Miller Center

Miller Center National Fellowship

Beginning in the 2017-2018 academic year, the National Fellowship Program, a longstanding initiative of the Miller Center, will fall under the leadership of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation at U.Va.. The Jefferson Scholars Foundation, created in 1980, currently offers the premier graduate fellowship and undergraduate scholarship at the University. To learn more about the National Fellows Program, including how to apply, click here.

Meet The Fellows

David Dagan - Political Science, Johns Hopkins University

Project: "Building the Big House: American Institutions and the Rise of Mass Incarceration, 1980-1995"

Dagan  photo

Fellowship year: 2017

Mentor: Kimberly Johnson, Columbia University

David Dagan’s dissertation examines the rise of mass incarceration in the United States as a project of state-building—a major expansion of government authority and capacity. While scholars have typically associated American state-building with centralization and particularly with the expansion of social policy, Dagan emphasizes the role of decentralization and the expansion of penal policy.

Dagan argues that mass incarceration was spurred by “interdependent fragmentation” – the condition that American governing authority is split both vertically and horizontally, even while policy responsibility is shared across those levels. This combination provided policy makers with substantial buck-passing opportunities that exacerbated punitive electoral dynamics and weakened moderating influences, particularly by putting off a reckoning with prison crowding and costs. Dagan shows these dynamics at work in Pennsylvania and Texas, where prosecutors fought pitched battles against judges and jailers throughout the 1980s, centered on the problem of prison crowding.

Dagan also traces the flow of tough-on-crime rhetoric back and forth between Washington, D.C., and the states. He argues that federal leadership was important in the rise of mass incarceration, even absent significant centralization. This leadership occurred through professional networks, which diffused ideologies and technologies of punishment to the decision makers sitting at the policy levers—state and local officials.

The project helps to link the analysis of rhetoric, policy choices, and outcomes in the mass-incarceration literature. It contributes to a new understanding of the American state by showing that fragmentation enables and even drives the particular brand of state power Dagan dubs coercive capacity.


Benjamin Holtzman - History, Brown University

Project: Crisis and Confidence: Reimagining New York City in the Late Twentieth Century

Holtzman photo

Fellowship year: 2016

Mentor: Suleiman Osman, The George Washington University

Crisis and Confidence: Reimagining New York City in the Late Twentieth Century uses the sweeping transformation of post-1960s New York City to understand the broader remaking of the United States in the latter twentieth century. The project begins in the crisis-plagued New York City of the 1960s, the inauguration of more than a decade of widespread economic and political turmoil, and ends with the city’s proclaimed resurgence in the 2000s. During this period, diverse groups of city-dwellers, including grassroots organizations, non-profit foundations, elites, and elected officials worked to reshape New York as overlapping crises disrupted long-standing logics of urban governance and economics. In chronicling these varied initiatives, Crisis and Confidence reveals a defining characteristic of the period: as different sectors simultaneously embraced the sentiment that city government no longer worked, many turned toward market-based governing logics to sustain key areas of city life. These turns illustrate the powerful connection between local conditions and the broader shift toward a marketized political economy.


Christopher Jones - History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania

Project: Energy Highways: Canals, Pipes, and Wires Transform the Mid-Atlantic

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Fellowship year: 2009

Mentor: John McNeill, Georgetown University

Christopher Jones is Assistant Professor of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University.

Jones is a historian of energy, technology, and environment who studies how we have come to use and depend on fossil fuel energy sources and how these decisions have changed the ways we live, work, and play. 

Jone's dissertation argued that energy transporters occupied a central position between producers and consumers and actively shaped the mid-Atlantic's energy history through choices about how canals, pipes, and wires were built, how they were operated, and where they went. His project consisted of three sections analyzing the transportation and consumption of coal (1820–1860), oil (1860–1900) and electricity (1900–1930). In his work, Jones drew on and integrated the insights of historians of technology, energy, industrialization, regional development, and the environment. He additionally highlighted the social effects of the transportation of energy and included social policy implications.

Selected Recent Publications

Christopher Jones is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.

Routes of Power: Energy and Modern America (Harvard University Press, 2014).


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