Watson's latest cohort of postdoctoral fellows departs for dynamic academic opportunities

Chosen from more than 400 applicants, this cohort of six postdoctoral fellows represents the newest group of young scholars to complete their fellowships at the Watson Institute. Together, they bring “sophisticated social science perspectives to some of the toughest worldwide problems of the early 21st century,” said J. Nicholas Ziegler, director of the postdoctoral program. 

“The Watson Institute and Brown University offer a rich roster of programs and events, no matter on what region or topic,” said Fellow Sahana Ghosh, who found a welcoming and robust intellectual community at Watson’s Center for Contemporary South Asia. An anthropologist, Ghosh also appreciated participating in her very first podcast. 

“I value the communications team who motivated me to think about modes of engagement and taught me how to do podcasts. I am very invested in public-facing scholarship and engagement, whether through podcasts or writing op-eds,” said Ghosh. 

“The Watson Institute,” said Fellow Aileen Teague, an historian and former Marine Corps officer, “paved the way for securing my future job at a policy school: Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service. It offered me the opportunity to use my history background for public policy aims; Watson is unique in its interdisciplinary approach.” Her colleagues, she said, helped her polish her practice job talks and prepare for her interview. 

Time to research and write

Ghosh’s book in progress examines the growing militarization of the Bangladesh-India border, and the impact on populations residing along those borders. “Borders are not just places of conflict, but places where people live,” she said. “My work explores what it means to live everyday within an increasingly militarized environment.”  Her articles – written during her postdoc fellowship – have been or will be published in highly respected academic journals. 

The impact of our long-standing drug policies on the United States’ relationship with Mexico and on the U.S.-Mexico border is the focus of Teague’s forthcoming book. “I’m optimistic that people will try to make more productive drug policies, but I’m pessimistic that we can control people’s desires to get high and make immense profits.”  Teague, who participated in two Trending Globally podcasts, has written opinion pieces for The Conversation, The Washington Post and Time magazine, and peer-reviewed academic articles. 

“We give these young scholars a clear sense that their research truly matters, and that has a terrifically positive effect on them,” said Ziegler. “Getting to see their extraordinarily exciting research has been one of the best parts of my experience at Brown so far.”  

Time to teach

A Fulbright Fellow in Mexico City before coming to the Watson, Teague taught The U.S. War on Drugs: From History to Policymaking and Beyond, and, in the 2020 Winter Session, The Opioid Crisis: Causes, Effects and Policy Solutions. The course coupled readings of narratives on drug policy and memoirs by drug-addicted individuals with visits to a methadone clinic and a 12-step meeting. “This was not an Ivory Tower classroom experience; it was so much better to have an interactive experience,” said Teague, who hopes to continue teaching these seminars, which she developed. “These experiences – where I facilitated knowledge and coordinated our community visits – helped me develop as an instructor,” said Teague, who prizes the latitude Watson affords its postdoctoral fellows to explore what to teach. 

Ghosh’s Borders and Bodies, an undergraduate seminar, addressed the role of borders in the structures and experiences of global inequality, migration and globalization through a feminist lens. When the pandemic forced the campus closure, Ghosh said, “Those questions were no longer abstract, but questions that my students from diverse backgrounds were dealing with.”  

Although teaching took time away from her writing, Ghosh discovered an unexpected benefit: “Teaching on topics closely related to my research has made me a more reflective writer.”

Here is a list of where this year’s post-doctoral fellows are going:

  • Elissa Berwick, McGill University in Political Science
  • Sahana Ghosh, Harvard for a further year of fellowship; later, the University of California, Santa Barbara in Anthropology
  • Aileen Teague, Texas A&M in International Affairs
  • Dario Valles is considering a number of institutional options for continuing his research in the field of race and ethnicity
  • Ben Weber, the University of California at Davis in African American and African Studies
  • Luyang Zhou, Zhejiang University in Sociology