Graduate Student Fellows & Teachers
Anthropology and Linguistics, Dissertation Fellow
Britta Ingebretson is doing a joint doctorate in Anthropology and Linguistics. Her interests include gender, language, the state, and social change in rural China. Her dissertation looks at projects of meaning and value-making in rural China, ranging from local government tourism campaigns to women’s leisure activities. In state and popular discourses, rural China and rural women in particular are seen to lack value. In state discourses, this is expressed as concern over the low “quality” (suzhi) of rural women and their ability to produce proper Chinese citizens. In popular and media discourses, this is expressed as a belief that rural women lack modern values (moral, social, and economic) necessary to be successful modern citizens. It is within this context that Ingebretson conducted two years of fieldwork in Huangshan, China, on how women use leisure activities and consumptive habits to make daily life meaningful, renegotiate class and gender hierarchies, and assert themselves as valuable citizens in the contemporary PRC. She received her BA from Swarthmore College in Anthropology and Chinese Language and Literature in 2005 and her MA in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2011.
History, Dissertation Fellow
Katya Motyl is a PhD candidate in Modern European History, whose interests include the history of gender and sexuality in Central Europe, feminist and queer theory, embodiment, and the history of emotions. Her dissertation, “Bodies that Shimmer: An Embodied History of Vienna's New Women, 1893-1931,” explores how bourgeois and working-class women experienced changes in gender and sexuality in Vienna from the fin de siècle to the interwar period. Fin de siècle Vienna is often remembered as a place saturated with sex. But while most scholarship examines this milieu of “sexual crisis” through the lens of intellectual history, focusing on how male contemporaries imagined female sexuality, little attention is given to its experience. Drawing on methodologies from social and cultural histories, as well as theories of gender and sexuality, her dissertation rethinks the alleged sexual crisis—what she refers to as a sexual transformation or Wende—in terms of the embodied experience of Viennese women. Ultimately, the dissertation argues that the sexual Wende had important effects on women’s bodies, including their embodied femininity, phenomenology, physical expressiveness, and experience of pleasure and pain.
Katya holds a BA with Distinction in Intellectual History from Barnard College, Columbia University, and an MA in Modern European History from the University of Chicago. Her research has been supported by the Fulbright US Student Program and the Österreichisches Austauschdienst (OeAD), as well as the Social Sciences Division (SSD) and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality (CSGS) at the University of Chicago.
Sociology, CSRPC-CSGS Dissertation Fellow
Cayce Hughes is a doctoral candidate in the department of Sociology with research interests including the sociology of privacy, urban poverty, social inequality, health and well-being, and culture. His dissertation, Negotiating Privacy in the Context of Poverty: Poor Mothers and the Social Safety Net,asks how conditions of material disadvantage and inequality impact poor mother’s capacities to achieve privacy. Based on in-depth interviews with mothers in a high-poverty predominantly African-American neighborhood in Houston, Texas, the study explores how mothers negotiate the loss of privacy that can accompany the receipt of public assistance, and examines how privacy concerns affect when, how, and whether they engage with the social safety net.
Widespread concerns about the decline of individual privacy animate public discourse. Yet the perspectives of the poor are notably absent from this conversation, even though they face perhaps the most extensive scrutiny from the state. Further, although we have begun to understand the impact of state surveillance on poor men of color, less is known about how poor women of color navigate threats to privacy endemic to engagement with the welfare system. This dissertation begins to bridge this gap, and in doing so highlights ways in which privacy can be both a good that is inequitably distributed and a pathway through which inequality is perpetuated. As such, the study reflects Cayce’s broader research agenda, which aims to illuminate the often-elusive mechanisms that reproduce inequality and to examine them in ways that can inform efforts to build a more equitable society.
Cayce is concurrently working with Mario Small on a comparative study of social and organizational isolation among low-income mothers in high-poverty neighborhoods in Houston, Chicago, and New York City. Other research in collaboration with researchers at Rice University explores how doctoral students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics make sense of the gender gap in their professional fields. In 2016, he designed and taught Gendering Privacy, a course sponsored by the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality.
Cayce’s dissertation research has been funded by the Social Science Division, the Fahs-Beck Fund for Social Research and Experimentation, and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. He is currently a Kinder Scholar at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University. Prior to attending the University of Chicago, Cayce earned a Bachelor's degree in Sociology from New College of Florida and a Master's degree in Public Health from Temple University.
English, Residential Fellow
I study contemporary American literature and culture, affect theory, and aesthetics. My dissertation, "Style as Action: Novel Adaptations of the Contemporary," argues that styles coordinate aesthetic form and social content in ways that show how people move on intimately and politically in their changing worlds. On the one hand, the dissertation is a work of cultural history, tracking how different kinds of style emerge in the past 30 years, especially in fiction. On the other hand, it is a work of social theory, describing how people adapt to emerging racial, sexual, and environmental conditions and develop habits of living on into the future.
Like my research, my teaching at the University of Chicago is interdisciplinary and grounded in feminist and queer theory. The courses affiliated with the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality that I have assisted or taught include "Theories of Gender and Sexuality" and "Theories of Sexual Violence in American Culture."
Ashley J. Finigan
History, Residential Fellow
Ashley J. Finigan is a PhD candidate in the History department at the University of Chicago where she focuses on 19th and 20th century U.S. women's and gender history, African American history and the modern United States. Other research interests include black women's histories, cultural history, print and musical cultures and black internationalism. Ashley's dissertation, "The National Council of Negro Women has been there even when our story has not been told..." The NCNW and the Creation of an International Black Women's Movement, 1935-1975, inquires through an organizational history of the group, how black women activists contended with their multiple identities while working toward racial equity in the long struggle for civil rights. She argues that the NCNW occupied a distinct position as a group for black women committed to racial and societal uplift both at home and abroad, providing entree for their socially committed, working and middle class members onto the global stage. The NCNW's initiatives included providing scholarships for black youth to attend trade school and college, lobbying the federal government to equal access to white collar jobs, fundraising for hospitals and clinics, voter outreach and promoting economic empowerment among black women. The project also investigates how the group's demographics, including the influence of Afro-Caribbean members, impacted the Council's mission and definition of black womanhood, and by proxy the identities of their wider communities. Furthermore, as black women were often pushed to the margins of mainstream civil rights organizations, the dissertation helps to recenter them the movement, highlighting Council women's advocacy on behalf of their communities and the particular needs of black women throughout the diaspora.
A proud Brooklyn, New York native, Ashley earned her B.A from Amherst College in History and Black Studies, cum laude and received an M.A in African-American Studies from Columbia University.
History, Residential Fellow
Sonia Gomez is a PhD candidate in the Department of History. Her research interests include twentieth century United States history, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, immigration, diaspora, intersectionality, Japanese American history, and mixed race studies. Her dissertation, ”From Picture Brides to War Brides: Race, Gender, and Belonging in the Making of Japanese America,” explores the ways in which Japanese immigrant women—as picture brides and war brides—in the United States were simultaneously included and excluded based on conflicting ideas about race, gender, reproductive value, and labor. While, on the other hand, Issei bachelors—single Japanese immigrant men—who migrated to the US in the late 19th to early 20th century, never married nor fathered children in the US and as a result lived their lives on the margins of both mainstream American society and Japanese immigrant communities. In doing so, the project examines the multiple histories that make up Japanese America, to show how race, gender, and the politics of marriage have shaped belonging on a local and national scale for Japanese immigrants in the United States.
Born and raised in Southern California, Sonia received her B.A. in history from the University of California, Berkeley in 2011. Before returning to school in 2008, she worked for over ten years as a licensed Esthetician in the Los Angeles area.
Political Science, Residential Fellow
Annie Heffernan is a doctoral student in the Department of Political Science. She situates her work at the intersection of contemporary political though, feminist theory, and disability studies, with additional interests in ordinary language philosophy (particularly the thought of Wittgenstein and Cavell), Hannah Arendt, critical race theory, and reproductive justice. Annie’s dissertation, tentatively titled “The Worth of Disability and the Question of Disabled Citizenship,” examines how arguments for disabled inclusion have tended to hinge on the worth or value of disability for society. Focusing on the idea of worth as connoting both economic, social, and moral value, Annie traces the ways that disability has functioned as a potent symbol of devaluation and social exclusion to such an extent that the case for inclusion is only legible insofar as disabled people can be made into potential resources for society. Using a series of case studies, she considers the implications of this mode of argumentation both for the achievement of full citizenship on behalf of disabled individuals and, more broadly, for efforts to secure equal rights on behalf of other marginalized or excluded groups.
Annie holds a master’s degree in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in Social Studies from Harvard College. She is the co-coordinator, with Danya Lagos, of the Gender and Sexuality Studies Workshop.
History, Residential Fellow
Caroline Séquin is a PhD candidate in the history department. Her research interests include the history of gender and sexuality, race and racism, modern France and its empire, postemancipation societies, and transnational history. Her dissertation, tentatively titled “Preserving the French Race: Prostitution, Racial Politics, and Colonial Rule in the Urban French Atlantic, 1848-1960,” examines the ways in which prostitution was represented, regulated, and experienced in three port cities that played a key role in nineteenth- and twentieth-century French colonial statecraft: Bordeaux (France), Fort-de-France (Martinique), and Dakar (colonial Senegal). In each of these sites, she analyzes how prostitution constituted a crucial tool to organize colonial, racial, and gender relations in times of social change and political unrest—such as the abolition of slavery, the consolidation of colonial rule, the World Wars, and the decolonizing moment. The comparative approach of the project brings to light how: 1. colonial prostitution was not a homogenous phenomenon, as some historians have suggested; rather, there were many forms of colonial prostitutions; and 2. local actors contributed to shaping how prostitution worked and was regulated, thus suggesting that French colonial laws were not simply imposed from above and applied uniformly across the empire, but could also be negotiated, shaped, and contested from the ground up. She received a M.A. in Gender Studies from the University of Paris VIII, France, and a M.A. in English and American Studies from the University of Nancy II, France.
English, Residential Fellow
I am a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada doctoral fellow and a Ph.D. candidate in English Language and Literature. My dissertation project, titled "We Don’t Breathe Alone: Relationality and Form in Anglo-America, 1970s to Today," tracks the aesthetics and politics of relationality exemplified by breathing. In this research project, I read across prose and poetry as I investigate how breathing, a phenomenon that often remains implicit in life and art, makes itself felt and seen in crises of all kinds: ecological crises, sociopolitical crises, and health and well-being crises. Although organisms breathe by definition, I propose that studying breathing can help us flesh out contemporary problems--first because the distribution of breathable air, as charted in the epidemiologies of such respiratory afflictions as asthma, allergy, and multiple chemical sensitivity, reveals inequalities around axes of gender, sexuality, race, disability, and class; and second because ecological degradation and the weaponization of the air have turned breathing into a matter of risk management in our epoch. Writers and artists who engage formally and thematically with breathing offer us an aesthetics of embodiment that stresses both the risks and the promises of being in relation throughout efforts to survive crises and build coalitions. Beyond this project, I am interested in 20th- and 21st-century U.S. literature, experimentation, continental philosophy and theory (especially French and U.S. feminisms, queer theory, and aesthetic theory), politics and social movements, and the history of the life sciences. My writing, scholarly or not, has been published or is forthcoming in Post45 Peer-Reviewed, Criticism, Women & Performance, Arcade, Public Books, Make Magazine, The Oxonian Review, Review 31, and Pop Matters. I hold a B.SocSc. in Political Science and Communication from the University of Ottawa and an M.A. in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory from McMaster University. I also received a graduate certificate from the University of Chicago's Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality.
Sociology, Residential Fellow
Jaclyn Wong is a doctoral candidate in the Sociology Department. Her research interests center on gender inequality in marriage and family over the life course. Her dissertation examines how early career and relocation decisions among young heterosexual couples contest or reproduce gendered work and family roles. This project combines data from longitudinal in-depth interviews and a series of surveys featuring an experimental vignette design to explore how cultural understandings of gender, work, and family structure decision-making around partners’ careers. Wong’s other projects include a study of female lawyers, and a study of health decline and social life in aging couples. Wong received her BA in Sociology from the University of California, Irvine and her MA in Sociology from the University of Chicago.