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Sarah Nelson

Sarah is a fifth-year PhD candidate in 20th-century US and international history, pursuing a joint-PhD in Comparative Media Analysis and Practice. Her research focuses on the international history of media and telecommunications policy in international organizations. Her dissertation, tentatively titled “Freedom of Information: the promises and failures of international telecommunication regulation, 1919-1984,” investigates how definitions of and visions for “freedom of information” competed in the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the League of Nations, and Unesco, from the interwar period to the United States’ withdrawal from Unesco in 1984. The project explores how the political goal of freedom of information engaged and conflicted with national sovereignty and monopoly ownership of telecom in a capitalist-imperial global economy. The project therefore investigates how international organizations facilitated and constrained freedom of information. But it is also about the reverse: how debates over freedom of information and the international telecommunications system informed the ethos and institutional structure of international organizations and global governance between the interwar period and the 1980s.

Sarah received a 2017-18 Mellon Fellowship for the Digital Humanities in support of her joint-PhD in Comparative Media. Her work in the Digital Humanities has produced interactive digital timelines, ArcGIS ESRI Story Maps, and podcasts produced with LogicPro X. She has presented research and coordinated panels at the conferences of the Society of US Intellectual Historians and the International Conference on Communication and Media Studies.

Sarah has teaching experience in the department of history and the communications department. She has also served in a variety of roles within the Vanderbilt community, including: Graduate History Association (GHA) co-president, GHA Social Chair; graduate representative to the Graduate School’s Working Group on Graduate Education; graduate representative to the History Department Committee on Community Ethics; and student coordinator of the Americanist Seminar.

She is advised by Paul Kramer and Sarah Igo; her joint-PhD in CMAP is supervised by Lutz Koepnick.