2009 Provost's Postdoctoral Scholars

Please welcome to campus our inaugural 2009-2011 PCEPS cohort: Nell Gabiam (Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley) is this year’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture PCEPS scholar under the mentorship of Ramón Gutiérrez. G. Cristina Mora (Sociology at Princeton University) will be mentored by Mario Small in the Department of Sociology. In the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky (Critical and Cultural Studies at the University of Pittsburgh) will be mentored by Tom Gunning. William Lopes (Mathematics, MIT) will begin his PCEPS in the Department of Mathematics in January 2010 under the mentorship of Peter Constantin.

Nell Gabiam received her PhD in anthropology in 2008 from the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation research examines the relationship between identity, development and human rights within the context of a UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) sponsored development project in two Palestinian refugee camps in northern Syria. One of her main arguments is that Palestinian refugees living in these two camps view their situation in ways that unsettle accepted norms of international development about what constitutes progress, and complicates development discourse’s understanding of suffering. During her tenure as a fellow at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, she will work on turning her dissertation entitled “In Order Not to Forget: Dignity and Development in Syria’s Palestinian Refugee Camps” into a book manuscript and will teach a course focusing on the relationship between humanitarianism and politics. She will also begin work on a new research project which centers on sub-Saharan-African migration to the Middle East. She will examine the lives of descendents of Moslem pilgrims from what is now the West African nation of Chad who have settled in Syria and reflect on how their experiences contribute to our understanding of identity, belonging and human rights.

William Manuel Lopes will begin his PCEPS in January 2010, after his fall graduation from MIT with a PhD in mathematics. With research interests in differential geometry and topology, his thesis work focuses on some equations that come from mathematical physics and are related to long-standing geometrical questions. A 2002 graduate of the University of Chicago, William spent a year studying mathematics at Cambridge University under a Churchill Scholarship. As a Provost's Postdoctoral Scholar, he plans to extend the work of his thesis as well as investigate other problems in geometry.

G. Cristina Mora is originally from Los Angeles and is completing her doctoral degree in Sociology at Princeton University. Her dissertation, States, Politics and Markets: the Historical Institutionalization of Latino Panethnicity 1960-1990, examines how state bureaucrats, Chicano and Puerto Rican social movement activists and Spanish-language media executives constructed the idea of Latino panethnicity in the United States. Drawing on various archival sources, oral histories, and interviews, Cristina details how the notion of Latino panethnicity was developed first as a statistical entity for state-building purposes, and then became translated into political and cultural expressions of group solidarity by activists and media executives. To date, her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation. While at the University of Chicago, Cristina plans to fashion her dissertation into a book manuscript and supplement her historical research with quantitative analyses of Latino identification trends. Additionally, Cristina plans to launch a new collaborative project on panethnicity among Latin American immigrants in Spain.

Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and is completing a PhD in Critical and Cultural Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Her dissertation traces what she calls “the ethnic turn” in U.S. and Brazilian political cinema since 1960—a turn away from class-oriented, anti-capitalist politics and towards a politics of identity. An extract of the dissertation, titled “The Price of Heaven,” explores race and melodrama in the work of Sirk, Fassbinder, and Haynes, and was published in Cinema Journal in 2008. Another essay, which discusses Anand Patwardhan's 1992 political documentary, Ram Ke Naam, is forthcoming in The Cinema of India, a volume of the 24 Frames series. Before graduate school, Skvirsky wrote, co-produced, and co-directed the documentary, Stealing Home: The Case of Contemporary Cuban Baseball, which aired on PBS in 2001.

As a PCEPS scholar, Skvirsky plans to develop two aspects of her dissertation research. The first is a book-length manuscript about the emergence of the quilombo, or maroon society, in the Brazilian national imaginary, and especially in its cinema, as the site where a tradition of utopian political thought intersects with the national debate about Brazilian racial and cultural identity. The second project is a series of articles centering on the Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers—a group of political filmmakers affiliated with UCLA in the 1970s and early 1980s. One the one hand, the series will explore the relationship between the L.A. School and Latin American Third Cinema of the 1960s and early 1970s, a relationship that has often been noted but never seriously investigated. On the other hand, the articles will trace the connection between the L.A. School and more recent African American cinema—in particular, the work of Spike Lee.