Affiliated Fellows

Alexander Bigman

Alexander Bigman is a historian of modern and contemporary art. His research focuses in particular upon the emergence, circa 1980, of postmodernism as an internationally circulating set of intertwined discourses, creative practices, and political positions. He is currently at work on a book project derived from his dissertation, “Picturing Fascism in Post-Conceptual Art, 1974 - 1984,” which examines how the history and aesthetics of interwar European fascism became newly salient objects of inquiry and representation for artists associated with the so-called “Pictures Generation,” a group defined by its use of imagery drawn from popular culture and its critical engagement with the dynamics of mass media. For artists who were born after World War II and established their careers at a moment marked by rightward political shift, such taboo imagery became a provocative, if often problematic, means of addressing such matters as the representability of history, the nature of cultural memory and its role in group identity formation, and the political ramifications of embracing figuration, photomechanical or otherwise, following the predominantly abstract paradigms of postwar modernism. Alex is also a practicing critic. He received his PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, and his BA from the University of California at Berkeley.

L. Benjamin Rolsky

L. Benjamin Rolsky received his PhD from Drew University in American Religious Studies. His work has appeared in a variety of academic and popular venues including Method and Theory in the Study of Religion and the Journal of the American Academy of Religion as well as The Christian Century, The Los Angeles Review of Books, CNN Opinion, and the Religion and Culture Forum at the University of Chicago. His research and teaching interests include religion and politics, the study of popular culture, and critical theory. Rolsky’s first monograph, The Rise and Fall of the Religious Left: Politics, Television, and Popular Culture in the 1970s and Beyond, was published last year with Columbia University Press. Once complete, he plans to begin research on a second book project that examines the history of the New Christian Right across the 20th century.

Heather Steffen

Heather Steffen is a scholar of 20th- and 21st-century U.S. literature and culture whose research investigates how concepts of labor, learning, and public service are produced through the interplay between rhetorical practices and material conditions in American universities. Her book project, Useful Work: Imagining Academic Labor in the American University, examines how professors, teacher-scholars, and para-academics theorize academic labor in critical and narrative writing. The book identifies four models of academic labor operating in faculty discourse since the emergence of the modern American university—professional, unionist, vocational, and entrepreneurial—and explores how the tensions between these models influence key debates in higher education, such as those surrounding academic freedom, casualization, or graduate education. Before coming to Rutgers, Heather earned a Ph.D. in Literary and Cultural Studies at Carnegie Mellon University, taught as a lecturer in the Writing Program at UC Santa Barbara, and researched metrics and measurement in higher education as an NEH-funded postdoctoral scholar in UCSB’s English Department and Chicano Studies Institute.

Michelle Smiley

Michelle Smiley is a scholar of 19th-century photography and visual culture whose research investigates the intersection of aesthetics and scientific practice in the antebellum United States. Her current book project, Daguerreian Democracy: Art, Science, and Politics in Antebellum American Photography, examines how the daguerreotype became an object of technological, scientific, and commercial innovation for antebellum scientists, artisans, and political thinkers. By chronicling the contributions of these often-overlooked actors, she explores how the daguerreotype was an object of transatlantic scientific experimentation, a key component of government projects of nation-building, as well as an object of fascination for theorists of democracy. Before coming to Rutgers, Michelle held the Wyeth Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts in Washington, D.C. She holds an A. B., M.A. and Ph.D. in History of Art from Bryn Mawr College.