Current Fellows Spring 2023

Faculty Fellows

  • Mitali Thakor

    Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Science in Society & FGSS

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    Research interests: policing, computer vision, child pornography, content moderation, digital STS, queer studies of the child, robotics, prosthetics, sex work

    Current Research:
    My current book project, Facing the Child: The Digital Policing of Child Pornography, argues that the digital detection of child pornography has launched a critical turning point in the role of technology companies in relationship to law enforcement: under the auspices of child protection and securitization, the responsibility and labor of policing has shifted over toward technology companies and away from traditional, formal police bodies. I argue that technology companies and law enforcement are turning to technoscientific solutions to address what is mistakenly seen as solely a digital problem. In addition, I show that the regulation of child pornography has laid the infrastructure for the detection of other violent images and videos, fake news, and problematic accounts, as evidenced in the recent rush to fight “Deep Fakes.” Offering a detailed ethnography of computer science labs and police practices, Facing the Child tracks the entry of corporate experts, computer scientists, and graphic designers into the policing network of child abuse detection and subsequent ‘scientification’ of policing through the adoption of new technologies.

    Talks & Interviews:

    Black Box Labs:
    I am the Co-Director of Black Box Labs, an STS laboratory at Wesleyan University, along with Prof. Anthony Ryan Hatch. I am the lead researcher on two projects:

    • The Limits of Protection? Digital Privacy, Content Moderation, and Policing Child Sexual Abuse Material
    • Animating Intimacy: Care Robots and Futures of Care

    Future Research:
    My second project is on care robots and animate companions. The demand for service robots has increased with the COVID-19 pandemic, and one of the primary sites for development of such robots is in eldercare nursing. Eldercare robots seem to promise a continuation of care otherwise not possible under broken medical infrastructures in the US. These robots purport to stave off loneliness, provide a watchful eye to alert family members and emergency medical personnel, and enhance clients’ therapeutic care by engaging memory recall and language skills. This project is based on fieldwork in the U.S. into the design and use of “animate companion” commercial robots in caregiving settings. Recent work in STS has rightly critiqued the use of robots as stopgaps or “surrogates” within the labor system of racial capitalism (cf. Atanasoski and Vora 2019; Semel 2021). However, following Casteñeda and Suchman’s (2014) call to imagine other forms of kinmaking through animal-child-robot objects, I consider here how animate companionship with carebots might generate new relational configurations marked by co-produced pleasure and humor rather than merely extractive forms of care. Commercial carebots often take other-than-human form, as pet animals or caricatured children. How does the material form of robots matter in supporting the production of a caring, companionate relationship? Approaching caregiving as motivated by curiosity rather than curative ideologies, I suggest that animate companionship provided by robotic pets and children opens up opportunities for human-nonhuman intimacies that rely on artificiality, intimacies that are strategically possible only because of their performative and contrived material forms.

    Mitali Thakor (she/her/hers) is an assistant professor in the Science in Society Program with affiliations in Anthropology and FGSS. Her current book project, Facing the Child (MIT Press), is an ethnography of artifice, evidence, and the global policing of child pornography. Her second project is a multidisciplinary study of robotic and animate companions in eldercare, childcare, and other spaces of intimate companionship.

    Mitali Thakor earned her Ph.D. from MIT's Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, & Society, was a postdoctoral fellow in the Sexualities Project at Northwestern University, and earned her B.A. in Anthropology and Feminist Studies from Stanford University. Mitali is also a professional birth doula. You can read more about her work at and on Twitter at @mitalithakor.

  • Lori Gruen

    Professor of Philosophy, Science in Society, & FGSS

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    Lori Gruen is a leading scholar in Animal Studies and Feminist Philosophy.  She is the author and editor of over a dozen books, including Ethics and Animals: An Introduction (Cambridge, 2011, second edition 2021), Critical Terms for Animal Studies (Chicago, 2018), Ecofeminism:  Feminist Intersections with Other Animals and the Earth (Bloomsbury 2014, second edition 2022), Ethics of Captivity (Oxford, 2014), Entangled Empathy (Lantern, 2015) and two new books forthcoming Carceral Logics (Cambridge, 2022) co-edited with Justin Marceau and Animal Crisis (Polity, 2022) co-authored with Alice Crary.  Gruen's work in practical ethics and political philosophy focuses on issues that impact those often overlooked in traditional ethical investigations, e.g. women, people of color, incarcerated people, and non-human animals. She is a Fellow of the Hastings Center for Bioethics, was a Faculty Fellow at Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for Animals and Public Policy, is a fellow of the Brooks Animal Studies Academic Network and was the first and founding chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee of the Center for Prison Education at Wesleyan. Gruen has documented the history of The First 100 chimpanzees in research in the US and has an evolving website that documents the journey to sanctuary of the remaining chimpanzees in research labs, The Last 1000.

    Gruen has written on a range of topics in practical ethics, feminist philosophy and political philosophy. Her current projects include exploring captivity and the ethical and political questions raised by carceral logics.

  • Joseph Weiss

    Associate Professor of Anthropology & Science in Society

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    Joseph Weiss is a sociocultural and political anthropologist.  His work explores the intersections between time, ecology, and Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. Dr. Weiss has been conducting fieldwork with the Haida community of Old Massett since 2010, where has also worked as a full-time volunteer teaching assistant and occasional school play director. His first book, Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii: Life Beyond Settler Colonialism (University of British Columbia Press, 2018) is based on this fieldwork, exploring how the Indigenous Haida Nation in Western Canada addresses political and social change through a series of different future-oriented cultural strategies. Dr. Weiss’s current research projects include a comparative exploration of the ways in which military occupations conceal themselves under settler colonialism and a new project attempting to understand the emerging relationships of solidarity and kinship between the islands of Ireland and Indigenous communities in North America. He also maintains abiding interests in commissions of inquiry, the production of political legitimacy, and research ethics in the social sciences. His research has been funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American Philosophical Society, the Canadian Museum of History, and the University of Chicago. Dr. Weiss is formerly Curator of Western Ethnology at the Canadian Museum of History.


    Representative publications:


    2018. Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii: Life Beyond Settler Colonialism. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press. 


    2022. w/ Hilary Morgan Leathem. "Sovereign Graffiti on Haida Gwaii: A Photo Essay." BC Studies 214 (Summer 2022): 9-27.

    2022. "The Era of Endless Repatriation: Respectful Relationality and the Reconfiguration of Colonial Authority." Anthropologica63(2).

    2021. “Not Built to Last: Military Occupation and Ruination under Settler Colonialism.” Cultural Anthropology 36, no. 3: 484–508.

    2020. "Giving Back the Queen Charlotte Islands: The Politics of Names and Naming between Canada and the Haida Nation." Native American and Indigenous Studies 7.1: 62-86.

    2018. w/ Virginia R. Dominguez and Alaka Wali. "Anthropologists and Museums: An Interview with Joseph Weiss." American Anthropologist 120 (4):808-812.

    2015. "Challenging Reconciliation: Indeterminacy, Disagreement, and Canada’s Indian Residential Schools’ Truth and Reconciliation Commission." International Journal of Canadian Studies 51:27-55.

    Short Essays:

    2019. "King of the Post-Anthropocene." Geist 113.

    2019. "The Erotics of Destruction and the End of the Anthropocene." Visual and New Media Review, Fieldsights, October 1.

    2019. "Who Gets to have Eco-Anxiety?" Edge Effects, April 25.

  • Courtney Patterson-Faye

    Assistant Professor of Sociology

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    Courtney J. Patterson-Faye is an African American studies and sociology scholar who seeks to shift how the world views and defines the bodies of black women. Her research and teaching interests include Black feminist thought, race, class and gender, fat studies, fashion studies, sexuality, cultural and medical sociology, and HIV/AIDS. She is author of “ ‘I Like The Way You Move’: Theorizing Fat, Black and Sexy,” in Sexualities (2016); “Is It Just Baby F(Ph)at?: Black Female Teenagers, Body Size and Sexuality,” in Contemporary Black Female Sexualities (2015); and “Plus Size Black and Latino Women: The Implications of Body Shape and Size for Apparel Design,” in Designing Apparel for Consumers: The Impact of Body Shape and Size (2014). She is second author of “Precious: Black Women, Neighborhood HIV/AIDS Risk, and Institutional Buffers," in the Spring 2011 edition of the Du Bois Review. Her dissertation, Fat Chance, Slim Chance: Identity, Culture, and a Politic of Fatness, studied fat black women and the political construction of body size through lenses of popular culture, fashion, and sexuality to understand how their sociocultural experiences may frame, define and regulate their identity.

    Courtney J. Patterson-Faye earned her B.A. in Afro-American studies from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in African American studies from Northwestern University. Born in South Carolina and raised in Philadelphia, she is a former charter corps member of Teach for America's Philadelphia region where she taught high school mathematics. Professor Patterson-Faye has also worked as a staff member at Oberlin College, first as the Africana community coordinator of the Multicultural Resource Center, and later as faculty-in-residence of Afrikan Heritage House. At Oberlin she enriched her love of teaching and further developed and honed her programming and community building skills. Prior to arriving at Wesleyan, she was the inaugural teaching fellow in critical identity studies at Beloit College.

  • Henry Washington, Jr.

    Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

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    Henry Washington, Jr. is an interdisciplinary scholar of race, gender, and aesthetics in the postslavery United States. His research and teaching draw on the methods of literary criticism, performance theory, visual cultural analysis, and black feminist and trans theories to examine how dominant regimes of knowledge construct and maintain “difference” to justify uneven distributions of power that would otherwise betray the West’s performance of democracy.

    His first book project, tentatively titled Enfleshing the Criminal: Producing and Policing Black Sexual Difference in the Criminological Imagination," scrutinizes the truth claims that undergirded the postbellum emergence of the “criminal” in both the science of criminality and the practice of policing. It argues that cultural habits of seeing the black female body’s supposedly inherent difference enabled the trajectory of criminological “empiricism,” satisfying particular postbellum political needs by reinvigorating the logics of antebellum anti-Blackness with positivist rationale. The project simultaneously attends to how black artists in the period expressively experimented with (although not always departing from) the ostensibly objective terms on which racialized gender subsequently appeared in law and the social world. He also has published writing on the work black mothers have done since slavery to problematize the pathologization and erasure of black youth murdered by the state, and has work in progress on how the alternative historiographic method modeled by the black trans stars of Ryan Murphy’s Pose works to challenge dominant representations of the HIV/AIDS ‘epidemic.’

Andrew W. Mellon Fellows

Student Fellows

  • Abby Fisher

  • Shaoxuan Tian

  • Yiwen Huang

  • Leila Henry