Meet NSSR’s Fall 2021 MA Project Grant and Dean’s Conference Fund Award Recipients

As part of a commitment to socially engaged and meaningful research, the NSSR Dean’s Office supports a range of student-organized projects and conferences each year. Even amid a pandemic, NSSR students have envisioned incredibly creative, intellectually rigorous, and community-minded projects and conferences. Read on for more about the Fall 2021 recipients of our MA Project Grants and the Dean’s Conference Fund, who are launching their projects and conferences in 2022.

MA Project Grants

NSSR launched the MA Project Grant program in 2016 to improve the research environment and academic life for master’s students. Every semester, student join together to create and launch projects across disciplines that address pressing contemporary questions while also building lasting community at the school.

The Fall 2021 recipients of the MA Project Grants are: 

UN:RESOLVED (by The En[…]Clothed Collective)

In an attempt to explore how clothing acts as a mediator between various “bodies,”
states and environments, En[…]Clothed collective hones in on the lived experience of embodiment at the intersections of design practice, material culture, philosophy, religion, anthropology, and sociology.


Organizers: Gabrielle Vazquez (Anthropology) and Fiona Dieffenbacher (Parsons)


The Faculty for Meditative Research and Learning (FMRL)

Drawing from the disciplines of Psychology, Anthropology, Political Science, and Philosophy, FMRL is a forum for scholars and practitioners who are engaging with meditation and contemplative practices as unique areas of scientific inquiry, areas that have been historically ignored by the Western academy but are now gaining widespread attention due to their implications in public health and consciousness studies.

Organizer: Jon Epstein (Psychology)


Dean’s Conference Fund

Often times trans- and interdisciplinary, NSSR student-run conferences blur and contest traditional lines inside and outside of academia and are one of the most productive sites for intellectual growth at the school. They are also where students begin to make their mark as active scholars in their field.

In Spring 2022, the Dean’s Conference Fund will support the following NSSR student-run conferences:

Athlete Mental Health and Well-being Symposium

In response to the worldwide need to While athletes are celebrated for doing the impossible physically, there has been growing recognition that athlete mental health has been greatly overlooked. Must well-being come at the expense of competition? What would sports look like if wellbeing and mental health were seen as integral to training, competition, and injuries? Efforts to transform sports culture will require diverse perspectives and frameworks.

Date: January 28, 2022

Organizers: Nicole Ross and Chloe Sherrill (Psychology)


Political Concepts Graduate Student Conference

The second graduate Political Concepts conference will convene students from all fields of study at NYU, UC Riverside, Harvard, and Duke at NSSR, each focusing on a single concept – including abolition, statistics, and paradise – with the express intention of resituating its meaning in the field of political discourse.


Dates: March 25-27, 2022

Organizers: Helia Faezipour (Politics), Allan Hillani (Philosophy), Clover Reshad (Politics), Jochen Schmon (Politics), Paula Cucurella, Christina Chalmers


Decolonizing Eastern European Studies – Knowledge as an Object of Inquiry

Since the end of the Cold War, numerous attempts have been made to understand the nature of the transformation taking place in Eastern Europe and the ongoing legacy of socialism. Conceptualized through the lenses of postsocialism and more recently postcolonialism, the changing characterization of the region has marked the shifting politics of representation and politics of identity. The aim of this conference is to critically assess and challenge these dominant conceptual frameworks.


Tentative dates: April 6-8, 2022

Organizers: Karolina Koziura and Agnes Szanyi (Sociology)


With/In Environments: Reimagining Frameworks and Practices for Environmental Philosophy

The 20th Annual NSSR Graduate Student Philosophy Conference asks how we might reorient the language and practices of philosophy in a way that can enable us to adequately respond to ongoing environmental crises.


Dates: April 14-17, 2022

Organizers: Dante Apaestegui, Veronica Dakota Padilla, Eva Perez de Vega, Vidya Ravilochan, Sarah V. Schweig, James Trybendis (Philosophy)


Contradictions in Capitalism: Feminist Perspectives

This conference explores the deepening tensions inherent within capitalism that both shape and are shaped by dynamics of exploitation. While feminist movements have identified the contradiction between production and reproduction as a central contradiction in capitalism, the categories of class and race point to the contradictions of extractivist capital accumulation and exploitation of labor performed by racialized and expropriated populations. Far from being accidental or exceptions to an otherwise functional economic system, structural violence and asymmetries arising from these contradictions are persistent because they form the very foundation of capitalism. This conference seeks to foster an interdisciplinary dialogue, situating academic knowledge production within the social movements that inform its analyses.


Dates: April 23, 2022

Organizers: Altaira Caldarella (Gender and Sexuality Studies), Patrich Co (Politics), Charlie Ebert (Philosophy), Penelope Kyritsis (Economics), Mette Kierstein Nielsen (Gender and Sexuality Studies), Lena Nowak-Laird (Philosophy), Isaiah Turner-Wyatt (Philosophy), Cassandra Williams (Sociology)


Sex Workers Built the Internet

Porn built the internet. Erotic BBS groups built the internet. Camming built the internet. Craigslist Casual Encounters built the internet. Desire built the internet. “Sex Workers Built the Internet” addresses this deleted history, centering sex workers’ experiences, voices, and activism in an urgent retelling of the internet’s past, present, and possible futures.


Date: May 2022

Organizers: Sarah Epstein (Psychology) and Livia Foldes (Parsons)

Tatiana Llaguno Nieves Named Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellow

Tatiana Llaguno Nieves has been named a Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellow by the Institute for Citizens & Scholars. The Newcombe Fellowship is the nation’s largest and most prestigious award for PhD candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values. Each Fellow receives a 12-month award of $27,500 to support their final year of dissertation work.

Llaguno Nieves is a PhD candidate in political theory working under the supervision of Nancy Fraser, Loeb Professor of Philosophy and Politics. She is also pursuing the Graduate Certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Her research areas include the history of political thought, social and political philosophy, critical theory, feminist theory, as well as critical approaches to capitalism.

“In my dissertation – provisionally titled ‘Paradoxes of Dependence: Towards a Political Theory of Our Dependent Condition’ – I propose to look at dependence as a generalized life experience and to systematize its study through an analysis of its subjective and objective dimension,” she explains. “I claim that we repudiate dependence not because it has an intrinsic connection to unfreedom, but because we experience it in an unsustainable manner in the context of alienated and asymmetrical social relations. I thus propose a normatively laden critique of the wrongness implied in our current organization of dependence and a reconceptualization of freedom, not opposed to but informed by our condition of dependence.”  

Llaguno Nieves is spending a year as a visiting doctoral student at the Institut für Philosophie, Humboldt University of Berlin, under the supervision of Prof. Rahel Jaeggi and supported by a DAAD Long-term Doctoral Research Grant. Her research has also been supported by the Frank Altschul Dissertation Fellowship and a Fulbright Program doctoral fellowship.

She has developed and taught undergraduate courses at Pace University, the City University of New York, and The New School, from which she has received a 2019 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award.

Liliana Gil and Sidra Kamran received Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships

Liliana Gil and Sidra Kamran have received Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships for the 2021-2022 academic year. Now in its fifteenth year, the fellowships “support a year of research and writing to help advanced graduate students in the humanities and social sciences in the last year of PhD dissertation writing.”


Liliana Gil, an Anthropology PhD candidate, will utilize the fellowship to complete her dissertation, “Beyond Make-Do Innovation: Practices and Politics of Technological Improvisation in Brazil”; apply for jobs; and, if conditions permit, conduct follow-up fieldwork with electronics industry workers in Manaus, Brazil.

Gil’s work is driven by a commitment to questioning hierarchies of knowledge. “Perhaps because I come from a working-class background, I’m drawn to the puzzle of how certain knowledges are recognized as skilled and expert vis-a-vis others that are just as demanding and vital to society,” she explains. “These rankings of value reflect structural forms of inequality – pertaining race, class, and gender – but also other historical and sociocultural factors. In my current project, I get to explore these issues by studying how historically and socially embedded forms of improvisation play a role in different spheres of tech production in Brazil.” Her main advisor is Hugh Raffles, Professor of Anthropology, and she also works with Miriam Ticktin, Associate Professor of Anthropology.

“I was truly honored,” says Gil of receiving the grant. “But I also took a moment to recall all the invisible work that went into this application. This was my second time applying and I was luckier this time around. Although it’s important to celebrate these achievements, I think we focus too much on accolades and don’t discuss ‘failure’ and ‘fortuity’ as part of our jobs. This can be very taxing, especially for first-generation college students. Fortunately, I have peers and mentors who are open about these issues.”

In addition to the Mellon/ACLS Fellowship, Gil has received a Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant; a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, co-sponsored by the Science and Technology Studies and the Cultural Anthropology Programs; and the 2020 David Hakken Graduate Student Paper Prize, conferred by the Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology & Computing of the American Anthropological Association, for an essay on innovation practices at a public fablab in the periphery of São Paulo in Brazil. She also received a 2020 New School’s Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award for her work creating and teaching an undergraduate “World Histories of Anthropology” course.


Sidra Kamran, a Sociology PhD candidate, will utilize the fellowship to complete her dissertation, “The (In)Visible Workers: Gender, Status, and Space in the New Service Economy in Pakistan,” as well as finish work on a journal article.

As Gil mentioned, much invisible labor and time go into applying for academic grants. When Kamran learned she had received the ACLS/Mellon Fellowship, she felt both happy and relieved. “I could stop applying for other fellowships and take some time off!” she says.

Kamran’s work broadly examines the interaction between changing gender and class norms. “In my dissertation, I use qualitative methods to understand how women beauty and retail workers navigate new types of status positions, work, intimacy, and urban life in Karachi, Pakistan,” she explains. Her advisor is Rachel Sherman, Professor of Sociology.

“I am involved in feminist and labor movements in Pakistan and the U.S., but as a researcher I explore how structural changes ostensibly unrelated to social movements shape gender and class equality,” Kamran continues. “I plan to examine how these supposedly ‘non-political’ processes interact with ‘political’ struggles.’” Her other research investigates how working-class women are active, if unlikely, participants in emerging forms of digital culture on TikTok in Pakistan. She is also interested in global flows of labor, social reproduction work, and the intersection between love, work, and money, and is inspired by Marxist-feminist approaches to these topics.

Kamran has also received a Junior Research Fellowship from the American Institute of Pakistan Studies, a Wenner Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, and a Graduate Fellowship from the Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies at The New School.

Azeemah Kola Receives APA Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Doctoral Fellowship

Azeemah Kola, a Clinical Psychology PhD candidate, has received a 2021-22 Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Doctoral Fellowship, part of the Minority Fellowship Program of the American Psychological Association (APA). The fellowship will help support her as she completes her doctoral studies, and connect her to a broad network of other psychologists and psychologists-in-training who are specifically focused on working with racial and ethnic minorities. 

Kola is broadly interested in how certain groups, particularly those that are marginalized, are perceived in society.

“Thus far, I have been interested in looking at this through the principle of magical contagion, which is the idea that the essence of a person or thing can be transferred through physical contact with an object,” she says. “In my MA thesis, I found that individuals were less likely to want to come into contact with objects that had been previously handled by obese individuals, suggesting that obesity is in fact wrongly viewed as communicable.” 

Her dissertation, tentatively titled “Magical Contagion and Psychiatric Disorder,” uses magical contagion to look at the ways in which individuals treat those with psychiatric disorders. “Specifically, I am interested in understanding whether, and why, mental illness in particular may be seen as communicable, whether consciously or unconsciously, and whether this differs depending on the type of psychiatric disorder,” Kola shares. Her dissertation advisor is McWelling Todman, Professor of Clinical Practice.

Understanding exactly what conditions underlie stigma around mental health has a number of potential policy and practical applications, especially where attitudes toward mental health intersect with other issues, e.g. providing safe housing and support for unhoused populations, or dealing with mass trauma from catastrophic events like the COVID-19 pandemic. In many cases, mental health stigma and attitudes towards the individual may involve compounding prejudice, where biases and irrational beliefs about mental health collide with prejudices about race, ethnicity, legal status, chronic health conditions, or poverty. 

Kola’s clinical interests center on the experiences of people of color. “I am interested in how established therapeutic models may apply (or not apply) cross-culturally, and how therapy that focuses on specific events or experiences may need to respond to or be aware of greater structural and systemic experiences of racism and inequality,” she says. This year, as an extern in the PTSD Clinic at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center, she is starting and co-facilitating a Race-Based Stress and Trauma psychotherapy group with her supervisor, also a woman of color. “We hope [this] will provide a space for veterans of color to acknowledge and process the often pervasive and repeated traumas of racism,” she shares.

“I felt incredibly fortunate [to receive this APA fellowship], not least because I felt empowered by the fellowship committee believing in my research, clinical focus, and its importance. I am also deeply grateful to the Psychology department at The New School and my mentors, in particular Dr. Todman, Dr. [Richelle] Allen, and Dr. [Daniel] Gaztambide, for their unwavering and beyond generous support of me and my application,” Kola says.

In addition to her studies, research, and externship, Kola writes a blog for Psychology Today and is a member of the APA’s Task Force on Climate Change, which she joined to help address the disproportionate impact of climate change on already vulnerable and marginalized groups.

Follow Azeemah Kola on Twitter

Tomas Lima Pimenta Receives DAAD Research Grant

Tomas Lima Pimenta has received a DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) Long-term Research Grant Award for the 2021-2022 academic year.

A Philosophy PhD candidate, Pimenta will spend a year at Freie Universität Berlin working with faculty member Robin Celikates. In addition to finishing work on his dissertation, he plans to participate in Celikates’ seminars and research groups, as well as activities of the Center for Humanities and Social Change at Humboldt University, directed by Celikates and Rahel Jaeggi.

“I felt delighted and relieved with the award,” says Pimenta. “I am excited to work with Celikates closely, to live in Berlin, and I am also relieved with the financial support….I am looking forward to focusing solely on my research after October.”

Pimenta’s dissertation addresses the contemporary spread of conspiracy theories as a fundamental tool of right-wing extremism propaganda. It gives an account of the crisis of liberal democracy through the notion of trust and the increasing distrust in institutions. It also offers a political-psychological account of political paranoia as a mode of subjectivity. 

“This research is essentially motivated by the genocidal politics promoted by the ultraliberal government in Brazil during the COVID-19 pandemic,” explains Pimenta. “It ultimately attempts to understand the suicidal logic, beyond the necropolitical logic, that dominates Brazilian society and explores the fundamental role of the conspirational subject in that process.” His dissertation advisor is Jay Bernstein, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy.

Originally trained as an economist specializing in Marxist Economics and Dependency Theory, Pimenta is deeply interested in both German and Latin American thought. In addition to this upcoming DAAD fellowship, he has twice been a fellow of NSSR’s Janey Program in Latin American Studies. “All my research interests are guided by the relevant social, political, and philosophical problems of Brazil and Latin America,” he says.