group shot of the 2019 Hurst Fellows
Front row, left to right: Allison Schwartz, Emily Prifogle, Larissa Kopytoff, Mariam Sheibani, Myisha S. Eatmon, Brianna Nofil.
Back row: Mitra Sharafi, Julia Leikin, Aaron Hall, Jesse Watson, Sanne Ravensbergen, George Aumoithe, José Argueta Funes.

Introducing the 2019 Hurst Fellows

George Aumoithe

George Aumoithe is postdoctoral research associate in the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies and Department of History at Princeton University. He earned his Ph.D. in U.S. history from Columbia University in 2018. His dissertation “Strange Bedfellows: Public Health and Welfare Politics in the United States, 1965—2000” examines the political economy of Medicaid and hospital provision in New York City. Exploring the consequences of a decade-plus fiscal shift that began in the late 1960s, the project shows how federal, state, and local policymakers deemphasized epidemic preparedness and acute care in favor of downsized hospitals, increased outpatient services, and more “personal responsibility.” The project demonstrates a series of purposeful decisions by presidential administrations, Congress, state legislatures, and city officials to underinvest in public and voluntary hospitals that served poor people and people of color. Aumoithe’s research has been supported by the American Philosophical Society, the Center for Engaged Scholarship, the Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, and the Social Science Research Council. He is a 2019 Career Enhancement Adjunct Faculty Fellow with the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Aumoithe has published in the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History's newsletter, contributed to the Civil Rights (1954-2015) (Defining Documents in American History) series, and written for Social Difference Online. His present research includes conducting a study of the deployment of underutilization ratios to justify the closure of “safety-net” hospitals and an analysis of the effect of disparate impact jurisprudence on hospital closure cases. Aumoithe is lead editor of a forthcoming volume entitled Law, Social Difference, and Healthcare, which examines structural racism in medico-legal history.

Myisha S. Eatmon

Myisha S. Eatmon is a Chapel Hill, North Carolina native who earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and History from the University of Notre Dame. She earned her Master’s Degree in United States History in 2013, and is now a Doctoral Candidate in the Department. Her dissertation explores black legal culture in the face of racial violence under Jim Crow. Her interest in history, social justice, and the law dates back to her elementary years, when she was deeply moved by the lived experiences of victims of chattel slavery, the Holocaust, and Jim Crow. She has earned the American Historical Association’s Littleton-Griswold Research in Legal History Research Grant among other research grants to advance her research on black legal culture, civil law, and Jim Crow.

José Argueta Funes

José Argueta Funes is a doctoral candidate in history at Princeton University. He studies nineteenth-century North America and the Pacific, with a particular emphasis on legal history, political economy, and natural resources. His dissertation surveys property reforms in the Kingdom (and Territory) of Hawai‘i in the mid-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries and the worlds of Anglo-American lawyers involved in these reforms.

José was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador. He earned a B.A. in history and philosophy from the University of Virginia, where he was a Jefferson Scholar. He will complete his J.D. studies at Yale Law School in the spring of 2019. At Yale, José was awarded the Quintin Johnstone Prize in Real Property Law and served as a Legal History Fellow and as a Coker Fellow. He will clerk for Judge Guido Calabresi of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit during the 2020-2021 term.

Aaron Hall

Aaron Hall is a historian of slavery, constitutionalism and governance in the United States. Beginning in June of 2019, he will be a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University. In 2020, he will join the History faculty of the University of Minnesota. Aaron is writing a book on the creation of an authoritative Founding in American constitutional culture through conflicts over slavery in the Early Republic. From schoolhouses and popular conventions to courtrooms and legislatures, this project traces how antebellum Americans made claims upon a prescriptive constitutional past to govern the country’s most traumatic subject. Aaron is also working on a second project that studies slavery as an instrument and artifact of public power. His articles have appeared or are forthcoming in the Journal of American HistoryJournal of Southern HistoryLaw and History Review and Law and Social Inquiry. Aaron is a graduate of Harvard Law School and will receive his PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley in May of 2019. As a graduate student, he has been supported by a Golieb Fellowship at NYU Law School and a dissertation fellowship from the McNeil Center for Early American Studies.

Larissa Kopytoff

Larissa Kopytoff is an Instructor at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. She earned her Ph.D. in African history at New York University in 2018. Her dissertation, “The Boundaries of Citizenship: Political Imagination and French Colonial Administration in Senegal’s Quatre Communes,” addressed what are often described as legal anomalies: French colonial subjects in West Africa who claimed and exercised political and legal rights generally reserved for French citizens. Her work examines how African citizens and subjects themselves shaped Senegal’s complex and ambiguous citizenship laws and explores why citizenship in Senegal mattered for the expansion and restriction of rights elsewhere in colonial Africa and the French empire. More broadly, Larissa's research interests focus on political participation and affiliation in colonial Africa, the intersections of legal status and racial and religious identities, and the translation of colonial law and administration into everyday practices. She has won teaching awards at New York University and the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, and her work has been supported by the Fulbright-Hays DDRA Program. 

Julia Leikin

Julia Leikin is a historian of Russia and Eurasia, with an interest in the development and practice of international law and legal culture more broadly. Currently, a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Exeter, she is working on a monograph tentatively titled In the Spirit of the Laws: The Russian Empire in the International Order. The book analyzes the practice of the law of nations in the Russian Empire’s maritime realms in the eighteenth and nineteenth century; it argues that the sea was central to the development of the discipline of international law in imperial Russia in the middle of the nineteenth century. Her recent publications, including an article in Law and History Review, set the scene for understanding the “Russian Mediterranean” – an important legal frontier in the development of Russian international and maritime law. Together with E. B. Smilianskaia, she is the editor and translator of Russian Faith, Honour & Courage Displayed in a Faithful Narrative of the Russian Expedition by Sea in the Years 1769 & 1770 by Rear-Admiral John Elphinston, which will appear in Russian translation in 2019 and subsequently in the original English. 

She received a Ph.D. from University College London in December 2016, and has held fellowships at the Institute of Historical Research, London, and the German Historical Institute, Moscow. Her research has been supported by IREX Individual Advanced Research Opportunities Fellowship, the Scouloudi Foundation, the British Institute at Ankara, and the Centre for East European Language Based Area Studies, and the Hakluyt Society. She is a graduate of Georgetown University and has previously worked at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. and in the financial sector in New York.

Brianna Nofil

Brianna Nofil is a PhD candidate in U.S. history at Columbia University, where she specializes in the history of immigration and the criminal justice system. Her dissertation, “Detention Power: Jails, Camps, and the Origins of Immigrant Incarceration, 1900-2002,” examines how immigration detention emerged as a distinct form of “administrative imprisonment,” tracing its development from the era of Chinese Exclusion to the era of ICE. By paying particular attention to how the immigration service’s reliance on county jails fostered a century of collaboration between local communities and the federal government, this project recasts deportation as a federal initiative impossible to carry out without local cooperation. Brianna received her B.A. from Duke University and previously held the Bear Fellowship in Business, Law, and Human Rights at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Her final year at Columbia is being supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Jefferson Scholars Foundation.

Emily Prifogle

Emily Prifogle is a social and legal historian of rural communities. In May 2019, Prifogle will defend her dissertation, “Cows, Cars, and Criminals: The Legal Landscape of the Rural Midwest, 1920-1975,” which argues that the legal remaking of rural communities was a central feature of twentieth-century America. It utilizes case studies to examine critical topics that historians and legal scholars have framed as quintessentially urban issues—land use and zoning, policing and prosecution, education equality, labor and economic opportunity, local community organizing and advocacy, and infrastructure and mobility—and reveals their manifestations in rural geographies, economies, and social norms. The result is a new legal history that tells not a story of rural decline but a story of the rural Midwest in a constant process of transformation along lines of class, race, and gender.

Prifogle will be a Faculty Fellow at the University of Michigan Law School beginning fall 2019. Her scholarship has been supported by a National Fellowship at the Jefferson Scholars Foundation and an Early Career Research Fellowship from the Cromwell Foundation. She is a former associate blogger for the Legal History Blog and current advisory board member and co-founder of Before completing her Ph.D. at Princeton, she received a MSc in comparative social policy from Oxford and a JD from the University of California, Berkeley. She also clerked for Judge David Hamilton on the Seventh Circuit.

Sanne Ravensbergen

Sanne Ravensbergen is a cultural historian of colonial law based at Leiden University. Her PhD thesis Courtrooms of Conflict. Criminal Law, Local Elites and Legal Pluralities in Colonial Java, that she is currently reworking into a book, demonstrates the role of criminal law and courtroom dynamics in the process of colonial state formation in nineteenth century Java, where separate courts and laws existed for different population groups. In the pluralistic law courts— the landraden and ommegaande rechtbanken—where the local (and other non-European) population was tried, Javanese and Dutch court members decided over the verdict together by ballot, with Islamic and Chinese leaders providing advice on religious and local legal traditions. In this pluralistic setting, it was by keeping laws undefined, procedures vague, and networks informal—by institutionalizing uncertainty—that space was created to exercise and challenge colonial rule. Sanne’s postdoctoral research project ‘Building Cultures of Legality’ follows on her PhD research but expands geographically. It zooms in on the actual moments of the making of compendia and colonial legislation in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, when colonial commissions of inquiry sought local expertise and new legal constructs were formed in the local contexts of South Sulawesi, East Java, West Sumatra, Southeast India, and Sri Lanka. In 2015 and 2016, Sanne co-initiated and co-organised two international conferences entitled Ocean of Law, bringing together scholars working on the legal history of the Indian Ocean World. She teaches and designs undergraduate and honours courses on the history of Dutch empire, legal history of the nineteenth century, and currently contested issues in the Netherlands related to its colonial past.  

Allison Schwartz

Allison Schwartz is a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Minnesota. Her dissertation – “Banking on a Woman’s Worth: Personhood and the New Patriarchy of Debt, 1961-2008” – explores how debt and credit served as sites where American women both challenged and experienced gender and racial inequality. In analyzing credit, housing, and bankruptcy legislation passed during the 1970s, she illuminates the myriad ways in which a woman’s capacity to repay her debt conditioned her claim to legal personhood. By placing women’s indebtedness at the center of neoliberal transformations, she traces the enduring power of an American legal system which privileged the profits of capitalist institutions extending loans over the financial security of women depending on borrowed money. Before arriving at Minnesota, she received her BA from the University of Chicago and MA from Columbia University. She was a fellow at the Women in Prison Project where she worked to secure the passage of the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA). Her research has been supported by the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Duke University’s Sallie Bingham Center, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation.

Mariam Sheibani

Mariam Sheibani is a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Law School's Program in Islamic Law. She received her PhD from the University of Chicago’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization. She specializes in the intellectual and social history of medieval and modern Islamic societies, with a focus on law, ethics, and contemporary Islamic thought. Her first book project, entitled “Islamic Law in an Age of Crisis and Consolidation: ʿIzz al-Dīn Ibn ʿAbd al-Salām (577-660/1187-262) and the Ethical Turn in Medieval Islamic Law,” undertakes an intellectual biography of a thirteenth-century Shāfiʿī jurist who pioneered a crucial ethical turn in Islamic law and whose impact was widely felt across the Islamic world in subsequent centuries and up to the present day. Ibn ʿAbd al-Salām’s innovative thought represented a move away from a formal approach to the law towards a more ethical, teleological, and socially responsive legal discourse. Her project integrates unpublished manuscripts collected during extensive fieldwork in European and Middle Eastern manuscript libraries. She has studied and conducted research in Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Spain, the UK and West Africa.  Prior to her doctoral studies, she earned a BA in Public Affairs and Policy Management, an MA in Legal Studies, and an MA in Islamic Studies. Her PhD research has been supported by fellowships from Harvard Law School, the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. 

Jesse Watson

Jesse Watson is historian of imperial China with a particular interest in the early empires (3rd century BCE to 3rd century CE), legal history and materiality.   His doctoral dissertation, entitled “Paperwork Before Paper,” uses tens of thousands of newly excavated manuscripts to argue for the crucial role of legal culture in the formation of the Qin and Han empires (221 BCE-220 CE).

Jesse’s work with manuscripts inscribed on bamboo, wood, silk, and clay has led to a strong interest in comparative methodologies for legal history and the study of law and society.  He is especially interested in the ways that attention to the production and circulation of legal manuscripts can reveal the sociality inherent in the making of law. Jesse is currently a doctoral candidate in history at the University of California, Berkeley.  Beginning in August he will be visiting assistant professor of history at Oberlin College.

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