The University Center for Human Values' Graduate Prize Fellows For 2018-2019

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Kessie Alexandre is a fourth year in the Department of Anthropology with a graduate certificate from the Department of African American Studies. Her interests include risk and ethics, spatial theory, race and environment, and embodiment. Her dissertation entitled “Floods and Fountains: Toxicity and Revitalization through Newark’s Waterworks" is an ethnography of urban water insecurity and infrastructure disrepair in the United States, which examines the role of water and contemporary water management in shaping political subjectivities and social relations over time. It explores the production of flood resilience in urban landscapes and in the lives of residents and examines the convergence of climate change adaptation and urban revitalization in a postindustrial context. The project then turns to the tap, probing into the ways in which infrastructure decline and tap water contamination shift people’s understandings of state capacity and social and political belonging. Centered on articulations of trust, estrangement, localism, and sovereignty in response to water contamination and potential bodily exposure, Alexandre explores various formations of (dis)connectivity in the wake of infrastructure decay and precarity. Before pursuing her Ph.D at Princeton, Kessie earned a B.A. in public health studies and anthropology at Johns Hopkins University.

Quincy Amoah is a sixth year student in the Department of Anthropology. He is interested in ethics and morality, sacrifice, divination, aesthetics, and iconicity and did fieldwork among Karimojong and other Ateker (agro-) pastoralists in north-eastern Uganda. Quincy’s dissertation is an ethnographic account about his Karimojong interlocutor’s pursuits of flourishing in relation to seemingly discordant imperatives such as the obligation to rustle their enemies’ cattle. In other words, it attempts to probe what ‘good (ejok)’ means when, apparently, often brutal plunder of others is considered by the said raiders and their kin as being virtuous. Previous ethnographers who have engaged this rather obscure controversy are either: astutely ambiguous; or argue that Karimojong moral judgements are founded on utility; or have inferred that Karimojong and other Ateker of concern act with expediency. However, it appears that critical Karimojong maxims like ‘dazzling God is most necessary for flourishing’ contest such inferences. Using phenomenology of language and conceptual analysis that are grounded in ethnographic participant observation, this study is geared towards an understanding of Karimojong interlocutors’ interpretations of a good life and an exposition of the enigmatic Nilotic category of ‘–jok.’ Quincy received a B.A. and M.A in anthropology from The New School.

Shuk Ying Chan is a third year graduate student in the Department of Politics, specializing in political theory. Her main research interests include contemporary political thought; 20th century anticolonial thought; theories of global justice; theories of empire and race; postcolonial political theory; and theories of individual and collective self-determination. Chan’s dissertation project explores the moral and political implications of decolonization as an unfinished project of global justice. In the project, she develops an account of “postcolonial global justice” by drawing on the normative visions and political programs of anticolonial thinkers in the era of formal decolonization. In doing so, the project aims to yield a set of historically informed and action guiding principles that help navigate the questions of self-determination and equality raised in three areas of contemporary global politics: global governance, international trade and foreign investment, and the exchange of cultural goods and values. Prior to coming to Princeton and the US, Chan completed a M.Phil in political theory and a B.A. in history and politics at the University of Hong Kong. 

Martha Groppo is a fifth year graduate student in the Department of History. Her research interests include the history of medicine, rural studies, and the history of ideas. Her dissertation project examines a number of ambitious philanthropic rural healthcare schemes attempted across the British Empire from the 1880s to 1930s by an interconnected group of elite activists. She uses this network of rural healthcare activism as a lens through which to view the ever-changing value ascribed to rural lives by outsiders, exploring the various arguments developed to justify why rural patients merited healthcare. More broadly, Groppo is interested in healthcare access challenges, alternative medicine, and the healthcare preferences of rural dwellers. Her work also explores the concepts of philanthropy, empathy, and altruism. Before arriving at Princeton, Groppo graduated from the University of Kentucky with dual bachelor degrees in history and journalism. 

Rebecca Johnson is a fourth year student in the Department of Sociology, with a joint degree in social policy and specialization in demography. Her main research interests are in health, law, and moral dimensions of public policy. Her dissertation focuses on rights that parents have to influence how schools allocate scarce resources. While many laud the inequality-reducing promise of expanding formal rights, she shows challenges that emerge when the level of government that defines the scope of the right is distinct from the level of government that finances the rights claims.  Before coming to Princeton, Johnson received a B.A. from Stanford with honors in psychology, an M.A. focused on political theory, and then spent two years as a pre-doctoral research fellow at the National Institutes of Health's Department of Bioethics.

Joseph Moore is a third year graduate student in the Department of Philosophy. His research interests include ethics, political philosophy, and the history of these fields, with particular focus on ancient Greek and 18th- and 19th-century German thought. His dissertation is in the field of metaethics. He argues that morality and rationality comprise systems of rules and standards in close analogy to systems of law, grammar, etiquette, and games. He develops a unified metaphysics of the normative properties and propositions which belong to these various domains and an epistemological account of how we know about them. Within this unifying framework, he accounts for the various ways in which normative systems differ from one another, including especially the ways in which some systems are more correct or authoritative than others. He argues, for example, that a moral system of norms is distinguished by a particular function—to enable agents to live well—which generates conditions of correctness for a moral theory. Joseph received his B.A. in philosophy from University of California-Berkeley with a minor in Greek Studies.

Katharina Isabel Schmidt is a third year doctoral candidate in the Department of History. Her dissertation, tentatively titled “German Jurists and the Search for ‘Life’ in Modern Legal Science, 1900-1937” examines the unlikely origins of National Socialist “life”- jurisprudence. As part of her research, Schmidt explores both limits and opportunities of legal liberalism, the normative powers of the factual, and the relationship between science and value. Schmidt’s other interests include German legal science in colonial Africa and the South Pacific as well as transatlantic intellectual history with a particular focus on German-Jewish émigré scholars. Before coming to Princeton, Schmidt obtained law degrees from University College London (LL.B), the University of Cologne (Baccalaureus Legum), the University of Oxford (BCL), and Yale Law School (LL.M). She is concurrently pursuing a JSD at the Yale Law School. She has published articles and reviews in journals on both sides of the Atlantic, including the “American Journal of Comparative Law,” the “Law & History Review,” and the “German Studies Review.”

Johan Andreas Trovik is a third year graduate student in the Department of Politics. In his dissertation research, he explores the idea of work as it figures in the discourse of welfare capitalism, in critiques of work, and in both utopian and dystopian “post-work” imaginaries. In particular, recognizing how deeply the idea of work has taken hold of our understanding of democratic participation, and the modern ethical imagination more broadly, he is interested in investigating attempts to unsettle its hegemony. Trovik also has broad interests in the history of political thought, social philosophy, and critical theory. Before coming to Princeton, Johan completed a B.A. in philosophy, politics, and economics at the University of Oxford. 

Hannah Waight is a fourth year graduate student in the department of sociology. Her research interests include the sociology of knowledge and science, economic sociology, and social theory. Her dissertation examines the history of social mobility research and ideas in 20th century American and British social science, tracing the formation of the interdisciplinary field’s terms of debate as well as key controversies over the measurement and meaning of its analytical categories. Through historicizing social scientific notions of merit, mobility, and equality of opportunity, her project aims to develop a critical understanding of social mobility ideas prevalent in academic and policy circles today. Apart from her dissertation, Waight is also completing projects with her collaborators on propaganda in mainland China, John Dewey and American social science, and popular perceptions of inequality in the U.S. Before coming to Princeton, Hannah received her B.A. in East Asian studies and an M.A. in regional studies: East Asia, both from Harvard University.

Erik Zhang is a third year graduate student in the Department of Philosophy. His primary research interests lie in normative ethics and metaethics. In his dissertation, Zhang aims to explore certain ongoing debates in foundational moral theory and chart their implications for first-order moral theorizing. Zhang also spends time thinking about issues in political philosophy, applied ethics, and epistemology. He holds a B.A. and an M.A. in philosophy from Queen's University in Canada.