Cogut Institute for the Humanities

Undergraduate Fellows

  • photo of Alexander Avila

    Alexander Ávila

    Undergraduate Fellow, Concentrator in Sociology
    Project "Legitimate and Illegitimate Resistance in Pandemic Times"

    Alexander Ávila ’23 is an undergraduate concentrating in sociology, with interests in sociological theory, critical theory, political sociology, and social media. As someone with experience studying online communities, his general academic interests aim to understand identity and social experience in postmodern societies. His honors thesis, “Digital Colonization: Pandemic Resistance in Postmodernity” (title in progress), reformulates Jürgen Habermas’ theory of colonization through the case studies of antimask and antivaccine movements in Chiapas, Mexico, and Orange County, California. This project explores how the online social media space redirects political resistance across the globe at the behest of economic and state mechanisms. He hopes to bring sociology and theory to the general public to bridge everyday understandings, and is the founder of a media production company that produces AreTheyGay, a channel that brings queer and social theory to millions of viewers on YouTube.

  • photo of Mia Freund

    Mia Barzilay Freund

    Undergraduate Fellow, Concentrator in English
    Project "A Recovered Canon: Tracing a Lineage of Women's Literary Invention from Aphra Behn to Jane Austen"

    Mia Barzilay Freund ’23 is an undergraduate concentrating in English literature, with interests in early modern women’s writing, epistolary fiction, the 18th- and 19th-century novel, and Victorian poetry. A writer and poet herself, she approaches her study of the humanities with a focus on modes of storytelling. Her thesis, tentatively titled “Epistolary Intimacies and Jane Austen’s New Narrativity,” examines how a literary template of real and fictional letter-writing laid the groundwork for more integrated and seemingly intuitive forms of narrative. Her work pays attention to the ways in which writers like Austen extracted plot from an epistolary frame to cultivate new senses of literary intimacy and authenticity. She turns to an often overlooked canon of women writers informing Austen and explores the influence of Regency-era circulating libraries, which popularized supposedly “low-brow” epistolary novels among a female reading public. Freund’s interests across the humanities concern themes of gender, narrative, politics, material culture, and the body. She works extensively in the religious studies and political science departments and enjoys learning new physical disciplines in her work as a certified personal trainer. 


  • photo of Chong King Gan

    Chong Jing Gan

    Undergraduate Fellow, Concentrator in Comparative Literature
    Project "Islands in Migration: Singaporean (Trans)national Identity in Diasporic Literature"

    Chong Jing Gan ’23 is an undergraduate concentrating in comparative literature, primarily focusing on the languages of English and Mandarin Chinese. Outside of the written word he also really enjoys studying (and creating in) the mediums of visual art and film. The working title of his thesis is “How an Island Stays Afloat: The Written Body/Land of Singapore in Diasporic Literature.” His interest stems from the pervasive anxiety of circumscribing “Singaporeanness” in the state’s regulation and overdetermination of national identity, particularly in cultural and literary production, that has and continues to enact the violent erasure of peoples who are deemed unbelonging in the boundaries of the nation-state. He seeks to explore postcolonial, diasporic, performance, and queer studies to locate and trace the figure of the emigrant as they move through Singaporean literary/artistic history and archives, deconstructing and destabilizing essential and nationalist performances of statehood and identity. Focusing on multilingual, transnational, and queer cultural production, what he hopes to find is a means of articulating “Singaporeanness” defined by instability, mobility, and fluidity — an island, afloat, that drifts apart and together, whose edges are constantly unsettled and rewritten by global tides of movement and migration.

  • photo of Ren L[i]u

    Ren L[i]u

    Undergraduate Fellow, Concentrator in Ethnic Studies and Science, Technology, and Society
    Project "Towards Crip-of-Color Transsexual Erotics: Trans, Disabled Poetics as Technologies of Understanding Third World Othering and Belonging”

    Ren L[i]u is bracketed (for now). In still figuring out how to translate [them]self to this world, they are continuously grateful for the spaces where they do not have to — particularly in their QTPOC and crip-centered communities. Their academic work seeks to honor how they learn in/outside of the academy, culminating in their thesis, titled “Towards Crip-of-Color Transsexual Erotics: Trans, Disabled Poetics as Technologies of Understanding Third World Othering and Belonging.” Their project combines their work in ethnic studies and science, technology, and society to understand how essentializing and pathologizing bodies — particularly those othered as transsexual and disabled — have been powerful technologies and ideologies driving racialization. As a poet themself, the project will anthologize/analyze the poetry of trans, disabled artists of color as crucial sites of knowledge on the intersections of different oppressive structures. Ren finds artistic home in ProvSlam and WORD! Performance Poetry, an all BIPOC poetry collective at Brown. Their [non-/]research interests include the community-based responses to harm/crisis, histories of diaspora and immigration, Asian American organizing and coalition, and the role of art and literature in movement building. They also have a comprehensive background in facilitation and curriculum development, having designed workshops for national racial/gender justice organizations, and in their work coordinating/mentoring Transformative Justice CA processes and coordinating the Disability Justice Student Initiative.

  • photo of Catherine Nelli

    Catherine Nelli

    Undergraduate Fellow, Concentrator in Comparative Literature, Sanskrit Classics, and International and Public Affairs
    Project "Investigating Indology: Divergences between Colonial French and English and Contemporary Sanskrit Reception of Classical Indian Texts"

    Catherine Nelli ’23 is an undergraduate triple-concentrating in comparative literature in Sanskrit, French, and English; Sanskrit classics; and international and public affairs. She is interested in researching the French and English colonial reception of classical Sanskrit texts in tension with the concurrent and continued indigenous reception of these texts. She hopes to investigate how colonialism has shaped the academic study of India by analyzing the convergences of European motivations and local intellectual traditions in this literary reception. Through her honors thesis, she hopes to complicate understandings of how colonialism shapes the present through literary, cultural, and intellectual forces. In addition, she is the content director of the Brown Journal of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and has carried out research on medieval French mythography; Sanskrit manuscript digitization; urban governance in Delhi, India; and verbal anaphors in A’ingae, an indigenous language of Ecuador and Colombia.