JHI Undergraduate Fellows, 2024-25

May 15, 2024 by Sonja Johnston

The Jackman Humanities Institute is delighted to announce our 2024-25 Undergraduate Fellows, who'll be joining us during our Undergrounds/Underworlds theme year.

Mitzi Badlis, A&S English (major); Sociology and Education & Society (double minor)
Project: To the World We Dream About: An Analysis of Community and Hope in Hadestown (2019)
JHI Supervisor: Sarah Murray, A&S Classics
Jukka-Pekka Saraste Undergraduate Award in the Humanities

Mitzi is a passionate scholar and an aspiring teacher. She co-coordinates the VicReach program at Victoria College, is a part-time figure skating coach, and is the youngest member on the Board of Directors for Common Boots Theatre. In 2023, Mitzi conducted archival and arts-based research under Dr. Tara Goldstein as her University of Toronto Excellence Award (UTEA) research assistant while also completing an independent study on teaching queer literature. In her research thus far, she has been particularly interested in storytelling and exploring the ways in which different mediums can be read as texts.

Set in a depression-era America, Hadestown breathes new life into the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice—two tragic lovers unable to escape the underworld together. Hadestown’s overworld is fraught with environmental calamities and widespread poverty while its underworld is an industrial, capitalist hellscape populated by tirelessly toiling workers with broken spirits. Orpheus’ songs of love and hope resonate with people above and below the surface and inspire them to work together to build a better world. This research project aims to analyze the significance of Hadestown and the ways in which its themes are relevant to our present.

Ysabella Colwell, A&S English (specialist) and Women & Gender Studies (minor)
Project: It’s all Coming Up Fungus: Decay, Regeneration, and the Embodied Underground in Fungal Horror
JHI Supervisor: Ato Onoma, A&S Political Science
Dr. Jan Blumenstein Undergraduate Award in the Humanities

Ysabella has worked as a research assistant for Professor Carol Percy, served on the committee for the 2024 Trans, Disability, and Sapphic Knowledges undergraduate conference, and worked as Managing Editor for the IDIOM English Undergraduate Academic Journal. She is especially interested in Romantic Gothic literature, queer and intersectional world-making practices, and the inter-relationship of land, monstrosity, and the body. She intends to pursue an academic career in interdisciplinary literary studies.

Fungi may be Earth’s primary decomposers and represent death and decay, but its underground mycorrhizal network also functions to distribute life-supporting nutrients to other organisms. Fungi’s dichotomous nature and classification as neither plant nor animal but biologically Other inform the contemporary resurgence of fungal horror texts that foreground the nineteenth-century fin-de-siècle aesthetics of the monstrous Gothic body through a twenty-first century EcoGothic, non-anthropocentric examination of human-environment relations. Through the fungal transmutation of feminized, queer, and racialized bodies, I ask how a comprehensive analysis of the fungal horror genre explores destructive colonial legacies while illuminating the anti-colonial, world-making potential of an eco-apocalypse.

Jevan Konyar, A&S Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations and History & Philosophy of Science & Technology (double major)
Project: Du Dewlet, lê Yek Welat: The Multiethnic Underworld of the Turkist Right
JHI Supervisor: Tong Lam, UTM Historical Studies
Milton Harris Undergraduate Award in the Humanities

Jevan is entering his final year as a humanities student with ambitions of graduate research in Ottoman and Turkish history. He has previously published in two student journals at the University of Toronto, Plebeian and The Future of History, and one international publication, Afkar, where he now serves as an editor. His research interests include the history of nation building in Turkey, and interactions between Kurdish minorities and modern Turkey and Iran, a topic on which he recently delivered a presentation at a graduate conference. He is literate in Turkish and currently studying Kurmancî Kurdish.

(Pan-)Turkism, an ethnonationalist tendency embraced by elements of the far-right in Turkey and Azerbaijan, is associated with militant xenophobia, denial of linguistic minorities, and support for irredentism of Turkic-speaking peoples. Seemingly paradoxically, many major proponents of this current have historically been of Kurdish descent. My research seeks to chronicle Turkic nationalism among Kurds, tracing its history from the Young Turk era to post-Soviet times, and from there explore the identarian idiosyncrasies of Turkist Kurds. Doing so means exploring the multiethnic underworld of Turkic nationalism in Anatolia and the Caucuses, thus interfacing with broader themes of indigeneity, migration, political exclusion, and the new forms of agency it facilitates.

Kaína Mendoza-Price (she/her), A&S Study of Religion and Latin American Studies (double major)
Project: Cosmovisions of a Travesti: Religious Expression Amongst Trans Women in Brazil’s Underworld
JHI Supervisor: Ato Onoma, A&S Political Science
Dr. Michael Lutsky Undergraduate Award in the Humanities

Kaína is social worker, researcher, and arts worker in her fourth year of studies in Religion & Latin American Studies at the University of Toronto. As a social worker, she oversaw the coordination of programs to support over 200 2SLGBTQ+ newcomers settle in Toronto during the pandemic. As a researcher, Kaína disseminated the experiences and knowledge-bases of Trans Spanish-speaking migrants (part of the Faculty of Social Work's Tacit Knowledge Project) as well as documented experiences of Spanish-speaking domestic workers in Toronto (with the Faculty of Information). In between studies and social work, she does independent arts-based research on Yoruba religions while studying and training in her culture’s folkloric dance.

Kaína's project is a semiotic study of how “Travestis” in Northeast Brazil engage with spirituality through documenting and disseminating their cultural and material productions for the spirits they venerate in the subaltern spaces they are bound to. Transgender women in Latin America have historically found comfort in Afro-Indigenous spiritual traditions, but efforts to institutionalize these religious practices pose a challenge for those with complex social positionalities, birthing innovative spiritual expressions in Brazil’s social underworlds. Engaging as both a Trans Woman from Latin America and as someone who grew up in these spiritual-cultural systems, Kaína’s intention is to thoughtfully encourage critical discourse around what constitutes spirituality, religion, and profanity in the context of multi-layered existences of those living in socio-cultural peripheries.

Tiana Milacic, A&S English (specialist)
Project: The Forgotten Function of Female Printers in the Restoration Literary Underground
JHI Supervisor: Karina Vernon, UTSC English
James Fleck Undergraduate Award in the Humanities

Tiana Milacic is interested in Shakespeare, British Romanticism, Elizabethan rhetoric, and Early Modern book history & print culture. She has spent a year as an undergraduate research assistant for the John Galt project – an endeavor which began during the 2023 Jackman Scholars-in-Residence program. She plans to pursue graduate studies in Early Modern literature, focusing on Shakespeare and manuscript studies.

In “Is There Room for Judith Shakespeare and Her Brother Too?” Erin A. McCarthy asserts that over the “past decade,” 10,398 studies, or “49.39 percent of all works addressing the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries” have focused on William Shakespeare’s works, while the “top ten is rounded out with nine more familiar male names” (McCarthy 35). Early Modern female authors occupy a marginal percentage of literary scholarship. This percentage further decreases when considering Early Modern female printers, publishers, and booksellers. My project will examine the essential role of female printers in the Restoration literary underground, to not only expand the breadth of scholarship on Early Modern women, but also to highlight how they sustained the literary underground, demonstrating their influence and lasting impression on underground book production.

Ben Moriarty, A&S History and Cinema Studies (double major); Slavic Languages & Literatures (minor)
Project: The Many Faces of the Moscow Metro: Architectural Mimesis and Historical Memory in Understanding Histories of Urban Russia
Supervisor: Tong Lam, UTM Historical Studies
Zoltan Simo Undergraduate Award in the Humanities

Ben Moriarty has been a Dean’s List Scholar for each of their three years and has had an article investigating intersections of Soviet socio-political history, historical memory, and film published in the undergraduate journal, The Cyril and Methodius Review. They are an aspiring scholar of post-Soviet Russian history with particular interest in political economy, media, and security.

The Moscow Metro is among the most expansive in the world and has long served as a site of architectural mimesis for Russia. The Metro’s dark tunnels and lavish stations are inscribed with historical connotation, but themselves are sites of production for meaning in Urban Russia. I seek to investigate how the Moscow Metro is a critical historical nexus, both in its own history, but also in its own ability to construct historical meaning, by analyzing the Metro’s role at various stages in Russian history, as well as its depictions in media, and historical memory.