Program Fellows 2023-24
Sam Hege (History, Rutgers University)
Agrarian Studies Program Fellow
Sam Hege is a postdoctoral associate in the Program in Agrarian Studies at Yale University. He received his Ph.D. and MA in History from Rutgers University-New Brunswick and a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research broadly examines the entangled histories of the environmental justice movement, the politics of water, and the rise of industrial agriculture in the U.S. West. His current book project, “The Winds of Money”: Race, Work, and Water in the Texas Panhandle, 1900-1980, argues that the privatization of groundwater and the creation of precarious labor markets fundamentally interlinked the U.S. Sunbelt political economy and the American diet during the mid-20th century.
Outside of this research project, Sam has worked on multiple public and digital humanities projects. He has contributed to the Climates of Inequality exhibit, The Public History Project, and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities’ Democracy Conversations Project. He is currently serving as project manager for Voices from the System of Essex County, an oral history project which foregrounds the perspective of those who have navigated the foster care system to deepen public understanding of the connections between this system and structures of racial inequality.
Samantha Payne (History, College of Charleston)
Agrarian Studies Associate Research Scholar
Samantha Payne is a Research Associate with the Program in Agrarian Studies. She received her Ph.D. in History from Harvard University in 2022. Her scholarship focuses on the history of slavery and emancipation in the Atlantic World. She is currently working on her first book, The Last Atlantic Revolution (under contract with University of North Carolina Press), which explores the Atlantic history of Reconstruction in the United States, Cuba, and Brazil, the last societies to abolish slavery in the Americas. The dissertation upon which the book is based was awarded the 2023 Allan Nevins Prize for the best dissertation in American history from the Society of American Historians. It also won the Betty Unterberger Dissertation Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) and an honorable mention for the Harold K. Gross Prize for best dissertation from the Harvard History Department. A selection of this project has been published in Past & Present, winning the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians’ Prize for best article in any field of history, and an honorable mention for the Stuart L. Bernath Scholarly Article Prize from SHAFR. The project has been supported by the Gilder Lehrman Institute, the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Southern Historical Collection, the American Historical Association, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and the University of São Paulo, among others.
Affiliate Fellows 2023-24
Courtney T. Wittekind
Agrarian Studies Affiliate Fellow
Courtney T. Wittekind is a Postdoctoral Associate at Yale’s Council on Southeast Asian Studies. She received her Ph.D. in Social Anthropology with a secondary field in Critical Media Practice from Harvard University in 2022. Courtney’s current research lies at the intersection of work on political instability, speculative real estate investment, and agrarian change. Her book project, “‘Time to Change:’ Speculating on ‘Transition’ in Yangon’s New City,” describes the unequal burdens facing residents of Southwest Yangon, Myanmar (Burma), an agricultural region set to be transformed into a sprawling “New Yangon City.” Through in-situ and digital ethnography conducted over 18 months, “Time to Change” follows residents of the 20,000-acre project area as they exchange not only plots of agricultural land but also visions of the radically new futures they will build in the coming “new city.” This research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright-Hays Program, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, and Harvard’s Committee on General Scholarships. While at Yale, Courtney will continue to develop a second project exploring the role of social media in chains of speculation unfolding across Southeast Asia, developed with support from the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative and the Digital Transformations in Property and Development Matrix at the University of California, Berkeley.
In addition to her dissertation research, Courtney is completing her first documentary film in connection with Harvard’s Critical Media Practice program and Sensory Ethnography Lab. She also serves as a co-founder and editor of Tea Circle, a forum for new perspectives from Burma/Myanmar.
Before beginning her Ph.D., she completed an MPhil in Anthropology at the University of Oxford as a 2014 Rhodes Scholar and member of St Antony’s Programme on Modern Burma Studies. She holds an interdisciplinary undergraduate degree in anthropology and fine art from Carnegie Mellon University.
Agrarian Studies Affiliate Fellow
Attilio Bernasconi is a Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) postdoctoral fellow. He received his Ph.D. in Social Sciences (anthropology) in June 2022 at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. His thesis, titled “Thinking-Feeling the Margins: An Intersectional Ethnography of the Conflict Within the Colombian Pacific Rainforest” brings on the complex dynamics that characterize the relationships between the ELN (National Liberation Army) guerrilla movement and the Colombian Pacific inhabitants. Attilio’s field of expertise includes the anthropology of the state and governance, with an emphasis on borderland areas where information, commodities, and people circulate – often illegally – at the margins of the state. After completing two Masters degrees, one in social anthropology and one in human geography, Attilio was Ph.D. candidate and teaching assistant at the University of Lausanne from 2015 to February 2022.
From August 2018 to October 2020, he was a visiting scholar at Harvard University, while during the Spring semester of 2022, he held a Lecturer position at the University of Bern, where his class — “Ethnographies of Struggle” — focused on inequalities related to the historical spatially uneven development of the capitalist mode of production, environmental racism, structural violence, and the construction of gender in armed groups. His teaching links these social struggles to the ones an anthropologist is confronted in her/his fieldwork, and which are related to questions of access, positionality, engagement, race, and gender.
Tanmoy Sharma (Anthropology, Yale University)
Agrarian Studies Graduate Affiliate Fellow
Tanmoy Sharma is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology and Environmental Humanities at Yale University. His research interests include the history and anthropology of energy development in southern Asia; histories of corporations, empires, and law; science and technology studies; agrarian studies; and global environmental politics. His doctoral dissertation, based on more than three years of ethnographic and archival research, examines the intersections between extractive industries, agrarian life and regional politics, with its key ethnographic focus on the oil belt of Northeast India. His doctoral field research has been supported by Wenner-Gren Foundation and Yale Macmillan Center.
George Remisovsky (History, Yale University)
Agrarian Studies Graduate Affiliate Fellow
George Remisovsky is a Ph.D. candidate in History at Yale, where his work focuses on the economic, social, and legal histories of modern China and Japan. His dissertation examines the introduction of Western-style civil law to the Japanese and Qing empires beginning in the latter half of the nineteenth century. In particular, it focuses on how the transnational sharing of conceptions of local custom ultimately led both polities to eschew the use of local power brokers as dispute mediators. With this choice, it argues, policymakers diverged from the Western legal systems that they largely emulated, excluded figures who played a key role in implementing other areas of central government policy, and eliminated the customs they purportedly wished to preserve. Prior to arriving at Yale, George received an Hon. B.A. in History and International Relations from Trinity College, University of Toronto, and an M.A. in Chinese Philosophy from Fudan University as a Shanghai Government Scholar.
Student Coordinator 2023-24
Mariana Diaz Chalela (History, Yale University)
Agrarian Studies Graduate Student Coordinator
Mariana Diaz Chalela is the Agrarian Studies Program Coordinator for the 2023-24 academic year and a Ph.D. candidate in History at Yale, specializing in Latin American History. Her research interests include the intersection between religion and development during the Cold War, the history of international development, and the role of law in shaping historical change. Her dissertation examines the history of agricultural credit policies in Latin America and its connection to religion and international development.
Before coming to Yale, Mariana earned her law degree and an M.A. in History at Universidad de los Andes and worked as a lawyer in Colombia. She has research and teaching experience in Latin American history, international law, human rights history, and constitutional law. Please direct inquiries about the Program in Agrarian Studies to her at email@example.com