Bench Ansfield

Dream Mentor:
Robin Kelley
University of California, Los Angeles


Bench Ansfield is completing their Ph.D. in American studies at Yale University, after which they will be an American Democracy Fellow at Harvard University’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History. In addition to being a Jefferson Scholars National Fellow for the 2020-2021 academic year, Bench is a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow. Their dissertation, Born in Flames: Arson, Racial Capitalism, and the Reinsuring of the Bronx in the Late Twentieth Century, examines the wave of arson-for-profit that coursed through the Bronx and many other US cities in the 1970s. The dissertation’s first chapter won the Organization of American Historians’ Pelzer Prize for the best essay in American history by a graduate student, and it was recently published in the Journal of American History. Their peer-edited articles have also appeared in American Quarterly, Antipode, as well as the collection, Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis (2015), edited by Katherine McKittrick. Committed to public humanities, Bench worked as a researcher on the PBS-aired documentary Decade of Fire (2019), and they’ve written for the Washington Post, Tikkun, and other popular publications. Their research has benefited from additional support from the Council on Library and Information Resources and the Social Science Research Council, among others.

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