Introducing the 2021-2022 Princeton Mellon Fellows

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Chandana Anusha, Devanne Brookins, Dean Chahim, Chukwuemeka V. Chukwuemeka, Seth Denizen, Shoshana Goldstein, and Davy Knittle as Princeton Mellon Fellows for the 2021-2022 academic year.

The fellowships are made possible through the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the High Meadows Environmental Institute; the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies; the M.S. Chadha Center for Global India; the Program in African Studies; the Metropolis Project, department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and School of Engineering and Applied Science; the School of Public & International Affairs; the Humanities Council; and the University Center for Human Values.

In addition to their own research, fellows will teach courses and contribute to programming related to the Initiative's focus on Cities on the Edge: Hemispheric Comparisons and Connections.

Chandana Anusha, Princeton Mellon / Princeton Institute for International & Regional Studies Fellow

Chandana Anusha’s fellowship is made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the M.S. Chadha Center for Global India, and the Princeton Institute for International & Regional Studies.

Anusha is a scholar of social and environmental dynamics in India, with a special interest in coastal regions. Her research focuses on how ecological and infrastructural processes intersect in an era defined by climate change and global trade.

Her dissertation, “The Living Coast: Port Development and Ecological Transformations in the Gulf of Kutch, Western India,” analyzes the region surrounding one of India's largest ports. Since 1991, a web of farmers, fishworkers, graziers, seafarers, as well as mangroves, goats, and other species, have coexisted and contended with port-led efforts to reengineer the coast into a global hub of trade through no-go zones, extractions, reclamations, and highways. Through ethnographic and archival research, Anusha reconceptualizes this coast from a narrow strip of land and water into a meshwork of freshwater, seawater, sediment, organisms, and emotion. Calling this diverse and dynamic ecology a “Living Coast,” she explores how people both take up new opportunities and strive to live meaningful lives with others as they adapt to intensified infrastructural activity.

To carry out this research, Anusha utilized participant observation, attendance at public meetings, oral histories, visual analysis, and the study of archival documents in private collections and government offices. She examined land-water use across rural and urban landscapes, as well as forestlands, private farms, and riverbeds along the coastal belt. Challenging accounts of both inexorable progress and apocalyptic decline, her research shows the diverse opportunities and threats produced by ecological shocks.

Anusha completed her Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology at Yale University in June 2021. In Spring 2021, she will teach, “Coastal Worlds: Ecologies, Societies, and Infrastructures,” a course on coastal urbanisms framed through an environmental humanities perspective.

Devanne Brookins, Princeton Mellon Fellow in Architecture, Urbanism & the Humanities

Devanne Brookins’ fellowship is extended for a third year and made possible by the Princeton School of Public & International Affairs.

Brookins’ research explores comparative urban studies, urban transformation and the production of inequality, with a focus on African cities. This agenda is driven by a desire to understand how urban transformations in Sub-Saharan Africa reflect and differ from those in regions that have bridged the urban transition in earlier periods. With urbanization and transformation proliferating across Africa, many urban development interventions are taking place amid questions regarding the governance of urban land: how it is assembled, how the value is captured and distributed, and who has access. These contemporary processes of urbanization, expansion and restructuring are producing concerning patterns of inequality. She examines how urban inequality is manufactured through governance processes as socio-political compromises that become spatially embedded in land and the built environment.

Brookins has taught three masters level courses: Urbanization and Development; Identity, Power and Policy; and Urban Inequality in Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs. To support course development, she conducted a Mellon funded research project – Visualizing Urban Inequality – that coordinated the research and development of six case studies that examine patterns of socio-spatial inequality across Africa, Asia and Latin America. The project, which employed remote sensing, GIS and qualitative analysis, integrates spatial analysis in her work and identifies disparities in access to housing, transport and water. In addition, Brookins originated and co-organized the Mellon series On African Urbanism, which seeks to deepen understanding of the essential characteristics of African cities including patterns of city formation and logics of place-making.

Prior to her time at Princeton, Brookins was Research Coordinator for the Transforming Urban Transport - The Role of Political Leadership (TUT-POL) Sub-Saharan Africa project at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. Her doctoral research, “Reform from above, Reinterpretation from below: state-making and institutional change in Ghana,” confronted the dynamics of institutional and societal change as relates to land and its relevance for urban transition in Ghana’s two largest metropolitan regions. She also has professional experience in international development research and program management with organizations such as The Urban Institute and Oxfam America; and has consulted for the African Development Bank, UN Habitat in the Urban Land, Legislation and Governance Branch and the African Center for Economic Transformation. Brookins holds a PhD in International Development Planning from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) at MIT, dual Masters’ degrees from Columbia University in Urban Planning (GSAPP) and International Affairs (SIPA), and a BA in Political Science and French from Wellesley College.

Dean Chahim, Princeton Mellon Fellow in Architecture, Urbanism & the Humanities

Dean Chahim’s fellowship is made possible through the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Humanities Council, the University Center for Human Values, the Metropolis Project, and the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Chahim’s research examines the relationship between engineering, political power, and the production of urban environments. His current project is an ethnography and history of flood control engineering and urbanization in Mexico City. It examines how engineers, under political pressure to enable urban growth, have transformed flooding into a routinized and spatially diffuse form of environmental suffering that disproportionately affects the urban poor.

He received his PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University in June 2021 and will begin as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso in September 2022. Chahim also holds a B.S.C.E. in Civil & Environmental Engineering and a B.A. in International Development and Social Change from the University of Washington. Before beginning his graduate training, he worked as an environmental engineer and volunteered as a community organizer in Seattle.

In the Spring, Chahim will teach a course on Design Justice, Engineering, and the Urban Environment, focused on how engineering design can be reimagined as a liberatory, collective project that challenges – rather than reinforces – systems of domination, inequality, and environmental exploitation in cities.

Chukwuemeka V. Chukwuemeka, Princeton Mellon / Princeton Institute for International & Regional Studies Fellow

Chukwuemeka V. Chukwuemeka’s fellowship is made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Program in African Studies; and the Princeton Institute for International & Regional Studies. 

Chukwuemeka is an architect and urbanist with international experience in project development, project management, and systems design. His research is on emergent dynamics and self-organization processes of spatial productions in rapidly urbanizing sub-Saharan African cities, with a focus on Onitsha Markets in Nigeria. Prior to earning his doctoral degree in Architecture at KU Leuven in Belgium, Chukwuemeka earned an MA in Architecture from Hochschule Anhalt (DIA – Bauhaus Dessau) in Germany, and a B.Sc. in Architecture degree from Imo State University in Nigeria.

Chukwuemeka’s academic recognitions include KU Leuven’s Interfaculty Council for Development Cooperation (IRO) full doctoral scholarship, and the DAAD Prize, awarded for outstanding achievements of international students at German universities. He has taught and critiqued design studios at KU Leuven in Belgium, ETH Zurich in Switzerland, DIA Dessau in Germany, and Leibniz Universität Hannover in Germany.

At Princeton, he will work on developing tools and frameworks on how to read, design, and plan for sub-Saharan African cities undergoing rapid urbanization, and in constant flux amidst uncertainties. Chukwuemeka will also co-teach the Interdisciplinary Design Studio [ARC 205/URB 205/LAS 225/ENV 205] with Prof. Mario I. Gandelsonas, which focuses on social forces that shape design thinking.

Seth Denizen, HMEI/Princeton Mellon Fellow in Architecture, Urbanism & the Environment

Seth Denizen’s fellowship is sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the High Meadows Environmental Institute.   

Denizen is a researcher and design practitioner trained in landscape architecture and human geography. His published work is multidisciplinary, addressing art and design, microbial ecology, soil science, urban geography, and the politics of climate change. He is currently a member of the editorial board of Scapegoat Journal: Architecture / Landscape / Political Economy.

Denizen has taught Landscape Architecture at the University of Hong Kong and University of Virginia. In 2019, he was chosen as the Daniel Urban Kiley Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and in December of that year completed his PhD in Geography at the University of California Berkeley. Denizen's doctoral research investigated the vertical geopolitics of urban soil in Mexico City, where he worked with geologists and soil scientists to characterize the material complexities and political forces that shape the distribution of geological risk in Mexico's urban periphery.

In 2019, Denizen was awarded the SOM Foundation Research Prize with Montserrat Bonvehi and David Moreno Mateos. Their project investigates the metabolic and political-ecological relations between Mexico City and the Mezquital Valley as the largest and longest running wastewater agriculture system in the world.

As a Princeton-Mellon Fellow, Denizen will teach a Fall 2021 course, “Thinking Through Soil” based on his ongoing research and forthcoming book manuscript.

Shoshana Goldstein, Princeton Mellon / Princeton Institute for International & Regional Studies Fellow

Shoshana Goldstein’s fellowship is extended for a second year and sponsored by the the M.S. Chadha Center for Global India, the Princeton Institute for International & Regional Studies, and the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.

Goldstein's research explores the impacts of India's economic liberalization on urban planning, governance, and placemaking for migrant and formerly agrarian communities in peri-urban New Delhi. Her current project charts the complex planning history of Delhi's satellite city, Gurgaon.

Goldstein holds a Ph.D. in city and regional planning from Cornell and an M.A. in international affairs from The New School. She has taught courses on migration, infrastructure, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in Cornell's College of Architecture Art and Planning and at Princeton. Her work has been funded by the Clarence Stein Foundation, the US Department of Education, the Mario Einaudi Center at Cornell, and the Princeton Urban Imagination Center. Prior to earning her doctorate, Goldstein worked for the India China Institute and as a consultant for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and UNICEF.

Davy Knittle, HMEI/Princeton Mellon Fellow in Architecture, Urbanism & the Environment

Davy Knittle’s fellowship is sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the High Meadows Environmental Institute. Knittle's fellowship will span the Spring and Fall 2022 semesters.

Knittle’s research considers how normative ideas of race, sexuality, and gender have shaped the redevelopment of the built and non-built environments of U.S. cities from the 1950s to the present. His current book project, Designs on the Future: Gender, Race, and Environment in the Transitional City, uses a multidisciplinary archive of literary and cultural texts to trace resistance to dominant narratives of urban progress. Designs on the Future engages a queer and trans method of reading urban and environmental change that identifies the entanglement of urban, environmental, and queer and trans experiences of loss in U.S. cities in the wake of urban renewal.

Knittle (he/they) completed his Ph.D. in English at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has taught courses at the intersection of queer and trans studies, critical race studies, environmental humanities, urban studies, and U.S. literature and culture. From 2016-2021, Knittle curated the City Planning Poetics talk and reading series at the Kelly Writers House at Penn.

In the Spring semester, Knittle will teach Race, Gender, and the Urban Environment, which will consider how normative and resistant ideas of race and gender have conditioned proposals both for the future of cities and for the future of the planet.