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Thank You.

We would like to extend a very special thanks to the people without whom the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship at Washington University would not function, or exist:

Faculty Director Dr. Jeffrey McCune Administrative Coordinator Dean Mary Laurita Administrative Assistant Shea Ballantine Graduate Teaching Assistant Rachel Chapman Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Jennifer Smith Faculty Mentors Timothy Parsons, Shanti Parikh, Andrea Friedman, Rafia Zafar, Kedron Thomas, Julia Walker, Glen Stone, Clarissa Hayward & Carl Phillips The beloved late Dean James E. McLeod




MMUF at Washington University in St. Louis

mellon table of con tents 04 Letter from the Editor 05 Scholarship as Activism 06 Alumna Profile with Dr. 08 Interview Angela Friedman




14 Mellon Abroad 15 Meet the New Fellows/Class of 2018




11 Alex Novelli Kisha Bwenge 12 Josalynn Smith Jordan Victorian 13 Fabian Barch Margaret Abbey



mellon Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis

500 MAY 2016 ISSUE

A Letter from the Editor

What does a scholar look like?

For centuries, since the early days of the academy in the Middle ages, the answer to this question was pretty simple: white, cisgender, heterosexual males. Even as institutions of higher education were established at increasing rates in Europe and across the world, this stereotype was essentially absolute, including in the United States.

The Mellon Mays Fellowship was founded in 1998 to diversify the American professoriate by supporting undergraduates in conducting graduate-level independent research. Mellon has created a tour de force of intellectuals whose identities and projects bring underrepresented populations to the forefront, and over 500 fellows have received PhDs to date. Washington University is one of 46 member schools and consortia, and our alumni have gone on to receive degrees at presiguous universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Columbia. The Mellon Fellows have also consistently challenged the idea of the "armchair academic", whether by employing accessible language in our academic works, pausing our weekly seminar to stand in solidarity with student protests on campus, or utilizing our critical skills to positively impact our communities. We hope this edition of the Mellon Newsletter will give you insight into the ways in which our fellows, past and present, are changing both higher education and the world. Scholars are no longer just from a single demographic, nor are they distant and stagnant members of some elite intellectual club-. Scholars are people of color, queer in sexuality and existing on a spectrum of gender identities. We seek to validate voices from marginalized communities. We are young, chic and dynamic. We are activists, we are artists. We are transforming the aesthetics of the academy from the inside out. So if anyone asks "what does a scholar looks like?" I think a scholar looks a lot like us. Best, Kisha Bwenge Mellon Mays Fellow & Intern Class of 2016



THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE INSULAR ACTIVISM AT THE HEART OF SCHOLARSHIP BY ALEX NOVELLI In our current campus climate, informed by xenophobic political pundits, racially-charged tensions with police, and an increasingly complex geopolitical environment, the scholar plays a unique role. While the role of the scholar is broad, ranging from instructor, to expert, to activist, the place of scholarship and research in activism is largely illdefined. As Mellon Mays Fellows, we—though still undergraduates--have the unique opportunity to enter into the ivory-tower of academic scholarship. As a significant supplement to our individual scholarship, we work to engage with the role of scholarship in the activist movement. The Mellon Mays Fellows’ deep engagement with the academy affords us a unique perspective on the role of scholarship within activism. We have found that scholarship fundamentally informs the nature of social movements through the critical examination of complex realities that often leads to insights into structural oppression or the detrimental effects of extant dominant narratives. The role of the scholar, and indeed the aim of good scholarship, is to build theoretical or practical understanding of heretofore unexplained or unexamined phenomena.

While this broad definition does not necessarily denote the activist nature of scholarship, its practical application allows scholars to discover the parts of society that often hide injustice. Although for many scholars, this discovery is where their engagement with injustice ends, their work can have significant impacts within popular narratives. A good example of this is the current prevalence of intersectionality within popular discussions of the role of oppression, privilege, and understanding in the popular realm. We as Mellon Mays Fellows embody a form of intersectionality within the space of our seminar. Though our fields of study and research focuses vary widely, we find connections between the performance of masculinity in Martinique and the concept of empathy in Rankine’s citizen, between DVD piracy in Peru and cultural tourism in Tanzania. Intersectionality has granted a new lens to a generation of scholars, and is now shaping the way that activists on the ground interrogate racial, sexual identity and gender-based oppressions. This is the crux of the scholar as leader and activist; the channels may be diffuse and long-term, but the concerted interrogation of our reality in the process of conducting scholarship can grow to shape the day-to-day actions, thoughts, and objectives of activists. We as Mellon Mays Fellows work to engage in this sort of scholarship, and hope you will join us.


Alumna Profile




anielle Wu graduated from

Washington University in St. Louis with a


As the inaugural recipient of the Arthur Greenberg Curatorship, Danielle curated


bachelor's degree in art history and archaeology

W men (我们): Contemporary Chinese Art

in 2014. Her research interests focus on

at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum,

contemporary art, particularly artwork engaging

which explored multiple social

with concepts of feminism and social justice.

commentaries of Chinese contemporary women artists: Cao Fei, Chen Ke, Chen

Much of her scholarship examines the

Man, Cui Xiuwen, Hung Liu, and Yin

monumental changes that occurred during the

Xiuzhen. As a Mellon Mays Undergraduate

transition between the modern and

Fellow, her article "Daughter of the Party:

contemporary Chinese government, how this

Chen Man and the Political Pressures of

affected self-fashioning and beautification as a

Female Perfection in Olympic Beijing" was

form of individualized expression, and the

published in the 2014 edition of the national

unfortunate stigma associated with identifying

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Journal. She

as any form of "feminist" in contemporary

currently lives and works in New York.



Alumna Profile


May 2015

A Word from Danielle



he Mellon Mays Undergraduate

MMUF encouraged me to think of myself as

Fellowship provides exactly what its name

a powerful component within society, with a


tangible ability to instate change in order to

— a camaraderie of strong,

intellectual voices that stretches nationwide,

achieve a greater good. This way of thinking

reaching even beyond what I could have

has been critical to my successes and career.

imagined during my time as an undergrad.

Before pursuing a PhD, I chose to first apply sphere by working as Gallery Associate at

the program is the freedom you are given to

Galerie Lelong, New York. I write press

pursue your research. Autonomy is incredibly

releases and liaise with the press in order to

empowering. I learned to strategize in order to

increase the presence of its roster of majority

realize my vision, a vision sustained by the

Latin American and feminist artists,

mission of Mellon Mays to diversify the

providing profound motivation for me to

teaching and scholarship in higher education.


Danielle's senior thesis and Mellon article both involved work from Chinese fashion photographer, Chen Man. Pictured here is an example of Chen's work.

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my research interests in the professional One of the most precious and unique aspects of


Mentorship & Mellon with Dr. Andrea Friedman BY REUBEN FORMAN I first met Dr. Friedman during a SafeZones facilitation. When I introduced myself she responded, “Oh, I know who you are.” I do not know how much this has to do with being a Mellon mentor, but it was an amazing first impression. When I was looking for mentors, Professor Friedman was at the top of my list. It was not just because our academic interests overlapped, but that her work focuses on individuals who have been left out of mainstream historical research. Her work is in-depth, brilliant, and personal – a model of how scholarship is activism. Dr. Friedman embodies the academic qualities that are so important to both me and the Mellon Mays program at WashU. Being a mentor is more than just being a scholarly model to emulate. Dr. Friedman has always kept her ears open to any problems or comments on my mind. Her empathetic and intuitive nature makes any academic issue seem solvable. I always leave her office feeling confident about my own research, full of ideas about next steps to take. If you want to know more about her work I suggest reading her piece, “The Strange Career of Annie Lee Moss: Rethinking Race, Gender, and McCarthyism”


A Conversation with Dr. Andrea Friedman A Mentor for Jordan Victorian and Reuben Forman, Mellon Mays Fellows JORDAN VICTORIAN: So first, I’m just curious how

And that’s just the most fun, because you see people

long or in what ways you’ve been affiliated with

who you know have this burning mind learn how

Mellon before? Have you been really, before this

to use it in a sustained way. Learn about what they


are capable of. Then the other thing is to know more about the ways that people on campus are creating

DR. ANDREA FRIEDMAN: Well I was a mentor for

ways to support marginalized or underrepresented

one student a long time ago. It was when other people

student groups. It can be really hard to get a sense of

were organizing Mellon. Mary Laurita

what other people are doing. There aren’t always

[Administrative Coordinator] was involved in it but I

that many opportunities for us to talk to each other,

can’t even remember who else. It was a really long

or to work with each other as faculty. So that’s

time ago and I don’t remember it that well. I think

something else that I’m learning that I really value.

partly because it was a lot looser than it is now. But I’ve been kind of an informal mentor to other

JORDAN: Well to keep it short – speaking of

students who are involved in the Mellon program,

burning minds, this weekend we just got our new

like Vi [Chaudhry, B.A.’14].

batch of Mellons for the next two years. If you were to say something to them, what might be your

So this is really my kind of formal entry into it, and

words of advice or inspiration as they move

yeah it’s been great fun. It’s way more structured

forward as scholars?

than a lot of the other mentoring stuff that happens on campus where you just find a student in a class

DR. FRIEDMAN: Hmmm, yeah. Well I think you

and maybe you work with them, maybe you hear

really have to be gentle with yourself, always.

where they go. Here, it’s really an opportunity to

Because we’re always being brought up against the

consistently work over time with students, which I

limits of our knowledge, and our vision is sometimes

really like.

hard to actually create in the real world. So that’s kind of a constant frustration for all people involved

JORDAN: So off of that, what are the biggest benefits

of being able to work with the program?

in scholarship or the life of the mind. I think it’s great to have a place where everyone you’re working with knows that and has experienced it

DR. FRIEDMAN: Well the biggest is that my students

themselves. We’re all kind of committed to coming

are so much more cutting edge than I am. [Jordan

up against those moments and figuring out ways

laughs] It’s true! I get so educated by it. I really do


learn about different scholars and critical approaches that I don’t know. And I get excited by what I learn

I think it’s really important to expect a lot of

from my students. So then it creates new reading lists

yourself but also understand that we’re all learning

for me and also new ways for me to think about my

all the time. And I think that’s something that

teaching. For example, working with you around

working with mentors, who are also learning. You

issues of polyamory and then hearing from other

know, with me and you, I’m learning a whole lot of

students about polyamory—it wasn’t something that

what I don’t know, and needing a way to learn

had much of a role in my teaching and now it’s

about that so I can be useful.

Manila ' s Rising Sun

become something that I’m really interested in. So that’s probably my number one benefit to me.

So everybody’s constantly coming up against the limits and figuring out ways to move beyond the

The other side is that it is just really great to develop

limits. That’s a good life lesson. And it’s really fun

relationships with students over a couple of years and

and exciting. Just be patient and gentle with

to be able to go on that kind of journey together. The

yourself while you’re doing that. Talk to everybody

way it’s structured right now, it creates some

you can about what’s in your head, because

accountability there as well. So it can’t just kind

everybody’s really interested in what’s in your

of…you can’t see my fingers but kind of float away.






alex novelli The strengthening of intellectual property rights has been a ubiquitous component of trade agreements and international regulatory schema following the formation of the World Trade Organization in 1995. This globalization of intellectual property rights has been thoroughly examined through both economic and political science lenses, but discussions have been largely divorced from those affected most directly by these regulations—informal media vendors in the Global South. To better understand the onthe-ground reality of this process, I holistically examine the forces that have criminalized Peruvian DVD piracy through both economic history and ethnographic lenses.

The title of my project is "Everyone ‘knows’ the Maasai: Tourist Enterprise and the Commodification of Maasai Identity through Tanzania's Cultural Tourism Programme." Through my work I explore Maasai identity in the Tanzanian context, through the theory of translocational positionality, while interrogating the role of the ever-lucrative tourism industry on state, private and local narratives of "Maasai-ness". I trace the history of government intervention in the tourism industry from the establishment of the Serengeti National Park in the 1930's to the current day cultural tourism landscape, focusing on the ways in which Maasai agency can be exercised in these spaces.

kisha bwenge


josalynn smith My project explores Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric in terms of a nouveau historicizing of black subjectivity. Although Rankine, like many writers of her generation, strives for empathy in order to save the lives of black people within an American Literary Imagination, she does not fail to leave visual reminders in her book that display the genealogy of objectivity for black people. In my analysis of both the text and the public art pieces curated throughout Citizen, I hope to gleam insight into what makes Rankine’s attempt at black subjectivity so unique. I posit Rankine’s work is special because she comforts the limitations of empathy in such an upfront manner while advocating for empathy with strong gestures.

My project seeks to challenge ideas of which sexual behaviors and types of relationships are ‘acceptable.’ Through ethnography and cultural analysis, I am exploring the sexual culture of people of color in St. Louis who choose to have non-monogamous or multi-partner relationships/sexual encounters. As a gesture of queer recognition, this project will document and analyze the construction of nonmonogamy among racial minorities, including the challenges and rewards it brings. Crafting an archive of non-monogamy, I hope to highlight the sexual diversity of the present, building toward a more liberated future for all of us desiring human connection of any kind.

jordan victorian


fabian barch My project examines the life experiences of gay and bisexual men in Martinique. Specifically, my project discusses the different spaces on the island that are not hostile towards LGBT people as well as the ways in which these men moderate their performances of masculinity based off of which spaces on the island they occupy. The spaces that I discuss include digital sites, cruising grounds, and monthly parties, or soirées. Gay and bisexual men behave differently in these spaces than they do in the more common, every-day parts of the island, and my project interrogates why.

I am researching food allergy through an ​

anthropological lens in an effort to try to construct a framework that seeks to understand the ‘why’ of food allergy, particularly why minority groups, minority children, experience a greater incidence of allergic disease than their White counterparts. The aim of my research is to begin where the extant biomedical lexicon stops—to fill in the gaps while using some of the subordinate branches of anthropology (biological anthropology, medical anthropology, and environmental anthropology) to build new bridges of knowledge about the etiology of food allergy into the unknown.

margaret abbey



MELLON GOES GLOBAL Some of our fellows share what they've learned in their semester away from campus. "While abroad I had a lot of low moments, times where it felt like everything was going wrong, but I learned how to live through those rough times, collect myself, and move into a more positive headspace. More than anything, I learned how to live and be happy with myself." -Sherri Gardner (London) "This has been one of the most developmental times of my life. Over the past semester I have been on medical leave, and living in the city of my academic inspiration Washington, D.C. I'm conducting research and taking the time to heal. During this period of growth my research becomes ever more important. Seeing how my home has changed so rapidly in the past few months, motivates me to record the stories that may soon be lost to time."

"Living abroad in Spain has challenged me to think about the ways in which I construct my identity around my race and gender. In Spain, my blackness is not immediately identified-- I have been thought to be a mixed Spanish girl. So when something so important to they way I construct myself and relate to others (like identifying as a black American female) is not how others see me, it can be both freeing and challenging." -Candace Borders (Madrid) Being abroad, I was always classified as an American first. Usually, my American-ness is qualified by other identities like race and gender, so it has been liberating to see myself as simply American even with all its connotations and consequences." -Andie Berry (London)

-Reuben Forman (Washington, D.C)




THE FRESH CLASS We are thrilled to announce the members of our newest Mellon cohort.

Kiara Sample, African and African American Studies and Psychology major, is researching surveillance and its particular effect on black women and their ability to organize against oppression. Savannah Jacobson, History and African and African American Studies major, is investigating the United States justice system through the lens of black female domestic violence victims of various social standings. Mimi Borders, History and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies major, is examining the function of slave marriage in the production of familial ties within the lives of black women at the moment of “freedom.� T-Herbert Jeffrey, Philosophy major, is studying the ethics of suspicion, and how it affects various demographics within the current culture of law enforcement. Nicholas Guadiana, English Literature Major, is exploring the narrative experiences of Latinx children in the United States and questions the conceptualization of childhood trauma and community-based violence.






Campus protests following the murder of Michael Brown

WUSTL Mellon Mays Newsletter 2016  

Meet the fellows who are redefining scholarship through their research at Washington University in St. Louis

WUSTL Mellon Mays Newsletter 2016  

Meet the fellows who are redefining scholarship through their research at Washington University in St. Louis