Introducing the 2017 Hurst Fellows

Wesley Chaney is an Assistant Professor of History at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. He received his Ph.D. in history from Stanford University in 2016 and concentrates broadly on the environmental, social, and legal history of the Qing Empire (1644-1912). His current research project, tentatively titled “Stolen Land and Broken Bodies: Law, Environment, and Rebellion in Northwest China,” examines ground-level social transformations and the ethnicized legal disputes that both triggered and followed the violence of the mid-nineteenth century. Centering on the lives of ordinary peddlers, smallholders, and herders preserved in legal case records and a range of other local sources, the study details the changing jurisdictional geographies and disputes over land, resources, and individual bodies that attended imperial expansion in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands. His work has been supported by, among others, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and the Fulbright-Hays DDRA Program.

Scott De Orio is a doctoral candidate in History and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. His first book project, Punishing Queer Sexuality in the Age of LGBT Rights, tracks the expansion of the branch of the carceral state concerned with controlling sex crimes in the late-twentieth-century U.S. and examines the effect that expansion has had on queer forms of gender and sexuality. He also has a second, Euro-American transnational project that investigates the rise of efforts to regulate child sexuality in the spheres of medicine and the law, from campaigns to eradicate masturbation starting in the 1760s to the rise of the mass incarceration of sex criminals in the twentieth century. His writing has appeared in the Journal of the History of Sexuality, in the edited collection The War on Sex, and on the blog NOTCHES: (re)marks on the history of sexuality.

Brooke Depenbusch is a Ph.D. Candidate in History at the University of Minnesota.
Her research and teaching interests include the histories of work, family, and social provision, and their respective relationships to law. Her dissertation, “Working on Welfare: Down and Out in the USA, 1935-1962,” explores these themes through the history of general relief. From depression through post-war prosperity, the dissertation traces the twentieth-century history of this distinctive form of American social provision in order to explore and argue for significant continuities in both working people’s vulnerability to poverty and also the legal disabilities attached to their dependence. In particular, her dissertation interrogates the role played by the laws of general relief in the reproduction of notions that poor people’s dependence warranted their forfeiture of various rights. In its focus on general relief, the dissertation positions the ongoing precarity and rightlessness experienced by poor working people as persistent and defining features of twentieth-century America’s political economy and its welfare state. Her work has been supported by the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, the American Society for Legal History, and the University of Minnesota.

Smita Ghosh is a student in Penn's JD/PhD program in American Legal History. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in May 2014 and took qualifying exams in the history department in 2015. She is writing her dissertation about the rise of immigration detention during the refugee crises of the 1970s and '80s. She is interested in the experience of migrants in detention, the privatization of immigration detention facilities, and inter-branch struggles about immigration and refugee policy.

Since September 2016, she has been working as a law clerk for Judge Victor Bolden of the District of Connecticut. In September 2017, she will begin working for the Sentencing Commission as a Supreme Court Fellow. Before starting law school, she worked at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in New York. While in law school, she was on the board of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), the Civil Rights Law Project and the student chapter of the American Constitution Society. She is also on the Projects and Proposals committee of the American Society for Legal History and occasionally writes for the LegalHistory Blog.

Brendan Gillis is currently the Hench Post-Dissertation Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society. After completing a Ph.D. in history at Indiana University in 2015, he taught at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. His book project, “Cosmopolitan Parochialism: A Global History of the British Magistrate, 1690-1834,” explores the role of local administration in rapidly expanding imperial systems of law and government. British magistrates dealt with statutes and precedents, but defined their function in contrast to the role of judges and lawyers. The persistent power of these local officeholders complicates narratives of professionalization and the rise of the adversary trial. This research project draws on media studies, religion, politics, ecology, and the history of emotions to reconsider the enforcement of law in European empires. He has served previously as Editorial Assistant for the American Historical Review, and has held fellowships from the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the Center for Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Studies at UCLA, the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, and a number of libraries and archives.

Elizabeth Lhost is a historian of law and religion in South Asia. She is currently completing her Ph.D. in the Departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and History at the University of Chicago. Her dissertation, “Between Community and Qānūn: Documenting Islamic legal practice in 19th-century South Asia,” examines the relationship between colonial bureaucracy and the transformation of Islamic law in British India. Drawing attention to the social and material history of legal practice across the Indian subcontinent, her work focuses on the modes paperwork and documentary routines that propelled the colonial legal system—and animated its opponents. Prior to joining the University of Chicago, Elizabeth received a B.A. in English literature and Cognitive Science from Northwestern University and an M.A. in Languages and Cultures of Asia from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her work has been supported by the Fulbright student program, the Social Science Research Council, the American Institute of Pakistan Studies, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Mellon Foundation. In August, she will join the Center for the Humanities at UW–Madison as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and will teach courses in the undergraduate legal studies program.

Sara Ludin is a Ph.D. Candidate in Jurisprudence and Social Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation, “The Reformation Suits: Peace, Property, and the Politics of Difference in a Sixteenth Century German Imperial Court,” explores the role that civil litigation played in the most consequential legal transformation of the early Reformation period: while 1521 marks the moment at which Lutheranism was outlawed (in the Edict of Worms), in 1555 it was recognized as a legal confession (in the Augsburg Peace). Through close readings of case files, the project tracks how litigation transformed the ways in which the people involved understood the nature of the issue on their hands, moving from a jurisprudence of “heresy” to one of “religion.” Sara’s general interests are in the study of law and religion, secularity and secularism, the German Reformation, legal phenomenology, and law and language. Sara grew up in Colorado and earned her B.A. in Philosophy from Dartmouth College. Before starting at Berkeley, she lived in Berlin for two years, on a Fulbright studying contemporary constitutional law on religion in Germany. She currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island where she is a Visiting Research Fellow in Brown University’s History Department, involved in their nascent “Legal Studies” initiative.

Jane Manners is a PhD candidate in American History at Princeton University. Her dissertation examines the legal and political aftermath of the Great New York Fire of 1835, using the disaster as a lens through which to explore the constitutional implications of risk and commercial interconnectedness in Jacksonian America. Jane received both her AB and her JD from Harvard. Before coming to Princeton, she clerked for Judge Mark Wolf, then chief judge of the District of Massachusetts. She has also worked as a teacher, a grant maker, a journalist, and a presidential campaign staffer. During the 2016-17 academic year, she was a Golieb Fellow in Legal History at NYU Law School.

Mary X. Mitchell is a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University's Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and the Cornell Law School. Beginning in August 2017, she will be an assistant professor of history at Purdue University. Mitchell's research focuses on the legal histories of nuclear weapons and energy. Her first book project, "Test Cases," uses legal conflict over US nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands as a window into shifting patterns of US extraterritorial power. The project illustrates how the critical intersections between law and science and technology came to define US imperialism following World War II. At Cornell, Mitchell is also working on a second book project, "Unnatural Disasters," a transnational history of liability and compensation frameworks for nuclear reactor accidents. Mitchell completed her PhD in History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. Previously, she served as a law clerk to Judge Anthony J. Scirica of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, practiced law in Pennsylvania, and worked in intellectual property management.

Kalyani Ramnath is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Princeton University. She studies modern South Asia, legal history and law and empire. Her dissertation Boats in a Storm: Law, Politics and Jurisdiction in South Asia explores the impact of decolonization in South Asia on the lives of Tamil migrants, through legal cases filed after the Second World War in Madras, Malaya, Rangoon and Colombo. In navigating the transition from imperial to national geographies, these migrant laborers, traders, moneylenders and political workers challenged postwar immigration, detention and taxation that were drawn on ethnic and racial identities, and that restricted freedoms of movement and residence.

Kalyani received a B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) from the National Law School of India University and an LL.M. from the Yale Law School, before coming to Princeton. She taught legal history, property and comparative constitutional law at NLSIU for two years (2010 - '12). She was elected to the Fellowship of Woodrow Wilson Scholars at Princeton in 2016 - '17.

Nicholas Venable is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Classics Department at the University of Chicago. He is writing a dissertation on Legal Authority and Monastic Institutions in Late Antique Egypt. His work examines how imperial legal conventions persist after an empire's decline, using little-studied Coptic papyri documenting the legal role played by monks and clergy in A.D. 400-800 Egypt. Nicholas studies the legal role played by religious institutions and clergy, who provided access to law within their communities while continuing to frame their actions in terms acceptable within the Roman legal discourse. Using Egyptian literary and documentary texts, his project charts how the social prestige of Roman legal forms persisted after the Roman imperial bureaucracy deteriorated.

Before coming to Chicago, Nicholas received a B.A. in History and Classics from Yale University. He has produced editions of legal documents preserved on papyrus and participated in the American Society of Papyrologists Summer Institute in Papyrology held at Princeton University in 2014. During the 2016-2017 academic year, he was a visiting researcher at the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Archive in Berlin.

Natasha Wheatley is a historian of Central European and international history. Her research explores the history of sovereignty, rights, and legal personality in the 100 years after 1848, and encompasses imperial, constitutional, and international law in both Europe and the wider world. She is especially interested in conceptual questions, both on a substantive level – through the history of legal knowledge – and a theoretical one: her work seeks to bring the full range and richness of humanities methodologies to bear on the history of law. She received her PhD in History from Columbia University in 2016, and is currently working on a book manuscript tentatively entitled The Temporal Life of States: Sovereignty, Legal Knowledge, and the Archive of Empire in Central Europe. Drawing Central European history into the global frame of new scholarship on empire and legal pluralism, the manuscript tracks the entanglement of imperial and international law in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to offer a new history of sovereignty in Central Europe. She has also published work on the interwar international order: my article on Palestine and legal claim-making under the mandate system appeared as “Mandatory Interpretation” in Past and Present in May 2015, and an essay titled “Spectral Legal Personality in Interwar International Law: On New Ways of Not Being a State” is forthcoming in Law and History Review. She has held fellowships in Cambridge, Vienna, and Berlin, and a volume called Power and Time, edited together with Stefanos Geroulanos and Dan Edelstein, is forthcoming with University of Chicago Press. Currently an ARC Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Laureate Research Program at the University of Sydney, she will take up an assistant professorship in the Department of History at Princeton University in September 2017.

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