University of Minnesota
Immigration History Research Center

Immigration History Research Center's home page.

Graduate Student Projects

Rodolfo Aguilar ( is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of American Studies. His research interests are Mexicans in the Midwest, Migration studies, Transnationalism, Popular Music and Dance, Chicana/o and Latina/o studies. Rodolfo’s dissertation “Tambien Bailamos en el Norte: Sonidero and Mexican Migrants in the Midwest”, which employs an ethnographic lens, contributes to the burgeoning scholarship on Latina/o expressive cultures in the United States. His doctoral thesis focuses on the complexities of musical identities through his study of sonideros in Chicago and Minneapolis. He argues sonidero is a social dance space that highlights anxieties over cultural authenticity and Mexican immigrant sensibilities by privileging Latin music genres created outside of Mexico. Lastly, Rodolfo enters the transnationalism debate by studying the everyday acts which allow migrants to re-imagine the Midwest as an integral part of their migration experiences.

Arta Ankrava ( is a Ph.D. student at the Department of Sociology interested in migration and diasporic identity. She is the recipient of the American Latvian Association Graduate Research Fellowship in Latvian American Studies for this academic year. Her research project looks at the changing self-perceptions and collective goals of the Latvian American community, especially since the reinstatement of Latvian independence. Arta is working with Latvian American periodicals collections from the 1950s to date.

Tim August ( is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. His dissertation examines how cuisine and colonialism shape debates about nationality in Vietnamese American literature. His main research interests include: postcolonial literature and theory, Vietnamese American culture, food and eating, transnational experience, and migration. He is an assistant editor for the journal Cultural Critique and has an article forthcoming in MELUS.

James Patrick Brown ( is a Ph.D. student in American Studies researching the uses of the 19th century American literary canon by anarchists who immigrated to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Focusing on anarchist appropriations of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson in particular, he argues that immigrant anarchist uses of American literature ask us to rethink the political implications of individualism in American literature and life. While contemporary critics writing from various Marxist perspectives argue that individualism in American literature is a bourgeois ideology most associated with the right wing, anarchist uses of this ideology to "naturalize" anarchism in an American context suggest an historical tradition of left wing individualism ranging from writers like Thoreau and Emerson to the Beat writers of the 1950s and the New Left critics of the 1960s.

Kelly Condit-Shrestha ( is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History. Her main research interests are U.S., migration, Asian American and comparative race and ethnic studies, comparative East Asian history, and Korean studies. Her dissertation, "Adoption and American Empire: Migration, Race-Making, and the Child in U.S. Nation-Building, 1845-1988," is a U.S. history of empire and nation-building through the lens of child placement and adoption. Currently she is the graduate research assistant at the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota.

Andrew D. Hoyt ( is a Ph.D. student in History advised by Donna Gabaccia. He received his Masters in Cultural Studies, with a focus on archives, from the Claremont Graduate University. Andrew is currently the Spring 2011 UNICO Fellow at the IHRC. His research focuses on transatlantic radical print culture, particularly the poetry and art embedded in Italian language Anarchist publications (1880-1940s). He is interested in how these transnational migrants deployed cultural tools, such as martyrologies, symbols, street festivals and performances, to construct an anti-nationalist imagined community across much of the Atlantic basin. He also is also mapping the transnational networks of writers, editors, printers, distributors, and readers who participated in creating this radical cultural space and social movement.

Margarita (Rita) Kompelmakher ( is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Theater and Dance at the University of Minnesota. Her research interests are at the intersection of migration studies and performance studies with a focus on how mobility across national borders mediates the socio-political and economic value of performance practices from the former Soviet territories. She is currently working on a project about political theater from Belarus and the question of global spectatorship and cross-national representations of oppression and/or freedom. 

Waleed F. Mahdi ( is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of American Studies at the University of Minnesota, and is a student of Development Studies & Social Change at the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC). He is a Fulbright scholar and MacArthur fellow whose main research interests include:  (Arab) American Studies, Middle East Studies, Popular Culture & Politics, and Race & Postcolonial Studies. His dissertation proposes an interdisciplinary reading of major Arabic and American films primarily engaged in the construction of a transnational Arab American identity. 

Kathleen Mitchell ( is a Ph.D. student in Curriculum and Instruction, with a focus on Second Languages and Cultures education. Her main research interests center around elementary dual language/immersion schools. Specifically, she is interested in exploring how citizenship is taught (explicitly and implicitly) in bilingual classrooms, and how children interpret what "good citizenship" requires.

Jessica Namakkal ( is a Ph.D. candidate in History and a Doctoral Teaching Fellow at the University of Minnesota. Her work examines empire and decolonization in both South Asia and Europe, and looks at migrations between the two regions as elements of post-colonial history. She recently published “European Dreams, Tamil Land: Auroville and the Paradox of a Post-Colonial Utopia” in the Journal for the Study of Radicalism (Spring 2012).

Juliana Hu Pegues ( is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of American Studies at the University of Minnesota.  Her main research interests are critical and relational ethnic studies, studies of colonialism and postcolonalism, and women of color feminisms.  Her dissertation, “Interrogating Intimacies: Asian American and Native Relations in Colonial Alaska,” examines how relationships between Asian and Native peoples in Alaska during the territorial period (1867-1959) critically shift understandings of race, gender, nation, and empire.  In this project she brings Asian American and American Indian studies into conversation, particularly each field’s respective focus on immigration and indigeneity.

Bryan Pekel ( is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at the University of Minnesota.  A historian of modern Britain, his scholarly interests include the intersections of popular politics, gender, empire, and migration in the Victorian era.  Bryan’s dissertation examines the language of emigration, colonization, and empire, as employed by elites and popular radicals in debates over extending the vote to working-class men.  

Leonore Phillips ( is a Ph.D. candidate in the Anthropology Department focusing on its sociocultural and linguistic sub-fields. From February 2010 to July 2011, she spent a year and half in Berlin doing ethnographic fieldwork and exploring the nature of Berlin's computing industries. She is currently writing her dissertation which examines the role of highly skilled-workers in Germany's computer science and IT fields and the ways computing is constructed and negotiated on local, national and global scales. Her key interests include questions of scale, innovation and the relationship between immigration and nationalisms.

Justin Schell ( is a documentary filmmaker and Ph.D. candidate in the Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society program. He is completing a multimedia dissertation and documentary entitled "We Rock Long Distance," which looks at the lives and music of three Minnesota-based hip-hop artists with roots far beyond the Land of 10,000 Lakes: the Ghanaian MC M.anifest, the Hmong spoken word artist and MC Tou SaiKo Lee, and the "Sota Rican" (Minnesota Puerto Rican) MC and singer Maria Isa. As part of this project, he has traveled to Ghana, Thailand, and Puerto Rico. You can find out more about his work at http://www.WeRockLongDistance or

Jasmine Kar Tang ( explores post-1965 Asian American racial formations in the U.S. South through an interdisciplinary analysis of a stand-up comedy performance, a public monument, and interviews with over thirty Asian Americans in east Tennessee. As a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies, her interests involve Asian American studies, comparative race and ethnic studies, performance, and writing center theory and practice. Jasmine currently serves as a Graduate Writing Consultant for Student Writing Support and a Research Assistant for the Writing-Enriched Curriculum Project at the Center for Writing. She is also a dancer and dramaturg for Aniccha Arts, a performing arts company in the Twin Cities.

Elizabeth Venditto ( is a Ph.D. candidate and public historian in the History Department.  Her research interests include migration, religion, and charitable organizations in the contemporary Mediterranean and United States.  Her dissertation "Migrants and Catholic Social Services in Italy's Transition from Land of Emigration to Immigration, 1861-2010" focuses on migration and Catholic social services as a way of understanding how migrants, whether Italian or foreign-born, have gained, abandoned, and been denied membership in the Italian national community since Italian unification. Elizabeth is also working on several public history projects and an article about migration archives.

Anduin (Andy) Wilhide ( is a public historian with experience coordinating projects at the University of Minnesota's Immigration History Research Center (IHRC) and the Minnesota Historical Society. She is a doctoral student in the History Department at the University of Minnesota. Her research interests are in migration history and the Somali communities in Minnesota. She is interested in oral histories and personal narratives of migration and plans to do a large-scale oral history project with the Somali community.