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Meet the 2014 Provost Postdoctoral Scholars

Built to foster strength in an array of disciplines, the humanities program brings on six exceptional scholars this semester

by Susan Bell
2014 Postdoctoral Scholars in the Humanities
Thomas Pashby, Anna Rosenweig, Jessica Rosenberg, James Thomas, Gina Greene and Simeon Man, from left (Photo/Peter Zhaoyu Zhou)

Now in its third year, the Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholars Program in the Humanities is welcoming a new cohort of six outstanding scholars to the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. The 2014 scholars were selected from more than 930 applicants from 13 fields in the humanities.

The program is a key element in USC Dornsife’s distinctive contribution to scholarship and academic excellence in the realm of the humanities. Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholars play a pivotal role in bolstering the humanities at USC, linking the expertise of faculty and doctoral students with the knowledge and insights gained from their own research and scholarship.

“The Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholars Program in the Humanities is designed to foster strength in a broad array of humanities disciplines across the university,” USC Provost Elizabeth Garrett said. “The six exceptional scholars joining us this semester are a diverse group of accomplished thinkers who will invigorate discussion within and across many fields.

The Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholars are:

Gina Greene of history received her Ph.D. in architectural history from Princeton University. Her research focuses on late 19th- and early 20th-century European and American architecture, urbanism and visual culture, and their intersection with histories of medicine and technology. She is particularly interested in how such intersections are complicated by cultural attitudes towards race and gender. In her dissertation, “Children in Glass in Houses: Toward a Hygienic, Eugenic Architecture for Children during the Third Republic in France (1870-1940),” she examined the collaborative efforts of physicians and architects in turn-of-the-century France as they strove to reduce high rates of infant and child mortality through modifications to the built environment. Greene demonstrated how French medical culture was a determinative force in shaping architecture and urban design of the period. During her time at USC, she plans to turn the dissertation into a book manuscript.

Simeon Man of American studies and ethnicity received his Ph.D. in American studies from Yale University and was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in American studies and Asian American studies at Northwestern University. His research and teaching interests include Asian American history, comparative ethnic studies and the United States in the Pacific world, with an emphasis on the politics of race and empire in the 20th century. His book-in-progress, Soldiering Through Empire: Race and the Making of the Decolonizing Pacific (under contract with the University of California Press), is a history of Asian soldiers and military workers who labored in Asia for the U.S. military following World War II. The book situates these postcolonial subjects and their racial formation at the intersections of U.S. militarism and global decolonization and looks at the imperial politics of soldiering in the second half of the 20th century.

Thomas Pashby of philosophy recently completed his Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science. His interests lie in the philosophy of physics, science and metaphysics. His dissertation, “Time and the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics,” argues for a novel account of temporal processes in quantum theory that supports an ontology of events for matter and a relational theory of time. He plans to spell out the implications of this account of quantum theory for problems that arise in interpreting the standard formulation of quantum mechanics, including the infamous measurement problem.

Jessica Rosenberg of English received her Ph.D. in comparative literature and literary theory from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research, “Botanical Publics and English Textual Cultures, 1557-1667,” argues that widespread botanical figures — practical and metaphorical, medicinal and mythological — fundamentally shaped English understandings of the printed word and the natural world. During her time at USC, she plans to expand this argument to show how these connections between books and plants generated a sense of a reading public over the course of the 16th and 17th centuries, one predicated on specifically botanical understandings of circulation, reproduction and common property.

Anna Rosensweig of French and Italian received her Ph.D. in French from the University of Minnesota in June. She specializes in early modern literature and culture, the intersections of literature and political theory, and performance studies. Her dissertation argues that early modern drama extends a political debate that begins during the French Wars of Religion (1562-98). As a Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholar, Rosensweig plans to turn her dissertation into a book tentatively titled Tragic Opposition: Rights of Resistance on the Early Modern Stage. Although her primary research focuses on the early modern period, she is also interested in more contemporary questions of human rights and literature.

James Thomas of art history recently completed his Ph.D. in art history at Stanford University and is currently the Chester Dale Predoctoral Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art. His current project is a study of the intersection of abstract art, experimental architecture and radical design of the 1960s and ’70s, as related to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). A study of artistic, institutional and political spaces during the so-called “Space Age,” his research explores the links between avant-garde aesthetics and the manned spaceflight program. Thomas was previously the Guggenheim Fellow at the National Air and Space Museum. He is currently preparing an exhibition about artist Robert Rauschenberg’s “Stoned Moon” (1969), a series of lithographic prints commissioned by NASA to document the historic Apollo XI mission.

Goals attained by 2013 cohort

Postdoctoral scholars from the fall 2013 cohort have been successful in earning new career and scholarly opportunities.

Gaoheng Zhang of French and Italian recently accepted a two-year position as an assistant professor of Italian cinema and literature at the University of Toronto. Zhang is joining the largest and one of the most prestigious Italian studies departments outside of Italy. Julianne Werlin of English spent time in Germany over the summer as a visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, where she continued her work on Renaissance utopias as a model for society. Sean Nye of musicology created and taught the first course on electronic dance music at USC.

“With a greater understanding of ideas and perspectives that inform the human experience, we gain a larger context for thinking about how to discover the truth, solve problems and awaken our imagination,” Garrett said. “By creating rigorous scholarship across the humanities, these promising postdocs will advance our academic mission and our society as a whole.”

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