Five new scholars have joined Princeton University's Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts this fall. The society is an interdisciplinary community of postdoctoral fellows and Princeton faculty members that aims to bring innovative approaches to scholarship and teaching.
Established by a gift from the late charter trustee Lloyd Cotsen and the Humanities Council’s leadership in 1999, it offers outstanding scholars with a recent Ph.D. the opportunity to enhance their teaching and research over a period of three years.
"I’ve already learned so much from speaking to these extraordinary scholars," said Yelena Baraz, director of the society, the Kennedy Foundation Professor of Latin Language and Literature, and professor of classics. "There’s a lot of excitement about the courses they are teaching this year. I am looking forward to their presentations in our weekly seminars, where they will join the continuing fellows and our faculty fellows.”
From its beginnings, the society has been committed to building a scholarly community with a great diversity of experiences and perspectives, and to creating a collaborative environment for inquiry, debate, and groundbreaking scholarship and teaching.
The society has hosted over 100 postdoctoral fellows at Princeton who have moved on to pursue careers at a wide range of institutions both in the U.S. and abroad.
The full cohort of 12 Cotsen postdoctoral fellows is drawn from a wide range of disciplines in the humanities and humanities-related social sciences — and includes one astrophysicist. Fellows hold appointments as lecturers in their academic host departments and in the Humanities Council. They teach half-time while conducting their own research.
Meeting regularly for formal and informal discussions, seminars, workshops and reading groups, the fellows pursue new knowledge and understanding within and across disciplines. During their time at Princeton, they engage with the campus community in many ways: advising and mentoring undergraduate students, participating in academic programs and panels, presenting their research, developing new courses and co-teaching with faculty members. The new Cotsen fellows of the 2023-26 cohort are:
Supratik Baralay, appointed as a lecturer in the Department of Classics, humanistic studies and the Humanities Council. A historian interested in challenging the divide between ancient Mediterranean and Asian histories, Baralay focuses on the study of imperial subjection of communities, and reconstructing how imperial strategies of subjection were defied by peoples that positioned themselves between empires. He holds a Ph.D. in ancient history from Harvard University. This fall, he is team-teaching in Princeton’s interdisciplinary Humanities Sequence.
Lacy Feigh, appointed as lecturer in the Department of History and the Humanities Council. She is interested in legacies of slavery, empire and constructions of race. Her research examines how individuals navigated the expansion of the modern Ethiopian imperial state in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and her broader work aims to bridge histories of Africa and the Middle East. She received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Pennsylvania. This fall, Feigh is teaching the course “A Global History of Ethiopia: Rastafari to Haile Selassie.”
Akil Fletcher, appointed as a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and the Humanities Council. He is an anthropologist whose research intersects the lines of anthropology, African American Studies and game studies. His research looks at how Black individuals create identity, community and alternative forms of play within online games and gaming spaces. Fletcher received his Ph.D. from the University of California-Irvine. This fall, he is teaching the course “Gaming Blackness: The Anthropology of Video Games and Race.”
Lieke van Son, appointed as a visiting postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Astrophysical Sciences. She aims to explore the universe through ripples in space-time, called “gravitational waves.” Van Son’s outreach initiatives range from the development of an astronomy exhibition to promoting STEM careers among high school students. She completed her Ph.D. at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard University and will obtain a joint doctorate from the Anton Pannekoek Institute at the University of Amsterdam in December 2023.
Xiaoyu Xia, appointed as a lecturer in the Department of East Asian Studies and the Humanities Council. A scholar of modern Chinese literature, her research offers a new lens for considering the fraught transnational condition of Chinese literary modernity and its lasting reverberations in China’s cultural politics. She received her Ph.D. in East Asian languages and cultures from the University of California-Berkeley, where she also received a designated emphasis in film and media studies. This fall, she is teaching the course "Modern Chinese Poetry: Seeing Modern China Through the Poetry Cloud."