2023–24 Undergraduate Fellow, concentrator in HistoryProject “Through the Fence: An Environmental History of Nsikazi, South Africa”
Maru Attwood ’24 is an undergraduate concentrating in history with an Engaged Scholarship Certificate in storytelling. Her thesis traces a history of Nsikazi, a region in rural Mpumalanga, South Africa, near where she grew up. This research is focused on the ways that land was physically divided during apartheid and colonialism and explores fences, kraals, and walls as points of interaction between people, the environment, and the state. The project includes three months of doing oral histories, working with her neighbors, nearby communities, and people who lived through forced removals. She will weave these together with material she finds in archives in South Africa. Her other academic interests include creative nonfiction writing and journalism, public history, political theory, and histories of social movements. On campus, she has organized for climate and housing justice with Sunrise and HOPE (Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere).
2023–24 Undergraduate Fellow, Concentrator in Modern Culture and Media and EnglishProject “Reading Digitally: Technology, Language, and the Poetics of Digital Subjectivity”
Lucia Kan-Sperling ’24 is an undergraduate concentrating in modern culture and media and English literature. Her honors thesis, tentatively titled “Digital/Reading/Writing in the Poetry of Tan Lin,” investigates the poetics of a co-constituting relationship between language, technology, and subjectivity. Reading the work of contemporary poet Tan Lin through theories of ambience, cybernetics, and digital structures, the project seeks to outline how Lin evokes a formal reading practice that posits a relationship to “text” as a prosthetic digital technology. Kan-Sperling enjoys writing and making artwork in various media, with a special interest in time-based forms such as video and video installation.
2023–24 Undergraduate Fellow, Concentrator in Comparative Literature and AnthropologyProject “Rereading Modernity: Specters of Cannibalism in the Caribbean Avant-Garde”
James Langan ’24 is an undergraduate studying comparative literature and anthropology. Working primarily in Portuguese, Spanish, and French, he is interested in comparing modernist and avant-garde movements across Western Europe, the Caribbean, and the Southern Cone. His other research interests include post-structuralism, the Frankfurt School, the philosophy of anthropology, Third World cinema, and the diffusion of Marxism beyond Europe. His thesis, provisionally entitled “Rereading Modernity: Specters of Cannibalism in the Caribbean Avant-Garde,” traces the epistemological and ontological formation of a modern(ist) Caribbean through the figure of the cannibal. In framing the act of anthropophagy as a Derridean specter — the paradoxical materialization of a “non-present present” — this project will compare how writers in Brazil, Cuba, and the Francophone Caribbean digest and reformulate representations of cannibalism to capture the haunting, swallowing nature of Modernity. In other words, how does the Caribbean eat (with) ghosts? This thesis will seek to incorporate Marxist, psychoanalytic, anthropological, ecocritical, and postcolonial perspectives to unsettle our understanding of cannibalism as a device of social critique and literary innovation.
2023–24 Undergraduate Fellow, Concentrator in Comparative Literature and History of Art and ArchitectureProject “Devouring Stone: Rethinking the Monstrous in Romanesque Monastic Sculpture”
Andrew Lu ’24 is an undergraduate concentrating in comparative literature (English and French) and the history of art and architecture. He is broadly interested in how the “medieval” informs and disrupts modern constructions of time, race, gender, perception, and ability. His thesis project, tentatively titled “Devouring Stone: Rethinking the Monstrous in Romanesque Monastic Sculpture,” turns a critical eye to the carved stone creatures of 12th-century Languedoc monasteries, probing their paradoxical proliferation in religious spaces through questions of embodiment, alterity, and subjecthood. Through a polychronic approach that constellates materiality and historicity with theory — drawing simultaneously from hagiography, material culture, and cross-disciplinary postmodern thought — he seeks to unearth from medieval sculptural assemblages an urgency of the now. He also edits magazines such as XO Magazine and The Forager and interns at the Met Cloisters.
2023–24 Undergraduate Fellow, Concentrator in History of Art and ArchitectureProject "(Dis)location, Diaspora, and the Camera Image: Contemporary Women Artists of the South Asian Diaspora"
Grace Xiao ’24 (she/her) is an undergraduate concentrating in the history of art and architecture, with interests in modern and contemporary art of the Asian diaspora and the history of photography. Her project, tentatively titled “(Dis)location, Diaspora, and the Camera Image: Contemporary Women Artists of the South Asian Diaspora,” draws on postcolonial studies, theories of diaspora, Asian/American/diasporic studies, and feminist theory to investigate the work of Zarina Bhimji and Seher Shah, two contemporary women artists of the South Asian diaspora. Her work investigates the ways that these artists are undermining photography’s historical and continued use as a violent tool for coloniality, as they insert moments of ambiguity and fluidity brought from their diasporic experiences to challenge the objectivity and transparency expected of the medium. As a Community-Based Learning and Research Fellow with the Swearer Center, she has aided in developing coursework that considers how writing about arts and culture can advance public discourse about race, equity, and justice. She has served as a Racial Justice Fellow with the Hay Library and is a 2023–24 Pembroke Seminar Undergraduate Student Fellow. She has also worked across different departments at the RISD Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.