Sawyer Seminar

Faculty Bios

Principal Investigators

Joan Shelley Rubin, Dexter Perkins Professor in History and Ani and Mark Gabrellian Director, Humanities Center

Joan Shelley Rubin is the Principal investigator for the Sawyer Seminar. The Dexter Perkins Professor in the University of Rochester Department of History, she is the Ani and Mark Gabrellian Director of the University’s Humanities Center. She received an AB magna cum laude in American History and Literature from Harvard University in 1969 and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University in 1974. She taught in Canada and at SUNY Brockport before her appointment at Rochester in 1995. An American cultural and intellectual historian, she is the author of four books: Constance Rourke and American Culture (1980); The Making of Middlebrow Culture (1992); Songs of Ourselves: The Uses of Poetry in America (2007); and Cultural Considerations: Essays on Readers, Writers, and Musicians in Twentieth-Century America (2013). She has also published numerous essays, participated in editorial collaborations, and served as a volume co-editor on A History of the Book in America. Her current research explores the role of print culture in the popularization of classical music during the mid-twentieth century.

Daniel Reichman, Associate Professor and Chair of Anthropology

Daniel Reichman is an anthropologist who studies migration and trade in Latin America. His 2011 book The Broken Village: Coffee, Migration, and Globalization in Honduras, a local ethnography of the causes and consequences of migration, was awarded a Victor Turner Award for Ethnographic Writing and is widely used as a textbook in undergraduate courses. He is currently completing an ethnography of Santos, Brazil, which was the major port of arrival for Brazil’s immigrant population and is the world’s largest coffee port. In addition to his academic work, Reichman writes in the popular media on immigration and Latin American current events. He has consulted on Central American immigration for the United Nations and other institutions, including presentations at the White House Office of Management and Budget in 2019 and 2021.

Ruben Flores, Associate Professor of History

Planning Team, University of Rochester

Molly Ball, Lecturer in History

Molly C. Ball is an economic and social historian of modern Brazil. Her monograph, Navigating Life and Work in Old Republic São Paulo, (University of Florida Press, 2020) investigates the lived experiences of immigrants, migrants, and city residents in São Paulo, Brazil from 1891-1930, a period of rapid urbanization, industrialization, and transformation. Her current research project embraces feminist economic history and explores how indicators like school attendance and neonatal birth outcomes shed light on historical standards of living and development. As a lecturer in the history department, she enjoys teaching a range of introductory and seminar courses and partnering with Rochester's rich and diverse community to incorporate meaningful community-engaged experiences.

Travis Baseler, Assistant Professor of Economics

Travis Baseler is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Rochester. He received his PhD in Economics from Stanford University in 2019. His research focuses on migration and labor economics in the developing world. He is especially interested in the role of information in the migration decision, the integration of refugee populations into host communities, and the determinants of economic success for migrants at their destination. Most of his projects are in East Africa, but he also works in India, Southeast Asia, Europe, and upstate New York.

Randall Curren, Professor and Chair of Philosophy

Randall Curren is Professor and Co-Chair of Philosophy and Professor of Education (secondary) at the University of Rochester. He was the Ginny and Robert Loughlin Founders’ Circle Member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (2012-2013) and held concurrent research professorships at the Royal Institute of Philosophy (London) and the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham (England) in 2013-2015. His recent and forthcoming works include Patriotic Education in a Global Age, with historian Charles Dorn (University of Chicago Press, 2018), Living Well Now and in the Future: Why Sustainability Matters, with geologist Ellen Metzger (MIT Press, 2017; Beijing Normal University Press, 2021, in Chinese), and the Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Education (forthcoming).

Matthew Omelsky, Assistant Professor of English

Matthew Omelsky specializes in the field of global black cultural studies. His current book project, Fugitive Time: African Diasporic Utopian Aesthetics, presents a theory of time-consciousness—the perception and experience of time—in literature, visual culture, and music from across the global diaspora, including Zimbabwe, Britain, Martinique, Senegal, and the US. The project charts the intersection of black fugitivity and utopian desire in a range of works, from Aimé Césaire and Wifredo Lam’s négritude aesthetics, to the Black Audio Film Collective's experimental essay films, to Sun Ra’s avant-garde poetry and music, to NoViolet Bulawayo’s contemporary fiction. Most of his published work to date focuses on questions of time, being, and becoming in African fiction and cinema, speculative fiction, black studies critical theory, and climate change thought and aesthetics.

Pablo Miguel Sierra Silva, Associate Professor of History

Pablo Miguel Sierra Silva is Associate Professor of History at the University of Rochester. His research is focused on the history of the African diaspora to Latin America and the Caribbean. His first book, Urban Slavery in Colonial Mexico (Cambridge University Press, 2018) centers on the experiences of enslaved Africans, Asians and their families in the convents, textile mills, and marketplaces of seventeenth-century Puebla. His current research project, In the Wake of the Raid: Blackness, Piracy and the 1683 Pirate Attack on Veracruz, examines the consequences of the mass kidnapping and dispersal of 1500 people of African descent from coastal Mexico to emerging communities in modern-day Haiti, the Dominican Republic and South Carolina. The project is supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Carter Brown Library and the Ferrari Humanities Research Award. Sierra Silva’s research has been published in Ethnohistory, Slavery & Abolition, Journal of Global Slavery, Hispanic American Historical Review and in various edited collections.

Rosa Terlazzo, Associate Professor of Philosophy

Rosa Terlazzo is Associate Professor of Philosophy. She works in social and political philosophy, with a focus on questions related to adaptive preferences, non-ideal theory, children, and injustice.

Brianna Theobald, Assistant Professor of History

Dr. Brianna Theobald is an assistant professor of history and affiliate faculty in the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at the University of Rochester. Her teaching and research fields include U.S. women’s and gender history, the history of Native America, and the history of reproduction. Theobald's first book, Reproduction on the Reservation: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Colonialism in the Long Twentieth Century (University of North Carolina Press, 2019), explores the intersection of colonial and reproductive politics in Native America from the late nineteenth century to the present. This book has received multiple awards, including the Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Book Award from the American Society for Ethnohistory. Theobald’s research on Native women’s history has appeared in academic publications including the Journal of Women’s History and The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, and she has also published in venues including Time Magazine and the Washington Post. She is currently working on two book-length projects, The Indigenous Clubwoman: Genealogies of Native Activism and Safe Haven: Feminisms and the Domestic Violence Movement.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Daniel McDonald

Daniel McDonald received his PhD in Latin American and Caribbean History from Brown University in 2020. His research centers everyday actors in the history of citizenship, migration, cities, gender, and the Catholic Church in post-independence Brazil. He is currently revising a monograph that examines how rural-urban migrants reimagined citizenship to meet the simultaneous rise of the megacity and Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-85). His article on the construction of the planned city of Belo Horizonte recently appeared in the Journal of Urban History. Alongside his published scholarship, McDonald works extensively in the digital and public humanities. He created the Grassroots Archive Digital Initiative in collaboration with grassroots movements in São Paulo as well as the GIS mapping site, Mapping the Megacity.