Williams awards tenure to eleven faculty members.

The Board of Trustees of Williams College voted to promote eleven faculty to the position of associate professor with tenure. Promotions will take effect July 1, 2023, for Alexander Bevilacqua, history; Nicole Brown, classics; Pei-Wen Chen, biology; Brahim El Guabli, Arabic studies; Man He, Asian languages, literatures and cultures; Bill Jannen, computer science; Laura Martin, environmental studies; Sarah Olsen, classics; Ben Snyder, sociology; Mason Williams, leadership studies; and Ricardo A. Wilson, English.

Alexander Bevilacqua, History

Alexander Bevilacqua is a historian interested in the production of knowledge in early modern Europe. His first book, The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment (Harvard University Press, 2018), describes an intellectual community of 17th- and 18th-century European Christian scholars who worked to collect Islamic manuscripts, and to produce translations and interpretations of these works for readers across Europe. Awarded the prestigious Herbert Baxter Adams Prize by the American Historical Association and the Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize of Harvard University Press, this book challenges conventional views of this period, documenting a more equitable exchange of ideas between Europe and the Arabic-speaking world than has previously been understood. Bevilacqua is a co-editor of the collection Thinking in the Past Tense: Eight Conversations (University of Chicago Press, 2019) and the author of numerous articles and book reviews. He has completed fellowships at the Folger Institute and at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Bevilacqua’s next book project considers the making of racial identities in the court of Brandenburg. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes and serves as consulting editor to the Journal of the History of IdeasBevilacqua teaches courses on the history of Europe from Renaissance to Enlightenment, focusing on European expansion across the globe and its cultural and intellectual ramifications. He is actively involved in history department programming, and has served on the Committee on Educational Affairs. 

Nicole Brown, Classics

Nicole Brown is a scholar of ancient Roman literary, material and visual cultures. Her scholarly focus is on practices of monumentality, with a particular focus on the interplay between the urban and the rural. Brown has published in the top journals in her field, including American Journal of Archeology and TAPA. She has recently completed a monograph titled Once Cattle Grazed Here: Ancient Rome and the Rustic Past, which examines the ways in which ancient Romans conceived of their past through a “stratigraphic consciousness” that saw that past as a rural environment lying beneath the upper layers of Rome’s present day. Her current project focuses on the iconography of work and working in Roman art and literature. Brown teaches courses in Latin and in the literature and art of ancient Rome. She has introduced students to a wide range of material and visual sources for understanding the full scope of experience in ancient Rome, not only among the elite, but among women, children, enslaved persons and other socially marginal groups. She has also taught courses that look more broadly at garden cultures worldwide and in different time periods. Brown has served on the college’s Committee on Educational Affairs and the Faculty Steering Committee, among others.

Pei-Wen Chen, Biology

Pei-Wen Chen is a biologist whose research program focuses on cell function and cell signaling, and makes use of a wide variety of tools and techniques from biochemistry. She works with cancer cells as a model system, focusing on key cell functions such as differentiation and motility, and how mutated cancer cells make abnormal decisions around these functions. A major focus of her research group is the cell cytoskeleton (and in particular the ‘actomyosin’ network within it), and the ways that cells make use of internal and external signals to remodel these structures. She has mentored numerous Williams research students at various stages of their education, including them in all aspects of this experimental work. Two recent peer-reviewed publications describing this ongoing work have included three recent thesis students as co-authors. Chen has taught numerous courses since her arrival at Williams, ranging from large lecture-style courses (such as Essentials of Biochemistry) to upper-level electives and seminars in her particular area of expertise (such as Cellular Assembly and Movement, and Nanomachines in Living Systems). She has also been an active participant in her professional research community, in various biology department committees and on the college’s Faculty Steering Committee.

Brahim El Guabli, Arabic Studies

Brahim El Guabli is a scholar of the literature and cultural history of Tamazagha, the reach of indigenous peoples across North Africa. His work engages with desert studies, indigeneity, prison writing, Jewish studies, and theater and the “gothic” aesthetic, among others. His first book, Moroccan Other-Archives: History and Citizenship after State Violence (forthcoming, Fordham University Press, 2023), focuses on three marginalized and politically persecuted groups—Moroccan Jews, the Amazigh (indigenous peoples also known as Berbers), and political prisoners—during the period referred to as the “Years of Lead,” the rule of King Hassan II between 1960 and the late 1990s. He has also published dozens of scholarly articles, essays and reviews, and is the co-founder of the recently established journal Tamazgha Studies. He teaches all levels of Arabic language and a range of courses in Arabic and comparative literature and cultural history. His courses cover travel literature, the disappearance of Jews from Morocco and the imaginary that has developed around the Sahara and other deserts. In addition to being a faculty member of Arabic studies, he is also a participant in the programs in comparative literature and Jewish studies. He has served on the Comparative Literature Advisory Board, the Faculty Compensation Committee and the Faculty Lecture committee, among others.

Man He, Asian Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Man He is a scholar of modern and contemporary Chinese theater, literature and film. Her scholarly focus is on the development of theater and performance cultures in the first half of the 20th century. In addition to publishing in a number of major journals in her field, she has recently completed a monograph titled Backstaging Modern Chinese Theatre: Cosmopolitan Intellectuals, Grassroots Amateurs, and Cultural Institutions, 1910s-1940s. Through readings of previously unexamined materials, including performance programs, acting curricula, actors’ and directors’ script notes, staging materials of selected plays, representative meta-theaters and debates and other historical and contemporary sources, she offers a new history of huaju, a form of spoken drama. She is currently working on a new project examining the performative aspects of Asian American sporting cultures. She teaches advanced courses in Chinese language and a range of literature courses dealing with such topics as memory, illness and the transnational character of Chinese film. At Williams, she has served on the British Post-Graduate Fellowship Selection Committee and the Olmsted Committee. She has also served her field as vice president for the Association for Asian Performance.

Bill Jannen, Computer Science

Bill Jannen is a computer scientist who focuses on the physical properties of computer hardware and the software that optimizes its performance. He evaluates real-world models whose goal is to improve information storage and access. His work also aims to bridge the gap between physical storage devices and the ‘front-end’ needed to search for and access information. He and his collaborators have published a series of papers on both the theory, implementation and validation of new state-of-the art systems such as their BetrFS file system, which is widely cited for its innovation and performance. In addition to his role as a central member of this collaborative team, Jannen has included Williams students in research projects that explore new ideas for file storage and access. He teaches courses ranging from introductory programming classes to more advanced courses such as Computer Organization and Storage Systems. At Williams, he has been a contributor to departmental discussions about effective and inclusive pedagogy within his discipline, especially given the disruptions of the past few years. 

Laura Martin, Environmental Studies

Laura Martin is an environmental historian and an expert on the history of restoration ecology. Her book, Wild By Design: The Rise of Ecological Restoration (Harvard University Press, 2022) documents how restoration emerged as a design practice and scientific discipline, challenging the view of a dichotomy between conservation and preservation. The book further shows how the history of the restoration movement is entangled with settler colonialism, U.S. imperialism and corporate capitalism. She has published more than two dozen articles and book chapters. Her body of work investigates how ecological science and environmental management practices have shaped the natural world and asks how ecological interventions can be made more effective and just. Her next book project explores how herbicides have contributed to an environment increasingly covered by “grassscapes,” and the political and cultural implications of this change. She teaches courses on environmental justice, conservation and climate change, and environmental history, bringing together insights from the sciences and the humanities. A contributor to the Environmental Studies program as well as a thesis advisor, she has served on the Committee on Educational Affairs and the Science and Technology Studies Advisory Board.

Sarah Olsen, Classics

Sarah Olsen is a scholar of ancient Greek and Roman literature and performance cultures. Her monograph Solo Dance in Archaic and Classical Greek Literature: Representing the Unruly Body (Cambridge University Press, 2020) investigates the role of solo dance in the cultural poetics of archaic and classical Greece. She is also the co-editor of the newly published volume Queer Euripides: Re-readings in Greek Tragedy (Bloomsbury, 2022), a collection that brings together essays by scholars who use the lenses of queerness and queer theory to explore Euripidean drama in a range of periods and cultures. She has published numerous articles in journals and edited volumes in her field. She teaches ancient Greek language and literature at all levels, as well as a range of courses in translation covering topics such as the ancient novel, athletics and literature in ancient Greece, and Greek tragedy. She has co-led a Winter Study travel course, Performance and Place in Ancient Greece, taking students to the sites at which important genres of Greek literature were originally performed. She has been an active participant in the growing area of performance studies at the college, collaborating with colleagues in working theater, dance, the CenterSeries and WCMA. She has also served on the Committee on Priorities and Resources.

Ben Snyder, Sociology

Ben Snyder is an ethnographer of work and organizations. His research interests include time and temporality, the culture of overwork and surveillance. In his book The Disrupted Workplace: Time and the Moral Order of Flexible Capitalism (Oxford University Press, 2016), he theorizes that rhythms are central to the construction of social groups. The book also examines how surveillance technology has made it easier for employers to track and manage workers’ time, and details the ways that workers struggle to find meaning and coherence when work schedules fragment time in unpredictable ways. Expanding on his interests in technology and surveillance, Snyder’s current research project, Spy Plane: Inside Baltimore’s Surveillance Experiment, focuses on an aerial surveillance system used by the Baltimore Police Department, and will be published by University of California Press. He has also published widely in journals in his field. At Williams, he teaches a variety of sociology courses, many deeply connected to his research, including Work and the Future of Capitalism and The Panopticon: Surveillance, Power, and Inequality. All of his courses emphasize place-based experiential learning. Snyder also contributes to the program in Science and Technology Studies and has served on the Committee on Diversity and Community.

Mason Williams, Leadership Studies

Mason Williams studies political leadership and state institutions, investigating the relationship between capitalism and democracy in 20th-century American cities. His first book, City of Ambition: FDR, La Guardia, and the Making of Modern New York (Norton, 2013) analyzes how the institutional capacities of local government in New York City interacted with New Deal policies. His interests in urban intergovernmental politics are explored further in his co-edited collection Shaped by the State: Toward a New Political History of the Twentieth Century (University of Chicago Press, 2019). His next book project investigates how urban inequality in New York City has evolved in the context of changing educational, policing and housing policies adopted after the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. He has also published essays in Dissent and The Atlantic, and is the recipient of a prestigious fellowship at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Williams teaches courses at all levels of the Leadership Studies concentration, including electives on race and inequality and New York City politics. He has also served on the Claiming Williams Committee.

Ricardo A. Wilson, English

Ricardo A. Wilson is a scholar of comparative literature whose work engages with and contributes interventions to multiple fields, including Anglophone literary studies, Black and Africana studies, Latinx studies, Mexican studies and American studies. His recent monograph, The Nigrescent Beyond: Mexico, the United States, and the Psychic Vanishing of Blackness (Northwestern University Press, 2020), examines how, over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, Mexico conceived of itself as a nation without a Black presence. His work develops a theoretical framework to increase understanding of the way multicultural and post-racial discourses in the United States function to erase both Black subjectivity and the history of that suppression and erasure. In addition to writing criticism, Wilson is also a prolific author of fiction, much of which exists in productive dialogue with his critical work. He recently published An Apparent Horizon and Other Stories (PANK Books, 2021) and is the recipient of numerous awards for his writings. His courses include Contemporary Mexican Cinema, James Baldwin and His Interlocutors, The Nineteenth Century and Its Shadow, and Race and the Zombie Apocalypse, among others. He has served on the Standing Grievance Panel and the Bolin Fellowship Search Committee and has participated with the Mellon Mays/Allison Davis Research Fellowship Program.

Published January 24, 2023