Previous IRCPL Researchers

2015-16 Post-Doctoral Researchers


Dimitris C. Papadopoulos is a Research Associate at the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life. His research centers around socio-cultural space and the politics, practices and technologies of conceptualizing, imagining and experiencing it. Using perspectives from the anthropology of place and landscape, material culture, architectural history and digital humanities he works on borders and transnational space, sacred, historic and post-conflict sites, museums, archives and memory institutions and different concepts of mapping, mediation and curation with a regional focus on Greece and the Balkans. His doctoral dissertation (University of the Aegean, 2012) dealt with different conceptualizations, representations and local perceptions of landscape at the borders of Greece, Albania and Macedonia. He has been a Marie Curie Fellow at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London (2006), and a Visiting Scholar at the Program of Hellenic Studies, Columbia University (2013). He currently teaches cultural anthropology at Lehman College, City University of New York. At IRCPL, Dimitris works on tools and approaches towards understanding, mapping and analyzing historical transformations of mixed and shared sacred sites in the post-Ottoman world.

Nathanael Shelley portraitNathanael Shelley is a cultural historian of the Near East and Antiquity.  His research focuses on identity concepts and perceptions of social difference in history, including ideas of ethnicity, race, and alterity, and he specializes in the use of cuneiform documents for social research.  He received his PhD in 2015 from Columbia University with a dissertation entitled The Concept of Ethnicity in Early Antiquity: Ethno-symbolic Identities in Ancient Greek, Biblical Hebrew, and Middle Babylonian Texts.  From 2011–13 he taught Literature Humanities as a Graduate Lecturer of the Columbia Core; in 2006–07 he held the Jeremy Black Studentship in Sumerian and Akkadian at Oxford University, and he previously studied at Yale University, Institut Bourguiba des Langues Vivantes (Tunis), Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, and the University of Buffalo.


2015-16 Researchers

ghazarian 2016Matthew Ghazarian is a PhD student in Columbia’s Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS), where he focuses on Ottoman social and economic history. His dissertation focuses on sectarianism, humanitarianism, and how they unfolded as concepts and practices in nineteenth-century Anatolia, examining this question through the lens of famine, disease, and other hardships. This project explores the ways “intervening” actors, including local authorities, state bureaucrats, and foreign missionaries, created material conditions and institutions that affected the politicization of Ottoman religious categories between 1856 and 1893. As the Ottoman Empire grappled with the ramifications of its newly-declared religious equality in 1856, how did discourses of equality and political belonging coexist with – or even make possible – divisive and exclusionary politics that have persisted to the present? His dissertation seeks to address these questions by examining not only political discourses but also how those discourses were put into practice by institutions whose policies had concrete effects on inter-communal relations among Armenians, Kurds, Turks, and others.

Vatsal-Naresh-portraitVatsal Naresh studies political theory and has degrees in History and Political Science from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and Columbia University. His research focuses on democratic institutions, religious pluralism, violence, and constitution-making. Vatsal’s essay on “Pride and Prejudice in Austin’s cornerstone: Passions in the Constituent Assembly of India” is forthcoming in Bhatia, U. (ed) The Indian Constituent Assembly Debates: A Reader. He assists the editors of forthcoming volumes on Democracy and Religious Pluralism, and the Philosophy and Institutions of Constitution-making, which emerge from conferences he conceived and organised.

Saskia Schaefer portrait

Saskia Schäfer completed her doctorate at the Graduate School of Muslim Cultures and Societies at Freie Universität Berlin after obtaining her MA in Southeast Asian Studies, Political Science, and Literature from Humboldt Universität Berlin. She also spent one semester at the University of Science, Malaysia, and was a visiting student at the Center for the Study of Islam and Social Transformation at the State Islamic University Sunan Kalijaga in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Her research interests include political and media discourses on orthodoxy and deviance as well as changes in Islamic and political authority and the relationship between religion and the state in Indonesia and Malaysia. Saskia Schäfer came to New York as the 2013/2014 Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern Southeast Asian Studies at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute.


2013-14 Researcher

Sara Lewis is a PhD candidate in medical anthropology at Columbia University. Her research interests center on mental health, culture, and religion, with a geographic focus on Tibet and the Himalayas. Ms. Lewis’s dissertation, Spacious Minds, Empty Selves: Coping and Resilience in the Tibetan Exile Community, involved 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Dharamsala, India, investigating how Buddhism and other sociocultural factors bolster resilience among Tibetans exposed to political violence. Her research has been supported by Fulbright IIE, the Society for Psychological Anthropology, Columbia University Weatherhead East Asian Institute, and the Mellon Foundation. Her work has appeared in Ethos, Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry,Psychiatric Services, and the Anthropology of Consciousness.