Senior Studentship Holders 2019/20

Warren Stanislaus

Building on my master’s dissertation (MPhil ‘2013 Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies) my research examines the preponderance of laughter in the mid-late nineteenth century, probing its significance vis-à-vis the decline of the Tokugawa Bakufu and Japan’s emergence as a modern nation-state under the Meiji government. In particular, the research employs laughter as a lens to uncover a new type of transnational connectivity between non-state level historical actors. Illuminating the “transnational networks of laughter,” the study will reveal a web of British, French and Japanese journalists, artists and writers that utilised satire and humour to challenge, deconstruct and reconstitute the fixed definitions of  “civilization and enlightenment” or bunmei kaika.
I first went to Japan in 2006 as a gap year volunteer and returned in 2007 as a full-time undergraduate student at International Christian University, Tokyo. In total, I have spent 10+ years in Japan, with work experience across the private, public and non-profit sectors, including serving as an education officer at the British Council and a researcher at an independent think tank, Asia Pacific Initiative (API). I am the Founder and President of the Oxford Alumni Club of Japan, the largest official Oxonian alumni network in Japan. I am a Visiting Researcher in the Soft Power Program at Tama University's Center for Rule-Making Strategies where I provide analysis on Japan’s public and cultural diplomacy. I am also a part-time lecturer at Rikkyo University’s Global Liberal Arts Program. I am passionate about management in higher education and am actively engaged in diversity and widening participation initiatives, especially those that seek to develop fresh and multi-layered ties between the UK and Japan. In 2019 I was named as one of the UK’s Top 10 Rare Rising Stars.  


Zachary Seager

In his major essay on literary theory, ‘The Art of Fiction’ (1884), Henry James suggested that the analogy between painting and fiction was, so far as he could see, ‘complete’. Taking him at his word, critics have tended to focus on what the novelist learned from painting, or have fixed on instances in which he ‘chose to elevate the art of the painter,’ as one commentator recently put it. Contrary to this critical trend, my thesis argues that throughout his corpus James stages a contest between the two forms, consistently emphasising the ways in which fiction ought to be considered the superior art. This formed part of a broader programme in which the novelist sought to demonstrate the value and intellectual seriousness of fiction—still in jeopardy in the nineteenth century—by contrasting it with the painter’s art. In this way, my thesis revises longstanding ideas about James’s response to and communication with painters and painting. At the same time, it reveals through the eyes of a major writer some of the myriad ways in which painting and fiction corresponded in the period.


Olivia Durand

My doctoral thesis stems from my interest for questions of cosmopolitanism, bilingual cultures and immigration and a desire to understand how multiculturalism had been accommodated – or not – historically. I am curious to understand how historical cases could tie into more contemporary debates surrounding immigration, national identity(ies), bilingual heritage and the tension between integration and assimilation. New Orleans had always been a place that I found fascinating, because of its complex colonial history, its linguistically Francophone roots, and its originality in 21st century America. What was more surprising to me were the multiple commonalities that I found in Odessa, a Black sea harbour in modern-day Ukraine, previously one of the main ports of the Russian empire. Spending some time there, I was asked on countless occasions ‘Did you know that Odessa is a French city?’ From my initial reaction of surprise, I started wondering what the rationale was for some places to embrace and support a foreign identity, especially when this identity did not make sense geographically nor demographically, and how it endured through time. The unique histories of both Odessa and New Orleans, being recent creations in an age of territorial expansion, raised questions of identity formation and cultural survival in settler urban contexts.
Why are New Orleans and Odessa perceived to this day as exceptional or exotic places in relation to the countries they belong to? To answer this question, my research aims to understand the dynamics of cultural survival in booming settler context, therefore going against narratives of melting-pot as an essential tool for integration.


Marco Molteni 

I am a third year DPhil student in Economic and Social History, and I previously studied at the University of Milan (BA in History) and at Warwick University (PG Diploma in economics). During my DPhil, my papers were presented in several research seminars and conferences, including at Cambridge, LSE, Bocconi, and Utrecht. I have also promoted the organisation of three graduate conferences, at LSE in Dec 2018, at St Hilda’s (Oxford) in June 2019, and Pembroke (Oxford) in October 2019.
I am writing my thesis on banking failures and distress resolution policies in Fascist Italy (1922-1943). After 1929, when the Italian banking system was hit by the international economic crisis, many banks were on the verge of collapsing, and the Fascist regime intervened to rescue many of them. Not all banks were rescued though, and many had to file for bankruptcy with dreadful repercussions on their depositors. The Fascist Regime had the safeguarding of saving as explicit political goal, and official figures were never published: how many banks failed during the Great Depression in Italy? How many were saved by the Regime? Above all, were the interventions driven by political or technical considerations?
I am reconstructing the story of what happened using the archives of banking supervision at the Bank of Italy, where I spent a semester as visiting guest researcher at the Economic History Division.


Tsvetomira Dumbalska 

My DPhil research explores how the context in which we make a decision affects our choice. My work focuses on perceptual decisions, which don’t involve effortful long-term reflection, but rather quick evaluation of sensory information. I am interested in how our decisions based on the same sensory information vary as a function of the temporal and spatial context in which the information is situated (i.e. what other stimuli (1) have we recently experienced or (2) are currently present in the immediate environment?). My research aims to systematically investigate how context biases our decisions and elucidate the neural mechanisms underlying this phenomenon. To address these questions, I combine psychophysical experiments with data on human neural activity and computer simulations. I have a broader interest in psychological and economic perspectives on decision-making and data science.