SNF Paideia Post-Doctoral Fellow, Katerina Traut, earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from Vanderbilt University in 2023. Her works focuses on architecture, space, race, and feminist methodology.
Her dissertation, “Poisonous Insecurity: A Political Theory of the Roots of Racism in the Architecture of Colonialism,” develops a historical ethnographic methodology for studying the dynamic of space and political thought. It develops this methodology from a specific case, 18th century European forts used during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and with Toni Morrison’s rememory and Saidiya Hartman’s critical fabulation. The dissertation uses grounded theory of the British slave-trading company archive, European fortification history, and site visits at historical architectures in Ghana and England. Katerina argues that fortification as an architecture inspired companymen’s bodily sensations of insecurity and that these bodily sensations motivated specific racialized and spatialized governance tactics. This dissertation begins to explore enslaved peoples’ architectures of resistance.
Over the last two years with VICTR Meharry-Vanderbilt Community Engaged Research Core and VU’s Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy, Katerina has developed relationships and a community-engaged research project with Nashville-based Brooklyn Heights Community Garden (BHCG). In her work, she considers the ways in which community gardens are political architectures that foster empowerment, storytelling, and relational foundations for anti-racist politics. She is using ethnography, interviews, and local archives to collect stories of the land and experiences with the garden and has created an ArcGIS Storymap to share the findings publicly on the garden’s website after her 2021-2022 Mellon Digital Humanities Fellowship. Through this work, Katerina has considered the ways in which community members can be brought into the academic research process, making knowledge production and the outputs of research more equitable and useful for communities.
Finally, Katerina has trained alongside Nashville and Memphis activists in Transformative Justice process facilitation. She is passionate about supporting survivors and harmers towards accountability and healing, as well as supporting communities as they transform relationships of power and abuse. On a smaller scale, Katerina is interested in learning and teaching around apologies, care, feedback, and generative conflict.