Meridith Beck Sayre
Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow
History of Science, UW-Madison
“The Process of Conversion: A Biography of the Jesuit Relations”
In August of 1632 Father Paul Le Jeune penned the first installment of the Jesuit Relations “from the midst of a forest more than 800 leagues in extent, at Kebec.” The Relations were yearly reports written by members of the Society of Jesus who worked to christianize New France during the seventeenth century. Sent back to Paris for publication every year between 1632 to 1673, the texts formed a forty-one volume book series that was popular among the Parisian elite. They are now widely considered to be one of the most important historical sources for understanding the colonial encounter between Europeans and the indigenous peoples of North America. My dissertation presents a biography of the Relations, in which I chart how these religious texts gained scientific authority in the modern social sciences and humanities. By exposing the print history and textual practices that transformed these texts into a tool of scientific inquiry, my work reveals the fundamental role the Relations have played in the history of race in North America. Furthermore, I argue that the print culture surrounding the Relations—namely their transmission and reception in the late nineteenth-century—has significantly influenced the modern reading of the texts as ethnographic documents.
Meridith Beck Sayre is a Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow and a PhD Candidate in the Department of the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research draws on the fields of print culture studies, the Atlantic World approach, and the history of the social sciences. Her work puts three traditionally separate historiographies—French-Canadian, Anglo-Canadian, and American—into dialogue and integrates both French and English primary sources, thereby contributing to a more transnational perspective of North American history.
Matthew H. Brown
Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow
African Languages and Literature, UW-Madison
"Nollywood Genres: The Form and Politics of Cinema in Nigeria"
In his dissertation project on the development of key genres in Nigerian cinema, Brown employs methodologies from history, political science, ethnography, literature, and film studies to trace the institutions, individuals, and forms of power that have shaped the motion picture in colonial and postcolonial Nigeria. He describes genre as a process, involving producers and consumers in evolving relationships with each other over time. In Nigeria, motion picture producers have at times been backed by institutional power; at other times they have simply been innovative entrepreneurs struggling within an economic system over which they have little control. Meanwhile, consumers may be loosely knit by nothing more than ephemeral national, ethnic, or racial identities, but at times they coalesce into social movements with undeniable vision and force. Brown’s goal is to theorize the “video revolution” that gave birth to what is now commonly called “Nollywood” as a product of Nigeria’s long history of motion picture consumption and production as it coincides with a long history of economic, political, and social reorganization.
Matthew H. Brown, IRH Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow, is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he also earned a Master’s Degree. He researches and teaches African literature and popular culture, regularly employing methods and discourses from history, political science, anthropology, and other disciplines in the pursuit of robust forms of literary and cultural analysis. His dissertation research has been supported by a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship and an Ebrahim Hussein Fellowship. He has published widely on African cinema and literature, Nollywood, and Nigerian popular music and he is currently guest-editing an issue of the Journal of African Cinemas about Nollywood’s audiences across the African continent. Brown is also coordinating a Mellon Workshop at UW-Madison on “New Media and Mass/Popular Culture in the Global South.”
Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow
Slavic Languages and Literature, UW-Madison
"The Legend of Kitezh in Russian Literature"
Lisa Woodson's dissertation centers on the Russian legend of the hidden city of Kitezh and its changing representations over time in Russian literature. According to the legend, the righteous city of Kitezh became invisible or disappeared into a lake and was thus saved from contamination by the surrounding evil world. Lisa's research shows how the legend, initially associated with a dangerous strain of religious fanaticism, came to be broadly embraced by 20th-century Russian writers as a symbol of authentic Russian culture. Her research focuses on a number of authors who made the Kitezh legend a focal point of their philosophical systems and literary works, showing how these authors adapted the legend to suit their philosophical and artistic needs, thereby changing the contours of the legend and contributing to its literary evolution.
Lisa Woodson, a Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow, is a graduate student in Slavic Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She has taught Russian language, literature, and intellectual history at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Missouri. A Madison native, Lisa returned to Madison for graduate school after living abroad in Russia and Canada for several years, where she continued her studies and worked in the Russian environmental movement. She also holds a master's degree in spiritual theology from Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, and a bachelor's degree in Russian Area Studies from Wellesley College in Massachusetts.
William Coleman Dissertation Fellow
History and History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, UW-Madison
"Healthy Comrades: Czechoslovak Hygiene Services and the Pursuit of a Communist Modernity, 1948-1958"
This project explores the development of public health services under communism, and in turn, the early attempts of Czechoslovak state hygienists to improve the living and working environment, enhance the biophysical condition of the proletariat, and halt the consequences of rapid industrialization. Through the efforts and activities of the hygiene services, this dissertation traces the converging influences of medical humanism, disciplinary ambition, Marxist-Leninist ideology, and scientific-rationalism. What arose from this constellation of imperatives was a vision of communist modernity that sought to prioritize population health and physiological well-being as the highest aims of state, and furthermore, reform traditional understandings of both preventive medicine and its role in an industrial society. But this idealistic perspective quickly confronted a competing imagination of the socialist modern, one that saw rapid and extensive industrial development as the primary foundation of any social and economic progress. As this struggle between ideals played out in the 1950s, the attempt to place salubrity and prophylaxis over the demands of socialist economic efficiency ultimately failed, and entrenched attitudes towards medical practice, industrialization, and environmental health risks remained largely unchanged.
Bradley Moore, a William Coleman Dissertation Fellow, is a doctoral candidate in the Joint PhD Program in History and the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology at UW-Madison. His interests are in the history of modern central Europe, the social and cultural history of communism, and the history of medicine and public health. He received a B.A. from St. Lawrence University, an A.M. from the University of Chicago, and an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin. Among his honors and awards are a J. William Fulbright Scholarship, a Dissertation Fellowship from a John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures, a UW Mellon Dissertation Fellowship, a Travel Award from the Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies, and a Theodore J. Oesau Dissertation Fellowship in History.