University of Wisconsin–Madison

Introducing the 2015 Hurst Fellows

Juandrea M. Bates is a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas. She is specializing in the legal and social history of modern Latin America with a focus on youth studies, gender and social movements. Her dissertation, “Raising Argentina: Family, Childhood and Civil Law in Buenos Aires 1871-1930,” illuminates the critical role legal understandings of family played in perpetuating inequality in nineteenth-century Argentina and examines how ordinary men, women and children brought about a dramatic shift in legal notions of family and childhood at the turn-of-the-century. More broadly, her research interests focus on how popular participation in judicial processes generates legislative changes and how legal categorizations surrounding age and kinship affect the poor's ability to promote child safety, access citizenships rights and obtain justice. She is particularly interested in legal understandings of the relationships between state power, parental rights and children's protection. Her work has been supported by the Council for Library Information Resources, the Andrew Mellon Foundation and the University of Texas at Austin.

Rabia Belt is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Culture at the University of Michigan, a Rackham Predoctoral Fellow, and a Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University Law Center. She has a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and an A.B. in Social Studies from Harvard College. She is a former Research Academic Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center. In the fall, she will start at an Assistant Professor at Stanford Law School. She is currently working on a dissertation that examines how mental disability shaped the development of voting rights over the long 19th century US titled: Disabling Democracy in America: Disability, Suffrage, and the Law, 1830-1920.

Catherine Evans is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Princeton University. Her dissertation, Persons Dwelling in the Borderland: Responsibility and Criminal Law in the Late-Nineteenth-Century British Empire, explores how lawyers, doctors and government administrators applied common law concepts of mens rea and responsibility in British and imperial murder cases. Before coming to Princeton, Catherine received a B.A. in Jurisprudence from University College, Oxford (2010) and a B.A. in History from McGill University in Montreal (2008). Starting this July, she will be a post-doctoral Prize Fellow in Economics, History and Politics at Harvard University.

Kellen Funk, J.D., is a doctoral candidate in history at Princeton University. He studies nineteenth- and twentieth-century American law and religion, with particular focus on civil institutions, civil procedure, and the conflict of laws. His doctoral dissertation, entitled “The Lawyers’ Code: The Transformation of American Legal Practice,” focuses on mid-nineteenth-century lawyers who abolished the old common law writ structure, fused the systems of law and equity, drafted elaborate codes of practice, and created the modern American system of civil justice. Other work in progress explores how Protestant and Catholic denominations functioned as quasi-sovereign legal jurisdictions in the antebellum United States before giving way to an integrated and professionalized legal system. Funk’s work thus seeks to make sense of the ways lawyers, judges, and especially legislators marked the boundaries of law as an autonomous field and often concealed or denied the influence of political economy or religious culture in order to do so. Funk received his J.D. from Yale Law School where he was awarded the Joseph Parker Prize for best writing on legal history and the Thomas Emerson prize for best writing on legislation. He is currently a legal history fellow at Yale Law School and a graduate research fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University. After completing his Ph.D., Funk expects to clerk for Chief Judge Lee Rosenthal of the Southern District of Texas and Judge Stephen F. Williams of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Doug Kiel is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Faculty Affiliate in History at Williams College. He received his PhD in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He studies American Indian history and nation rebuilding, federal Indian law and policy, and settler colonialism in the Midwest. He is at work on a book manuscript entitled "Unsettling Territory: Oneida Indian Resurgence and Anti-Sovereignty Backlash." His book project explores the origins of recent litigation between the Oneida Nation and the Village of Hobart, a mostly non-Native municipality that exists within the boundaries of the Oneida Reservation and seeks to forestall the tribe from recovering acreage that was lost a century ago. He has worked at numerous museums, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and has received fellowships from the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, NM, the Ford Foundation, Middlebury College, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Sara Mayeux is currently a Sharswood Fellow at Penn Law and a history PhD candidate at Stanford, where she also earned a JD. After completing law school, she clerked for Judge Marsha S. Berzon of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Her research focuses on the history of American criminal law and procedure. Her dissertation-in-progress, “Poor Defenses: The American Legal Profession and the Problem of the ‘Indigent Accused’ in the Twentieth Century,” reconstructs the history of public defender offices and, more generally, of American lawyers’ efforts to theorize and institutionalize the provision of legal assistance to poor people charged with crimes. Rather than framing the narrative teleologically around judicial recognition of a constitutional right to state-provided counsel (which became the profession’s consensus framing of the issue of indigent defense by the 1950s and ‘60s), the dissertation situates that consensus within a longer history of local experiments and intellectual debates about whether indigent defense was a state, professional, or charitable responsibility. Along the way it uses this history to consider changes over time in the legal profession’s definition of its societal role and in the profession’s confrontation (or lack thereof) with how law structures inequality to begin with. Beyond that project, Sara is also interested in the mutual interplay between criminal law and ideas about childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, and has some early works-in-progress in that vein.

Tom McSweeney is just completing his second year on the faculty at William & Mary Law School, where he teaches property, trusts & estates, and legal history. He received his B.A. at William & Mary in 2002, and between then and his return to join the faculty in 2013 he was at Cornell University, where he earned a J.D. and a Ph.D. in medieval European history. He spent an additional two years at Cornell as a visiting assistant professor in the law school.

His research focuses on England in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, specifically the period between the establishment of the writ system in the 1160s and 1170s and the end of the thirteenth century. He is particularly interested in the ways a fledgling professional judicial bench began to schematize the work they were doing in the courts using Roman law as their framework. He is currently working on a book on the justices who wrote the Bracton treatise. He argues that a small group of justices and clerks in the royal courts established a community that was mediated through texts and particular ways of relating to texts. These justices and clerks were trying to make the case, not so much through the texts themselves as through their writing and reading practices, that they were part of a Europe-wide legal culture represented by Roman and canon law.

Jeffrey Perry, Ph.D., Purdue University. His research interests revolve around the intersections of law and religion in American Society. In April 2015 he defended his dissertation, “Protectors of the Peace: Baptist Church Tribunals and the Construction of American Religious and Civil Authority, 1780-1860,” which posits churches as important legal venues in the trans-Appalachian West. With chapters devoted to domestic relations law, economic change and legal formalization, and religious pluralism, it concludes with an examination of antebellum-era church property litigation and shifts the focus of disestablishment’s development from the realm of constitutional law to the more routine disciplinary actions of churches, local court decrees, and state legislation. An article from this project was recently published in Church History and was awarded the 2014 Sidney E. Mead Prize from the American Society of Church History. He received a 2015 Andrew Mellon Research Grant from the Virginia Historical Society, and has also received grants from, among other places, the Kentucky Historical Society, the Filson Historical Society, and Tennessee Historical Society. Outside of work, he enjoys watching baseball, cooking, and reading fiction.

Sarah Seo is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Princeton University. Her dissertation, The Fourth Amendment, Cars, and Freedom in Twentieth-Century America, examines the history of car searches to explore the development of public rights and police powers and to explain the emergence of proceduralism as an integral aspect of American freedom in the twentieth century. She received an A.B. in History from Princeton and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. Prior to graduate school, Sarah served as a law clerk for Judge Denny Chin in the Southern District of New York and Judge Reena Raggi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Starting this August, she will be the McCurdy Legal History Fellow at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Will Smiley studies the legal, social, political, and diplomatic history of the Middle East, with a particular interest in issues of international and Islamic law in the Ottoman Empire. His current book project examines the changing law and practice of captivity between the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Ottomans and their neighbors, particularly the Russian Empire. He is also working on other projects related to the legal regulation of commerce, diplomacy, and violence in the Middle East and Eurasia, drawing on Ottoman, Russian, Austrian, and British archives. Beyond the Middle East, he has active research interests in the global history of international law.

Will is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, and beginning in August he will be Assistant Professor of History & Humanities at Reed College. He received his PhD from the University of Cambridge, where he was a Gates Scholar, and his JD from Yale Law School.

Evan Taparata is a doctoral candidate in U.S. History at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. His dissertation examines how government officials, legal actors, non-profit organizations, and displaced peoples negotiated what it meant to be a “refugee” in American law, society, and culture from the 1780s to 1924. He has presented his research on refugee migration and policy at several workshops and conferences, including the Organization of American Historians, the Law and Society Association, the Association of American Geographers, and the Policy History Conference. In addition to teaching and research, he maintains an active interest in public history and digital humanities. As a member of the Guantánamo Public Memory Project (GPMP), he has explored parallels in practices of detention and surveillance in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota and at the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He and his GPMP colleagues have presented this work in several public forums, including the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul and the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. In Summer 2015 he will be a fellow in digital humanities with the website “Programming Historian” (

Philip Thai is an assistant professor at Northeastern University. He received his Ph.D. in history at Stanford University in 2013. A historian of Modern China, his research and teaching interests include legal history, economic history, business history, and history of capitalism. He is currently working on his manuscript tentatively titled, "The War on Smuggling: Law, State Power, and Illicit Markets in Coastal China.” Drawing from diverse sources including customs records, court cases, popular press reports, and trade statistics, the study uses China’s campaigns against smuggling during the twentieth century to examine the transformation of state authority and the larger socioeconomic impact of state-building. His interdisciplinary work has been supported by a number of organizations, including the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), Fulbright-Hays Program, Social Science Research Council (SSRC), Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, and Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI). During the 2015-16 academic year, he will be a Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS China Studies Postdoctoral Fellow.

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