Scholarly Endeavors

The John and Elizabeth Phillips Dissertation Year explained. 

January 30, 2023
Dissertation Fellows
What is the fellowship program?

Established in 2013, the program provides advanced doctoral students who might not otherwise consider careers in a residential secondary school the opportunity to gain experience in such a community while working on the completion stage of their dissertations.

Who are the 2022-23 fellows?

Dominique Branson is a Ph.D. linguistics student concentrating in sociolinguistics at the University of Pittsburgh. Her dissertation topic, “Sounding Guilty: Criminalization and Black Racialized Speech,” investigates whether speakers who are assessed as “sounding Black” are also criminalized. “In my linguistics courses, I learned about the many ways that African American English (AAE) differs from standardized American English, or what we usually call ‘proper English,’” Branson says. “Since then, I’ve wanted to know whether Black Americans who speak AAE experience negative outcomes in our criminal legal system because of how listeners hear their speech.”

Maya Singhal is a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Harvard University. Singhal teaches courses on anthropological research at Harvard and a writing course on business and labor in fiction and film at New York University. Singhal’s dissertation is a historical and ethnographic study of African American and Chinese American collaborations, solidarities and mutual aid in New York City from about the 1960s to the present. Singhal says, “I’m interested in how criminal and criminalized activities work as sites for a variety of pragmatic collaborations, from the African and Chinese counterfeit designer goods sellers in Chinatown to extralegal community defense patrols working to prevent anti-Asian violence.”

How do the fellows benefit the community?

The fellows teach online seminars and connect on campus with departments and students interested in their fields. They also make themselves available in an informal way to students interested in and student organizations related to their fields.

What do the fellows hope to accomplish?

Branson: “I hope to learn how I can better make my research relevant to youth. ...I would also like to know what connections students see between language and justice and how they can use their voices to promote justice. I’m excited to work with diverse students and learn from their perspectives at Phillips Exeter Academy!”

Singhal: “I’m excited to see the really urgent political and social movements we’re faced with, especially since the pandemic, through students’ eyes. It strikes me that a lot of students see their generation as the ones who need to save the world, and I’m excited to think about the histories of social movements and our political issues in the present with people who feel this kind of urgency.”

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the winter 2023 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.