Pastoral scene

Program Fellows 2020-2021

Program Fellows 2020-21

Rui Hua (History and East Asian Languages, Harvard University)
Agrarian Studies Program Fellow

Rui Hua is a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University in History and East Asian Languages. During his year with the Program in Agrarian Studies, Rui will work on developing his first book manuscript, tentatively entitled The Legal Topography of Empires: Transnational Civil Justice in Manchuria, 1895-1954. This project draws on documents from more than a dozen archives in five countries to show how transnational legal innovations shaped the rural ecologies of power in modern Manchuria. A region of Northeast Asia long positioned between the Chinese, Japanese, and Russian empires, Manchuria’s rich and diverse environmental resources have historically made it a site for imperial contestations between these great powers. However, Rui’s work demonstrates how, during the first half the twentieth century, the peasants and merchants of this borderland developed a distinctive form of civil jurisprudence; one that was deeply embedded in Manchuria’s ecological conditions and which allowed the inhabitants of Manchuria to effectively contest imperial claims to sovereignty. To develop this unique set of legal practices, peasants, migrants, and jurists across the region wove European positivist conceptions of property and obligations together with Chinese and Korean legal strategies adapted for the frontier in centuries past. In so doing, they effectively reinvented the idea of sovereignty, making it a contingent package of private rights. Rui’s project connects critical agrarian studies with legal history and geography, illustrating how Manchuria’s forests, wetlands, and wastelands actively shaped the conceptual possibilities of agrarian legal strategy in the context of, and in contestation of, imperial rule. It also shows how the legal agency of the borderlanders pushed the states to recalibrate their visions for the frontier. The lasting influence of this creativity remained palpable in the early years of the PRC.

Vikram Tamboli (History and the Latin American Institute, University of California, Los Angeles)

Agrarian Studies Program Fellow

Vikram Tamboli received his Ph.D. in history in 2017 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He comes to the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he is currently a lecturer in the History Department and a Visiting Scholar at the Latin American Institute. While at Yale, Vikram will work towards completing his manuscript, Black Powers and Bush Work: Rumor, Race, and Trafficking in the Guyanese-Venezuelan Borderlands, 1763 to the Present. This work focuses on the history and current phenomenon of trafficking on the Guyanese, Venezuelan, and Brazilian borderlands.  The manuscript bridges the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century geopolitics of Amazonia with the “mystical” dimension of clandestine imperial politics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. By detailing the trade in bodies, objects, goods, and ideas over more than two centuries, Black Powers and Bush Work tells a longue durée history of forced labor and gendered racial conflict. Vikram will also work on a related article, “Forbes Burnham, Mother Monica, and The Mystical Triune: Channeling Black Powers in Guyana and New York, 1960-1985,” for the Journal of Africana Religions. This article tells the story of Mother Monica, the spiritual advisor of Guyana’s authoritarian ruler Forbes Burnham and how the dynamics of health and healing have linked interior regions of the Guyanese hinterland to the mix-raced communities of Georgetown (Guyana) and Brooklyn (New York).

Hengameh (Henny) Ziai (Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University)

Agrarian Studies Program Fellow

Hengameh (Henny) Ziai is a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University in Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. At Yale, she will continue to develop her dissertation project, entitled Credit Histories: Colonialism and Resistance in the Gezira Plain of Sudan. Her project uses credit-debt relations as a lens to explore spatial reorderings, economic extraction, temporal transformations, and the refashioning of economic and ethical subjects in the Gezira plain of Sudan. Drawing on political economy, histories of capitalism, anthropologies of debt, science and technology studies (STS) and Islamic studies her work offers an account of how since the nineteenth century credit, debt and land came to be ‘disembedded’ from the realm of social, ethical and spiritual obligations–-culminating in a messianic revolt, the Mahdist uprising. Her dissertation focuses on four historical moments: the Ottoman-Egyptian occupation of Sudan (1821-1881), the Mahdist uprising and government (1881-1898), British colonial rule (1898-1930), and the rise of a peasant labor movement (1930-1956). Henny will also pursue research related to a second project, which will explore the World Bank’s multiple interventions in Sudanese agriculture (particularly the Gezira Scheme) beginning in the 1960s, especially as it intersected with discourses from the emerging field of development economics and ideas about ‘human capital’ in agriculture as advanced by Chicago School economist, Theodore W. Schultz.

Affiliate Fellows 2020-21

Mark Frank (Council on East Asian Studies, Yale University)

Agrarian Studies Affiliate Fellow

Mark Frank is an environmental historian of China and will be the CEAS Postdoctoral Associate in the Environmental Humanities of East Asia in 2020-21. He recently finished his PhD in East Asian Languages and Cultures from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has taught history courses at the University of Illinois and Wesley College. At Yale he will work towards completing a book manuscript that chronicles the relationship between agrarianism and colonialism along China’s ethnically diverse frontiers between the fall of the Qing empire and the rise of the People’s Republic. This project draws on roughly two years of archival research in mainland China and Taiwan and has been supported by a Fulbright research fellowship and a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies. Mark has begun work on a second book project that examines China’s relationship with the atmosphere from the late imperial era through the early twenty-first century. He is the author of three articles on Chinese yak improvement schemes, high-altitude crop experiments, and sedentary-nomadic relations in eastern Tibet during the early twentieth century.