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Student Research Profile: Samuel Pizelo

Samuel Pizelo
Samuel Pizelo, BA 2014
Student Research Profile: Samuel Pizelo

My research focuses on the antebellum period of the American Republic, and the transition of American knowledge into a modern episteme (invoking Michel Foucault). I encounter this broader goal through a focus on the modern observer, and the social networks within which it is situated. More specifically, I examine the organization of empirical knowledge around the observer in what I term “spectrality” (with a nod to Marc Guillame and Jean Baudrillard)—the phenomena that occur on the topography of the eyes, from the diffusion of the spectrum of light to the appearance of specters in hauntings. I do this through the readings of a number of cultural objects; a painting by American artist John Quidor, the gothic-romantic texts of Charles Brockden Brown and Nathaniel Hawthorne, the spiritualist writing of Robert Dale Owen, the technology of the combination daguerreotype/stereoscope, and a daguerreotype taken of a dead child (a common practice at the time). To collide these disparate cultural objects, I use Bruno Latour’s Actor Network Theory (ANT), an action-focused bottom up approach of social analysis. By taking this more holistic approach, I noticed that the antebellum Republic exhibited a preoccupation with representations of spectrality in Art, scientifico-cultural disciplines (such as Mesmerism and Spiritualism), and technology. It is my contention that this Actor Network of spectrality emerged to enclose the anxieties of subjective vision within language, natural science, and the mind, and sought to regain fixity of truth for the modern subject.

BA in English: Language & Literature, 2014
UW English Department Honors


  • UW Library Research Award, 2014
  • Novaris Award for Innovation, Harvard University NCRC, 2014
  • Mary Gates Research Scholarship, Winter 2014
  • Undergraduate Research Leader, UW Undergraduate Research Program, 2013-2014
  • Elizabeth Kerr Macfarlane Humanities Award, 2013
  • Mary Gates Research Scholarship, Summer 2013
  • UW Summer Research Institute in the Arts & Humanities, 2013
  • Eilert Anderson Scholarship, 2013
  • Edith K. Draham Scholarship for Fiction, 2013
  • Charlotte Paul Reese Fiction Award runner up, 2013


  • "Flirting with Nash: Performing Capital and the Politics of Forgetting in Techno-economic Games," Theater, Performance, Philosophy Conference: Crossings and Transfers in Contemporary Anglo-American Thought, Paris-Sorbonne University, June 2014
  • "'Born Dying': Cultural Futures, Social Space, and the Reproductive Economy in Southern African AIDS Narratives," Comparative Literature Undergraduate Research Conference, University of California, Berkeley, May 2014
  • "'Born Dying:' Cultural Futures, Social Space, and Reproductive Economy in Southern African AIDS Narratives," UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, Seattle, May 2014
  • "Dissembling the Social: Following HIV Through the Social Body," National Collegiate Research Conference, Harvard University, Cambridget, January 2014
  • "Biopower and Heterology: An Examination of Protest and Resistance through the Photographs of Abu Ghraib," UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, Seattle, May 2013
Status of Research or Work: