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A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows

Portrait image of Christine Goding-Doty wearing black standing near a window and potted plant.
Christine Goding-Doty
English, UW-Madison
A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow (2018-2020)
Virtually White: The Crisis of Whiteness, Racial Rule, and Affect in the Digital Age

The dominant questions of Dr. Goding-Doty's research consider what new problems and avenues of thought the digital age and social media open up for the study of race, whiteness, and coloniality. In “Virtually White: The Crisis of Whiteness, Racial Rule, and Affect in the Digital Age,” Goding-Doty identifies a crisis of white hegemony that has taken shape in the digital age, in which a broad insistence on white racial victimization has been incorporated as a strategy in white supremacist and nationalist activity. To account for the ways this paradoxical position actually constitutes a crisis in the structure of racial power, her project argues for a theoretical framework that emphasizes the virtuality of race and the affective modes of its proliferation. Using affect theory, her analysis details the ways race operates nonrepresentationally. Her project then applies this reading of race to several viral events, memes, and digital performances, both staged and spontaneous to examine the virtual processes through which race is reproduced in the era of the internet. The performances and popular cultural materials that constitute Goding-Doty's social media and internet archive not only demonstrate where whiteness is grappling with the terms of Western racial hegemony, but reveal the modes through which racial governance is adapting in the wake of social mediatization.

Christine Goding-Doty received her PhD from the Department of African American Studies at Northwestern University. The main concern of her research is the concept of whiteness in the digital age which she explores from the intersection of critical philosophy of race, new media studies, and affect theory. Her forthcoming article “Beyond the Pale Blog: Tumblr Pink and the Aesthetics of White Anxiety” considers the way pale blogs on Tumblr aestheticize contemporary anxieties around white supremacy and manufacture a virtual frontier upon which to sustain colonial desire.

Portrait image of Carmine Grimaldi wearing a burgundy blazer standing in front of book shelves.
Carmine Grimaldi
History, UW-Madison
A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow (2018-2020)
Structuring Vision: A History of Videotape

Carmine Grimaldi is interested in the creation, distribution, and social world of images. His book manuscript, Structuring Vision: A History of Videotape, investigates the hitherto untold history of early videotape, uncovering the ways the electronic moving image crept into, and profoundly reshaped, institutions and daily experience in postwar America. The new medium made the television screen a responsive participant in everyday life, able to replay events at the time and place they occurred. His research traces the migration of videotape as it accreted new meanings, uses and expectations, from its industrial origins in Palo Alto, to its dissemination around the country in psychiatry, education, and law, used as an instrument of knowledge and social control. He is also currently writing about conspiracy theories and media in 20th century America, and making a film about a ghost trial in Arizona.

Carmine Grimaldi is a historian and filmmaker. He earned his PhD in the Department of History at the University of Chicago in 2018, where he studied the history of media, technology, and culture in the US. During this time, he spent four years as an affiliate of Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, where he studied and taught film and filmmaking. His work has appeared in Representations, The Atlantic, and The Intercept, and his documentary films have screened widely at festivals such as True/False, Visions du Reel, Sheffield, RIDM, and Dokufest. In 2017, Filmmaker Magazine named him one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film.

Portrait image of Elizabeth Lhost wearing a pink shirt and standing on a beach.
Elizabeth Lhost
Legal Studies, History, Asian Languages and Cultures, UW–Madison
A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow (2017-2019)
Islam Inscribed: Faith and Bureaucracy in Modern South Asia (1800–1950)

Lhost's research explores the transformation of Islamic law and legal practice in response to British colonial rule in South Asia. Focusing on the relationship between modern bureaucracy, colonial governance, and the adaptation of lithographic print technologies by Muslim intellectuals and legal practitioners, the project considers the effects of writing, documentation, and record production on the everyday practice of Islamic law. To do this, Lhost draws upon previously unexamined vernacular (Persian- and Urdu-language) sources including petitions, notebooks, and unpublished judicial opinions produced and preserved by native legal practitioners. Thus this research draws attention not only to the social, material, and cultural history of law and legal practice across the Indian subcontinent throughout the nineteenth century but also highlights the influence of documentation, registration, and other formal writings on the meaning of legal relationships—among private individuals and between individuals and the colonial state. Understanding these formal procedures and documentary processes draws critical attention to the parallelism and mutual intelligibility that emerged between state and non-state legal actors in the colonial period. Such parallels suggest that despite reactionary rhetoric to the contrary, Islamic legal practice today exhibits many features common to—and legible within—other legal systems.

Elizabeth Lhost is a historian of law and religion in South Asia. She recently completed her Ph.D. in the Departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and History (with distinction) at the University of Chicago. Her dissertation, “Between Community and Qānūn: Documenting Islamic legal practice in 19th-century South Asia,” traced the influence of colonial bureaucracy on the practice, interpretation, and everyday use of Islamic law in British India. Prior to joining the University of Chicago, Elizabeth received a B.A. in English literature and cognitive science summa cum laude from Northwestern University, an M.A. in Languages and Cultures of Asia from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and spent time in Lucknow, India studying Urdu. Her work has been supported by the Fulbright student program, the Social Science Research Council, the American Institute for Pakistan Studies, American Council of Learned Societies, and the Mellon Foundation. At UW–Madison Dr. Lhost teaches courses in the undergraduate Legal Studies Program.

Portrait image of Vijayanka Nair wearing yellow and standing outdoors.
Vijayanka Nair
Anthropology, UW-Madison
A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow (2018-2020)
The State of the Individual: Biometrics, Politics, and the Common Man in India

Dr. Nair's current research concerns the social, cultural, political and legal meanings that have accrued to the world’s largest national biometric ID system. Inaugurated in 2009, India’s Aadhaar (literally “foundation”) initiative has issued unique twelve-digit identification numbers to over one billion Indian residents. The Aadhaar ID is linked to an individual’s iris scans, fingerprints, facial photograph, and select demographic information in a central database. Its architects averred that this ID system would be an unassailable solution to a key problem facing the country: namely, a majority of the population lacking incontrovertible formal proof of individual identity that might afford easy access to a range of government and private sector services. Aadhaar was also forwarded as an effective means to root out “fake,” “duplicate” and “ghost” identities typically used to defraud the sprawling state welfare system. Relying on biometric technologies to glean the “true” identity of individuals, it would facilitate real-time identity verification, make misappropriation virtually impossible, and insure that welfare reached its intended recipient. Officials argued that in a vast, diverse and socioeconomically stratified country like India, Aadhaar would be a universal, inclusive identification platform with potentially endless applications in business and government. Nair’s book manuscript, The State of the Individual: Biometrics, Politics and the Common Man in India [working title], is based on fieldwork among bureaucrats, technocrats, enrollment operators, technical personnel and enrollees. It follows the planning and implementation of Aadhaar, as well as official attempts to re-haul India’s welfare delivery mechanisms using this new identification system. While Aadhaar is officially presented as a technology that circumvents human vagaries and inexactitude, Nair’s work concentrates on the ways in which it serves as a dynamic site for both material and moral inventiveness. Her manuscript focuses on the multifarious negotiations, everyday meaning-making, pedagogies, and improvisations that lie behind the technological edifice of Aadhaar. The State of the Individual probes legal challenges to Aadhaar, and studies its imbrications with electoral politics and the popular media. Ultimately, Nair’s project offers an analysis of Aadhaar as a site for reimagining the state, the aam aadmi (common man), and the relationship between them in contemporary India.

Nair is a is a sociocultural anthropologist interested in the interconnected realms of the state, politics, new governance technologies, ethics and personhood in South Asia and, more recently, China. She received her PhD in Anthropology from New York University and an MPhil in Social Anthropological Analysis from the University of Cambridge. Nair also holds an MA in Sociology from the Delhi School of Economics for which she received the University Gold Medal. Her First Class BA Honours degree in Philosophy is from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University. The National Science Foundation and the Social Science Research Council, among others, have supported Nair’s research. Nair’s UW-Madison Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship is complemented by a China India Scholar-Leaders Fellowship at the India China Institute, The New School.