Project Leads


Farès el-Dahdah, Lead Principal Investigator

Farès el-Dahdah received his undergraduate degrees in fine arts and in architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design and went on to pursue his graduate studies in urbanism and architectural theory at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design. Following a two decade long professorial track at Rice University's School of Architecture, he was appointed director of the Humanities Research Center (HRC) in 2012 and Professor of the Humanities in 2014. El-Dahdah was a visiting fellow at the Canadian Center for Architecture and is currently a Faculty Scholar at the Baker Institute for Public Policy. He has written extensively on Brazil's modern architecture and has been involved in a number of collaborative projects with Casa de Lucio Costa and Fundação Oscar Niemeyer, two Brazilian cultural foundations on the boards of which he serves. In 2015-16, el-Dahdah co-led a John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures Cultures, titled, Platforms of Knowledge in a Wide Web of Worlds: Production, Participation, and Politics, and, is currently co-leading a Digital Art History Grant, titled Situated Views of Rio de Janeiro: 19th and Early 20th-Century Photography, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon and Getty Foundations, respectively. His current research interests explore and critique how digital platforms uphold the mission of disseminating knowledge while developing online geospatial platforms that describe cities over time, as they existed and as they have come to be imagined. At Rice, el-Dahdah's activities extend across the university in his capacity as co-chair of the University Committee on Information Technology as well as a member of the university's Digital Education Committee. As director of the HRC, el-Dahdah is involved in identifying, encouraging, and funding the research projects of faculty, visiting scholars, graduate, and undergraduate students as well as spearheading new ventures in the humanities and beyond.


Melissa Bailar, Co-Principal Investigator

Melissa Bailar is Professor in the Practice of Humanities and the Associate Director of the Humanities Research Center at Rice University. Bailar’s background is in French studies, and she has published articles on the actress Sarah Bernhardt, the feminist poet Nicole Brossard, digital archives, and trends in higher education and is the editor of the collection Emerging Disciplines (Rice University Press, 2010). She has served as a co-principal investigator on three grants supported by the Andrew W Mellon Foundation: a John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures titled “Platforms of Knowledge in a Wide Web of Worlds: Production, Participation, Politics,” a Public Humanities Initiative with a focus on Medical Humanities and Cultural Heritage, and a multi-institutional digital humanities network. She also serves as a co-principal investigator on an American Council of Learned Societies humanities postdoctoral fellowship initiative and a National Endowment for the Humanities award for a workshop in digital textual analysis. She teaches courses on critical humanities of health, French film, and nineteenth-century French literature.


Joseph Campana, Co-Principal Investigator

Joseph Campana is a poet, arts writer and scholar of Renaissance literature, with essays on Spenser, Shakespeare, Nashe, Defoe, Middleton, poetry and poetics, and the history of sexuality in PMLA, Modern Philology, ELH, Shakespeare, and elsewhere. He is the author of The Pain of Reformation: Spenser, Vulnerability, and the Ethics of Masculinity (Fordham UP, 2012), the co-editor of Renaissance Posthumanism (Fordham, 2016), and the author of three collections of poetry, The Book of Faces (Graywolf, 2005), Natural Selections (2012), which received the Iowa Poetry Prize, and The Book of Life (Tupelo, 2019). His poems appear in Slate, Kenyon Review, Poetry, Conjunctions, Colorado Review, and many other venues. Individual poems have garnered prizes from Prairie Schooner and The Southwest Review. He has received the Isabel MacCaffrey Essay Prize, the MLA’s Crompton-Noll Award for LGB studies, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and the Houston Arts Alliance.

Campana serves as editor of 1500-1659 of Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, for which he has also edited a series of special issues: “Staging Allegory” (Spring 2015), “After Sovereignty” (Winter 2018), and Shakespeare’s Waters” (Spring 2019).

Recently published essays treat a range of figurations of creaturely life in early modern England--busy bees, bleeding trees, and crocodile tears. Current projects include a study of children, futurity, and sovereignty in the works of Shakespeare entitled The Child’s Two Bodies, a two-volume edited collection on Renaissance insect life called Lesser Living Creatures, and a collection of poems entitled Live Oak. His reviews of theater, dance, books, television, and the arts appear in The Kenyon Review, The Houston Chronicle, and other venues.


Kathleen Canning, Co-Principal Investigator

Kathleen Canning assumed the position of Dean of the School of Humanities and Andrew W. Mellon Professor of History at Rice University in January 2018. She was previously Sonya O. Rose Collegiate Professor of History and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of History, Women's Studies and German at the University of Michigan. She chaired the UM History Department from 2013 to 2017 and was founding director of the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies.

She is the author of Languages of Labor and Gender (Cornell 1996) and Gender History in Practice (Cornell 2006) and co-editor of Weimar Publics/Weimar Subjects: Rethinking the Political Culture of Germany in the 1920s (Berghahn 2010). Her current book project is entitled Citizenship Effects: Gender and Sexual Crisis in the Aftermath of War and Revolution in Germany.

Since 2011 she has been the editor of the University of Michigan Press series on Social History, Popular Culture and Politics in Germany. At Michigan she received the John D’Arms Award for Distinguished Graduate Mentoring in the Humanities and the Matthews Underclass Teaching Award for her contributions to undergraduate education.


Sophie Sapp Moore, Postdoctoral Fellow

Sophie Sapp Moore is a broadly-trained political ecologist with a background in critical geography, comparative literature, and postcolonial theory. Moore holds a PhD in Cultural Studies from UC Davis, with a Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory. She is currently a Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2018-2020) and will be joining Diluvial Houston in January 2021. Her interdisciplinary research uses ethnographic and historical methods to understand intersecting processes of socio-ecological and political change in the Afro-Caribbean. Moore has conducted ethnographic research in rural Haiti since 2012, working with peasants, social movement leaders, organizers, and trainers, as well as international aid and local grassroots organizations. She writes and teaches on a diverse array of subjects that bridge critical geography, postcolonial theory, and the environmental humanities, including rural development, agrarian social movements, Black political thought, and race and space in the Americas.

Moore serves as a member of the editorial collective of ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, a member of the Governing Board of the Cultural Studies Association, and a co-founder of the Left Coast Political Ecology Network. Her current research combines ethnographic and historical approaches to agrarian transformation in Haiti, looking at formations of race, power, knowledge, and capital in Hispaniola's hinterlands. In her book manuscript, Freedom's Ground, Moore examines the political ecology of agrarian life in Haiti’s central borderlands. The book draws primarily from ethnographic fieldwork conducted with the Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP, or Peasants’ Movement of Papaye) in central Haiti between 2013 and 2017 to analyze the political life and histories of militants in the movement.


Sean Morey Smith, Postdoctoral Project Manager

Sean Morey Smith received his PhD in History in 2020 from Rice University. His dissertation, “Race and Abolition in the Anglophone Atlantic, c. 1730 – 1840,” argues that racialized ideas of health and climate became increasingly entrenched as Britons and Americans publicly debated whether to ban the African slave trade and racial slavery. In particular, the belief that people of African descent were more able to work in warm climates than those descended from Europe contributed to locating racial difference in heritable bodily characteristics. By emphasizing the ways that climatic-racial arguments for and against slavery complemented the more commonly studied cultural and religious ones, Smith shows that essentialist understandings of bodily difference between white and black people gained power around the turn of the nineteenth century as slavery increasingly became an contested political issue. Alternatively, African-descended activists combatted these climatic-racial interpretations in order to buttress their goals of inclusion and citizenship. These activists realized as early as the 1820s that racial justice was intimately tied to the environment and narratives of development. While their arguments went largely unheeded at the time, this research attempts to bring new attention to their perspectives.