Cynthia Magallanes-Gonzalez, Alexander McConnell, and Lukas Vrbka have been selected as the 2022 Robert J. Donia Graduate Student Fellows to permit their summer research projects. This fellowship supports graduate students engaged in research on human rights over the summer.
Cynthia Magallanes-Gonzalez is a researcher on migration and race in North Africa. Her work examines the intersections of immigration status, race, class, and gender in Morocco. Her most recent project examined the proliferation of funds that entered Morocco in an attempt to halt mostly West and Central African immigrants and refugees from entering Europe as a result of the Kingdom's immigration policy implemented in 2013/14. Specifically, she looked at how migrant activists navigate the "migration industry." Her previous research focused on how immigrant and refugee mothers in Morocco redefine transnational mothering while in transit to Europe. She holds a Master’s in Migration and Diaspora Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Occidental College. She was awarded a Fulbright research grant to Morocco in 2017/18.
Alexander McConnell is a PhD candidate in History specializing in the study of modern Russia and the Soviet Union. His dissertation traces the conceptual evolution of “humanism” in late Soviet cultural, ideological, and philosophical discourse, examining how contests over the scope and meaning of this key concept reshaped ideals of socialist personhood during the post-Stalin period (1953-1991). Alexander’s broader research and teaching interests include cinema studies, revolutionary and utopian political projects, Cold War cultural competition, dissident and human rights movements, and the literatures of Russia and Eastern Europe. His writings have appeared in the Cleveland Review of Books, EuropeNow, and the recently published Companion to Victor Pelevin (Academic Studies Press, 2022) edited by Sofya Khagi. His doctoral research has been supported by grants from the American Councils for International Education and the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, as well as the U-M Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia, and Rackham Graduate School.
Lukas Vrbka is a Ph.D. student in sociocultural anthropology and social work. His dissertation research focuses on conflicts over the governance of rental housing in New York City, and more generally, the definition and management of housing crises in U.S. cities. His project deploys ethnographic and archival methods to examine the role of rent in creating novel forms of alliance, contestation, and control in urban contexts, and asks how these relationships diverge from formal, codified property ownership. Lukas is currently conducting fieldwork in the New York City’s housing courts, rent regulation system, and landlord and tenant associations. More broadly, Lukas’ research interests include the social relations of urban landed property in a comparative perspective, the politics and political economy of housing, and the interface between states, markets, and corporations. His research has been supported by funding from the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology, the Clara P. and Larry E. Davis Scholarship, Rackham Graduate School, and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism.