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The Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy

Current Graduate Fellows

the clough center for the study of constitutional democracy

The Graduate Fellows Program at the Clough Center will be entering this year with a roster of 20 graduate students from the departments of English, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, Theology, and the School of Education.

The 2018-2019 Graduate Fellows are:

Juan Martín Bernales Odino

Alex Moskowitz
English

Alex Moskowitz is a doctoral candidate in the English Department at Boston College. He holds an MA in English from Boston College and a BA in Literature from SUNY Purchase. Alex specializes in early American literature, Marxism, and critical theory. His research focuses on opening up the study of American literature to radical democratic politics through an encounter with economics, labor, production, and history. Alex’s dissertation seeks to demonstrate how early American writers were interested in the possibility of a type of democracy beyond what can be contained within the politico-economic discourse of progress, rationalism, and the supposedly inherent democratic nature of capitalist economics. Alex is currently at work on a project on the relation between sensory perception, hermeneutics, and economics in Thoreau’s Cape Cod.

Alex’s article, “The Production of the Subject: Foucault, Marx, and the Ontologies of the Market” is forthcoming in Polygraph: An International Journal of Culture and Politics. His reviews have appeared or will appear in SubStance, Studies in Romanticism, and Modern Language Studies.

At Boston College he has taught an undergraduate literature course called “Capitalism and Resistance” and will this year teach a section of Literature Core called “The Political Labor of Literature,” and an upper-level elective called “Discontinuous Histories in American Literature.”


Gabriela Tavara

Amelia Marie Wirts

Philosophy

In fall 2018, Amelia Marie Wirts returned to Boston College’s Philosophy Department to complete her dissertation.  In addition to her previous four years in the philosophy department, she recently graduated from Boston College Law School as a part of a dual degree program in philosophy and law.  During the last year, she took leave from her studies to work as a law clerk to Judge Harris Hartz of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Her decision to pursue the law in addition to philosophy arose from her interest in understanding justice and oppression from the perspective of actually existing social conditions, inspired by non-ideal theory.  Non-ideal theory is a movement in political philosophy that argues that, to understand justice, we should reject Plato’s method in The Republic of imagining the most just society and deducing the nature of justice from the contours of that society.  Instead, non-ideal theory argues that we must look at the real, imperfect, unjust world to begin our theorizing.

Ms. Wirts’s work in law has centered on civil rights, with internships at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and her clerkship enabled her to understand the workings of federal anti-discrimination statutes from the perspective of the federal courts.  These experiences in the legal field have given her to insight into the imperfect workings of our legal system.  For example, even when legislation exists that is meant to address the harms caused by their oppression. legal and procedural hurdles as well as basic access to the legal system present obstacles for those who suffer under racism, sexism, and discrimination on the basis of disability, gender identity, religion, or sexual orientation.

Ms. Wirts’s legal experience, paired with her philosophical training in political and moral theory, led her to the key questions of her dissertation.  When our collective attempts at remedying past and ongoing oppression are insufficient, how do we collectively go about improving them? Given the fact that there are social and political structures that create inequality along racial, gender, class, and other identity divides, what obligations arise for those who benefit from structural inequality?  What are their obligations morally, i.e. what do they owe to other people, particularly those who are being harmed by the structures?  What are their obligations politically, i.e. how are they to engage with these structures, in concert with others, to transform them into more just structures?

Ms. Wirts’ dissertation draws on her philosophical training in political justification and theories of democracy, conditioned by non-ideal theory and working experience of existing law, to critique our current methods and framework for addressing oppression.   In doing so, she will take into account the realities of imperfect interpersonal and public justification where the opinions, beliefs, and experiences of some are valued over those of others, and the moral and political duties that this fact creates for those who hold more justificatory power.


Pete Cajka

Colin McConarty
History

Colin McConarty is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at Boston College, where he studies race and politics in the United States. His research focuses on the period 1865 to 1900, from the end of the Civil War to the end of the nineteenth century. In particular, he studies the reestablishment of formalized white supremacy in the South during this period and its ramifications for the character of the United States. He explores this through analysis of the construction of policy at the national level and the effects of policy on the lived experiences of people at the local level.

His dissertation is titled “‘The Final Solution to the Negro Problem’: Militarization, Imperialism, and the End of Reconstruction in America.” It investigates when, how and why Reconstruction failed in the United States, arguing that the actions of southern Democrats in the federal Congress were essential to that development. Throughout the nineteenth century, southern Democrats had one chief enduring objective: the preservation of white supremacy. In the decades after the Civil War and immediate post-war Reconstruction, southern Democrats sought this through what they termed “Home Rule,” or a South where they could reign free from federal intervention. In the mid-1880s, southern Democrats in Congress sought the realization of this objective by shifting the spotlight of national politics from Reconstruction to national security. They played up fears of foreign invasion—especially by European powers through Spanish-controlled Cuba—to unite North and South around expansion of the U.S. Navy. The plan worked. The southern Democrats who drove naval expansion became symbols of reconciliation and, when Republicans sought to shore up voting rights, used this reputation to destroy the bill and end Reconstruction. Congress did not make another major effort to pass voting rights legislation for more than sixty years. Meanwhile, the Republicans who had failed with voting rights sought to restore their own party’s reputation by continuing naval expansion and eventually leading the U.S. into its experiment with extra-continental imperialism.

In exploring this narrative, the dissertation seeks to demonstrate the connection between the end of Reconstruction and the start of U.S. imperialism. The expansion of the U.S. Navy and the shift towards imperialism were both rooted in southern Democrats’ pursuit of white supremacy in the 1880s. This historical development offers a case study of how U.S. political leaders have played up national security concerns to shift the focus of national politics away from domestic affairs and towards national defense and especially the expansion of the U.S. military.

Colin graduated magna cum laude from Boston College with a B.A. and distinction as “scholar of the college” in 2013. Before returning to pursue his doctorate, he taught world history at R. B. Hudson Middle School in Selma, Alabama.


Timothy Brennan

David Sessions
History

David Sessions is a Ph.D. candidate in modern European history in his fifth year at Boston College. He received his M.A. in Humanities and Social Thought from New York University, and a B.A. in journalism from Patrick Henry College. Before returning to academia, he worked as a journalist and editor for publications including Slate, Newsweek, and The Daily Beast, and currently writes review essays and criticism for The New Republic, Jacobin, and others.

At Boston College, David has served as a teaching assistant for European and global history courses in the core as well as courses on European intellectual history. In 2015-2016, he served as a co-director of the Intellectual History Reading Group at Harvard University and was a Clough Center Graduate Fellow. During his time at B.C., David has also served as an officer of the Graduate Arts and Sciences Association (GASA), a mentor in Office of Student Life’s Graduate Mentor Program, and member of the organizing committee of BCGEU-UAW, the graduate student union at B.C.

David wrote his M.A. thesis on the philosophy of Jacques Derrida, and his interests have spanned European intellectual history, the history of religion, the history of science and technology, and the history of capitalism, labor, and Marxism.

David spent the previous academic year as a visiting student at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he conducted archival research for his dissertation, Man, Machines, and Modernity: The Sciences of Industrial Society in Postwar France. Drawing on over 20 archives, in France, the Netherlands, and the United States, David’s dissertation shows how the concept of “industrial society” became a an organizing rubric for a set of social-scientific and political debates in France after World War II, reshaping the topography of French intellectual life and bringing it into close dialogue with global conversations about social systems, economic development, class conflict, and civilizational “progress.” Putting French social science into conversation with its international counterparts and exploring overlooked spaces in which social-scientific debate developed, the dissertation shows how French social scientists contributed a unique perspective on the debates of the Cold War period and the period leading up to 1968.

David has presented his research at the Congress for the Humanities and Social Sciences in Canada, the Western Society for French History, the Biennial Conference on the History of Religion at Boston College, and the American University in Paris. His work as been supported by the Boston College History Department and the Lilly Foundation.


 

David "Clint" Burnett

Emily Kulenkamp
Political Science

Emily Kulenkamp attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she received a Bachelor's degree in Global Studies with a focus on politics, nation-states, and social movements. At the University of North Carolina, she studied European Union politics in the wake of the financial crisis of the late 2000s. She also completed minors in History and German and participated in a summer program at the Freie Universität Berlin. After working outside of academia for several years, she began a PhD program at Boston College in the Fall semester of 2016 in Political Science. Her primary focus is on International Relations while her secondary focus is on Comparative Politics.

Her research interests center around security studies with a particular focus on alliance politics and structures. Alliances are one of the key instruments states utilize to promote their security in the international arena. Collective security agreements and bilateral alliances shape the politics between states from ancient through modern times.

The research project generously funded by the Clough Graduate Fellowship will analyze the connection between alliances and regime type, asking: Are states with similar regimes more likely to enter into formal security alliances and collective security agreements? Do liberal democracies tend to ally with one another more than with other types of regimes? Why or why not? Analyzing whether states form security alliances with other states with similar regime types will provide insight into the role of regime type in international relations, including the role of democracy.

Her other research interests include the politics of hegemonic power transitions and 19th and 20th century European politics.


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Hessam Dehghani
Philosophy

Hessam Dehghani is a 6th year Ph.D. student in the Philosophy Department at Boston College, where he was rewarded the doctoral fellowship in 2012. He received his M.A. and first Ph.D. in Linguistics from Tehran and Allameh Tabatabai University, Iran. 

            Hessam's first dissertation was focused on Hermeneutics and Literature, particularly Islamic mystic texts in Persian, and Arabic. In 2010, Hessam did a post-doctorate at University College Dublin, where he worked on Phenomenological Hermeneutic interpretation of Islam.

            During his studies at Boston College, and as a fellow at Clough he has been working more specifically on the notion of Community in Islam. His dissertation is titled, “The Topology of Community in Islam" in which he is investigating the metaphysical foundations of community in phenomenological-deconstructive reading of Aristotle. He is studying the ways such a reading can lead to an alternative version of community among Muslims. The one that we can trace not least in the works of 14th century Iranian Mystic Hāfez. 


Caliesha Comley

Isaiah Sterrett
History

Isaiah Sterrett is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department, where he concentrates on the cultural, intellectual, and political history of Britain and the United States. He is especially interested in ideology, nation and nationalism, and the modern state. His research focuses on official policy vis-à-vis children, parents and parenting, and the home during the last third of the nineteenth century and the first third of the twentieth. Isaiah’s work suggests that, on both sides of the Atlantic, state-building often entailed the extension of official authority into the traditionally private realm of childrearing. During this period, the most liberal governments in the world approved and implemented new modes of intervention aimed at promoting the putative welfare of children—and, through children, society at large.

In his culminating doctoral project, Isaiah intends to concentrate on the British state’s ideological efforts vis-à-vis children and childrearing during the First World War. He is interested in official measures to inspire patriotism and sacrifice in children, as well as in broader measures to promote sound morals among British youngsters. What were those measures? Did their implementation depend on infrastructural capacity already developed by 1914, or did the war call for novel instruments of  authority? How, if at all, did conceptions of children change during the war, and how did such conceptions relate to ideas about government and its proper scope? Isaiah will draw on primary sources and an interdisciplinary secondary literature to address these questions. In so doing, he hopes to shed light on the critical intersection between children, parenting, and the development of the modern liberal state at the end of the long nineteenth century.

Isaiah holds a B.A., cum laude, and an M.A. in Political Science, both from Boston College.


 

Michael Franczak

Jaclyn Carroll
Sociology

Jaclyn Carroll is a PhD Student in the department of Sociology at Boston College.  She holds a B.A. in Sociology from The College of William & Mary and a M.A. in Advocacy Communication from James Madison University.   Jaclyn’s work is concentrated in critical criminology and critical philanthropy studies, and confronts deviance and discourse in the context of neoliberalism.  In particular, she focuses on the way that suggestive rhetoric and media interface power structures, constrain public discourse, and produce community definitions of progress, health, and humanitarianism.

Her current work focuses on the unconventional advocacy strategies taken up by low-income communities in Virginia in their resistance against industrial development.  Jaclyn focuses on tactics that have deviated from National Environmental Policy Act guidelines and that have bypassed the rulebooks of large environmental nonprofits.  Her project revisits the critiques of policy experts who regard environmental decision-making to be convoluted and inaccessible, and it highlights episodes where at-risk communities were not so easily or obviously disenfranchised by “red tape.”  She argues that by focusing on a community’s right to public hearing spaces rather than simply their right to be publically heard, we can better understand the successes of at-risk communities and their abilities to leverage regulatory uncertainty.


 

Perin Gokce

Jonathan Yudelman
Political Science and Government

 

Jonathan Yudelman is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science and Government at Boston College. His research focuses on early and contemporary liberal thought, early modern theories of progress, and the relationship between political theory and the changing international order. He is interested in the related fields of democratic peace theory, political development studies, and a wide range of 20th and 21st century critiques of liberalism.

His dissertation will be an attempt to understand the challenges and setbacks facing the liberal world order in light of the original theories and hopes giving rise to liberal progressivism in the 17th and 18th centuries. Specifically, he will examine how the thought of Immanuel Kant, Thomas Hobbes and Gambatista Vico, continues to shape political life in the Western world and beyond, both by originating the progressive hope for a more prosperous, equal and free world, and by foreshadowing ways in which that hope faces obstacles.

Jonathan’s broader academic and intellectual interests include ancient Greek and German philosophy, Jewish and Biblical thought, early modern science and philosophy, and American political thought.

Jonathan holds a BA in Jewish Thought and an MA in Philosophy, both from the Hebrew University. He has published a number of articles on issues of culture and politics for journals including the LA Review of Books, Azure, and First Things. In addition to the Clough Center Fellowship, he currently holds a fellowship with the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) and a Presidential fellowship at Boston College.


 

Eric Grube

Krisztina Horvath
Economics

Krisztina Horvath is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate in the Economics Department at Boston College. She is originally from Hungary, and holds an MA in Economics from the Central European University and a BA in Finance from the Corvinus University of Budapest. In between her studies, she worked as an analyst at a large commercial bank and as a researcher at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Krisztina’s primary research interest lies in the intersection of Health Economics, Behavioral Industrial Organization and Public Finance. Her current work focuses on different aspects of the Affordable Care Act.

Motivated by the current intense health care debate in the US and recent advances in Behavioral Economics, Krisztina’s dissertation research examines the importance of higher enrollment rates in stabilizing the private individual health insurance market. She studies how simple nudging policies could increase enrollment rates among the healthier population by reducing the cognitive effort costs associated with enrollment. The main results of her paper show that these simple behavioral policies have the potential to increase enrollment rates and maintain the stability of the private individual health insurance market in the long run. These findings provide important new insights for health care policy design, especially given the recent repeal of the most important stabilizing tool of the ACA, the individual mandate.

In other co-authored research, Krisztina also works on a project sponsored by the American Cancer Society that aims to study the impacts of the health care reform on prevention and early detection of women’s cancers using insurance claims data.


 

Maheen Haider

Laura Gáti
Economics

Laura Gáti is a Ph.D. student of Economics at Boston College. She holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of Bern, Switzerland, an M.A. in Art History from the University of Bern, an M.A. in Economics from the University of Bern and an M.A. in Economics from Boston College. Prior to joining Boston College, she has worked as an art curator in various institutions in Bern, and as an economist at the Swiss National Bank in Zürich, Switzerland.

Laura’s research interests encompass two very disparate economic fields. The first one concerns modeling short-run economic fluctuations as stemming from deviations from the standard assumptions of full information and rational expectations. On a very general level, this means investigating the dynamics of the standard workhorse macroeconomic model when one drops the full information assumption, or the rational expectations assumption respectively and asking what features of human economic behavior such models can capture. In this regard, Laura’s interest aligns with the economic literatures on imperfect information and dispersed information (global games) on the one hand, and with the small but growing literature on behavioral macroeconomic models on the other.

Laura’s second main interest is to gain a fuller understanding of the main drivers of long-run economic growth. Growth is a very well studied field within the economics profession and there is a large consensus on technological progress as one of the most fundamental engines of economic growth. Laura’s research attempts to delve deeper into this commonly held view and explore specific roots of technological progress.

Currently, Laura is working on one project from each of these fields. The first project aims to quantify the role of the information and technology sector for US economic growth in the 1990s up to today. According to preliminary results from this investigation, investment into the IT sector helped boost US productivity considerably in the time period from the mid-1990s up to approximately 2005. In the second project, Laura is working on a model in which central bank communication to the public can be excessive. This project aims to capture the idea that too much communication may overwhelm economic actors so that information is lost instead of transmitted. This has major consequences for central bank policy because it implies that central bank communication needs to be conducted differently, trading off informing the public against overwhelming them with information.


 

Felix Jiménez Botta

Maheen Haider
Sociology

Maheen Haider is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Sociology, where she studies the processes of immigration, acculturation, and issues of race and ethnicity. Her dissertation focuses on the integration strategies of high skilled, non-white, and Muslim immigrants especially Pakistani migrants in the US. She examines the contemporary changes in the immigrant experience that has increasingly become more diverse and complex around the issues of race, religion, and skill levels.

The intersectional non-white, high skilled, Muslim migrant identity presents a unique window in studying contemporary immigration in post 9/11 and post Trump America, across the lines of racially and religiously diverse, high skill immigrants today. Her dissertation research looks at the experiences of both short-term migrants as Pakistani international students studying in the American university and long-term migrant as Pakistani permanent residents to examine their acculturation and assimilation in the US. The study of these populations (high skilled Muslim migrants of color) is situated intellectually at the confluence of three bodies of sociological theory: Immigration, Racialization theory, and Life course studies. The complexity of the high skilled, non-white, and Muslim Pakistani migrant identity at the cross-section of the American mainstream are essential factors in unraveling the processes of integration.

Before coming to Boston College, she received a Masters in Social Development from the University of Sussex, and has a Bachelors degree in Software Engineering from Pakistan. She has experience of working within the corporate and non-profit sector in Pakistan and the UK.


 

Isak Ladegaard

Michael McLean
History

Michael McLean is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History. His dissertation looks at the relationship between democracy and empire in Dakota Territory in the 1870s and 1880s. Dakota Territory established a thriving democracy that welcomed immigrants, former slaves, migrant workers, and women, but its politicians were convinced that the Territory’s success depended on the complete subjugation and displacement of the region’s native peoples. Only by conquering new lands, the politicians argued, could American democracy survive and expand. The dissertation begins during the American Civil War, when the Territory was created, and ends with the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890. Dakota Territory captured the promise, chaos, contradictions, and uneven consequences of republican ideology in the nineteenth century.

Michael received his master’s degree in History from Boston College in 2016. One of his great joys has been to serve as a teaching assistant in American history courses. He also writes history and politics for a popular audience; his work has appeared in Jacobin Magazine, We’re History, History News Network, and the Hartford Courant. He has maintained a close relationship with the Lakota Sioux reservations in North and South Dakota during his studies, and can speak and translate the Lakota language.

Prior to Boston College, Michael received his B.A. in History with honors and summa cum laude from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in 2014. He won the best thesis prize from both the History and American Studies departments for his project, “We Thought We Had Some Trouble Last Year: Destruction, Survival, and Community during the Civil War on ‘Indian Territory.’” Michael values a wide range of perspectives and took courses in a variety of different fields, from philosophy to Greek mythology to human rights, and he eventually earned minors in both Classical Antiquity and African Studies. He studied abroad and taught English in Cape Town, South Africa while earning his undergraduate degree, and proudly spoke as the student speaker at his commencement ceremony. Michael has a passion for American literature and poetry; one of his favorite books is Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.


 

Peter Li

Patrick CoatarPeter
Sociology

Patrick CoatarPeter is a PhD student in the Sociology Department at Boston College.  He holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana and an M.A. in Sociology from Loyola University Chicago.  His current research interests span the intersections of environmental politics, international development, and participatory governance.

Patrick’s previous research has spanned a wide range of methods and locations.  He assisted on interview based environmental justice research on the Blackfoot reservation in Montana while an undergraduate and performed a short-term ethnography in homeless shelters around Chicago while pursuing his Master’s degree.  His current research builds on his previous methodological experiences and utilizes multiple approaches including content analysis, interviews, and ethnography.  His dissertation combines these methods to focus on questions centered on environmental policy and politics in the emerging semi-periphery of the world-system.

Recent research lauds the democratization of environmental governance during the early stages of the twenty-first century, noting a marked shift from traditional political-economic emphases of command and control regulation directed by the state and market-based neoliberal reforms piloted by the private sector.   However, the efficacy of governance using a multi-actor, multi-level, and multi-sector model remains in question. Patrick’s dissertation will empirically investigate the ways in which power and agency shape natural resource decisions at various scales by investigating the formulation of Chile’s national forestry and climate change strategy.  The development and implementation of this strategy interact with and are shaped by Chile’s rich history, strong institutions, and robust civil society as well as global forces of environmental politics and capitalist market demands.   Additionally, the materiality of forests and other ecosystems must also be considered.  Ultimately, the ways in which actors at different scales and from different sectors navigate the intricacies of national and international environmental governance can be instructive for scholars, policy-makers, and activists struggling to create more responsive and participatory conservation and development regimes.


 

Megan McCabe

Pierre De Leo
Economics

Pierre De Leo is a doctoral candidate in Economics at Boston College. He received his bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Milan in Italy. His research interests are in the areas of Macroeconomics, Monetary Policy, and International Finance.

Part of Pierre’s dissertation, co-authored with Vito Cormun, explores the role of global economic factors on the conduct of monetary policy by central banks around the world. The effect of monetary policy in small open economies (SOEs) is often thought to operate through the so-called exchange rate channel. Economic theory predicts that a monetary policy easing (i.e. lower interest rates) leads to a depreciation of a country’s nominal exchange rate, in turn stimulating global demand for the country’s products. In contrast, recent empirical evidence on the exchange rate channel uncovered puzzling results: econometric analysis suggests that the nominal exchange rate tends to appreciate in response to a monetary easing, especially in developing economies. In their research, De Leo and Cormun argue that these puzzling estimates result from misspecification of the econometric model adopted by previous studies. In particular, estimates of the exchange rate channel fail to account for the influence of anticipated changes in the U.S. economic outlook on SOEs’ monetary policy actions. They show that, if anticipated U.S. economic fluctuations are accounted for, empirical estimates of the exchange rate channel conform to the prediction of economic theory. SOEs’ exchange rate and interest rate movements largely depend on U.S. economic conditions: periods of expected U.S. economic booms are associated with SOEs’ exchange rates appreciations and lower interest rates. Previous research generally interpreted this correlation as the outcome of autonomous actions of SOE’s central banks, rather than their responses to the expectations of improved U.S. economic outlook.

In other research, co-authored with Susanto Basu, Pierre studies the optimal design of monetary policy within the widely-adopted inflation-targeting framework – a monetary policy regime in which a central bank has an explicit target inflation rate for the medium term and announces this inflation target to the public. In practice, most countries that have adopted an inflation targeting policy state their target in terms of an index of consumer price inflation. This includes prices of consumption goods but excludes prices of investment goods. De Leo and Basu present a model that has sluggish prices for both consumption and investment goods and imperfectly correlated shocks to the two sectors, which reproduces key features of the data. Optimal policy in the model requires that the central bank should target investment prices, and failure to do so leads to substantial welfare losses. This result arises because of an important economic difference between consumption and investment goods:  the intertemporal elasticity of substitution (IES) – a measure of responsiveness to the real interest rate – is likely to be much higher for investment than for consumption demand. Thus, small changes in the own real interest rate for investment due to expected changes in the price of investment goods have huge effects on investment demand, which is not the case for consumption.  Therefore, in order to keep outcomes close to the social optimum, it is more important to avoid fluctuations in investment price inflation than in consumption price inflation.


 

Scott Reznick

Robert Elliot
Theology

Robert Elliot is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Theology, concentrating in systematic theology and minoring in theological ethics. His research takes place at the intersection of political theology and political philosophy, focusing especially on the legitimation of both ecclesial and national authority as well as the nature and function of theological and philosophical thought in political life.

Before entering the Ph.D. program in 2017, Robert completed his B.A. at the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University, where he majored in philosophy and minored in theology. Robert then received a two-year Joint-Master’s Degree in Philosophy and Theology at Boston College and a one-year Master of Theology at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, in which he furthered his research twentieth-century systematic theology and theological ethics.

Robert’s main interests revolve around the relationship between theology and political theory, but he is presently focusing on how tragedy functions or becomes covered over in the politics of late liberalism. He is especially concerned with reading modern political theorists to uncover the ways in which they may attempt to prevent or remove the tragic dimensions of human existence so as to arrive at some supposedly ideal form of political life. Robert’s concern here is that the Christian narrative presents an at least quasi-tragic political narrative, which may be at odds with certain aspects of modern political theory. Working out this relationship in more detail is Robert’s goal in the present academic year.


 

Scott Reznick

Sara Suzuki
Education

Sara Suzuki is a Ph.D. candidate in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology at the Lynch School of Education. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis.

Sara studies the civic development of young people from a Positive Youth Development perspective, meaning that she focuses on the strengths that youth possess and how to best support youth in utilizing and growing their strengths. She is interested in what young people think about their roles as citizens or members of a community (their civic identity), who influences their beliefs and behaviors (schools, peers, parents, media, etc.), and how we can best promote youths’ civic participation. More specifically, she is interested in youth experiencing social and/or economic marginalization and how their background affects their civic development.

The focus of her recent research and the topic of her dissertation is critical consciousness, a construct that was first popularized by Paulo Freire. Critical consciousness consists of awareness about structural barriers to opportunities, and actions to combat these barriers. It is about discerning the root cause of problems in society and becoming empowered to do something about these problems. With critical consciousness, those who are marginalized by society are less likely to fault individuals for the consequences of inequality. Instead, they can adopt a more structural view of issues that takes into account the impact of institutions and policies. Her research focuses on how youth develop this critical consciousness, and how they can transform the awareness of systemic inequity into powerful civic actions.


 

Hayyim Rothman

Selene Campion
Political Science

Selene Campion is a PhD student in the Political Science department at Boston College. She holds an MA in Political Science from Boston College and a BA in International and Global Studies and French and Francophone Studies from Brandeis University. Before coming to Boston College, Selene was a research assistant at the Western Jihadism Project.

At Boston College, Selene specializes in the comparative politics of Western Europe. Her primary area of interest is religion and politics, specifically the integration of religious minorities. Currently, her research focuses on Islam in the West and issues of immigration and integration. She is also interested in the intersection of Islam and secularism in Western Europe, and religious pluralism and social cohesion. 

Selene’s dissertation addresses the politics of social provisions for Europe’s ethnic minorities, specifically, European Muslims. Western Europe is known for its unique social model, and the region’s welfare states are some of the most extensive in the world. Despite its comprehensive welfare system, however, social provisions are not necessarily equitably distributed among vulnerable populations. The region confronts demographic and social transformations that continue to alter established political-economic orders. It is critical to understand how democratic welfare states respond to these pressures. There have been myriad attempts to remedy this unequal access to social provisions, including efforts by the state and its bureaucratic components, political parties, and Muslim communities. Her research seeks to understand the political and social ramifications of these differences.

Selene’s work examines variation in how these social provisions are provided and the political implications that arise from these differences. Her research looks to the political consequences of different strategies for providing these resources, as well as the actors that affect these political-economic outcomes. She seeks to understand the importance of social and economic structures, political practices, and institutions in determining policy variation in countries throughout Western Europe.


 

Gabriela Tavara

Spencer Johnson
Theology

S. Kyle Johnson, a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, is currently pursuing his PhD in Systematic Theology at Boston College with a minor focus in Historical Theology. Kyle earned his B.A in Bible and Humanities at Houghton College (2012). He also has a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (2015) and a Master of Theology from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (2016).

Kyle works at the intersection of spirituality, mysticism, and political theology. His research investigates the way that spiritual practices and mysticism are both embedded within but can also transform political and social life. Other recent research projects have dealt with topics such as the place of spirituality in anti-racist activism, theological resources for combating mass incarceration, spirituality and social theories of affectivity, and monasticism. Kyle also has research interests in embodiment, ecumenism, peace studies, and the ‘lived theology’ of religion in the United States. 

Beyond the academy, Kyle is committed to religious leadership and political praxis. He has experience in Christian ministry in mainline Protestant and evangelical Christian contexts, and regularly uses his writing and research skills in anti-racist activism. He has also traveled widely, with particular experience in areas marked by religious and ethnic conflict. He has traveled and studied in Central Asia, Southeastern Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere.

His intended dissertation topic will investigate the place of language and practices involving the devil, demonology, and exorcism in a contemporary theology and spirituality. The project will consider the two-pronged nature of demonology: First, the relationship between language about the demonic and the demonization of ‘others.’ And, secondly, the positive role such language and practices have in describing and galvanizing activity against evil and injustice—such as the function of “the devil” in African American religious culture as a category that describes the mysterious, but radically evil, existential realities of systemic racism. The project will engage contemporary thinkers who have revived the category of the demonic in creative ways such as: Rene Girard, Walter Wink, James Baldwin, Esther Acolaste, and others.

Kyle looks forward to a career in the academy. He is particularly passionate about teaching in interdisciplinary contexts that emphasize the relationship between the humanities, especially religion and theology, and practical political and social issues. He hopes to do theological work that is deeply engaged with the public sphere and serves the promotion of peace and justice.


 

Gabriela Tavara

Stephanie Edwards
Theology

Stephanie C. Edwards is a Ph.D. candidate in Theological Ethics at Boston College. Originally from near Portland, Oregon she now makes its namesake her home, near Portland, Maine. Her research interests include interdisciplinary trauma studies, feminist and womanist theology, race and whiteness, and liberation theologies. Her dissertation is in the area of Christian bioethics, titled: “Pharmaceutical memory modification and Christianity’s ‘dangerous’ memory.” She is also a practicing social worker and community advocate in Biddeford, Maine.

During undergraduate studies at Santa Clara University (2007, BA Religious Studies; BS Anthropology), Stephanie studied abroad at the Casa de la Solidaridad program in El Salvador. Living and working with the people of El Salvador fundamentally shaped her undergraduate career and decision to serve as a Jesuit Volunteer after graduation. Stephanie spent a transformative year in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, working as a labor organizer, immersion trip coordinator, and homeless shelter assistant. Inspired and challenged by these experiences she pursued graduate studies in social work and theology (Boston University 2011, MSW, MTS). During her program she spent the summer months traveling, first through North Africa and the Middle East; and second, overland through the former Yugoslavia.

After earning her masters, Stephanie served as a grant coordinator for the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance. She then relocated to Maine and continued work in non-profit management and grant consulting. Returning to Boston College for doctoral studies, her travel and work experience continue to inform her studies. She has written extensively on victimization via aid programs in post-disaster contexts, first funded by the Boston University Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future (2010), and most recently presented at the Society of Christian Ethics on the twelfth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina (2017). Her work in the former Yugoslavia focuses on the construction of competing post-conflict trauma narratives in Bosnia, and the failure of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to effectively counter them (Routledge, forthcoming; Bosnian translation TPO Fondacija, 2017).

Her dissertation explores the case of pharmaceutical memory modification, which is, to simplify a very complex process, the use of a drug to dampen the effect of, or eliminate completely, the memory of a traumatic experience. These treatments range from relatively “mild” (those that aim at reducing the body’s sympathetic response during recall of the event), to “extreme” (those that aim to eliminate the memory of the event itself from a survivor’s brain). Her thesis is that while standard therapeutic treatments, even those including intense pharmaceuticals, can potentially offer individual, biomedical healing, they are missing an essential perspective offered by Christian bioethics; namely the need for re/incorporation of individuals and their traumatic memories into communities that confront and reinterpret traumatic events and related suffering. While this approach can be applied more generally, this project is specifically grounded in Christian ethics. To this end, it engages womanist/feminist authors regarding incarnational, embodied personhood and Johann Baptist Metz’s “dangerous memory” to develop an “enfleshed counter memory” that responds to the challenge of pharmaceutical memory modification.