Two from UC Santa Cruz awarded Fulbright grants

Lucia Vitale
Lucia Vitale is a PhD candidate in the Department of Politics.
Catherine Ries
Catherine Ries is a Visual Studies PhD candidate in the History of Art and Visual Culture Department.

Two PhD candidates at UC Santa Cruz have been offered prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program grants for the 2022-2023 academic year.

The Fulbright Program is the United States government’s flagship international educational exchange program, awarding grants in over 150 countries to fund up to 12 months of international experience including independent research, graduate study, and English teaching.

Lucia Vitale, a PhD candidate in the Department of Politics, will use her award to cover 10 months of fieldwork in the Dominican Republic and Haiti for her dissertation project entitled “The Borders of Health Citizenship: Multiscalar Inclusion and Exclusion along the Dominican-Haitian Border.” Vitale’s work is interested in healthcare access in the Global South, specifically the ways that people are included in or excluded from health services as they navigate a fragmented mix of state and non-state health services, including the numerous charity health programs operated by transnational organizations. Vitale refers to the political relationships through which health rights are endowed as ‘Health Citizenship.’

Vitale’s work brings into closer conversation three distinct fields of literature—global health, social policy, and citizenship—in order to better understand and comment on how health services are defined at national and transnational scales, and the important ways that these definitions land locally to shape the everyday healthcare experiences of individuals in countries of the Global South.

She credits the interdisciplinary nature of her education at UCSC for shaping her project. “I’m so grateful to the Politics Department at UCSC and the way it teaches us why an interdisciplinary approach is important,” she says. “It allows you to ask different kinds of questions as compared to a more disciplinary approach.”

Vitale, who had earlier served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, is excited to head to its border with Haiti this fall. “It’s going to be wonderful to return to a place I care about and to be able to observe closely the local scale health politics that my project is so interested in.” 

For Vitale, this opportunity also comes with great responsibility as a researcher. “It’s crucial to maintain a critical awareness of your positionality while you’re in the field,” she explains. “You have to recognize the assumptions or biases that you bring along with you. Thinking constantly about the ethics of your research is the most important part of any investigatory social science project.”

Catherine Ries, a Visual Studies PhD candidate in the History of Art and Visual Culture Department, was also offered a Fulbright award for her dissertation project, “Facets of the Feminine: Portraits of Javanese Women, Material Culture, and Islam,” which investigates how gender and religious ideologies in Java are represented or made manifest through historical portraits, contemporary arts, and visual culture.

Ries writes in a project synopsis, “A plethora of writings have already established the role masculinity plays in Javanese culture and the effects of colonialism in defining maleness. However, less thoroughly considered is the topic of the feminine in the Javanese context. Local understanding of women's visual representations remains under-theorized, especially vis-a-vis changes in light of Islamization.”