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MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences welcomes six new faculty – MIT News


Interim Dean Agustín Rayo and the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences recently welcomed the newest members of the MIT SHASS faculty. The six new faculty for Fall 2021 bring an array of research interests and domain knowledge to MIT, including: ethical questions about misinformation and lying; macroeconomics; economic theory; transnational power and civic media; the literature and thought of East Asia; and the politics of trade.

Ian Ball joins the Department of Economics as an assistant professor, having studied mathematics at Stanford University and pursuing advanced degrees in economics at Yale University, where he earned his doctorate in economics in 2020. Ball’s research focuses on economic theory, particularly information and mechanism design.

Sam Berstler is the newest member of the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy faculty. Berstler comes to MIT from Princeton University, where she was a postdoc, after completing her PhD at Yale. Her recent academic work investigates the structure, function, and ethics of insincere conversations. She recently co-organized the interdisciplinary Revisiting the Common Ground Conference, which brought together philosophers, cognitive scientists, and linguists to address foundational issues in the study of conversation.

Wiebke Denecke is already a familiar face in the MIT Literature Section; she served as a visiting professor before joining the department this year as a professor. Her research and teaching encompass classical literature and thought of China, Japan, and Korea; comparative studies of East Asia and the pre-modern world; world literature; and the politics of cultural heritage and memory. Prior to MIT she held appointments at Barnard College/Columbia University and at Boston University, and visiting professor appointments at Doshisha University (Kyoto) and Korea University (Seoul). Denecke is the general editor of “The Hsu-Tang Library of Classical Chinese Literature” and the East Asia editor of “The Norton Anthology of World Literature.” She earned her PhD at Harvard University after completing her BA and MA at the University of Göttingen in her native Germany.

Mariya Grinberg is a new assistant professor in the Department of Political Science. Her research interests include: why states trade with their enemies; how time and uncertainty shape nations’ strategic decisions; and the process of state decline. She earned a PhD from the University of Chicago in 2019, and has been a postdoc at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University and at the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth University.

Christian Wolf joins the Department of Economics as a new assistant professor this semester. His research includes macroeconomics, monetary economics, and time series econometrics. He arrives at MIT from a fellowship at University of Chicago following an MA and PhD in economics from Princeton University. He also currently serves as a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Sulafa Zidani enters the MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing program as an assistant professor of global civic media. Having worked as a teacher, research assistant, and translator in Palestine, Israel, China, and the United States, Zidani earned her PhD at the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, where she was also a founding member of the Critical Mediations graduate student conference. Her academic work focuses on the social, political, and cultural dynamics in which technology operates and the role tech plays in transnational power.



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