The Center for International Social Science Research (CISSR) has announced its second cohort of Dissertation Support Grant recipients.

“Graduate students in the Division of Social Sciences are advancing independent research projects that speak to international, transnational, and global processes. Each year, CISSR supports four especially promising projects by providing students with space and a modest amount of “finishing funds” to cover some of the unexpected expenses scholars conducting high-risk research in faraway places almost always incur,” said Jenny Trinitapoli, CISSR director and associate professor in sociology. “The projects are substantively, geographically, and discipinarily distinct, but they share three important characteristics: innovative and original data collection efforts, the marriage of an enduring question with methodological innovation, and the promise of publications our board members genuinely look forward to reading.”

Recipients have completed their fieldwork and are at the write-up stage of their dissertations. Selected through a competitive application process, each student will receive a $5,000 stipend and shared office space in Pick Hall for the 2018-19 academic year.

The 2018-2019 recipients are:

Hanisah Binte Abdullah Sani is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Chicago whose work focuses on the politico-legal administration of religion in developmental states. Using ethnographic and historical methods, her dissertation examines the relationship between colonial state building, elite competition, and contemporary jurisdictional conflicts between secular and religious courts in Malaysia. Through a comparative analysis of jurisdictional conflicts on the syariah and civil courts across four states in the Federation of Malaysia, Binte Abdullah Sani’s work explains why conflicts between religious and secular courts become politicized -- even violent -- in some contexts but not in others.  Binte Abdullah Sani argues that contemporary jurisdictional conflicts become politicized when religious elites are incorporated into the colonial state and eventually gain influence over the structure and process of legal administration.

Mark Deming is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Chicago. Prior to his doctoral studies, he completed his MA in International Relations at the University of Chicago’s Committee on International Relations. Deming’s research centers on authoritarian regimes, regime transitions, and political parties and party systems, and he has conducted extensive field research in Latin America. In his dissertation, Deming examines the varied fates of so-called authoritarian successor parties (ASPs) and hypothesizes that ASPs survived transitions to democracy when conflict during the transition period and its immediate aftermath facilitated either of two party strategies: collusion or party-building.  Deming bases his argument on the statistical analysis of ASP fates in Latin America since 1900 and case studies of ASPs in Peru and Chile. 

Kristin Gee Hickman is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on language politics and the place of colloquial Arabic in contemporary urban Morocco. Investigating Moroccans’ unconventional relationship to their mother tongue Darija, a regional Arabic dialect that is both unwritten and officially unrecognized, Hickman’s dissertation uses contemporary Casablanca as a site from which to ethnographically investigate how Moroccans are reimagining Darija, challenging both Morocco’s linguistic hierarchies and Western trajectories of vernacularization. By following a wide-range of actors—from dictionary-makers to soap opera translators— Hickman argues that Moroccans are enacting nothing less than a linguistic revolution and on their own terms: Darija is being transformed not into a “language” but into a public dialect: a form of speech that strives to be modern and cosmopolitan while simultaneously rejecting any imperatives to become standardized, officialized, or independent. 

Matthew Knisley is a PhD candidate in Anthropology, with an emphasis on Archaeology. His dissertation recasts current understandings of the Sandawe homeland of central Tanzania by taking a 2000-year view of the region. The region is cast as an ecologically undisturbed hinterland, but Knisley’s new evidence from more than two years of archeological fieldwork shows that food production practices, residential patterns, and exchange networks with other groups were both longstanding and complex. The project speaks to ongoing debates about whether contemporary groups can be representative of the past, serves as an exemplar of how archaeological evidence can be leveraged to understand the relationships between foragers and food-producers over time, and advances scholarship on human-environment relations through time.

Dissertation Support Grant recipients will participate in a series of professional development activities throughout the year, acknowledge CISSR support in all related publications, and submit a final report on their progress by July 1, 2019.

The next Dissertation Support Grant call for proposals will be announced in Winter Quarter 2018. Visit to learn more.