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Graduate Students

Nadja Berkovitch

Nadja Berkovich is a PhD student in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. She was born in Ukraine and educated at St. Petersburg’s Herzen University, Humboldt University in Berlin, and Boston College. She specializes in the study of late-19th-century and pre-WWII Yiddish and Russian realist and modernist literatures. Her area of interest is “cultural pluralism,” analyzing and investigating the intersections of Yiddish with Russian, Ukrainian and German literatures and cultures. She is currently working on a dissertation project that investigates the relationship between cultural identity formation, national selfhood, and the process of assimilation. Among others, she hopes to answer the following questions: How much assimilation is appropriate while still remaining Jewish? What constituted Jewishness at the turn of the twentieth century in Russia? Nadja is also interested in the Moscow Yiddish Theater,Yiddish cinema, and art and ethnography; and her ultimate goal is to examine Yiddish culture as a Gesamtkunstwerk.

Dilara Caliskan

Dilara Caliskan is a PhD student in the Anthropology Department. She is also a graduate student fellow of the Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University and working on the links between queer kinship and non-normative forms of “intergenerational” transmission of memory. From 2014 to 2016 she worked at Sabancı University’s Gender and Women’s Studies Forum as the coordinator of Curious Steps: Gender and Memory Walks of Istanbul project. In 2014, she graduated from Sabancı University’s Cultural Studies Master Program with a thesis titled “Queer Mothers and Daughters: The Role of Queer Kinship in the Everyday Lives of Trans Sex Worker Women in Istanbul.” Since 2010, she has been involved with Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association, which particularly focuses on transgender rights and opposes the criminalization of sex work, and supports its recognition as work.

Liliana Goldman Carrizo

Liliana Goldman Carrizo is a Ph.D. student in Ethnomusicology. Her current research focuses on the musical practices of Iraqi Jews, their implication in the politics of identity, and their role in the construction and negotiation of individual and collective memory. A graduate of Williams College, she co-founded the Itgel Foundation and completed her Master's on Mongolian music of the central Gobi desert at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the recipient of the Illinois Distinguished Fellowship and multiple FLAS awards for Arabic language study.


Jenelle Davis

Jenelle Davis is a PhD student in Modern and Contemporary Art History. She holds both a BA from McGill University and an MA from the University of Toronto in Art History. Her dissertation examines the contemporary social, political and visual tensions that become apparent in positioning government or corporate-funded memorials against personal or community-based commemorations, which follow an aesthetic impulse of their own. Her initial investigation into the process of contemporarily commemorating a range of politically and contextually distinctive traumatic events, the Holocaust, totalitarian regimes in Czechoslovakia, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the Bosnian War, has uncovered a fascinating array of sociopolitical repercussions which are both revealed and concealed during the development of these projects and are rendered visible in the final structures. Her work has been supported by multiple Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) awards, the Gendell Family and Shiner Family Fellowship (UIUC/Program in Jewish Culture and Society), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canadian Doctoral Fellowship and several other travel and research awards.

Tyler Dolan is an MA/PhD student in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. He holds a BA from the University of Montana, where he majored in English Literature and Russian. Broadly, his interests include late nineteenth and early twentieth century Russian, Ukrainian, and Yiddish language Literatures, representations of identity and national concept in literature, and memory and trauma studies generally. His research focuses on Jewish and Ukrainian literary representation, self-concept, and interethnic encounter in the borderlands of the late Russian imperial and early Soviet west.

Estibalitz Ezkerra

Estibalitz Ezkerra is currently a PhD student in the Comparative & World Literature program at UIUC. She holds an MA in English from the University of Nevada, Reno with a focus on Postcolonial literature, a BA in Art History and a BA in Journalism both from the University of the Basque Country. Her research focuses primarily on ethnic minorities in Europe, nationalist discourses, indigeneity, and terrorist action/fights for independence in the last century. She is also interested in the memory wars surrounding the commemorative acts (in literature and the arts) of the bombing of Gernika in 1937.

Ofira Fuchs

Ofira Fuchs is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology. Her research interests include relations between nationalism and religion, social change in religious societies, and Jewish identities in Israel and in the US. She developed her interest in new meanings of Jewish religiosity during her studies in the Master’s program in the Sociology & Anthropology department at Tel Aviv University. Her M.A. thesis examined religiosity of lesbian women in Israel who identify as religious Jews. She graduated summa cum laude from Hunter College of the City University of New York where she completed her B.A. in Anthropology.

Jin Gong

Jin Gong is a doctoral student in the East Asian Languages and Cultures Department of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where her field is modern Chinese history. Her academic interests include modern history of Shanghai (both as an urban center and a borderland), Chinese ethnicity in borderlands, and legal history of modern China. As an undergraduate at Nanjing University, China, Jin Gong became interested in Judaic studies through her work with Prof. Xu Xin, China’s leading Judaic scholar, which led her to pursue a master’s degree in Judaic studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Cincinnati, Ohio). There, she developed her interest in the Jewish experiences in modern China, particularly Shanghai. Currently, she is developing her doctoral dissertation on the subject of Jewish migration and life experiences in modern Shanghai. In her dissertation, Jin Gong will explore issues of Jewish migration, Jewish identity, memories of the Jews of Shanghai and the interactions between Jews and the Chinese within the larger context of Chinese modernity from the second half of the 19th century until the present time. She will also examine how Jewish experiences in Shanghai contribute to the modern Shanghai urban identity.

LeiAnna Hamel

LeiAnna Hamel is currently a PhD student in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. She holds a BA in Russian and Religious Studies from Arizona State University. Her research explores the connections between Russian and Yiddish prose in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. More specifically, her dissertation project will examine the discourse surrounding prostitution and deviant sexuality in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Russian and Yiddish literature.

Lauren Hansen

Lauren Hansen is a third-year graduate student in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. She completed her M.A. in 2012 with her thesis titled “The Difficulty in Forging a Bond: The Inner Workings of Postmemory within Family Relationships in Monika Maron’s Pawels Briefe and Uwe Timm’s Am Beispiel meines Bruders.” Here Lauren explores her particular interest in the intersection between family and history (namely WWII and the Holocaust) and the difficult negotiations it entails with regards to positionality (victim-perpetrator-bystander) and the bonding and/or rupturing effect of memory artifacts. Lauren’s interest in Memory Studies extends into Eastern Europe as well, especially in relation to subversive artistic expression in East Germany, Poland, and Russia during the Cold War and the subsequent “memory boom” in literature and politics of these countries in the post-1989 period.

Anna Harbaugh

Anna Harbaugh is a Ph.D. student in the History Department. She is interested in Jewish religious observance during the wartime and post-war periods, migrations and population displacement, and Soviet policy on the periphery of the USSR. She received her BA in history and Russian and East European studies at the University of Oregon in 2009. Before coming to UIUC she spent two years in Tbilisi, Georgia teaching English and working as an interpreter collecting recordings of ethnic minority musicians in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Regine Kroh

Regine Kroh, originally from Germany, came to the University of Illinois in 2006 after receiving her M.A. from the University of Kansas. Her M.A. thesis was concerned with the depiction of outsiders in the short stories of Klaus Mann. Her research focuses on the concepts of identity and belonging and their connection to memory. She will explore these ideas also in her dissertation project which will deal with post-'89 literature by former East-German authors. In addition, Regine is interested in Jewish life and culture, exile literature, Holocaust representation, literary depiction of space as well as the usage of photography in literature.

Ethan Madarieta

Ethan Madarieta is a graduate student in the Comparative Literature program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His research centers on parafiction in the production of "official" and minority discourses as a means of constituting identity through history and memory.  Ethan is currently working with parafiction in Chilean testimonio, memoir, and the historic novel after Pinochet.  He is also interested in performance and performativity, writing fiction, and producing parafictions. Ethan graduated with a BA in Comparative Literature from UIUC with Highest Distinction for his senior thesis project, which examined the constitution of "the subject" through phenomenological, psychoanalytic, and Marxist philosophies.  He intends to continue his work on parafiction, subjectivity, history, and memory in the PhD program in Comparative Literature.

Helen Makhdoumian

Helen Makhdoumian is currently a PhD student in the English Department. A Ronald E. McNair Scholar, Helen received her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Art from Westminster College. Helen has co-organized a conference, a film screening series, and guest presentations with the support of the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies. Through HGMS, she has also continued to research and share the histories, memories, and stories of the Armenian Genocide and the Armenian Diaspora that she inherited from her family and that the transnational Armenian network passed onto her, often around welcoming kitchen or dining room tables. In this vein, her interests include Armenian Diasporic literature and art and the Armenian Genocide. More specifically, she responds to the current burgeoning phase of memory studies, the migration and memory nexus, by situating Armenian American literature in conversation with Arab American and American Indian literatures. She co-organizes the Future of Trauma and Memory Studies Reading Group and has published in the journalStudies in American Indian Literatures(SAIL).

Zia Miric

Zia Miric is a PhD student in the English Department. Her field of specialization encompasses British literature in the long nineteenth century, while her research interests focus on Anglo-Jewish literature and culture, proto-Zionism and Zionism, nationalism, religion and secularization, and inflections of gender with ethnicity and race. Currently in the early stages of her dissertation work, she examines the tensions between theoretical concepts and practical realities of nationality and citizenship for nineteenth-century Anglo-Jews, and their negotiation in cultural and literary discourse in terms of race, ethnicity, nation and religion. Zia completed her undergraduate degree in English at the University of Belgrade in Serbia. She obtained an MPhil in English and Applied Linguistics at the University of Cambridge, where she worked on the cognitive stylistics and narratology of modernist and existentialist fictional texts.

Lizy Mostowski

Lizy Mostowski is a graduate student in the Comparative and World Literature Department. She holds BA and MA degrees in English Literature from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Her thesis entitled “Postmemory in Canadian Jewish Memoirs: Bernice Eisenstein’s I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors and Jonathan Garfinkel’s Ambivalence: Adventures in Israel and Palestine” was an examination of how postmemory figures into two contemporary Canadian Jewish memoirs, affecting the writer’s relation to their Jewishness, the Holocaust, their home country of Canada, and the State of Israel as a Jewish homeland. Her thesis garnered a fellowship from Concordia’s Institute for Canadian Jewish Studies, as well as the English Department’s Mervin Butovsky Memorial Scholarship. In 2015, she interned at POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews, where she collected the oral histories of witnesses to the events of March of 1968. Her doctoral dissertation will be a comparative study of the identity narratives of Polish-Polish Jews and post-Polish Jews after the events of March of 1968.

Matthew NelsonMatthew Nelson is a PhD student in Comparative Literature. His work draws on memory and translation studies in an effort to rethink theories of place in the postcolonial context. In particular, he looks to Modern Sanskrit and Indian English poetry for their unique engagement with the role language and literature play in our experience of place. Because Sanskrit and English are often discussed in the Indian context as "cosmopolitan" or trans-regional languages, literatures in both find themselves uneasily embedded amid ideological battles that emerge out of and give rise to sectarian violence and spatial segregation.

Tatiana NiculescuTatiana Niculescu is a Ph.D. student in the Anthropology Department. She received her B.A. in archaeology and physics from the University of Virginia. She is a Registered Professional Archaeologist.  Her current research in Staunton, Virginia explores the ways in which Jewish communities and individuals negotiated their ethnic/religious social identities in small Southern towns at the turn of the last century.  As an archaeologist she is interested in the roles things, space, and place play in this process.  Her research explores a variety of questions including: How did groups of people adjust to and negotiate the United States during the height of European immigration? How were older ideas about ethnic identity, religious identity and practice, economic roles, gender roles, etc. reinterpreted or reaffirmed in Victorian/Edwardian America? How did region of settlement in the United States influence reinterpretations of ethnic identity?

Diana SacilowskiDiana Sacilowski is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. She holds an MA in Slavic Literatures from Columbia University with a focus on Polish literature. Her primary interests include 20th and 21st century Polish literature and culture, theories of postmodernism, and memory studies, particularly problems involving trauma and its representation in various cultural mediums. Her research focuses primarily on representations of the Second World War in Polish literature and film, namely conceptions and portrayals of the Katyn massacre as a national trauma and the tropes of silence and absence in regards to Polish texts concerning the Holocaust.

Naomi TaubNaomi Taub is a PhD student in the English Department. She holds a BA in Literature from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and an MA in the Humanities from the University of Chicago, where she completed her thesis, “‘Clear and Drawn Out Nightmares’: Historical Narrative and Traumatic Realism in Appelfeld’s The Iron Tracks.” Her research focuses on global Jewish literature from World War Two up to the present, dealing with themes of politics, memory, and identity. In particular she is currently interested in how literature and aesthetics function in the global circulation of narratives of cultural Jewishness and Zionism. She is one of the 2015-2016 co-organizers of the Future of Trauma and Memory Studies Reading Group.

Hapsatou WanePeter Thompson is currently a PhD student in the Department of History at UIUC, focusing on modern German intellectual history. His MA thesis examined the influence of two distinctly Viennese intellectual currents in the later work of the psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich. His current project employs certain phenomenological insights to examine the role of World War I technologies in the development of post-war anti-modernist intellectual attitudes. He holds an MA in European history from the University of Maine and a BA in history from Colby College.

Alexandra van DorenAlexandra van Doren is a graduate student in the Department of Comparative and World Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  She is interested in Polish, Spanish, American, and German literatures and poetry under the umbrella of Holocaust Studies, as it pertains to individual vs. collective memory culture, trauma theory, and ethics of representation in film/fiction/media/etc. Alexandra holds a BA in English and a BA in Theatre Arts from Loyola Marymount University and an MA in Humanities/English from the University of Chicago, where she completed her thesis, "'the shepherd of the dead': Disobeying Adorno's Dictum in the Poetry of Tadeusz Różewicz." She is currently engaged in a book project concerning the birch wood forest surrounding the Birkenau death camp.  Taking the form of a trial, this particular series of poems arcs from indictment to sentencing while probing the limits of a mute witness, the coexistence of culture and cruelty, and the problem of language post-1945.

Hannah WernerHannah Werner is a Ph.D. student in the Department of History at U of I. She holds a B.A. in History and English from Coe College and an M.A. in History from Marquette University. Her research focuses on conceptions of Jewish and Indian identities and how certain representations became inscribed into law in the decades leading up to the Union of South Africa in 1910. She spent the summer of 2016 learning Yiddish at YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and has a FLAS this year to study Yiddish.

Jessica YoungJessica Young is currently a Ph.D. student in the English department. She holds a B.A. from Reed College and an M.A. from San Francisco State University, both in English. Her dissertation focuses on the representation of memory sites in South Asian literature and the transmission of transnational memory. Additionally, her work has extended to the field of digital humanities where she focuses on the digital practices, especially those commemorating September 11. A recent article on this topic, “‘Filled with Words’: Modeling the September 11 Digital Archive and the Utility of Digital Methods in the Study of Memory,” is forthcoming in the edited volume, Memory Unbound: New Directions in Memory Studies. Jessica is the co-founder of the Future of Trauma and Memory Studies reading group and co-editor with Michael Rothberg of Days and Memory, the blog of the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies. She was awarded the University of Illinois’s Graduate College Distinguished Fellowship, and since Fall of 2013, she has been the research assistant for the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies. In Fall of 2014, she will hold a dual appointment as the research assistant for the Initiative as well as the Program in Jewish Culture and Society.