IRWGS Fellows

2017-2018 Fellows

Syantani Chatterjee


Syantani Chatterjee is a fourth year PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology. She has recently concluded her fieldwork in Mumbai, India. As a graduate student at Columbia, Syantani says she has primarily been interested in “how processes of embodiment interact with mechanisms of power.” Her current research focuses on “what modes of life, endurance, and politics materialize amid exposure to almost imperceptible everyday toxicity in Mumbai’s urban periphery.” Syantani’s master’s thesis focused on commercial gestational surrogacy in India. Her concern was “to understand the manner in which the “perfect surrogate mother” is produced.” Syantani says that she has spent many years in India politically mobilizing and organizing around the rights of marginalized and gendered labor. Thus, working at IRWGS will, she says, “be an extension of several political and intellectual commitments close to my heart.”   Syantani is a trained Bharatnatyam dancer (Indian classical dance), and considers herself to have been a professional dancer in a previous life. She has helped curate dance festivals involving dancers from India and the United States to perform in New York at Barnard, Columbia, and the Asia Society.

Erica Richardson


Erica Richardson is a seventh year PhD candidate in English and Comparative Literature. Her research explores “how black authors and intellectuals from the 1890s through the 1930s use aspects of sociology in their literary production as a means of representing black social life during a time of racial violence and constraint.” Richardson explains that in her work “categories of gender and sexuality are central to defining and theorizing black racial uplift.”  Richardson hopes that as a graduate fellow at IRWGS she will have “the opportunity to cultivate a conversation about black women’s agency, intellectualism, and symbolics within American political discourse that might benefit the IRWGS’s community.” According to Richardson, IRWGS has always been a place where she can let her thoughts “unfold, wander, and linger.” Richardson said, “I hope in that spirit to encourage the broader Columbia community to really consider what feminist practice means to them as scholars, teachers, and activists.”   In the fall, Richardson will also serve as a Literature Humanities Preceptor in Columbia University’s Department of Core Curriculum.  When Erica isn’t teaching or working on her research, she spends her time enjoying healthy Southern cooking (it does exist!), weight training, and making collages.

2016-2017 Fellows

Alessia Palanti


Alessia Palanti: Department of Italian

Field: Feminisms, Gender, Sexuality, Queer Theory, Cinema

Examiners: Marianne Hirsch, Ellie Hisama

Alessia Palanti is a PhD candidate in the Department of Italian and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. She recently received her IRWGS certificate, and has been awarded the 2016-2017 IRWGS Graduate Fellowship. She is writing her dissertation on 21st century Italian women’s cinema that focuses on women’s lives and experiences from a female perspective. Her project traces the development of Italian feminisms and their place in the international landscape of feminist inquiry into gender and sexuality through an analysis of contemporary film, and examines the influences and possibilities of female subjectivity in visual media and representation. Alessia’s work has been published in the Journal of Modern Italian Studies, “Revising History: Elvira Giallanella’s Umanità and the Editing of Gender,” and in the Pirandello Society of America Journal, “Scripting il ‘cielo di carta’: The Men behind the Curtain in Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s Cesare deve morire.”

Leah Werier


Leah Werier: Department of Art History 

Examiners: Marianne Hirsch and Rosalyn Deutsche 

Field: Vision, Photography and TV 

Leah Werier is a PhD student in the Department of Art History at Columbia University. She is a 2016-2017 IRWGS Graduate Fellow. Her doctoral work focuses on modern and contemporary art. Her research interests include architecture and public space and its’ intersections with vision, desire, feminist and queer theory. Leah has also completed the certificate program at the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (Columbia University). She completed an MA in Art History at the Courtauld Institute on the subject of art and psychoanalysis which was supervised by Mignon Nixon and Juliet Mitchell.