Undergraduate Research Assistantship Program in History

Call for Applications: 2021-22 Paid Undergraduate Research Assistantship
(Application cycle is closed. Next round will open in Autumn 2022.)

The History Department is offering several paid research opportunities for Stanford undergraduates to work on a faculty-led research project over the 2022 Winter and Spring quarters. Student research assistants (RA) will work directly with a faculty member on their current research, gaining significant experience in developing a research project, identifying and pursuing research leads, and delivering tangible, meaningful reports.  RAs will meet regularly with the faculty mentor for guidance, feedback, and discussion.  The research experience will culminate in a research presentation by the student and faculty at the end of the academic year.  RAs will be expected to work eight to ten hours per week, and will be compensated $18 per hour.

RAs do not need to be History majors, but they must have taken at least one History department course. No research experience or specialized skills are necessary unless noted in the project descriptions below.

Interested Stanford undergraduates should submit (1) a paragraph outlining their interest in participating in a research assistantship and listing the History course(s) taken, and (2) a CV, indicating any background experience or language skills they may wish to highlight. Applicants may choose to indicate up to 3 projects from the descriptions below for which they wish to be considered.

Submit the paragraph, CV, and possible projects via this google form by December 10, 2021.  Contact Kai Dowding (kdowding [at] stanford.edu) with any questions.

Projects that seek an RA:

“Credit Oases: Capitalism, Islamic Law, and the Ottoman Legal Legacy from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, 1870-1970”

Faculty Mentor: Nora Barakat

Project: Creating data and visualizations from an early twentieth-century British geographical dictionary of the Persian Gulf, Arabia and Oman that describes human and non-human geography, commodity production and trade, administration and governance, and natural resources in over 800 articles covering regions in contemporary Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  Existing data and maps from the project can be viewed at opengulf.github.io.

Research Tasks: The student researcher would participate in the following tasks, depending on existing skills and interest: 1) checking locations in an existing dataset for accuracy; 2) researching and identifying new locations extracted from the text; 3) identifying, preparing and annotating related, possibly multilingual texts; 4) creating visualizations based on the dataset related to topics of student’s interest. This position does not require any existing technical skills.  Students with an interest in learning basic data management and mapping skills or utilizing existing skills are encouraged to apply, as are students interested in the historical geography of the Middle East and Indian Ocean worlds and/or the spatial history of empire.

Human Trafficking: Child Soldiers & Forced Marriage

Faculty Mentor: Katherine Jolluck

Project: Professor Jolluck is writing a book that will contain at least seven original human trafficking case studies, details on the methodology of using them to engage undergraduates in the topic, and examples of the types of learning that result.  These case studies will also be used for group work in the lecture course, History 5C/105C.

Research Tasks: The RA will research two topics for writing case studies:  1) the phenomenon of child soldiers in Africa, and 2) trafficking and forced marriages of girls/young women in China.  Based on in-depth research on the political, military, economic, social, and cultural histories of the respective countries, the RA will help Prof. Jolluck sketch out fictional yet plausible cases, detailing the geographical location, social life, trafficking routes and practices, and resources available to address the problem. Depending on the project progress, RA may co-author the case studies. Attention to detail and good writing skills are required. Knowledge of Chinese or an African language is preferred but not necessary.

Biography of Philip Roth

Faculty Mentor: Steven Zipperstein

Project: Professor Zipperstein is at work on a biography of Philip Roth and seeks help in organizing the primary and secondary materials he has gathered, including a large cache of archival material on Roth from a wide range of archives (New York Public Library, Library of Congress, Princeton, Yale, Cornell, and elsewhere).

Research Tasks: Review primary sources (mostly letters, possibly with no more than a sentence or two of importance to Prof. Zipperstein’s book) to determine what to use and discard.  Comb through secondary literature on Roth (among the most valuable are reviews of his books) for crucial data, and help to render it as accessible as possible (perhaps through appropriate technology).

Deserts of the Mind: Empty Lands in the Global Imagination 

Faculty Mentor: JP Daughton

Project: This project, still in its infancy, will explore the place occupied by deserts in natural and human history and in the Global imaginary, from pre-history to the era of climate change. Its aim is to combine environmental studies with the social, political, and cultural histories of the world’s deserts.

Research Tasks: Professor Daughton will work with the RA to identify, review, and report on sources, including oral traditions and written accounts, maps, imagery, and films. The research intern will engage with potentially expansive subject matter, from religious texts to Mad Max, and from flora and fauna to the politics of nuclear testing. Knowledge of any foreign languages a plus, but not required.

Sovereignty & Statehood in the 19th century Central & South America

Faculty Mentor: Steven Press

Project: Professor Press’s new book project on international relations and sovereignty.

Research Tasks: The RA would look at digitized primary sources concerning US and Latin American foreign relations between roughly 1800 and 1989. They would mainly focus on recognition of “statehood” in emerging countries in the nineteenth century (Central and South America), but would have a broader remit to look at the question of “statehood” generally to try to ascertain trends, standards.

Debt and Violence in the Middle Ages

Faculty Mentor: Rowan Dorin

Project: Professor Dorin is currently researching the relationship between indebtedness and violence in the Middle Ages, particularly in the context of anti-Jewish violence.

Research Tasks: The RA will examine books and articles published over the last century to see how historians, art historians, and literary scholars have discussed this relationship. Another strand of research might explore the medieval sources for this violence, looking at how medieval Christian and Jewish chroniclers interpreted the weight of indebtedness as a factor in outbreaks of violence.  All of the research could be done in English. If the RA has other languages, the project may include sources in those languages as well.