Hi! I am Ramya, a first year graduate student in History at Michigan State. I am broadly interested in borderlands history, urban history and environmental history (specifically water). I come to history from an inter-disciplinary background in Journalism, Political Science, Science Technology Studies and most recently, Urban Design. I recently completed a Master’s thesis positing the idea of a political border as infrastructure (most of my thesis is available at here), using the case study of the Detroit River

 DSC_0463My proposed doctoral project aims to understand the relationship between a political border and urban form. I view the urban and environmental history of the US Canada border along the Detroit River as a critically under-researched topic. Through an exploration of the relationship between urban history and the political border, I want to explore a more bottom up way of envisioning and analyzing the border. Extant work on the US Canada border has analyzed the changing relationship of the two countries (especially post 9/11). However, there is little or no work on the Detroit Windsor border linking city growth with the formation of the US-Canada border.

My proposed project for the Cultural Humanities Informatics Fellowship aims to map the Underground Railroad vis-à-vis changes in urban form on both sides of the Detroit River border between the United States and Canada through the 19th century. Thus far, scholarly work on the Underground Railroad has been focused on important actors and events. In relating growing urban areas on both sides of the Detroit River with the Underground Railroad through the 19th century, I aim to spatialize the operation of the Underground Railroad.  By tracing the relationship of infrastructure (i.e. technology, people and places) of the Underground Railroad to the growth of urban areas on both sides of the Detroit River, I aim to move beyond traditional scholarship on the subject. I see this project folding into my larger dissertation that aims to examine the relationship between city growth and border making, particularly of Detroit and Windsor.

One of my motivations in applying to MSU is the tremendous support offered to digital humanities. I am very excited to be a part of such an inter-disciplinary cohort and look forward to learning from my peers!