Mellon Sawyer Seminar Postdoctoral Fellows

Nidhi Mahajan

Nidhi Mahajan received her PhD in Anthropology from Cornell University. Her book project entitled Moorings: Indian Ocean Trade and the State in East Africa is an historical ethnography that examines interactions between participants of transregional trade networks and multiple regulatory regimes in coastal Kenya and the Western Indian Ocean. Ever since 9/11, the Kenyan coast has become a flashpoint for national and international security. Governments assume that the predominantly Muslim merchants and sailors of the coast, with longstanding commercial and social ties across the Indian Ocean are entwined with militant groups. She suggests that these conflicts have emerged from a deep-rooted anxiety over the long history of trade and connection across the Indian Ocean as these networks challenge state sovereignty. From 19th-century encounters between sailors and anti-slavery British naval patrols, to ivory smuggling in the 1970s; from contemporary Kenyan state regulation of trade at Mombasa's Old Port, to everyday life on board an Indian sailing vessel in East Africa, she examines how mobile participants in Indian Ocean trade have responded to state control — whether imperial, colonial, or national — by operating in the interstices of the legal and illegal. Her research traces the everyday workings of these transregional trade networks and the quotidian practices of statecraft, demonstrating how notions of sovereignty and belonging are negotiated "on the ground" through these encounters.

Mark Minch

Mark Minch is an enrolled member of the Susanville Indian Rancheria in Northern California. He received his Ph.D. in Rhetoric with a designated emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality from UC Berkeley in 2014, and held a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship in Native American Studies at Wesleyan University for the past two years. His current book project, Native Revitalizations: Transcriptions and Gestures of Cultural Return, explores cultural revitalization efforts undertaken by indigenous communities as sites of important political, cultural, and philosophical junctures, particularly as these efforts invest in and become invested with a certain notion of cultural life. Focusing primarily on projects currently taking place in Native California, it looks at the risks attending the desire to live and practice of living again in the aftermath of a genocidal campaign, a spatial and temporal frame that some have labeled in California as being post-apocalyptic. Within such a largely invisible disaster, it asks how variously individualized and humanized bodies can ethically be reconnected to the neglected and shameful detritus of settler colonial knowledge production without falling into the traps of (1) modernizing and consumptive heritage and (2) an organicist and reactionary model of revitalization that lends itself to organization and hierarchization, risking cooptation by the state in the form of biocultural management. Following the writers of the disaster, the project offers instead an inorganic and gestural notion of culture as soft prescription, one that opens up to other spaces and possibilities of sovereignty.

Tufts Sawyer Seminar Postdoctoral Fellows

Anna C. Cruz

Anna C. Cruz received her PhD in Near Eastern Studies from the University of California, Berkeley in May 2016, with a focus on Medieval and Modern Arabic poetry. Her dissertation, "Modes of Loss: al-Andalus in the Arabic Poetic Imagination," examines the ways Arab poets utilize the space and image of al-Andalus (Islamic Spain) as both a lost beloved and an idealized site for mourning. Anna received her BA in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies from Dartmouth College in 2007 where she was also a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. In the graduate program at Berkeley, Anna developed a keen interest in medieval and modern representations of loss in Arabic literature, and more specifically in the elegies of lost cities, culminating in her dissertational work on the poetic cartography and visual culture of al-Andalus. Her interests include memory and history, theories of affect, and notions of the archive in the modern and contemporary Arab world. Her paper on literary and cartographic memorials of 11th-century Cordoba is expected to appear later this year in the edited volume The City in Arabic Literature: Classical and Modern Perspectives. During the postdoctoral fellowship at Tufts, Anna will work on a manuscript tentatively titled In Memory of al-Andalus: The Poetics of Affect in Medieval and Modern Arab Literary and Material Culture.

Khury Petersen-Smith
Khury Petersen-Smith is a geographer and activist who lives in Boston. He completed his PhD in the spring of 2016 at the Clark University Graduate School of Geography. His dissertation, "Pivoting to Asia: Sovereignty, Territory, and Militarization," focuses on U.S. militarization in the Asia-Pacific region. Khury's research interests include U.S. empire, territory, place, and resistance. His activism is wide-ranging, but has focused in particular on opposing U.S. empire, resisting racism, and solidarity with Palestine. Khury is the co-author of the 2015 Black Solidarity Statement With Palestine, which was signed by over 1,100 Black activists, artists, and scholars.