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Four Stanford PhD students receive ACLS fellowships -Alastair Su

(Image credit: Courtesy Alastair Su)


The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) has awarded 2020 fellowships to four Stanford students who are completing doctoral degrees in anthropology, art/art history, history and philosophy.

Now in its 14th year, the ACLS fellowship program supports promising doctoral students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences with one year of funding to support completion of a project forming the foundation of their scholarly careers. This year, 64 graduate students will be awarded up to $43,000 for their final year of dissertation research and writing. Fellows will also participate in a faculty-led job market seminar to further prepare them for postgraduate careers both within and outside of academia.

Three of the Stanford students are receiving Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships, which are made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. One Stanford student is receiving the Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art, which is supported by the Henry Luce Foundation.

Alastair Su of Singapore is a fifth-year PhD candidate in history. He said this award will help him complete his dissertation on the global opium trade.

“I know that the ACLS supports research that speaks to a broad scholarly audience; I feel affirmed that my work has been selected for its potential to breach disciplinary boundaries on such an urgent issue,” Su said.

Su’s dissertation is Capitalism and Opium: The Transpacific Drug Economy, 1804-1881. It explores the trading of opium as an addictive commodity and global capital between China and the United States, which contributed to a flourishing transpacific economy.

Su earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard College and spent a year working as a research associate at Harvard Business School before starting his PhD at Stanford. He specializes in the historical evolution of the U.S. political economy, with a focus on slavery and abolition, U.S. imperialism, drug addiction, Chinese migration and the Pacific world.