analysis, identity, and raciolinguistics. Her research examines the negotiation and construction of identity and agency against the backdrop of dichotomous mainstream discourses. Her dissertation research focuses on the relationships between immigrant identities, immigrant reclaimant narratives, and immigration discourses within the context of undocumented status. Specifically, Lyana is interested in stance-taking and positioning in narratives to understand how immigrants negotiate identities and public discourses which are often tied to the criminalization and racialization of certain immigrant groups. Her research has implications for the inclusion of narratives which bring to the forefront voices which are often silenced and constrained by dominant discourses, and for immigration reform and social integration. In the past she has presented her research at the TESOL International Convention and Language Expo and the Conference on College Composition and Communication.  

Project Description: Dominant discourses on immigration and legality promote narrow and harmful portrayals of immigrants with an undocumented status. These discourses dehumanize immigrants and have a significant impact on how they are treated. One way to combat these portrayals has been through reclaimant narratives in which immigrants “assert their right to speak and reframe audience understanding” (Bishop, 2018, p. 160). Research on reclaimant narratives, however, has focused on interview data without a detailed analysis of the narratives themselves or contextual research on how narrators contend with the dominant and everyday discourses they’re exposed to—discourses which may differ depending on demographics like race and gender. Therefore, this dissertation aims to understand: 1) how immigrants position themselves in their reclaimant narratives, 2) what discourses immigrants are exposed to, and 3) how immigrants navigate these discourses to position themselves in their narratives. I will use a concurrent exploratory sequential mixed methods design, utilizing data from narratives, surveys, and interviews. Furthermore, a narrative as practice approach (De Fina, 2018a, 2018b) will guide the integration and analysis of this research. I will analyze positioning in reclaimant narratives (Bamberg, 1997), run statistical analyses for survey data, and use thematic analysis (Braun & Clark, 2006) to identify common themes in interviews. Finally, I will use data from the narratives, surveys, and interviews to formulate matrices for conducting a cluster analysis (Bazeley, 2018) to analyze the relationships between narrative positioning, narrators, and discourses. This research can offer insights into how marginalized individuals negotiate discourses and identities to represent their voices against harmful portrayals and has implications for policy change, social integration, and for adding complexity and humanity to discourse on immigration. 

Portrait of Eric DisbroEric Disbro, PhD Candidate in French and Francophone Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (Center and Institute Fellow)

Dissertation: “Terraqueous Encounters: Queer and Trans Embodiment and Care in Francophone Literatures of the Indian Ocean and Oceania” 

Bio: Eric Disbro is a dual-title Ph.D. candidate in French and Francophone Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. His research focuses on contemporary francophone island literatures of the Indian Ocean and Oceania, their innovative representations of queer and trans embodiment, and networks of care. Moving through the world as queer or trans often necessitates constant negotiations with the idea of inhabiting a gendered body, combating cisgender and heteronormative forms of medical, emotional, and social policing that attempt to shock bodies into normative trajectories and curb feelings of dis-ease from within the gender binary. Resistance against these modes of normative thinking and policing often takes the form of innovative care work, where individuals choose to have a radical stake in the happiness of those around them. He maintains that knowledges about queer and trans communities and experiences are constructed communally, and by looking to the Indian Ocean and Oceanian regions, one can find writers whose conceptions of care are inspired by the symbiotic relationships in coastal ecosystems. His work is forthcoming in Women in French Studies and Verge: Studies in Global Asias.  

Project Description: Eric Disbro’s dissertation project, “Terraqueous Encounters: Queer and Trans Embodiment and Care in Francophone Literatures of the Indian Ocean and Oceania,” argues that Indian Ocean and Oceanian literary representations of queer and trans embodiment and care practices decenter European and North American systems of medically-assisted gender transition and privatized industrial forms of care. He examines these textual interventions in tandem with maritime knowledges of convergence that take the shape of terraqueous allegories of encounter (i.e., coral reefs, tributaries, sandbars, tidepools, and undertow). This comparative approach allows for a humanities-based intervention in ecocriticism and studies of the Anthropocene that valorizes the imaginaries of island writers that have continuously engaged with issues of normative genders, sexualities, and ecological devastation born of empire. He demonstrates how queer and trans characters actively synthesize on one hand the colonial models of normative gendered embodiment and family care, and on the other hand local, autochthonous, and creolized knowledges of socially constructed gender expression and webs of communal, interethnic, intergenerational, and interfaith care. His conclusions offer new insights into constructing more livable futures for those most at stake during the present moment of planetary crisis. ​   

Image of Mercer GaryMercer Gary, PhD Candidate in Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (Forrest S. Crawford Fellow in Ethical Inquiry)

Dissertation: “The Normative Limits of Relationality: Technoscientific Challenges to Feminist Ethics” 

Bio: Mercer Gary is a dual-title PhD Candidate in Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State. Her research addresses conceptual questions in feminist ethics surrounding the normative significance of relationships in order to strengthen applied interventions in bioethics and the ethics of technology. You can find recent samples of her work in The Hastings Center Report and IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics. She recently served as Graduate Assistant in Health Humanities at the Penn State College of Medicine, University Park. Her dog, Teff, is a beloved co-conspirator in all these efforts. 

Project Description: It is increasingly clear that personal relationships are mediated and shaped by technological artifacts. And yet, feminist ethicists focused on the significance of relationality have yet to articulate the impact of such technological mediation for their normative ethical frameworks. My dissertation takes up three case studies that highlight the impact of emerging technologies on feminist ethical claims and reconstructs a relational framework that can accommodate them. First, through an analysis of social robots in aged care contexts, I interrogate the affective requirements of care to develop a critical understanding of care ethics that responds to critiques of existing humanistic accounts. Next, I consider telemedicine practices used to paper over care deficits in rural areas, arguing that ethical care cannot take place across great geographical and social difference. I conclude that another feminist approach is therefore necessary to attend to the forms of non-caring relation illuminated by this technology, prompting me to distinguish care ethics from relational ethics. I further explore the normative significance of these non-caring relationships through direct-to-consumer genetic testing, which exposes genetic relationships with varying levels of social significance. I argue that clarifying the scope and source of relational obligations is key to the advancement of feminist ethics.  

David LeBlanc, PhD Candidate in English (Center and Institute Fellow)

Dissertation: “Aesthetic Ecologies and Romantic Poetics in the Anthropocene” 

Bio: David is a 3rd year PhD candidate in the English department. He is from New Hampshire where he attended Keene State College, majoring in English and minoring in Writing. David went on to attain an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Poetry from the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine. His research investigates intersections of aesthetics and ecocriticism in British Romantic poetics, particularly those that frame and inform contemporary poetic discourse on the environment and the Anthropocene. 

Project Description: My research investigates how conceptualizations of nature and Anthropocenic change developed through the poetry and aesthetics of British Romantics. Specifically, I explore how three concepts—the bower, the fragment, and what I have termed the ‘Dark Other’—changed and informed Romantic aesthetics and, in turn, how these concepts persist and help shape ecocritical and Anthropocenic discourses today. I argue that the conventionally noncontingent space of the bower was largely broken open by Romantic poets and used to expose how natural spaces were always ever intertwined, culturized, and politicized by human intervention. The fragment—a Romantic model that has long been an object of scholarly study—reflected shifts towards more systemic conceptualizations of the world as local units, systems, and spaces mixed with their global iterations. Finally, the ‘Dark Other,’ loosely based on Thomas De Quincey’s own concept of ‘The Dark Interpreter,’ acts as a vehicle for Romantic poetics highlighting human action itself—notably, the act of authorship—as intertwined with both natural and local/global systems. The ‘Dark Other’ also represents the looming pressures of voice and agency during this volatile period in British colonialism. I read these three concepts forward into recent work by poets such as Donika Kelly and Alison Hawthorne Deming to see how the bower, fragment, and ‘Dark Other’ continue to appear in and influence poetic discourses today. I take as a given Anne Mellor’s call to reconfigure the British Romantic canon around the inclusion and re-centralization of women poets. As such, I use the poetry of Charlotte Turner Smith, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, and Joanna Baillie as a springboard for my examination of Romantic poetics. However, my concept-based research model includes analysis of many other Romantic poets, conventionally canonical and otherwise.

Yi-Ting Chang, PhD Candidate in English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (Center and Institute Fellow)

Dissertation: Independence’s Others: Decolonial Taiwan in the Transpacific 

Bio: Yi-Ting Chang is a Ph.D. candidate in English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her research focus includes transpacific inter-Asia studies, Asian American studies, and decolonial feminist theory. Broadly speaking, her research is driven by two major questions: “What does it mean to do decolonial work?” and “How can critics conceptualize a transpacific genealogy and expression of the decolonial beyond deconstructing U.S.-Japan inter-imperialism?” Chang’s academic research is formed by and formative of her interests in pedagogy and public writing in Chinese. During her free time, she writes for Chinese/Taiwanese media outlets on the issues of gender, sexuality, pedagogy, and politics of identity.  

Project Description: “Independence’s Others” critiques independent state-building as the normative ideal of decolonization and theorizes a decolonial understanding of Taiwan by engaging an archive of Taiwanese and Taiwanese American literature. I use the term “others” to index 1) the marginalized bodies disavowed by independent state-building and its developmentalist projects, and 2) alternative decolonial sensibilities inconceivable to the self-naturalizing neoliberal present. The selected archive of Taiwanese and Taiwanese American literature allows me to investigate “independence’s others” by tackling the issues of Han Taiwanese settler colonialism, Austronesian Indigeneity, techno-nationalism, archipelagic ecologies, and queer and trans desires. At the same time, the literary archive situates Taiwan in a transpacific network of relations, conceiving a transpacific genealogy of the decolonial emerging from the politically ambiguous archipelago. “Independence’s Others” refuses to speak to one single field or subject/subjectivity but enacts multiple crossings–those of the categorical, geographical, and disciplinary. Only through these crossings can I begin to understand why/how liberal ideologies and multiple colonial pasts dissect a transpacific Taiwan, and how independent state-building wounds many bodies. And only by doing so can I begin to challenge the neoliberal compartmentalization of knowledge that forestalls interdependence.

Allison Niebauer, PhD Candidate in Communication Arts and Sciences (Crawford Fellow)

Dissertation: The Rhetorical Nature of Harm and Repair: Clergy Perpetrated Sexual Abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese 

Bio: Allison is a rhetorical critic who specializes in public memory, rhetorics of religion, and communal harm and repair. She is a fifth year Ph.D student in the Communication Arts and Sciences Department at Penn State, where she also received her Master’s Degree. She received her bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Wheaton College in Illinois. 

Project Description: Her dissertation investigates the impact of a clergy perpetrated sexual abuse scandal on a local Catholic Diocese and how stakeholders within the community have sought repair, redress, and reform. She seeks to advance our understanding of how discursive, material, and social conditions create and limit the resources communities have to reason about tragedy and seek repair.  

Allison’s scholarly goal is to provide a theoretical account of the role of communication in communal harm and repair by bringing together insights from rhetorical studies and moral philosophy. She aims to expand the horizon of reparative options available to this community and others by identifying how current reparative options are produced, mobilized, circulated, and received. 

Curry Kennedy, PhD Candidate in English (Center and Institute Fellow)

Dissertation: “Rhetorical Education and Religious Practice in Early Modern England” 

Bio: Curry Kennedy is a PhD candidate at Penn State’s English department, where he studies the long, fraught, and fascinating relationship between rhetoric and religion. At the heart of his work is the question of how texts, rhetorical training, ethical maturation, and religious transformation come together. In the past, these interests have led him to interact with the prayerful rhetoric of Augustine of Hippo, the prophetic rhetoric of Vibia Perpetua, the sermonic rhetoric of John Milton, and the theological stylistics of Ralph Waldo Emerson. In keeping with this trajectory, for his dissertation, he has turned his attention to the minds and movements of the English reformation.

Project Description: Kennedy’s dissertation project asks how humanist educational reforms and reformation religious practices interanimated one another between the opening of John Colet’s grammar school at St. Paul’s in 1509 and the end of the English Civil War in 1660. Adopting a “cradle-to-grave” organizational scheme, he tracks how religious texts, rituals, and ideas permeated and punctuated the lifespan of early modern writers as they progressed through petty school, grammar school, university, and adult education. Each chapter focuses on a different text or species of text—catechisms, the first edition of Erasmus of Rotterdam’s De copia, John Rainolds’s Oxford lectures on rhetoric, and Puritan “arts of listening”—and reconstructs, through archival analysis, how students and auditors got bound up with these teaching technologies, so that their ability to discern what was wise and do what was good came to full bloom—or didn’t. Crucial to these texts’ ability to foster growth in their auditors were their connections to various religious rituals and practices, such as confirmation and Lord’s day liturgies, which were hotly contested in a volatile, reformational milieu. Ultimately, Kennedy shows that religion is an indispensable backdrop to the study of rhetoric in this place and period. 

Kaitlyn Newman, PhD Candidate in Philosophy (Crawford Fellow)

Dissertation: “Ethics in the Aftermath: Rethinking Post-Genocide Representations and Remembrance with Lyotard and Levinas” 

Bio: Kaity is a 6th year Ph.D. student in Philosophy. She is originally from Tennessee and completed undergraduate degrees in Philosophy and International Relations at Middle Tennessee State University. Her research interests are in 20th century philosophy, and the intersection of ethics and memory. Her dissertation is on the ethics of memory/memorialization and genocide remembrance through representation. 

Project Description: My dissertation examines the critically important accounts of language and subjectivity in the work of Emmanuel Levinas and Jean-François Lyotard—two philosophers whose ideas were born in the aftermath of the Holocaust—and suggests that our contemporary understandings of these concepts affect the way in which we engage with post-genocide representations. I argue that by transforming our notions of language and subjectivity, in order to acknowledge the inherent excesses involved in both concepts, we can revolutionize the way post-genocide representations are taken up in public memory in order to make spaces of memory more open and inclusive. Both Lyotard and Levinas are committed to the idea that, in language, there is something that exceeds our ability to present it linguistically, and both believe that the Holocaust illustrates this point because it is impossible for us to capture the event in its entirety in language or signification more generally. In addition, with regard to subjectivity, both philosophers maintain that there is something within the self that exceeds the modern category of “the human.” Most importantly, this excess, or what cannot be captured in language or representation, has an ethical significance; we have a duty or responsibility to bear witness to it. With respect to representations of genocide, this means that, though every representation will inevitably fail to capture the entirety of the event, we nevertheless have a responsibility to continue to produce and engage with representations—memorials—of genocide. This reveals that that the activity of genocide remembrance is ongoing and, of necessity, never complete.

William Paris, PhD Candidate in Philosophy (Crawford Fellow)

Dissertation: “Shadow and Voice: The Ungendering of Black Life in Frantz Fanon, Sylvia Wynter, and Hortense Spillers.” 

Bio: William Paris is in his sixth year of the Dual-Title Program in Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. His research areas focus on Africana Philosophy, African-American Philosophy, 20th Century Continental Philosophy, Black Feminism, as well as Gender and Sexuality Studies.  

Project Description: Over the course of Crawford Fellowship I will continue my research and writing for my dissertation “Shadow and Voice: The Ungendering of Black Life in Frantz Fanon, Sylvia Wynter, and Hortense Spillers.” My aim in this project will be to develop a more complex understanding of “Black Life” as understood through the ongoing traumas of Trans-Atlantic Enslavement and European Colonialism. No longer can we be content with conceptualizing the lives of Black women and men, in the past and present, as mere shadows, photo negativities, or analogies to our inherited Euro-U.S. understandings of identity. Black thought—as articulated by Fanon, Wynter, and Spillers—reveals enslavement and colonialism constructed, at best, an uneasy relationship between Black life and the privileges of gender as a fact of humanity and, at worst, made that relationship impossible. It was in this way that violence against the Black body could be justified or tolerated. This recurrent historical violence forced many Black people to understand and articulate their reality in a manner scarcely recognizable. But there was creativity in the development of this voice. This creativity is lost when Black women and men are simply read as mimics of Euro-U.S. thought. The consistent problematic of Black Life in the Western world is to engage with a reality that has made Black people unreal in a language that was not their own, yet to speak all the same. My research into these three figures will participate in that tradition of voice, creativity, and the challenge of a politics of freedom. 

Molly Appel, PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature (Crawford Fellow)

Dissertation: “That The World May Learn: The Pedagogical Mediations of Human Rights Literature in the Americas” 

Bio: Molly Dooley Appel is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature with a minor in Latin American Studies. She researches the pedagogical underpinnings of human rights literature and scholarship. Molly was a 2007 Teach For America (TFA) corps member in New York City, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) in Washington Heights and in the Bronx for 4 years. Later, she provided instructional and curricular support to TFA corps members while teaching ESL at Temple University in Philadelphia. At Penn State she has been a teaching assistant in Comparative Literature, a research assistant and dissertation fellow for Penn State’s Title VI National Resource Center – The Center for Global Studies, an instructor of Rhetoric and Composition, and an officer for the Penn State Americanists and the organization for Graduates in International Languages and Literatures.  

Project Description: Molly’s dissertation, “That The World May Learn: The Pedagogical Mediations of Human Rights Literature in the Americas,” is focused on the ideas we have about the role of literature in teaching people to understand human rights. Scholars, educators, and human rights advocates advance their work through a set of assumptions about the relationships between imagination, language, and personal/community engagement. Literature is said to train, invite, and encourage audiences to feel, consider, or imagine human rights and their subjects; these are verbs that indicate the presence of a complex pedagogical relationship casting audiences as active or passive “students” of a text. She develops this idea through three case studies anchored in the late 1960s and early 70s in the Americas, an era that ushered in paradigm-shifting social movements, new developments in pedagogical practices, and a new wave of human rights literature: the student movements within Argentina, Mexico, and the Chicano-Nuyorican movements in the United States. Molly uses theories of critical pedagogy to examine how literary texts and public discourses mediate student subjectivities during this time. She argues that a recognition of these pedagogical mediations can both contribute to humanistic understandings of the development of human rights discourse and help cultivate empowered studentship through scholarly practice. 

Andres Amerikaner (Crawford Fellow)

Bio: Andrés Amerikaner is a fourth-year ABD student in the Ph.D. program in Comparative Literature at Penn State. His research focus includes post-9/11 narratives of Latin American diaspora; translation, transculturation and translingualism; and Southern Cone film. Andrés holds an M.S. in print journalism from Columbia University and is a former reporter for the Miami Herald.  

The Rock Ethics Institute offers graduate student funding via the Rock Ethics Institute Fellow awards in conjunction with the College of the Liberal Arts’ Humanities Dissertation Release program.

This combination of awards is for humanities graduate students who are working on ethics-related topics in their dissertations.

The Rock Ethics Institute Award augments the Humanities Dissertation Release by providing a $1,000 scholarship to support research and related activities for the semester in which the student receives a Humanities Dissertation Release. In addition, award recipients will have the title of Rock Ethics Institute Fellow.

The Rock Ethics Institute Fellows will be asked to contribute to the REI blog and participate in an REI podcast about their sponsored research. They will also be informed of all Rock Ethics Institute events and will be invited to participate in any events that are of interest to them or which would benefit their research. Our Fellows will profit from a stimulating research environment and gain recognition for their affiliation with the Rock Ethics Institute.

How to Apply

Graduate students applying for a Humanities Dissertation Release award who also would like to be considered for a Rock Ethics Institute Fellow award must complete the process as detailed here, on the College of the Liberal Arts’ Center and Institute Fellows Program page.

Meet the 2021-2022 Fellows

Lyana Sun Han Change

Lyana Sun Han Chang, PhD Candidate in Applied Linguistics (Center and Institute Fellow)

Dissertation: “Narrativizing Undocumented Status: How immigrants Position Themselves and Negotiate Identities and Discourses in their Reclaimant Narratives” 

Bio: Lyana Sun Han Chang is a 4th year PhD candidate in the department of Applied Linguistics at Penn State University. Her research interests include discourse analysis, narrative analysis, identity, and raciolinguistics. Her research examines the negotiation and construction of identity and agency against the backdrop of dichotomous mainstream discourses. Her dissertation research focuses on the relationships between immigrant identities, immigrant reclaimant narratives, and immigration discourses within the context of undocumented status. Specifically, Lyana is interested in stance-taking and positioning in narratives to understand how immigrants negotiate identities and public discourses which are often tied to the criminalization and racialization of certain immigrant groups. Her research has implications for the inclusion of narratives which bring to the forefront voices which are often silenced and constrained by dominant discourses, and for immigration reform and social integration. In the past she has presented her research at the TESOL International Convention and Language Expo and the Conference on College Composition and Communication.  

Project Description: Dominant discourses on immigration and legality promote narrow and harmful portrayals of immigrants with an undocumented status. These discourses dehumanize immigrants and have a significant impact on how they are treated. One way to combat these portrayals has been through reclaimant narratives in which immigrants “assert their right to speak and reframe audience understanding” (Bishop, 2018, p. 160). Research on reclaimant narratives, however, has focused on interview data without a detailed analysis of the narratives themselves or contextual research on how narrators contend with the dominant and everyday discourses they’re exposed to—discourses which may differ depending on demographics like race and gender. Therefore, this dissertation aims to understand: 1) how immigrants position themselves in their reclaimant narratives, 2) what discourses immigrants are exposed to, and 3) how immigrants navigate these discourses to position themselves in their narratives. I will use a concurrent exploratory sequential mixed methods design, utilizing data from narratives, surveys, and interviews. Furthermore, a narrative as practice approach (De Fina, 2018a, 2018b) will guide the integration and analysis of this research. I will analyze positioning in reclaimant narratives (Bamberg, 1997), run statistical analyses for survey data, and use thematic analysis (Braun & Clark, 2006) to identify common themes in interviews. Finally, I will use data from the narratives, surveys, and interviews to formulate matrices for conducting a cluster analysis (Bazeley, 2018) to analyze the relationships between narrative positioning, narrators, and discourses. This research can offer insights into how marginalized individuals negotiate discourses and identities to represent their voices against harmful portrayals and has implications for policy change, social integration, and for adding complexity and humanity to discourse on immigration. 

Portrait of Eric DisbroEric Disbro, PhD Candidate in French and Francophone Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (Center and Institute Fellow)

Dissertation: “Terraqueous Encounters: Queer and Trans Embodiment and Care in Francophone Literatures of the Indian Ocean and Oceania” 

Bio: Eric Disbro is a dual-title Ph.D. candidate in French and Francophone Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. His research focuses on contemporary francophone island literatures of the Indian Ocean and Oceania, their innovative representations of queer and trans embodiment, and networks of care. Moving through the world as queer or trans often necessitates constant negotiations with the idea of inhabiting a gendered body, combating cisgender and heteronormative forms of medical, emotional, and social policing that attempt to shock bodies into normative trajectories and curb feelings of dis-ease from within the gender binary. Resistance against these modes of normative thinking and policing often takes the form of innovative care work, where individuals choose to have a radical stake in the happiness of those around them. He maintains that knowledges about queer and trans communities and experiences are constructed communally, and by looking to the Indian Ocean and Oceanian regions, one can find writers whose conceptions of care are inspired by the symbiotic relationships in coastal ecosystems. His work is forthcoming in Women in French Studies and Verge: Studies in Global Asias.  

Project Description: Eric Disbro’s dissertation project, “Terraqueous Encounters: Queer and Trans Embodiment and Care in Francophone Literatures of the Indian Ocean and Oceania,” argues that Indian Ocean and Oceanian literary representations of queer and trans embodiment and care practices decenter European and North American systems of medically-assisted gender transition and privatized industrial forms of care. He examines these textual interventions in tandem with maritime knowledges of convergence that take the shape of terraqueous allegories of encounter (i.e., coral reefs, tributaries, sandbars, tidepools, and undertow). This comparative approach allows for a humanities-based intervention in ecocriticism and studies of the Anthropocene that valorizes the imaginaries of island writers that have continuously engaged with issues of normative genders, sexualities, and ecological devastation born of empire. He demonstrates how queer and trans characters actively synthesize on one hand the colonial models of normative gendered embodiment and family care, and on the other hand local, autochthonous, and creolized knowledges of socially constructed gender expression and webs of communal, interethnic, intergenerational, and interfaith care. His conclusions offer new insights into constructing more livable futures for those most at stake during the present moment of planetary crisis. ​   

Image of Mercer GaryMercer Gary, PhD Candidate in Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (Forrest S. Crawford Fellow in Ethical Inquiry)

Dissertation: “The Normative Limits of Relationality: Technoscientific Challenges to Feminist Ethics” 

Bio: Mercer Gary is a dual-title PhD Candidate in Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State. Her research addresses conceptual questions in feminist ethics surrounding the normative significance of relationships in order to strengthen applied interventions in bioethics and the ethics of technology. You can find recent samples of her work in The Hastings Center Report and IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics. She recently served as Graduate Assistant in Health Humanities at the Penn State College of Medicine, University Park. Her dog, Teff, is a beloved co-conspirator in all these efforts. 

Project Description: It is increasingly clear that personal relationships are mediated and shaped by technological artifacts. And yet, feminist ethicists focused on the significance of relationality have yet to articulate the impact of such technological mediation for their normative ethical frameworks. My dissertation takes up three case studies that highlight the impact of emerging technologies on feminist ethical claims and reconstructs a relational framework that can accommodate them. First, through an analysis of social robots in aged care contexts, I interrogate the affective requirements of care to develop a critical understanding of care ethics that responds to critiques of existing humanistic accounts. Next, I consider telemedicine practices used to paper over care deficits in rural areas, arguing that ethical care cannot take place across great geographical and social difference. I conclude that another feminist approach is therefore necessary to attend to the forms of non-caring relation illuminated by this technology, prompting me to distinguish care ethics from relational ethics. I further explore the normative significance of these non-caring relationships through direct-to-consumer genetic testing, which exposes genetic relationships with varying levels of social significance. I argue that clarifying the scope and source of relational obligations is key to the advancement of feminist ethics.  

2020-2021 Fellows

David LeBlanc, PhD Candidate in English (Center and Institute Fellow)

Dissertation: “Aesthetic Ecologies and Romantic Poetics in the Anthropocene” 

Bio: David is a 3rd year PhD candidate in the English department. He is from New Hampshire where he attended Keene State College, majoring in English and minoring in Writing. David went on to attain an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Poetry from the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine. His research investigates intersections of aesthetics and ecocriticism in British Romantic poetics, particularly those that frame and inform contemporary poetic discourse on the environment and the Anthropocene. 

Project Description: My research investigates how conceptualizations of nature and Anthropocenic change developed through the poetry and aesthetics of British Romantics. Specifically, I explore how three concepts—the bower, the fragment, and what I have termed the ‘Dark Other’—changed and informed Romantic aesthetics and, in turn, how these concepts persist and help shape ecocritical and Anthropocenic discourses today. I argue that the conventionally noncontingent space of the bower was largely broken open by Romantic poets and used to expose how natural spaces were always ever intertwined, culturized, and politicized by human intervention. The fragment—a Romantic model that has long been an object of scholarly study—reflected shifts towards more systemic conceptualizations of the world as local units, systems, and spaces mixed with their global iterations. Finally, the ‘Dark Other,’ loosely based on Thomas De Quincey’s own concept of ‘The Dark Interpreter,’ acts as a vehicle for Romantic poetics highlighting human action itself—notably, the act of authorship—as intertwined with both natural and local/global systems. The ‘Dark Other’ also represents the looming pressures of voice and agency during this volatile period in British colonialism. I read these three concepts forward into recent work by poets such as Donika Kelly and Alison Hawthorne Deming to see how the bower, fragment, and ‘Dark Other’ continue to appear in and influence poetic discourses today. I take as a given Anne Mellor’s call to reconfigure the British Romantic canon around the inclusion and re-centralization of women poets. As such, I use the poetry of Charlotte Turner Smith, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, and Joanna Baillie as a springboard for my examination of Romantic poetics. However, my concept-based research model includes analysis of many other Romantic poets, conventionally canonical and otherwise.

Yi-Ting Chang, PhD Candidate in English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (Center and Institute Fellow)

Dissertation: Independence’s Others: Decolonial Taiwan in the Transpacific 

Bio: Yi-Ting Chang is a Ph.D. candidate in English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her research focus includes transpacific inter-Asia studies, Asian American studies, and decolonial feminist theory. Broadly speaking, her research is driven by two major questions: “What does it mean to do decolonial work?” and “How can critics conceptualize a transpacific genealogy and expression of the decolonial beyond deconstructing U.S.-Japan inter-imperialism?” Chang’s academic research is formed by and formative of her interests in pedagogy and public writing in Chinese. During her free time, she writes for Chinese/Taiwanese media outlets on the issues of gender, sexuality, pedagogy, and politics of identity.  

Project Description: “Independence’s Others” critiques independent state-building as the normative ideal of decolonization and theorizes a decolonial understanding of Taiwan by engaging an archive of Taiwanese and Taiwanese American literature. I use the term “others” to index 1) the marginalized bodies disavowed by independent state-building and its developmentalist projects, and 2) alternative decolonial sensibilities inconceivable to the self-naturalizing neoliberal present. The selected archive of Taiwanese and Taiwanese American literature allows me to investigate “independence’s others” by tackling the issues of Han Taiwanese settler colonialism, Austronesian Indigeneity, techno-nationalism, archipelagic ecologies, and queer and trans desires. At the same time, the literary archive situates Taiwan in a transpacific network of relations, conceiving a transpacific genealogy of the decolonial emerging from the politically ambiguous archipelago. “Independence’s Others” refuses to speak to one single field or subject/subjectivity but enacts multiple crossings–those of the categorical, geographical, and disciplinary. Only through these crossings can I begin to understand why/how liberal ideologies and multiple colonial pasts dissect a transpacific Taiwan, and how independent state-building wounds many bodies. And only by doing so can I begin to challenge the neoliberal compartmentalization of knowledge that forestalls interdependence.

Allison Niebauer, PhD Candidate in Communication Arts and Sciences (Crawford Fellow)

Dissertation: The Rhetorical Nature of Harm and Repair: Clergy Perpetrated Sexual Abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese 

Bio: Allison is a rhetorical critic who specializes in public memory, rhetorics of religion, and communal harm and repair. She is a fifth year Ph.D student in the Communication Arts and Sciences Department at Penn State, where she also received her Master’s Degree. She received her bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Wheaton College in Illinois. 

Project Description: Her dissertation investigates the impact of a clergy perpetrated sexual abuse scandal on a local Catholic Diocese and how stakeholders within the community have sought repair, redress, and reform. She seeks to advance our understanding of how discursive, material, and social conditions create and limit the resources communities have to reason about tragedy and seek repair.  

Allison’s scholarly goal is to provide a theoretical account of the role of communication in communal harm and repair by bringing together insights from rhetorical studies and moral philosophy. She aims to expand the horizon of reparative options available to this community and others by identifying how current reparative options are produced, mobilized, circulated, and received.  

2019-2020 Fellows

Curry Kennedy, PhD Candidate in English (Center and Institute Fellow)

Dissertation: “Rhetorical Education and Religious Practice in Early Modern England” 

Bio: Curry Kennedy is a PhD candidate at Penn State’s English department, where he studies the long, fraught, and fascinating relationship between rhetoric and religion. At the heart of his work is the question of how texts, rhetorical training, ethical maturation, and religious transformation come together. In the past, these interests have led him to interact with the prayerful rhetoric of Augustine of Hippo, the prophetic rhetoric of Vibia Perpetua, the sermonic rhetoric of John Milton, and the theological stylistics of Ralph Waldo Emerson. In keeping with this trajectory, for his dissertation, he has turned his attention to the minds and movements of the English reformation.

Project Description: Kennedy’s dissertation project asks how humanist educational reforms and reformation religious practices interanimated one another between the opening of John Colet’s grammar school at St. Paul’s in 1509 and the end of the English Civil War in 1660. Adopting a “cradle-to-grave” organizational scheme, he tracks how religious texts, rituals, and ideas permeated and punctuated the lifespan of early modern writers as they progressed through petty school, grammar school, university, and adult education. Each chapter focuses on a different text or species of text—catechisms, the first edition of Erasmus of Rotterdam’s De copia, John Rainolds’s Oxford lectures on rhetoric, and Puritan “arts of listening”—and reconstructs, through archival analysis, how students and auditors got bound up with these teaching technologies, so that their ability to discern what was wise and do what was good came to full bloom—or didn’t. Crucial to these texts’ ability to foster growth in their auditors were their connections to various religious rituals and practices, such as confirmation and Lord’s day liturgies, which were hotly contested in a volatile, reformational milieu. Ultimately, Kennedy shows that religion is an indispensable backdrop to the study of rhetoric in this place and period. 

Kaitlyn Newman, PhD Candidate in Philosophy (Crawford Fellow)

Dissertation: “Ethics in the Aftermath: Rethinking Post-Genocide Representations and Remembrance with Lyotard and Levinas” 

Bio: Kaity is a 6th year Ph.D. student in Philosophy. She is originally from Tennessee and completed undergraduate degrees in Philosophy and International Relations at Middle Tennessee State University. Her research interests are in 20th century philosophy, and the intersection of ethics and memory. Her dissertation is on the ethics of memory/memorialization and genocide remembrance through representation. 

Project Description: My dissertation examines the critically important accounts of language and subjectivity in the work of Emmanuel Levinas and Jean-François Lyotard—two philosophers whose ideas were born in the aftermath of the Holocaust—and suggests that our contemporary understandings of these concepts affect the way in which we engage with post-genocide representations. I argue that by transforming our notions of language and subjectivity, in order to acknowledge the inherent excesses involved in both concepts, we can revolutionize the way post-genocide representations are taken up in public memory in order to make spaces of memory more open and inclusive. Both Lyotard and Levinas are committed to the idea that, in language, there is something that exceeds our ability to present it linguistically, and both believe that the Holocaust illustrates this point because it is impossible for us to capture the event in its entirety in language or signification more generally. In addition, with regard to subjectivity, both philosophers maintain that there is something within the self that exceeds the modern category of “the human.” Most importantly, this excess, or what cannot be captured in language or representation, has an ethical significance; we have a duty or responsibility to bear witness to it. With respect to representations of genocide, this means that, though every representation will inevitably fail to capture the entirety of the event, we nevertheless have a responsibility to continue to produce and engage with representations—memorials—of genocide. This reveals that that the activity of genocide remembrance is ongoing and, of necessity, never complete. 

2018-2019 Fellows

Victoria Oana Lupascu, PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature and Asian Studies(Crawford Fellow)

Dissertation: “Disease, Disposability, Dissent: The Biopolitical Cultures of Health in China, Brazil and Romania Between 1976 and 2014” 

Bio: Victoria Oana Lupascu is in her fifth year of the Dual Title PhD Program in Comparative Literature and Asian Studies. She focuses on post 1980s literature and visual culture in People’s Republic of China, Romania and Brazil. Her research interests include: ethics, medical humanities, graffiti and identity, political and cultural transition states, the relationship between the development of Chinese, Romanian and Brazilian literature and visual culture and the transformations in the medical and economic systems, as well as their connection to different discourses on the Global South. 

Project Description: As a Crawford Fellow, I will continue my research and aim to complete my dissertation, Disease, Disposability, Dissent: The Biopolitical Cultures of Health in China, Brazil and Romania between 1976 and 2014. In my work, I critically examine the ethical and cultural implications of thinking of humans as waste, as disposable, and I juxtapose this line of inquiry with notions of disease (particularly HIV/AIDS) and dissent. My dissertation interconnects these three concepts and examines them in the cultural production of China, Brazil and Romania during periods of transition from authoritarian rules to neoliberal regimes, process which began in 1976 in China, 1985 in Brazil and 1989 in Romania. This analysis situates itself at the intersection of biopolitics and literary studies, bioethics and visual culture, anthropology and medical humanities. I draw inspiration from critics who have developed biopolitical frameworks (Michael Foucault, Roberto Esposito, Melinda Cooper), and conceptual tools of understanding disposability (Judith Butler, Zygmund Baum) and disease (Alvan Ikoku, Adriana Petryna) in relation to structural violence (Paul Farmer, Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Joao Biehl, Wang Hui) to support an analytic process that aims to offer a better grasp of the ethics of disposability in relation to disease and dissent during political, economic, social and cultural transitional periods. The figure of the disposable represents a crucial building block for ethical commitments and practices if my project’s framework is enlarged to refugee studies, gender and sexuality studies, or human-environment interaction and influences in the age of climate change. 

Tano Posteraro, PhD Candidate in Philosophy (Center and Institute Fellow)

Dissertation: “The Virtual and the Vital: Bergson’s Philosophy of Biology Reconsidered” 

Bio: Tano Posteraro is a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy. His research interests constellate around questions of evolution and symbiosis in the Continental tradition of philosophies of nature, as well as in the way these questions are worked out through the contemporary life sciences—all against the background of ecological crisis. He is currently working on a set of projects that bring together French philosophers Henri Bergson, Gilles Deleuze, and Raymond Ruyer as philosophers of biology with resources to help us think through the developments that are transforming the study of life today.  

Project Description: His dissertation—“The Virtual and the Vital: Bergson’s Philosophy of Biology Reconsidered”—refocuses the recent resurgence of enthusiasm for Bergson’s philosophy in particular around Bergson’s response to Darwinism, and reconstructs on that basis a philosophy of evolution that can be made to accommodate and respond to the problems that have animated the study of evolution since Darwin. The aim of the dissertation is twofold: first, to reclaim Bergson as a serious philosopher of biology, whose process metaphysics remains relevant to contemporary concerns, by systematically updating his critiques of mechanistic science and re-motivating the positive philosophical programme that he posits as an alternative; and, second, to bring some of the facets of that programme into dialogue with developments in the study of symbiosis as a driving evolutionary force. The dissertation concludes by opening this dialogue onto the various environmental-ethical issues that remain attendant upon questions of the status of the biological individual, the significance of relationality, and the value of ecological community in the philosophy of life.  

Elizabeth Tuttle, PhD Candidate in French and Francophone Studies (Center and Institute Fellow)

Dissertation: “Activism for Others: French Feminist and Anti-Imperialist Pamphletary Culture, 1914-1939” 

Bio: Elizabeth Tuttle is in the sixth year of the PhD program in the French and Francophone Studies Department. She is currently conducting archival research in France and writing her dissertation entitled “Activism for Others: French Feminist and Anti-Imperialist Pamphletary Culture, 1914-1939.” Her research interests include French interwar activism, political pamphlets as a form of material culture, and the intersection of first-wave French feminists and empire.  

Project Description: In her dissertation, Elizabeth explores the political pamphlet’s role in interwar French activism. At the heart of the dissertation lies the political and ethical stakes surrounding what she calls “activism for others,” defined here as the practice of advocating for the civil and social rights of individuals outside of one’s own gender, race, and/or social class. Elizabeth uses archival documents to follow the physical trajectories of feminist and anti-imperialist pamphlets and tracts throughout the French empire. She also considers pamphlets as a writing practice, arguing that this particular genre, integral to the very founding of the French republic in 1789, provided a textual space within which feminist and anti-imperialists could build a case for their own and others’ citizenship. However, by circumscribing their activism within the French republican model, many pamphleteers reproduced harmful racialized and gendered language that hindered their ability to function as effective advocates for the rights of marginalized groups in the French empire. The primary goal of this dissertation is to understand problematic elements in “activism for others” so that today’s activists might better comprehend the historicity of the movements with which they engage, ultimately becoming more effective allies today and in the future. Elizabeth’s dissertation is entitled “Activism for Others: French Feminist and Anti-Imperialist Pamphletary Culture, 1914-1939.” 

2018-2019 Fellow

William Paris, PhD Candidate in Philosophy (Crawford Fellow)

Dissertation: “Shadow and Voice: The Ungendering of Black Life in Frantz Fanon, Sylvia Wynter, and Hortense Spillers.” 

Bio: William Paris is in his sixth year of the Dual-Title Program in Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. His research areas focus on Africana Philosophy, African-American Philosophy, 20th Century Continental Philosophy, Black Feminism, as well as Gender and Sexuality Studies.  

Project Description: Over the course of Crawford Fellowship I will continue my research and writing for my dissertation “Shadow and Voice: The Ungendering of Black Life in Frantz Fanon, Sylvia Wynter, and Hortense Spillers.” My aim in this project will be to develop a more complex understanding of “Black Life” as understood through the ongoing traumas of Trans-Atlantic Enslavement and European Colonialism. No longer can we be content with conceptualizing the lives of Black women and men, in the past and present, as mere shadows, photo negativities, or analogies to our inherited Euro-U.S. understandings of identity. Black thought—as articulated by Fanon, Wynter, and Spillers—reveals enslavement and colonialism constructed, at best, an uneasy relationship between Black life and the privileges of gender as a fact of humanity and, at worst, made that relationship impossible. It was in this way that violence against the Black body could be justified or tolerated. This recurrent historical violence forced many Black people to understand and articulate their reality in a manner scarcely recognizable. But there was creativity in the development of this voice. This creativity is lost when Black women and men are simply read as mimics of Euro-U.S. thought. The consistent problematic of Black Life in the Western world is to engage with a reality that has made Black people unreal in a language that was not their own, yet to speak all the same. My research into these three figures will participate in that tradition of voice, creativity, and the challenge of a politics of freedom. 

2016-2017 Fellows

Molly Appel, PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature (Crawford Fellow)

Dissertation: “That The World May Learn: The Pedagogical Mediations of Human Rights Literature in the Americas” 

Bio: Molly Dooley Appel is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature with a minor in Latin American Studies. She researches the pedagogical underpinnings of human rights literature and scholarship. Molly was a 2007 Teach For America (TFA) corps member in New York City, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) in Washington Heights and in the Bronx for 4 years. Later, she provided instructional and curricular support to TFA corps members while teaching ESL at Temple University in Philadelphia. At Penn State she has been a teaching assistant in Comparative Literature, a research assistant and dissertation fellow for Penn State’s Title VI National Resource Center – The Center for Global Studies, an instructor of Rhetoric and Composition, and an officer for the Penn State Americanists and the organization for Graduates in International Languages and Literatures.  

Project Description: Molly’s dissertation, “That The World May Learn: The Pedagogical Mediations of Human Rights Literature in the Americas,” is focused on the ideas we have about the role of literature in teaching people to understand human rights. Scholars, educators, and human rights advocates advance their work through a set of assumptions about the relationships between imagination, language, and personal/community engagement. Literature is said to train, invite, and encourage audiences to feel, consider, or imagine human rights and their subjects; these are verbs that indicate the presence of a complex pedagogical relationship casting audiences as active or passive “students” of a text. She develops this idea through three case studies anchored in the late 1960s and early 70s in the Americas, an era that ushered in paradigm-shifting social movements, new developments in pedagogical practices, and a new wave of human rights literature: the student movements within Argentina, Mexico, and the Chicano-Nuyorican movements in the United States. Molly uses theories of critical pedagogy to examine how literary texts and public discourses mediate student subjectivities during this time. She argues that a recognition of these pedagogical mediations can both contribute to humanistic understandings of the development of human rights discourse and help cultivate empowered studentship through scholarly practice. 

2015-2016 Fellows

Andres Amerikaner (Crawford Fellow)

Bio: Andrés Amerikaner is a fourth-year ABD student in the Ph.D. program in Comparative Literature at Penn State. His research focus includes post-9/11 narratives of Latin American diaspora; translation, transculturation and translingualism; and Southern Cone film. Andrés holds an M.S. in print journalism from Columbia University and is a former reporter for the Miami Herald.