Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Affiliated Graduate Students

Africana Studies

Watufani Poe earned his B.A. from Swarthmore College in Africana Studies with a minor in Latin American Studies. Prior to pursuing graduate school, Watufani spent two years in the San Francisco Bay Area as an Americorps member, working with various LGBTQ activist organizations whose main goals were to educate and to promote youth activism, especially among youth of color. His research interests include the African diaspora in Latin America, Brazil's Black social and political movements, Black queer theory, Black Transnationalism, and intersectionality. 


Omar Andres Alcover Firpi was born and raised in Carolina, Puerto Rico. He got his BA in Archaeology and Latin American Studies from Boston University in 2013. His current research focuses on settlement and landscape change during the Late Preclassic and Early Classic transition and the role of the royal court in the Maya Lowlands of Guatemala and Mexico. Although most of his research experience has been in Guatemala, specifically in the sites of Xultun, San Bartolo, El Zotz and most recently Piedras Negras, he has also worked in coastal and CRM projects in Puerto Rico. 

Lauren E. Deal is a PhD candidate in the department of Anthropology specializing in linguistic and sociocultural anthropology. She received her BA in anthropology from the The George Washington University. Her dissertation research examines ideas of race, indigeneity, and identity in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Specifically, it examines how Argentines of European descent engage in projects of indigenous linguistic and cultural revival to consider the politics of appropriation and the meanings of whiteness in Latin America. She has previously conducted research in Buenos Aires on language and music in protest, and the language of Opera pedagogy.

Mallory Matsumoto is a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology. Her research broadly addresses the interface between language, material culture, and identity in pre-Columbian and colonial-era Maya communities. She has conducted archaeological fieldwork in the United States, Peru, Hungary, Mexico, and most recently Guatemala. Before arriving to Brown, she earned a MA from the University of Bonn, a MSt from the University of Oxford, and a BA from Cornell University.

Bryan Moorefield is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology. His dissertation looks at Mexican citrus workers and the H-2A guestworker program in the state of Florida. Bryan has conducted extensive fieldwork on labor migration, agriculture, and rural life throughout Mexico, Guatemala, and the southern United States. He holds an MA in Anthropology from Brown and a BA in Latin American Studies and History from the University of Virginia.

Alejandra Roche Recinos is a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology. She was born in Guatemala City, where she also received her Licenciatura (5 year degree) in Archaeology in 2013 from Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. Her work focuses on Mesoamerican economic systems of trade and exchange through the study of stone tool production. She has conducted archaeological research in the Guatemalan archaeological sites of La Corona, Kaminaljuyu, Río Seco, Tak’alik Ab’aj, El Soch and more recently in the site of Piedras Negras as part of Projecto Paisaje Piedras Negras Yaxchilan directed by Andrew K. Scherer from Brown University and Charles Golden from Brandeis University.

Joshua T. Schnell is a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology. His research centers around the human navigation of the death process, an understanding of the human body in antiquity, and the intersection of biology and behavior. His research encompasses a range of diverse issues including mortuary ritual patterns, health and mobility, ritual violence, and the cultural modification of both the antemortem and postmortem body, with a contextual and methodological focus on human bone in non-burial contexts. He currently holds a BS in Anthropology and a BA in Religious Studies from Michigan State University and has previously worked at Piedras Negras in Guatemala, and Tipan Chen Uitz, Caves Branch Rockshelter, and Actun Kabul in Belize.

Harper Dine is a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology. She earned her BA in Anthropology and Spanish from the University of Miami in 2017. Her research focuses on social aspects of food, human-plant relationships, and agriculture in the Maya lowlands as well as overarching questions about food security and diet change over time. She has also participated in archaeological fieldwork in Puerto Rico and Florida.

Archaeology and the Ancient World

Miriam Rothenberg is a doctoral student at the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World. She holds a B.A. in anthropology and archaeological studies from Oberlin College (2012) and an M.A. in archaeology from Durham University (2014). Miriam’s current research focuses on the archaeology of volcanic disasters, with her primary case study being the current eruptive episode of the Soufrière Hills Volcano on the island of Montserrat. Her dissertation will look at the effects of this traumatic event by studying the abandoned settlements on the edge of the now unhabitable ‘Exclusion Zone’, how these sites persist in Montserratians’ cultural memory, and how the Exclusion Zone’s landscapes have been used – often illicitly – since the beginning of the eruption in 1995.

Comparative Literature

Brendan Lambert is a Ph.D. student in Comparative Literature. He holds an A.B. in Classics from Kenyon College, where he also completed an interdisciplinary program in Humanities. His current interests include 20th Century Latin American narrative, aesthetics and politics, critical theory, and literary translation. His research has been enriched by travel throughout Mexico and the Southern Cone, including an immersive program completed during the summer of 2016 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Elizabeth Gray is a PhD candidate in the department of Comparative Literature. She holds a B.A. in English and Secondary Education from Saint Michael's College (2006) and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Dartmouth College (2011). Her research interests include 20th and 21st century Latin American literature and art, political theory, performance studies, and literary translation. Her dissertation project explores the use of poetry, performance art, and activism in recent social movements in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina. 

Tavid Mulder is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature. His research interests include twentieth-century and contemporary Latin American literature and visual art, global modernism and critical theory. His current project, The Peripheral Metropolis: Montage, the City and Modernity, looks at how writers in the 1920s and 30s--in Latin American in particular, but also in Germany, the US and Italy--use montage and figures of the city to reflect on and formally represent the contradictions of capitalist modernity. Tavid's work has appeared in Revista Hispánica Moderna and is forthcoming in Mediations. 

Mariajosé Rodríguez Pliego is a Ph.D. student in Comparative Literature from Monterrey, México. She holds a B.A. in Economics and English from Wellesley College. Her interests include 20th and 21st century Latin American fiction with a focus on digital humanities, computational linguistics and indigenous studies. She is also interested in translation theory and the relationship between globalization and the translation and distribution of Western literature in Latin America. 


Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences

Benjamin Chilson-Parks is a doctoral candidate in the department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences. He graduated with a BA in geology from Carleton College in Minnesota. His current research focuses on assessing the chemical composition of volcanic rocks erupted in the Andes, particularly those from central and southern Argentina and Chile. Using the compositional 'fingerprints' of the lava samples from this region, he investigates the formation and modification the South American continent, as well as how the convergence of the South American tectonic plate toward its neighboring plates to the west relate to the volcanism that populates much of the Andes. This work fits into the broader context of using the chemical makeup of lavas and magmas to better understand the history of continents and their relationship with the dynamics of Earth's deep interior.


Jorge Eduardo Pérez Pérez is a Ph.D. candidate in Economics at Brown University. His current research is on urban economics and labor economics, with a focus on minimum wages and place-based policies. He has publications on demand analysis in Colombia and fiscal policy in Latin America. Before Brown, he was a Research Fellow at the Inter-American Development Bank, and a young researcher and adjunct professor in Universidad del Rosario in Bogotá, Colombia. A Colombian citizen, he holds a M.A in Economics from Brown University, and B.A.'s in Economics and Finance from Universidad del Rosario.

Hispanic Studies

Ethel Barja is a Ph. D. Student from Peru. She holds a BA in Hispanic Literature from Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru (2011) and received her M.A. in Hispanic Studies from University of Illinois at Chicago (2015). Her areas of interest include comparative and philosophical approaches to literature, literary translation, literary theory, and the construction of Hispano-American modern poetics in both 20th century Latin American fiction and poetry in regard to the appropriation of avant-garde ideas and the Iberian literary tradition.

Nicolas Campisi is a PhD candidate in Hispanic Studies from Santa Rosa, La Pampa, Argentina. He holds a B.A. in Art History and Hispanic Studies from Washington College. His current interests include 20th and 21th Century Southern Cone narratives, avant-garde poetics, travel literature, trauma and memory studies, Judaic Studies, and world literature. He is also interested in Latin American soccer fiction, and he has co-edited an anthology of soccer short stories (Por amor a la pelota: Once cracks de la ficción futbolera) published by Editorial Cuarto Propio in Chile.

Maria Florencia Chiaramonte is a Ph.D. student from Mar del Plata, Argentina. She holds a professorship in literature from Mar del Plata National University. Her interests include 20th and 21th Century Latin American narrative and film, as well as the role of fictional means toward understanding the history and politics of the region. In addition, she is interested in exploring the literature of immigration and border studies.

Claudia Becerra Méndez is a Ph.D student from Bayamón, Puerto Rico. She earned her B.A in Hispanic Studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. Her current interests include nation-building narratives, cultural and literary exchanges between Spain and the Caribbean, Latin American poetry, and woman and gender studies.

Mateo Díaz Choza is a PhD student from Lima, Peru. He holds a B.A. in Peruvian and Latin American Literature from Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos. His current interests include 20th and 21th Century Latin American Narrative, as well as the relationship between religious discourse, utopia, fundamentalism and fiction.

Regina Pieck Pressly is a Ph.D. student in Hispanic Studies at Brown University. She is from Mexico, D.F. She has studied at el Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), Harvard University, and Boston College. Her interests include 20th-century and contemporary Latin American literature (fiction and poetry), the literature and cinema of the Mexican Revolution, borderlands, and literary theory. 


Thamyris Almeida is a PhD student in the History Department. Her research interests are Modern Latin American history, Afro-Diasporic Religions, and Political and Social Repression in 20th century Latin America. She received her BA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2012 and an MA in 2015. Her MA thesis focused on a Maoist guerrilla movement headed by members of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) and their choice of Araguaia, a region at the border of Goiás and Pará, as the stage for a popular insurrection. Though originally from Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, her family immigrated to Massachusetts in 1998.

Javier Fernandez Galeano received his BA in history and his BA in anthropology by the Complutense University of Madrid. He won the Premio Extraordinario de Licenciatura in both BAs. Likewise, he won the Premio Nacional de fin de Carrera in anthropology, awarded by the Spanish government. He spent one year in Warwick University as an Erasmus scholar. After that, he got a Fulbright scholarship to study his MA in Historical Studies at The New School, where he received the “Outstanding MA award.” He spent the summer of 2012 researching in Buenos Aires, thanks to a scholarship by the Janey Program in Latin American Studies. He is now a first year PhD student at the history department of Brown University, and he is interested in topics related to the history of sexuality in twentieth-century Argentina and Spain.

Daniel McDonald is a PhD candidate in the History Department. He has a B.A. in History and Political Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst as well as an A.M. in Latin American History from Brown University. His research interests are in modern Latin American history, with focuses in twentieth-century Brazil, urban history, social movements, consumption, and democratization in South America. His MA thesis examined the the intersections of race and space in the construction of the planned city of Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais during Brazil’s Old Republic (1889-1930). His dissertation project examines the ways in which everyday citizens and civil society contested the political economy of the Brazilian state during Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985) and in the first decade of democracy.

Andre Pagliarini is a Brazilian-American Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History. His research interests are in modern Latin American history, with a focus on twentieth-century Brazil, the Cold War, and military dictatorships in the Southern Cone. Originally from Fayetteville, Arkansas, he has spent his life between Campinas, in the state of São Paulo in Brazil, and in Bethesda, Maryland. He received his B.A. in history from the University of Maryland at College Park in spring 2012.

Diego Luis is a PhD student in the Department of History focusing on trans-Pacific connections, namely 16th and 17th century Pacific movement and consequent socio-cultural transformations in Mexico. He graduated in 2014 with a BA in creative writing and history from Emory University. His identity as an individual of Chinese and Afro-Cuban descent has been a guiding sensibility to his approach to history. He's particularly attentive to how Asians, or "chinos" as they were called, navigated the complex and multi-ethnic world of colonial Mexico and how they eventually blended into existing free and enslaved communities. The broad thrust of his research is to emphasize the importance of the Pacific to Colonial Latin American history--as a balance to Atlantic World scholarship--and to historicize the notion of "Asian America" to the Philippines and Mexico.

History of Art and Architecture

Bill Skinner studies architectural history. His dissertation examines mass housing and town planning in Barbados between the 1930s and 70s. He is interested in the manifold ways the subject was absorbed, translated, counter-argued or ignored by Barbadians and foreign advisors during that period. Prior to graduate studies at Brown, Bill worked as a curator in Belize. He holds a B.S. in Industrial Design from the University of the Arts and an M.A. in the History of Architecture and Urban Development from Cornell University. 


Luis Achondo is a Ph.D. student and Fulbright scholar from Santiago, Chile. He holds a B.M. in Guitar Performance and a M.A. in Music from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Before starting his master’s degree—in which he studied the guitarist Andrés Segovia and his repertoire—Luis had an active career as a guitarist, performing in many of the major venues in Chile and premiering works by several composers. During his doctoral studies, he plans to focus on the creation, performance, and reception of music in Latin America. Luis is particularly interested in the singing and performance of music of Argentine soccer fans during games. Taking ideas from sound studies, performance studies, participatory culture, and linguistic anthropology, he aims to understand soccer fans’ cultural practices and how they relate to violence, affect, and broader issues in Argentine culture and society. Luis is currently playing the seven string guitar in Brown’s Brazilian choro ensemble.

Violet Cavicchi studies musics of Latin America and plans to further develop her undergraduate research on the uses of huayno in Quechua-language radio programming in Peru. Topics including music and migration, sound and place, indigenous identity, media and mediation, and music in daily life are central to Violet's interests at Brown. She received a B.A. from Vassar College with a concentration in Anthropology and correlate in Music and Culture where she completed a senior thesis on mixing as a means of cultural intermediation for Latin music DJs in NYC.

Jamie Corbett is a doctoral student in ethnomusicology. She holds a B.A. in music history and theory from the University of Toronto, where she completed her senior thesis about the city's only Azorean rancho folclórico (folkloric music and dance group). While also working on a project about the Portuguese-speaking communities of New England, she looks ahead to a larger dissertation project on the musical performance and maintenance of regional identity in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, especially in relation to Azoreanist and environmental activism. She focuses on the loose genre of música regional catarinense to understand the relationships between the array of musics of the state, as well as their connections to nearby Rio Grande do Sul, Uruguay and Argentina.

Esther Kurtz is an ethnomusicology grad student, with a B.M. From the Eastman School of Music and an M.M. from the Utrecht Conservatory, in the Netherlands, both in oboe performance. With oboe, Esther has sought to push the boundaries of the repertoire, commissioning new works and improvising with groups in Amsterdam and Boston. She also studied choro in Rio de Janeiro, and since 2006 she has been practicing the Brazilian martial art capoeira, which is now the focus of her research. With capoeira, she is exploring embodied knowledge and music and movement as resistance practices, and further interests include gesture, communication and improvisation. Esther also dances forró and a little samba de gafieira, and co-produces the Junk Kitchen Concert Series in Cambridge, MA. 

Political Science

Rebecca Bell-Martin is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Political Science. She studies Comparative Politics and International Relations with a regional expertise in Latin America. Her dissertation examines political behavior under contexts of violence and aims to explain why some forms of violence spark political action while others spark political apathy among citizens in democracies. More broadly, her expertise includes: political behavior and non-voting forms of political participation in the Global South; the politics of violence; and variation in policing and public security in the Western Hemisphere. Her methodological expertise includes qualitative and quantitative approaches, including: statistical analysis, experiments, surveys, ethnography, and intensive fieldwork. Rebecca earned her M.A. in International Studies from the Josef Korbel School and earned her B.A. with honors from Whittier College, where she triple-majored in Political Science, Cultural Anthropology, and Spanish Language.

Aimée Bourassa is a Ph.D. candidate from Canada studying comparative politics with a regional emphasis on Latin America. She holds a B.Sc. in International Studies from the University of Montreal and a M.A. in Political Science from McGill University, both with a concentration in development studies. Her research interests include comparative federalism and decentralization, social policy (in particular social housing), and state-society relations.

Jerome Marston is a fourth year PhD student studying comparative politics and international relations. His research focuses on democratization and human rights, as well as the state and rival non-state actors, such as drug cartels. Specifically, Jerome's dissertation focuses on forced urban displacement in Colombia. After graduating from Colorado State University (magna cum laude) with a BA in political science and minors in Spanish and German, Jerome attended Boston College, where he received an MA in political science and a certificate in Human Rights and International Justice. In addition, Jerome has consulted for Physicians for Human Rights, an NYC-based NGO, in the Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones Program and the Development Department.

Rachel Meade is a PhD candidate in political science studying comparative populism with a focus on Latin America and the United States. Her research focuses on the use of populist discourse by politicians, parties, party supporters, and social movement activists. She earned a BA in history and Latin American Studies from Bard College in 2010. Rachel is currently a fellow with the Watson Institute Graduate Program in Development, which funded her two summers of preliminary research in Argentina (2014 and 2015). Currently, she is conducting research on party society relations in Argentina and the United States with Brown sociologist Jose Itzigsohn.

Hannah Baron is a second-year PhD student in Comparative Politics. She studies the domestic and international politics of diverse Latin American countries. Her primary research interests include political economy, labor, and development. She holds a B.A. in Romance Languages and Literatures and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality from Harvard.  

Portuguese and Brazilian Studies

David Mittelman is a doctoral candidate in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies. His dissertation research addresses expressions of philosophical skepticism in Brazilian literary prose, focusing on the works of three major writers: Machado de Assis, João Guimarães Rosa, and Clarice Lispector. He is also working on a literary comparison encompassing writing of and about the semi-arid regions of Brazil and the United States (the sertão and the West).

Sílvia Cabral Teresa is a Ph.D. student at the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies. She holds a BA in Linguistics (with a concentration in Political Discourse Analysis) from the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) and a Masters in Lusophone Literatures and Cultures from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her current research interests include African literature; 20th century Brazilian literature; Gender Studies; the relationship between Fiction and History; Ethnicity and Identity; and Race relations in Brazil.

Public Policy

Sebastian Salomon-Ballada is a graduate student in the public affairs program at the Watson Institute. He received his BA from the University of Toronto, with majors in Sociology and Political Science. Sebastian is a founder and current co-editor in chief of Kawsaxkuna: the University of Toronto Journal of Latin American Studies. His interests include socio-economic empowerment, political behaviour, and poverty alleviation policies. His favourite short story is Alienación by Julio Ramón Ribeyro.


Ricarda Hammer has a BA in Social & Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge and a Graduate Diploma in Economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She is currently a PhD candidate in Sociology at Brown University and interested in historical sociology, postcolonial and social theory and state formation. Her dissertation examines the question of colonial subjecthood in the British Empire and the ways in which the position of West Indian colonial subjects influenced the development of British civil rights and welfare.

Jon Nelson graduated with a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Kansas in 2013. After graduation, Jon worked on farm specializing in asparagus and other vegetables. Jon came to Brown in 2014 to begin a Ph.D. program in Sociology. His area of interest is environmental sociology and he focuses on small farmers in Brazil's Atlantic rainforest and will employ mixed methods to better understand peasant agricultural techniques as well as their environmental effects; he is also interested in researching possible avenues for sustainable development.

Amy Teller graduated with a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Carleton College, worked in agricultural policy in support of organic agriculture and public agricultural research, completed an M.S. in Ecology from Brown through the Open Graduate Education program and is now a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at Brown. Her dissertation is based in the historical cacao-producing region in the state of Bahia, Brazil. She draws upon ethnographic, historical and structured interview methods to merge environmental sociology with sociology of the future and civic engagement in order to understand how long-term and new residents in the region are imagining its social, economic, and ecological futures after a crisis with its monoculture export crop. Amy is proficient in Brazilian Portuguese and Spanish.

Benjamin Bradlow is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Brown University. His dissertation research compares urban governance of public goods (housing, public transportation, and sanitation) in São Paulo and Johannesburg after transitions to democracy. This work has won grants from the Fulbright Foundation and the Brazilian Studies Association. His research interests are in political economy of globalization and development, comparative urban sociology, and state-society relations. 

Apollonya Porcelli is currently a PhD student in the Sociology Department. Broadly, her work examines the way that social inequality and environment are interlinked--spanning remote fishing villages in Brazil to large metropolises such as Lima, Peru. Specifically, her dissertation examines the role of intellectuals involved in Peru's New Left following the collapse of  the world's largest marine fishery, the Peruvian anchovy fishery. Apollonya is also a member of the Open Graduate Program (OGE,) which enables PhD students to earn a Masters in a second field, having recently completed her Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) in 2016. Prior to coming to Brown Apollonya worked in a small fishing town in the Caribbean coast of Nicargua examining the conflicting and overlapping environmental management practices of Garifuna and Meskito communities. She has also spent considerable time in Brazil, working in Amazonian riverine communities around açaí extraction and land entitlement.  

Jonathon Acosta is a PhD student in sociology. He earned his BA in Political Science (Theory tract) and Ethnic Studies at Brown University. As an undergraduate, he was a research assistant for Kay Warren, an anthropologist, studying human trafficking, prostitution, and labor migration in Latin America and East Asia. He was a public school math teacher in Miami-Dade County and Central Falls, RI before becoming a Dean of Culture. During this time, he earned an MA in Urban Education Policy at Brown. Broadly speaking, his research interests are in political sociology, social stratification, segregation, race, class, and ethnicity. He's particularly interested in the representation of historically marginalized groups in Latin American politics. In his spare time he's a youth wrestling coach, a member of the Juvenile Hearing Board, and a City Councilman representing Ward 1 in Central Falls, RI. 

Theatre Arts and Performance Studies 

Marlon Jiménez Oviedo is a PhD candidate in the department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies. He is from Costa Rica, and received his BA in Theatre and Environmental Studies at Lewis and Clark College, in Portland, OR. As an artist/scholar, I am trying to situate my academic and artistic practice where I am personally rooted, Costa Rica and Latin America at large. Generally speaking, I am interested in movement traditions, popular and folkloric dance, and activist performance, as they relate to identity creation (from personal to national) in the context of (post)colonialism. Some concepts that I like to engage with when I make theatre/performance are: place-based performance, dialogical performance, ethnotheatre and performance ethnography, (de)colonial theatre, popular and living dance forms.