Ph. D. Candidate, Art and Art History
2019-2020 Rothman Doctoral Fellow

This dissertation provides the first comprehensive English analysis of the international art exhibition Documenta which started 1955 in Kassel, Germany, and is currently preparing its fifteenth edition to open in 2022. Ottenhausen discusses Documenta in the context of mid-century art history, exhibition architecture, and its role in rehabilitating political practices in the visual arts. His work intervenes in the existing German literature’s preference given to chronological and outdated historiographic approaches that reinforce false ideas of authorship and neglect the debates that dominated art history and the humanities at the time. Tracing the continuities and changes within the art during the 1950s, he argues that Germany’s Jewish and political culture was not only neglected but purposefully ignored following the trauma of World War II. The goal of the project is to show how the exhibition benefited from the violence that had taken away all the aesthetic and cultural influence from the Jewish and political avant-gardes during the Third Reich. Ottenhausen claims that it left postwar society with a vacuum which later generations used, in the 1968 student protests’ long aftermath, to turn Kassel and Documenta into an important platform for the negotiation of new political and ecological artistic practices.

Ph. D. Candidate, History
2019-2020 Rothman Doctoral Fellow

This dissertation examines the seventeenth-century network constructed by the Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam to connect their various Dutch Atlantic settlements. Using the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao as a focal point, Okhovat inquires into the extent to which Portuguese Jews living in the Dutch world maintained continuous links to the Iberian world through colonial economic, social, and cultural interchanges. As the capital of the seventeenth-century Dutch Caribbean, Curaçao’s entanglement with Spanish America through Portuguese Jewish trans-Atlantic activities challenges the classic compartmentalization of the early modern world into neat religious and political borders. It also challenges the popular notion of an early modern Spanish and Portuguese empire devoid of Jews by speaking directly to the revisionist approach of Atlantic history, which urges scholars to consider an interconnected Atlantic world. The goal of the project is to determine whether Iberian imperial culture impacted diasporic Portuguese Jewish elites and how they inversely adapted their Judaism to modernizing European identities. By measuring the prevalence of Iberian culture on the Dutch Caribbean and the mutual impact that the Dutch colonial enterprise had on both Spanish and Portuguese America, Okhovat further aims to include the Dutch colonial world within the framework of Latin American history.

Ph. D. Candidate, Anthropology
2019-2020 Rothman Doctoral Fellow

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Florida’s residents experienced frequent geopolitical stress. Colonial documents detail two centuries of international conflict on the peninsula and the resulting borderland was a landscape in which claims to identity, property, and liberty were under constant negotiation. In order to better understand the ways that African descendent peoples dealt with this insecurity, this study will examine the tactics and strategies employed by people of African descent to adapt – in particular, through the everyday creation of place. This research will consist of a comparative archaeological analysis of six Florida sites; these sites range from the Second Spanish Period through the Territorial Period (1736-1860) and were occupied by individuals of varying legal and social status but overlapping ethnic and racial categorization. The study will examine three key categories of archaeological evidence: site distribution, site arrangement and architecture, and flora and fauna. While African descendent peoples were constrained by the decisions of more powerful actors and the colonial structure in which they operated, they also transformed and reproduced that structure through their actions. It was through the ongoing negotiation of space and spatial relations, the very constitution of place, that they enabled their continued existence.

Ph. D. Candidate, History
2019-2020 Rothman Doctoral Fellow

Frenzer’s dissertation, “Dancing in the Devil’s Playground: The Intersection of Labor, Morality, and Pleasure in Chicago’s Dance Halls, 1910-1930,” dives into the rich social and political ecosystem with the dance hall at its center. Throughout the early twentieth century, dance halls developed as an urban leisure and labor space that evoked both excitement and condemnation. Dance halls welcomed diverse participants, including patrons, employees, musicians, undercover investigators, social reform activists, and municipal leaders. The meeting of this diverse group of individuals exemplified the growing tension between past and present during the 1920s, where the social reformers and activist organizations held middle-class agendas that at times, clashed with the lived reality of Chicago’s increasingly evolving political, social, cultural, and religious environment. Her research argues that merging labor, leisure, and pleasure within the context of dance halls challenged social activists’ neat categories of moral and sinful.

To social activist organizations, dance halls became not just a den of sin, but the epicenter from which the perceived social disease of immoralities spread. Largely, why did some Chicagoans in the 1920s believe the city was turning into the “devil’s playground,” while others continued to dance the night away?

Ph. D. Candidate, History
2019-2020 Rothman Doctoral Fellow

This dissertation project examines the impact of Spanish migration to Cuba in the twentieth century, including how Cuban and Spanish revolutionaries recalibrated the relationship between former colony and its colonizer to forge a transnational solidarity network that helped consolidate the Cuban Revolution after 1959. Fernández’s dissertation, “Weaponizing Solidarity: Spanish Republican Exiles, Identity, and the Cuban Revolution, 1929-1976,” reveals that Spanish Republican exiles were at the vanguard of Cuba’s 1940s antifascist mobilizations, of armed insurgency in Cuba’s 1950s struggle against U.S.-backed dictatorships, and of the 1959 Revolution’s most important institutions. More broadly, my research redefines the meanings of revolutionary identity, transforming the spirit of 1930s movements for national liberation into transnational and internationalist processes.

Ph. D. Candidate, History
2019-2020 Rothman Doctoral Fellow

This project seeks to understand the complex politics of land use and economic development in shaping the rise of the Sunbelt South after 1945. With the quickening pace of rural depopulation and white flight to the suburbs during this time, planners and policymakers worked feverishly to boost the economic fortunes of places left behind. However, economic growth brought pitfalls as well for urban and rural communities. Namely, massive public works projects, urban renewal, and pollution-heavy industries threatened to destroy many southern landscapes. Thus, Cates’s work seeks to answer: how did a diverse cast of southerners try to reconcile their desire to attract decent paying jobs with their attachments to their traditional senses of place and community life?

Using individual case studies from the Mountain and Lowcountry Souths, this research shows how grassroots struggles over land use and development contained broader implications for changing constructions of race and place in the United States. Whereas the general trajectory of the existing scholarship emphasizes the ideological shifts that followed suburbanization, this work seeks to shift the focus of the field to the material transformations that linked rural, urban, and suburban areas.

Ph. D. Candidate, Anthropology
2019-2020 Rothman Doctoral Fellow

This project  investigates change and continuity in Maya political economy following Spanish contact at Lamanai, Belize. Boileau combines the analysis of archaeological animal remains and historical documents to examine how individuals and groups of different statuses and occupations responded to the realities of Spanish colonialism through their use of and attitudes towards animals. It is essential to contextualize the archaeological faunal data within the broader sphere of culture contact in Mesoamerica. To this end, she traveled to the Archivo General de Indias (Seville, Spain) to collect historical data to better understand Maya and Spanish decision-making with regards to animal use. This project is one of the first to examine, at the household and individual levels, the political and economic response to colonialism in the borderlands of Spanish contact. As such, it informs the history of colonialism in the Americas and the broader anthropological study of political economy.

Ph.D. Candidate, Art and Art History
2019-2020 Rothman Doctoral Fellow

We think of the twenty-first century obsession with taking and enhancing self-portraits as a product of the digital age. But contemporary western society is not unique in its fixation with self-representation and expression through portraiture. Ancient Roman citizens were just as obsessed with visual modes of self-representation, leading to the large proportion of portraiture among what is traditionally considered to be Roman art. It is somewhat counterintuitive then to see the development and use of so-called “blank” portraits on sarcophagi later in the Empire. These portraits maintain the shape of a head but their smooth marble lacks any facial features. These blank faces can seem as shocking within the context of Roman culture as a selfie with a featureless, blank face would today. This project contends that we can better understand the unique features of Roman sarcophagi in late antiquity, such as blank portrait faces, by placing them within the context of a shift in Roman religious experience and expectation that occurred between the second and fifth centuries. This shift is characterized by a movement away from the site-specific and collective characteristics of traditional civic religion to the simultaneously universalizing and personalizing character shared by mystery religions, neo-Platonic philosophy, and Christianity.

Ph.D. Candidate, Art and Art History
2019-2020 Tedder Doctoral Fellow

Kyra Rietveld was awarded a Tedder Family Doctoral Fellowship to support her dissertation, which considers the uniquely local images of the goddess Artemis.  These began to transform throughout the Greek-speaking world in parallel with a push for a universal Greek identity after the Persian Wars.  This project examines the tension between the global and local, the new technology of image making through replication, and the traveling of not only humans but also images.

Ph.D. Candidate, History
2019-2020 Tedder Doctoral Fellow

Kaitlyn Muchnok was awarded a Tedder Family Doctoral Fellowship to support her dissertation, which explores Florida’s female juvenile justice system from 1945 to 1970. By the time these state institutions integrated in 1967, Florida officials had expanded their authority over young women substantially and committed thousands of girls to both state reformatories, mostly for “sex offenses” or “social interaction problems.”