Current NYU Shanghai Graduate Dissertation Fellows

Samuel Lee
PhD Candidate, Department of Philosophy, GSAS

Synopsis of Research in Shanghai (September 2 - December 15) :

Lee’s dissertation is about causality—causes and their effects. He wants to know what it is for one thing to cause another. Why? Because causality permeates our understanding of just about everything. To predict whether a certain event will occur, we look to see whether anything that might cause it to occur is currently in place. To explain why things happened the way they did, we appeal to the factors that caused the course of events we observed. When formulating effective strategies to achieve our ends, we take note of the causal structure of the world and decide where in the network of causal relationships would be most prudent to intervene so as to best realise our goals. And when apportioning moral responsibility for outcomes, we look to what, and who, was causally responsible for what happened. Causality is at the very centre of the human conceptual scheme. Lee argues that we can shed light on our conceptual landscape by attending to a duality at the heart of causality: some causal relationships are fundamental, whiles others are derivative. After working to establish this fundamental-derivative split, Lee offers a bipartite theory of causality consonant with its duality, and uses it to resolve a number of outstanding philosophical puzzles. He will use his time in Shanghai to work closely with Brad Weslake, a leading metaphysician and philosopher of science who has made a number of critical contributions to our understanding of causality.

Jingwen Li
PhD Candidate; Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Steinhardt

Synopsis of Research in Shanghai (September 2 - December 15) :

Producing a second language (L2) without accent is challenging for late L2 learners, because speech motor control underlying pronunciation could have been greatly affected by physical changes at an early age. However, individual differences in L2 speech production performance have been reported in many studies. Li’s project aims to investigate the mechanisms underlying such individual variation. There are three specific research questions: 1) What is the effect of individual differences in auditory and somatosensory acuity in L2 speech production? 2) Can L2 learners establish distinct and long-term feedforward control for L2 speech sounds? 3) Does the establishment of feedforward control for L2 speech sounds have neural basis? The experiment to be conducted at NYU Shanghai aims to answer the third research question. Mandarin native speakers who are late learners of a foreign language will be recruited. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) will be used to track brain activity in regions associated with speech feedforward and feedback control. Analysis will be conducted to examine if highly successful L2 learners will demonstrate decreased brain activity associated with feedback control (increased feedforward control) as compared to less successful learners. Individual differences in sensory acuity will also be studied. Investigation into the motor-sensory aspects in L2 production through behavioral and neural measures will lead to a more comprehensive understanding of bilingualism.

Xiang Lu
PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, GSAS

Synopsis of Research in Shanghai (September 2 - December 15) :

Lu's dissertation focuses on the intersection of two migration flows: the internal migration of Chinese Hui Muslims from the northwest to the southeast, and the international migration of merchants from Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries to Southeast China. She will conduct field work at two sites: (1) the city Yiwu in Southeast China, which has the world's largest small commodity wholesale market and is one of the most popular destinations for both Chinese internal migrants and immigrants from MENA countries, and (2) Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Gansu Province in Northwest China, which have the largest Hui communities in China and are the hometown of most Hui internal migrants in Southeast China. Through in-depth interviews and participant observation, she examines the interactions between the two migrant groups and whether and how these interactions affect the Hui internal migrants’ ethnic identification and conception.

Ayesha Omer
PhD Candidate, Department of Media, Culture and Communication, Steinhardt

Synopsis of Research in Shanghai (September 2 - December 15) :

Omer is a global media scholar from Karachi, Pakistan, whose research explores issues of political sovereignty, ecology, and technological mediation at the indigenous borderlands of Pakistan. She is currently completing her Ph.D. in the Department of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University. Her dissertation examines critical energy, trade, and internet infrastructures of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC): the Gwadar port at the Arabian Sea, the coal mine and power plant in the Thar Desert, and the Fiber Optic cable across the Karakoram Highway in the Himalayas. Combining ethnographic fieldwork, archival research, and visual media analysis, this project reveals how these ecological, political, and technological processes are today inflecting the imaginaries of the Pakistani nation and the Chinese globalization project. As a Global Dissertation Fellow at NYU Shanghai, she will conduct research on the construction of the transnational Karakoram Highway (KKH) from 1966-1978 in order to chart the history of Chinese infrastructure in Pakistan.

Yeorae Yoon
PhD Candidate, Institute of Fine Arts, GSAS

Synopsis of Research in Shanghai (September 2 - December 15) :

Yoon’s research focuses on the highly original painting of Gao Fenghan (1683-1749). Gao was born and grew up in Jiaozhou, a small town located on the east coast of Shandong province. In middle age, Gao began to work in the field administration, initially in Anhui​ province, as a low-level official. In 1737, at the age of 55, his right arm was paralyzed; shortly afterwards, he was dismissed from his position due to malicious slander. In order to support himself Gao subsequently continued to paint using his left hand, first in the​ Jiangnan region and later in his hometown in Shandong. Prolific and versatile, Gao​ Fenghan produced a large amount of paintings and calligraphy in various genres and techniques. During her residency at NYU Shanghai, she plans to work on two main projects. First, she will visit museums to study Gao Fenghan’s paintings first-hand. Shanghai museum has a large collection of Gao’s paintings. In addition, she will attempt to see as many of his paintings as possible in other museums within striking distance in order to understand better the characteristics of his works and judge their qualities. Secondly, she will make field trips to the sites in the Jiangnan region that Gao visited and painted. The map of his travels is fine-grained, connecting small Anhui cities such as Shexian, Anqing, Huizhou and the small Jiangsu city of Taizhou with the major urban centers in Nanjing, Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Yangzhou. She hopes to make short trips to these cities and follow the routes of his travels to understand what geographical and topographical features attracted Gao’s attention and artistic interest.