Program Fellows 2019-20
Marvin Chochotte (History, University of Michigan)
Agrarian Studies Program Fellow
Marvin Chochotte received his PhD in History from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2017. He joins us at Yale from Dartmouth College, where he was a Mellon Faculty Fellow. During his year with the Program in Agrarian Studies, Marvin will work on his book manuscript entitled The Black Agrarian Democracy: A History of Haiti from the Haitian Revolution to the Fall of the Duvalier Dictatorship, 1791-1986, which tells the story of the most brutal dictatorship in Haitian history. Drawing on never-before-utilized archival and oral sources, Marvin shows that the terror of the dictatorship under François Duvalier, who came to power in 1957, emerged from a complex post-emancipation crisis in which United States military intervention in Haiti (1915-34) stamped out peasant traditions of revolution that ensured freedom and checked authoritarian tendencies of the Haitian state. The Black Agrarian Democracy shows how Duvalier remilitarized and rearmed peasants in exchange for their loyalty, thereby creating a peasant militia whose support helped him repress political opposition to stay in power for almost three decades. Marvin’s work thus offers the first empirically-based historical analysis of the tonton makout militia that provides new insights into the motivations and perspectives of those involved. After his time at Yale, Marvin will return to Dartmouth College as an Assistant Professor in African and African American Studies.
Samuel Dolbee (History and Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, New York University)
Agrarian Studies Program Fellow
Samuel Dolbee received his PhD in History and Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies from New York University in 2017. He joins us at Yale from Harvard University’s Mahindra Humanities Center, where he held a postdoctoral fellowship from 2018-19. During his year with the Program in Agrarian Studies, Samuel will work to complete his book manuscript, Locusts of Power: Borders, Empire, and Environment in the Modern Middle East. This project draws primarily on sources in Arabic, French, Ottoman, and Turkish to complicate narratives about the delimitation of borders in the Jazira region. Locusts of Power does so by following the locust – an insect whose devastating swarms offer a path out of histories framed by the boundaries of states – which aids in showing that it was not state boundaries or nationalist feelings on their own that transformed people’s lives in this region, but rather the settlement campaigns and synthetic pesticides that constituted the region’s changing political economy. This project, which spans from 1860 to 1940, bridges Ottoman and post-Ottoman periodizations and offers a retelling of history that reaches beyond nationalist historiographies – Iraqi, Syrian, or Turkish – that have conventionally carved up this region’s history. While the division of the Jazira in the wake of World War I was undoubtedly momentous, Samuel shows that this moment not only elicited the division of territories, but also a broader division occurring across these borders between human bodies and the environment.
Jenniffer Vargas Reina (Social Sciences, Facultad Lationamericana de Ciencias Sociales – Mexico)
Agrarian Studies Program Fellow
Jenniffer Vargas Reina received her PhD in the Social Sciences from Facultad Lationamericana de Ciencias Sociales in Mexico in 2019. Jenniffer joins us at Yale with over eight years of experience researching land dispossession and working with peasant organizations on related issues. During her time with the Program in Agrarian Studies, she will work on transforming her dissertation, entitled “State, Land, and War: Modalities of Land Accumulation in the Colombian Armed Conflict,” into a book manuscript. “State, Land, and War” offers insights into the role of the state in land grabbing and the different modalities of land accumulation in a civil war context. With a focus on the Colombian armed conflict, Jenniffer’s research examines two discrete types of land accumulation: one coercive by armed groups, and the other opportunistic by entrepreneurs. “State, Land, and War” aims to contribute to scholarship as well as public policy insofar as it proposes a new theoretical framework to make sense of how war creates new opportunities for the concentration of rural assets, which may inform the implementation of Colombia’s rural assets redistribution policy that was prioritized in the peace agreements of 2016. More generally, her work sheds light on possible paths forward for managing the conditions and mechanisms that give rise to economic and political inequalities in agrarian societies.
Affiliate Fellows 2019-20
Serena Stein (Anthropology, Princeton University)
Visiting Assistant in Research
Serena is completing her PhD in Anthropology at Princeton University on a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship in 2019-2020. Her project, Kindred Frontiers: Moral Ecologies of Aid, Agribusiness, and South-South Encounter in Mozambique, investigates the speculative rise of an African agribusiness frontier – considered to be an emerging Brazilian-style ‘soylandia’ in northern Mozambique – and details the social and environmental aftermath of variously fleeting, failed and furtive investments over the past decade. Serena draws on two years of ethnographic and archival fieldwork in Brazil and Mozambique among family farmers, agronomists, aid workers, environmental activists, and on newly-established plantations, illustrating how the uneven arrival of plants, farming technologies, and capital alter modes of smallholder subsistence, embedded understandings of rights and gender, and socio-materiality of soil and belonging. Studying across interlinked extractive landscapes of the Global South, she contributes analytics to better understand mobile and repetitive models of development, participation in cosmopolitanism from rural spaces, and ‘failures’ of accumulation and dispossession. The project dovetails with work on community-based conservation and indigenous stewardship of inselberg rainforests (‘sky islands’) in Mozambique, supported by National Geographic Society, and new work on the culture and technoscience of ‘climate-smart’ agriculture as it intersects with indigeneity and terroir.
Bradley Davis (History, Eastern Connecticut State University)
An associate professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, Bradley Camp Davis works on uplands and borderlands in mainland Southeast Asia. His first book, Imperial Bandits: Outlaws and Rebels in the China-Vietnam Borderlands (University of Washington Press, 2017), traces multiple histories of organized violence through archival research and ethnographic fieldwork. As co-founder of the Yao Script Project, an early digital humanities project funded by the Ford Foundation in 2007, Brad also studies questions of multiculturalism in socialist Vietnam through lineage and ritual texts from Yao (Mien) communities. Currently, he is co-editing a volume on the “Wood Age” in Asia and contributing to an interdisciplinary international project focused on Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). During his time with Agrarian Studies, he will complete his second book manuscript, an environmental history of imperial Vietnam that considers various attempts to control life (flora, fauna, human) before French colonial rule. Through chapters on buffalo, elephants, uplands plants, and non-Vietnamese imperial subjects, this book will follow the slow uphill crawl of the state from the early nineteenth century to the present, connecting contemporary development discourse in Southeast Asia to stalled political ambitions from the more distant past.
Shujun Ou (Political Science, School of International Studies of Renmin University, Beijing)
Shujun Ou, Ph.D. in Government and Public Administration from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2009, is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the School of International Studies of Renmin University, Beijing, P. R. China. He was a visiting scholar of Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities of SUN YAT-SEN University in spring 2010. His research concerns political economy, comparative politics, identification politics, cyber politics, state theory and democratic theory. His publications include The Infrastructure of State Infrastructural Capacity: IdentificatIon and State Building (in Chinese, China Social Science Press, 2013); Good Governance in a City State: State-building in Singapore (in Chinese, co-authored with Wang Shaoguang, Social Sciences Academic Press of China, 2017)