Introducing the Buffett Institute Postdocs

November 18, 2015

The Buffett academic community continues to grow and evolve in exciting ways thanks to Roberta Buffett Elliott’s recent gift. In addition to launching three new interdisciplinary research groups, four new working groups, four global partnerships, and a graduate student conference on global issues, the Institute welcomed its first cohort of postdoctoral fellows this past September.

ostdoctoral Fellows at the 2015 Buffett Institute Open HouseThis new fellowship provides support to top-notch researchers at the beginning of their careers, who in turn enhance the Northwestern community through participation and collaboration with multiple departments, centers, and groups on campus.

“These two-year positions will allow post-docs to develop their ideas, initiate new projects, publish their results, and enrich the interdisciplinary intellectual life of the Institute,” says Buffett Institute Director Bruce Carruthers. “Buffett post-docs also have the opportunity to teach Northwestern undergraduates, gaining valuable classroom experience while imparting their cutting-edge ideas. And even after they move on and as their careers advance, the Buffett Institute will benefit from an ever-growing network of former fellows, linking us to people and research institutions around the world.”

Although they have only been on campus for a few months, they are already settling into life at Northwestern. “It's lovely to be here! Everyone has been very welcoming and I keep finding new places on campus that I enjoy,” says postdoc Maria Akchurin. “I've been fortunate to start at the same time as two other Buffett postdocs as well as some really interesting visiting scholars. This has already created a sense of community and allowed me to learn about research from distinct perspectives in the social sciences and different parts of the world. The talks at Buffett and other parts of the university every week have been great for learning about recent research and starting to see familiar faces around campus.”

We encourage you to get to know all three of our postdocs and welcome them to the Northwestern community. The Buffett Institute is currently accepting applications for its next round of postdoctoral fellows, due December 1, 2015.

Maria Akchurin

PhD in Sociology, University of Chicago

Where you can find her at Northwestern:

Look for her in these Buffett Institute groups: 

Her current research: 

Maria studies the privatization of water utilities in Argentina and Chile. She is currently consulting archival materials and secondary historical sources on the World Bank, WHO, and other international organizations to understand how the human rights focus on water access inadvertently created an opening for the rise of the water privatization paradigm at the global level. She is also continuing her research on water-related conflicts in Chile and labor politics in Argentina. 

What she’s teaching this year:

Maria will be teaching the course on the politics of the environment in the spring 2016 quarter. The course will focus on the literature on environmental justice in a comparative context.

“My hope is that students will learn about the history of the environmentalist movement and different forms of environmental activism, as well as how environmental issues intersect with topics such as economic development, inequality, and the production of scientific knowledge,” she says.

Kathleen Klaus

PhD in Political Science, University of Wisconsin

Where you can find her at Northwestern:

Look for her in these Buffett Institute groups:

Her current research: 

Kathleen’s research examines the links between land, ethnic identity, migration, and violence in Africa. Her projects include exploring how campaign appeals that exploit themes of group injustice around land in Kenya affect support for political candidates, researching the link between internal displacement and conflict between “hosts” and “migrants” in Kenya, and studying how grassroots political parties mobilize voters in Ghana. Over the next two years she will also be working on her book manuscript, Claiming Land: Institutions, Narratives and Political Violence in Kenya, which is a study of land and the process of electoral violence in Kenya.

Courses she’s teaching this year: 

Kathleen’s course Land Rights and Conflict in a Global Perspective will be offered during the spring 2016 quarter. 

“My aim is for students to think about how struggles over access and rights to land can shape different forms of conflict and violence,” she says. “The course takes an interdisciplinary approach and should appeal to students interested in development, peace and conflict, human rights, and environmental politics.”

Nermeen Mouftah

PhD in Near and Middle Eastern civilizations, University of Toronto

Where you can find her at Northwestern:

Look for her in these Buffett Institute groups: 

Her current research: 

Nermeen is currently at work on the manuscript Subjects of Faith: Literacy and New Public Religion in Egypt, which unpacks how a literacy movement born out of the January 25 uprising mobilized the renegotiation and reconstitution of piety and politics. She is examining how literacy development is a part of Islamic reformist frameworks that are shaping public religion in post-Mubarak Egypt.

What she’s teaching this year:

Nermeen will be teaching The Anthropology of Religion in the spring 2016 quarter. The course will introduce students to key themes in the anthropology of religion by bringing classic thinkers into conversation with cutting-edge theory and ethnography.

“Our study will span geographic terrain and religious traditions. I'll be challenging students to develop their understanding of critical concepts and enduring questions, like what is religion, and what is its relation to secularism?” 

When she’s not at Northwestern: 

“I'm a community organizer in Chicago's south-side neighborhood of Englewood where I work on issues of food justice. I'm currently part of a campaign that works with corner stores to address injurious business practices, racial tensions, and unhealthy food options.”