Banchiamlack Dessalegn received her Ph.D. from the Cognitive Science Department at Johns Hopkins University in December of 2008. Her dissertation work examined the mechanism, development and consequence of the interaction between language and visual-spatial cognition. In her research she finds that there is a gradual linking of language and vision-spatial cognition across development. She proposed the Language-Based Representation Update Theory to account for the mechanism by which language affects spatial cognition. At its core this theory claims that language can trigger a revision of an existing representation. The first part of this work was published in Psychological Science (2008) and the second part is under preparation for publication. As a graduate student Banchi also studied the spatial representations (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010) and written language abilities of people with Williams syndrome, a genetic neuro-developmental disorder. As a PCEPS scholar Banchi will extend her training in developmental cognitive science to ask policy-relevant questions. Under the mentorship of Susan Goldin-Meadow (Bearsdley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Psychology) and Ariel Kalil (professor in the Harris School of Public Policy and director of the Center for Human Potential and Public Policy), Banchi will investigate the cognitive development of children who lost their primary caretakers by AIDS in Ethiopia and are placed in the care of orphanages or extended family members. To this end, Banchi will investigate the language development, visual-spatial skills, attentional skills and numerical cognition of these children, as well as gather a variety of background information.
Eduardo Ruiz received his PhD in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2010. His dissertation explores the impact of economic and material concepts in the formation of character agency and the canon of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish literature. He argues for an economy of lack as interpretive method to incorporate marginal voices and to better understand hegemonic character, which may be viewed as a rhetorical conduit for alternate and subjected voices. During his tenure as a PCEPS scholar, and under the mentorship of Professor Frederick de Armas (Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, Spanish Literature, and Comparative Literature), he will develop his dissertation into a book manuscript that will cover poetry (Francisco de Quevedo), short story (Miguel de Cervantes), and the picaresque genre (Lazarillo de Tormes) under the general theme and working title of “Economies of Sin.”
He will also expand on his dissertation project to discuss indigenous exchanges with Spanish culture by incorporating other historical texts that define selfhood in Spain and Latin America. His point of departure will be a text not yet fully explored by critics, Juan de Medina Plaza’s Diálogo de la Naturaleza, which, written in a Native American language and recently translated into Spanish, provides textual and cultural clues that explain specific traits of colonial identity among Tarascans, one of the most important civilizations in sixteenth-century Central Mexico. This research, a reappraisal of colonial identity in the context of acculturation, the dialogue form, and linguistic exchange, will take into account the natives’ silence/voice and determine their degree of colonial agency.