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Undergraduate Fellows 2011-12


Elizabeth Caldwell ’12 concentrated in United States History, with a focus on the early 19th century. Drawing on cultural, labor, and business history, her interests include the origins of American nationalism, the construction of race and class in the early republic, women’s work and the domestic sphere, and the connected histories of slavery and capitalism. As a student activist, Beth was particularly interested in making connections between historical understanding and contemporary social issues.

In her thesis, Beth continued research that she began through Brown’s Slavery & Justice Undergraduate Research Award and presented at Brown and Harvard’s Slavery’s Capitalism conference this past spring. Drawing on legal claims as well as personal correspondence from the decades leading to the Civil War, she explored the ways that slaveholders mortgaged and used their slaves’ bodies as collateral in order to access credit on the southern frontier. Through this project, she developed a greater understanding of the ways in which economic development and the creation of wealth throughout the United States were tied to credit in the form of the collateralized bodies of slaves. She also hoped that this investigation of the American financial system would challenge the traditional understanding of the western frontier as a space for freedom and the preservation of American democracy.


Gabriella Ferrari '12 was a Classics and Slavic Studies concentrator. Her interest in Classics is mainly focused on Roman culture, whereas her interest for the Slavic world is oriented mostly towards Russian literary and visual culture of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Gabriella's thesis explored the way the Classical world has been exhibited in museums throughout different historical and cultural periods. She is interested in what the exhibition of Classical artifacts says about those who present them and viewed them. This research allowed her to examine the reception of Classics within specific societies, such as Ancient Rome, Imperial Russia, Modern England and Contemporary United States. In addition, she was able to explore the wider debates that are emerging globally on the issues of museum collections and their value for communities at large.


Juan Ruiz-Toro ’12 concentrated in History. His work at Brown primarily focused on political and cultural history, with an emphasis on the creation and deconstruction of nationalisms and identities in the twentieth century. He is particularly interested in the intersection of ideology and culture as it relates to questions of
political participation and social classification. His honors thesis analyzed the relationship between Puerto Rican nationalism and economic development in the years following the establishment of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Within this context, he investigated the tension between the emergence of a tourism industry in the island and local politicians’ efforts to
overcome undesirable foreign interference. To contrast the economic analysis of tourism’s impact on the island, Ruiz studied the creation of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in 1955 and the restoration and renovation of Old San Juan, both of which took place in the years following the ratification of the Puerto Rican constitution. His research thus questioned how (cultural) nationalism and foreign investment can coexist in Puerto Rico’s
arguably colonial context.


Sabrina Skau '12 was an anthropology concentrator. Her academic and research interests include queer theory, ethnographic methods, and online fan communities. An aspiring filmmaker, Sabrina has worked with the Watson Institute's Global Media Project and produced her own documentary, which explores the lives of anthropologists. The film asks what anthropological border-crossings and lives lived “in the field,” “in the academy,” and “at home” might reveal to us about identity and meaning-making at the intersections of various structures of power. Sabrina is interested in the ways in which anthropologists speak about themselves and hopes to use these accounts as sites through which to investigate such issues as transnational migration; belonging and displacement; identity and subject formation; governmentality and power; and gender, race, and class formations.