Marilyn Blatt Young Dissertation Completion Fellowship

SHAFR invites applications for its dissertation completion fellowship. SHAFR will make one year-long award in the amount of $25,000 each, to support the writing and completion of the doctoral dissertation in each academic year. This highly competitive fellowship will support the most promising doctoral candidates in the final phase of completing their dissertations. Membership in SHAFR is required.

Applicants should be candidates for the PhD in a humanities or social science doctoral program (most likely history), must have been admitted to candidacy, and must be at the writing stage, with all substantial research completed by the time of the award. Applicants should be working on a topic in the field of U.S. foreign relations history or international history, broadly defined, and must be current members of SHAFR.

Because successful applicants are expected to finish writing the dissertation during the tenure of the fellowship, they should not engage in teaching opportunities or extensive paid work, except at the discretion of the Fellowship Committee. At the termination of the award period, recipients must provide a one page (250-word) report to the SHAFR Council on the use of the fellowship, to be considered for publication in the society newsletter. The submission packet should include:

  • A one page application letter describing the project’s significance, the applicant’s status, other support received or applied for and the prospects for completion within the year.
  • A three page statement of the research
  • A curriculum vitae
  • A letter of recommendation from the primary doctoral advisor.

The research statement should run no longer than three double-spaced pages; statements exceeding this limit will not be reviewed. The letter may be single-spaced. Both the letter and statement should be formatted with 1-inch margins and 12 point font, Times New Roman preferred.


Questions can be sent by electronic mail to [email protected].

The annual deadline for submissions is 1 April.

Fellowship awards will be announced formally during the SHAFR annual meeting in June, with expenditure to be administered during the subsequent academic year.

Recent Winners:

Jethro Calacday, Trinity College, Cambridge

His dissertation--“A Catholic Empire: American Imperialism and the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines”—is being directed by Andrew Preston.  The prize committee—Monica Kim (chair), Kate Burlingham, and Aaron Coy Moulton—lauded his work’s original and compelling challenge to the long-standing historiographical characterization of the United States as an Anglo-American Protestant empire that is patently anti-Catholic.  Drawing upon an impressive range of transnational archival materials in English, Tagalog, Spanish, Latin--and also Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Italian, and French--Calacday demonstrates how the United States and the Holy See forged a close working relationship in the Philippines that was integral, in fact, to the rise of U.S. imperial power in 1898.  With an innovative methodology that brings together liturgical and ecclesiastical studies, Vatican diplomacy, financial ledgers, and U.S. military history, Calacday’s dissertation promises to be groundbreaking scholarship that will force us to re-examine not only 1898 differently, but also the bounds and definitions of U.S. foreign relations history.

Ji Soo Hong, Brown University 

Ji Soo Hong of Brown University won the Young Dissertation Completion Award for her unusually original and innovative dissertation topic, "Business of Detente: Petroleum, Petrochemicals, and the Making of U.S.-USSR Economic Relations, 1956-1982," which explores how the United States and Soviet Union both became major extractors and refiners of petroleum and increasingly devoted to producing synthetic materials--particularly plastics--with that oil.  As it turns out, this mutual interest in extracting and processing petrochemicals eclipsed the seemingly insurmountable distinctions between capitalism and communism.  Ji Soo Hong's dissertation uses Russian-language, German-language, and technical records to show how U.S.-Soviet cooperation, trade, and exchange in the field of synthetic materials broke down barriers between the two superpowers and ultimately made possible the 1970s experiment of detente.

Jilene Chua
, Johns Hopkins University

A Ph.D. Candidate in History at the Johns Hopkins University, Jilene Chua is completing a dissertation entitled “U.S. Colonial Law and Chinese Life in the Philippines.”  The project explores U.S. legal colonialism in the Philippines by focusing on negotiations in the legal realm between the U.S. colonial state and the Chinese migrants, immigrants, and their descendants living there.  It sheds light on how the Chinese population—a prominent contributor to the economy but excluded from citizenship and discriminated against at the same time—concretely lived the ongoing tensions between local and global economic aspirations and colonial state-building.  The project reveals the intersection of two phenomena rarely studied together: the expansion of formal U.S. colonialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the fierce opposition to Chinese immigration that swept the United States (and several other nations) at the same time.  With its analysis of multiple facets of U.S. colonial law—immigration, citizenship, criminal, commercial, and inheritance law—Chua’s project stands out for its breadth and for the masterful use of the skills it entails.  Chua has brought together a broad range of archival documents collected from a heterogenous set of repositories in the Philippines and in the United States, in addition to oral histories, which altogether required the use of at least four languages (English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Philippine-Hokkien).  As a result of this impressive archival research, Chua is able to foreground many understudied historical actors, painstakingly analyzing their multiple perspectives and experiences.  This dissertation therefore complicates numerous historiographical strands and debates, from legal colonialism, gender, and race to labor, cultural history, and international history at large.

Minami Nishioka
, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

A graduate student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Minami Nishioka is completing a dissertation titled “Civilizing Okinawa: Intimacies between the American and Japanese Empires, 1846-1939.” The project explores the expansion of U.S. empire into East Asia through the long history of American intervention in the island known today as Okinawa (formerly the Ryukyu Kingdom). Beginning with U.S. missionary collaboration with British imperialists in the mid-19th century, Nishioka reveals the critical role of American Protestants in multiple imperial structures taking shape over a century. Using Okinawa as a prism, she shows the long history of U.S.-Japanese intra-imperial collaboration, as American missionaries supported Japanese colonization of the island as a vanguard of Western civilization. Japanese missionaries similarly saw the American presence as advantageous to their own cultural and political objectives.  Integrating religion into the methodologies of new imperial histories, Nishioka traces this imperial collaboration through the intimate relations that translate state power into the lived interactions of civilian society, and explores how these interactions in turn influenced Japanese and American empire in an uneven but mutual manner. 

Ida Yalzadeh, Brown University

Yalzadeh's dissertation,“Solidarities and Solitude: Tracing the Racial Boundaries of the Iranian Diaspora,” examines U.S. foreign relations through the lens of immigration history. It explores the increasingly contentious relationship between the United States and Iran over six decades through its impact on Iranian-Americans. Beginning with the 1953 coup that overthrew Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadeq, Yalzadeh reveals how racial formation within the United States and Iranian strategies of belonging reflected the changing political relations between Washington and Tehran. From Cold War propaganda to Third World solidarity activism and domestic lobbying today, Yalzadeh interrogates notions of U.S. and Iranian exceptionalism, whiteness and brownness, and the implications of foreign policy on the lived experiences of Iranian-Americans. Her transnational study benefits from rich multilingual, multi-archival sources that intersect with and contribute to the historiography of U.S. foreign relations, immigration, and ethnic studies.
Caleb Hardner, University of Illinois at Chicago
A graduate student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Caleb Hardner’s dissertation,  “Infectious Intruders, Helpless Hawaiians: Public Health and the Meaning of Race in Colonial Hawai’i, 1879-1914,” explores an exciting intersection of public health and racialization in U.S. imperial management in Hawai'i. Building on extensive research in the Hawaii State Archives and multidisciplinary methods, Hardner reveals the contingent process by which the U.S. imperial state attempted to construct tidy racial hierarchies along supposed disease vectors—most notably, leprosy but also venereal disease and other pathogens—among a decidedly multiracial and transnational population of indigenous, Chinese, Japanese, and Portuguese plantation laborers. Over time, indigenous Hawai’ians were deemed assimilable, while migrant laborers were deemed incurable vessels of contagion. In the end, the seemingly mundane and neutral practices of scientific medicine became key sites, or “laboratories,” in which the boundaries of inclusion and exclusion on Hawai’i were determined on the murky path from territorial holding to statehood. 
Nguyet Nguyen, American University
Nguyet Nguyen, of American University is bringing the Vietnamese diaspora into the history of the global movement against the Vietnam War. She examines the ways in which Vietnamese exiles built support among activists in the United States and Western Europe in an effort to persuade the American government to withdraw its forces. In this account of international diplomacy from below, state and nonstate actors collided as migrants, university students, and transnational social movements mobilized support for the National Liberation Front. Nguyen’s research moves impressively across continents, integrating Vietnamese, American, and French sources into a single, globe-spanning story. Operating in the best tradition of the “new diplomatic history,” she offers new explanations for the failure of American foreign policy in Vietnam and Washington’s inability to win over international public opinion. In this way, she sheds new light on an important and previously neglected aspect of the conflict.
Aileen Teague, Vanderbilt University
It is widely accepted that the US War on Drugs has left its mark Mexico, but the history and consequences of this process have not been well understood. Aileen Teague, of Vanderbilt University, is breaking through this barrier with a dissertation that explores how US drug control policies shaped Mexican domestic politics. It makes a major contribution to the history of the United States and the world by illuminating the actors, institutions, and policies that shaped patterns of drug addiction and violence in two societies. Navigating the national and local levels of this story, Teague examines the perspectives of US policymakers, Mexican leaders, local drug enforcement agents, Mexican soldiers, opium producers, and insurgents. Her dissertation reveals how the United States and Mexico constructed an antidrug worldview that has provided an essential framework for more recent policies concerning immigration, manufacturing, and border enforcement. Teague’s multisited and multilingual work breaks new ground and offers important insights into present-day problems.
Patrick Chung, Brown University
The story of U.S. industrial jobs moving overseas is well known. But Patrick Chung, of Brown University, puts this transnational phenomenon in an appropriately global context by writing a twinned history of industry in the United States and South Korea. Chung identifies the U.S. military as the key broker, not only through its purchase orders but through its imposition of U.S. industrial standards on South Korea, which then allowed for the easy establishment of transnational supply chains. Korea appears here not just as a central arena of the Cold War, but as a proving ground for late twentieth-century capitalism. With a multi-sited, multi-lingual study stretching from the 1950s to the 2000s, Chung is writing nothing less than the history of globalization.
James Lin, University of California, Berkeley
James Lin, of the University of California, Berkeley, is writing the next chapter in the growing history of international development. It is the story of developmentalist thought and policy, not as seen from the United States, but as seen from China and then, after the revolution, Taiwan. Lin reaches back into the interwar period and identifies the specter of Chinese famine as one of the first significant development problems of the twentieth century, and shows the odd assortment of figures—missionaries, civil engineers, plant breeders—who arrived to solve it. Lin then considers Taiwan as not just a recipient but also a broadcaster of development, and explores how U.S. strategies were selectively adapted, modified, and recombined by Taiwanese intellectuals and then exported throughout Asia, Latin America, and Africa in the 1960s. This is history full of surprises, with much to teach the field.
Carly Goodman, Temple University
Carly Goodman is staking out new territory with this innovative dissertation; chronologically, she is writing a contemporary history that examines the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery from 1990 to present. Her project also brings together public diplomacy, immigration, globalization, and the history of U.S. foreign relations. Her dissertation will reveal the unintended consequences of U.S. policy – both in how it how it changed perceptions of the United States in sub-Saharan Africa and its role in keeping the “American dream” remains alive for many Africans. Her work also contributes to a growing literature on the influence of nonstate actors on U.S. foreign relations, examining the understudied contributions of African-based travel agents and Internet café workers to shaping U.S. immigration policy.
Eric Rutkow, Yale University
In the past years, SHAFR members have produced a number of high-quality works on the infrastructure of U.S. power. Eric Rutkow promises to continue that trend with his fascinating study of the Pan-American Highway, the largest international development project that the United States undertook in the interwar period. The project is self-evidently important, with much to contribute to the field. But the committee was also struck by the conceptual clarity and writerly grace of Rutkow’s presentation. We thus look forward not only to what will surely be a significant dissertation but, beyond that, to what we anticipate will be a successful and enjoyable book. 
Kyle Burke, Northwestern Universty
Kyle Burke's dissertation explores the connection between politically conservative and wealthy individuals, right-wing organizations, and anti-communist guerrillas in the Third World during the 1970s and 1980s. Picking up on a theme usually associated with John Foster Dulles, at least rhetorically, Burke examines the effort to roll back communist gains through paramilitary warfare in Southern Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Burke connects these activities to to the rise of private companies involved in the business of conducting wars. Inventive, engaging, and highly relevant to current issues in American foreign policy, Burke's dissertation promises to make critical connections between retired military and intelligence officers with international groups and paramilitary forces in countries ranging from Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador to Angola as well as Laos and Cambodia.
Julia Mansfield, Stanford University
Yellow fever in the Early Republic is not the sort of topic that one might immediately classify under foreign relations, but Julia Mansfield ably demonstrates its relevance. Like the best emerging studies of the United States and the world, Mansfield’s dissertation promises to take an episode familiar within the national history of the United States and reveal its international characteristics. In this case, the contagion touched on the key issue of foreign commerce and served as an occasion for U.S. leaders to reflect on the relationship between their country and the external world. The committee was struck by the clarity and confidence of Mansfield’s presentation as well as by the novelty and significance of her topic. This is a dissertation with much to contribute to the field.

Seth Anziska, Columbia University
Michelle Reeves, University of Texas

Sara Fieldston, Yale University
David Wight, University of California, Irvine

Shannon Fitzpatrick, University of California, Irvine
Victor V. Nemchenok, University of Virginia

Hajimu Masuda, Cornell University
Sudina Paungpetch, Texas A&M University

Ryan Irwin, Ohio State University
Mara Drogan, State University of New York, Albany

Min Song, University of Georgia
Vanessa Mongey, University of Pennsylvania