Team Member Bios

Study 3 Team
Memorialization, Contested Knowledge, and the Sociopsychological Impacts of Disinformation in the Context of COVID-19

Cat Dang Ton  

Cat Dang Ton holds a Bachelor’s in Sociology from Grinnell College. Her research interests lie in the intersections of racial or migrant marginalization and death, grievability, memorialization and mortuary culture. Whether it is about racial representation in COVID-19 news, memorials, or funeral programs as windows into Baltimore’s African-American history, her work has been deeply inspired by the study of necropolitics, or how agents of power and social structures assign differential values to human lives. For this project, she is currently assisting with an oral history of African-American funeral directors as key witnesses to COVID-19’s impact on communal mourning. 

Sadaf Dastan 

Sadaf Dastan is a recent M.A. graduate in International Affairs from The George Washington University. Her research interests include U.S. policymaking, Middle East studies, and sociocultural anthropology. As a graduate research assistant for Rituals in the Making, she has focused on online text and audio-based COVID misinformation and disinformation. Since the summer, she has been a research assistant analyzing COVID memorialization efforts within the United States, as well as COVID misinformation on a global scale. 

 Sarah Frieman  

Sarah Frieman is an anthropology student at the George Washington University. She joined the research team in the Spring of 2022 and has assisted in the study of COVID-19 memorialization efforts in comparison to contested-information actions. In addition to COVID-19 research, her areas of interest include the study of cultural diasporas, migration and borders, and identity-forming knowledge production. 

Paige Gavin  

Paige Gavin is completing a dual BA/MA degree in anthropology at the George Washington University with a focus on medical anthropology. Her interests include the areas of death and dying, various grief forms, memorialization of COVID deaths, and trauma of healthcare workers. She has previous research and volunteer experience with hospice care, and is working on the Rituals in the Making project by recording various forms of COVID memorials in the United States. 

Maura Kelly-Yuoh  

Maura Kelly-Yuoh is a student in the Milken Institute at the George Washington University pursuing a B.S. in Public Health. She is focused on maternal and child health as well as biological anthropology, with previous experience in gestational diabetes research and mental health care availability and licensure. She joined this project in early 2021 to assist with the investigation of COVID-19 remembrance on social media, and is currently analyzing the evolution of advocacy groups throughout the pandemic. 

James R. Morgan III 

James R. Morgan III specializes in researching African American fraternal organizations and genealogy. His debut work: The Lost Empire: Black Freemasonry in the Old West (1867-1906) was awarded the Dr. Charles H. Wesley Medal of History (2019), The Phillis Wheatley Book Award (2020) and the International AAHGS Book Award for Regional History (2021). Mr. Morgan is a graduate of Howard University and currently enrolled in the Morgan State University School of Graduate Studies. 

Sarah Peralta 

Sarah Peralta is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Human Services Psychology program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where she is currently studying Child-Clinical and Community Psychology. She earned her M.A. in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness at New York University in 2018 and later became a bereavement counselor specializing in children’s grief and child loss. Her research interests are on issues related to grief and bereavement in the United States juvenile and criminal justice system. She has a specific interest in the numerous ways that grief expressions in marginalized communities can become pathologized/penalized. Sarah is also a Healthy Policy Research Scholar under the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

Lauren Petree  

Lauren Petree is an International Affairs and French Language, Literature, and Culture student at the George Washington University. She is focused in conflict-resolution within the International Affairs sphere and United States relations with the European Union. She joined this project in the Spring of 2021 to assist with the analyzation and investigation of COVID-19 on social media and is currently analyzing various COVID-19 memorialization websites online. 

Pyar Seth  

Pyar Seth is a doctoral candidate pursuing a joint degree in Anthropology and Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. He is an interdisciplinary researcher who does work on the anthropology of the state, life and death, diagnoses and medical ethics, and policing. He is also a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Research Scholar and research associate to the Black Beyond Data Project. 

Anannya Sharma  

Anannya Sharma is a graduate student at the George Washington University’s Department of Anthropology. Using her previous experience in healthcare and digitality in Kenya and South Africa, her research focuses on algorithmic intentionality and global indicator production. Since the summer of 2022, Anannya has assisted on the Rituals in the Making project through uncovering contestations and debates around COVID-19 on anonymous online platforms. 

Sebastian Sirais  

Sebastian Sirais is an International Affairs student at the George Washington University. Having joined the project in the fall of 2021, he is assisting with the study of COVID-19 memorialization, and with analyzing data related to the spread of misinformation and disinformation on social media. 

Anissa Sterner 

Anissa Sterner is a research assistant and recent BA graduate in anthropology from George Washington University. Her interests within the project have centered around how COVID misinformation spreads through online social networks, the communities that have formed around these ideas and beliefs, and how they have interacted and changed over the course of the pandemic. 

Bawi L. Par

Bawi L. Par is an undergraduate student at the George Washington University, studying Anthropology and Linguistics. Her passion for the project stemmed from personal experiences in dealing with grief and memorialization of COVID off-line and online. Her role in the team includes, but not limited to, discerning information, misinformation, and contestations surrounding COVID from various online sources. Bawi is also responsible for managing the team’s social media platforms to engage the team’s vision and progress with the public.

Anissa Ozbek

Anissa Ozbek is a student of security policy and international affairs at the George Washington University. Besides serving as an Undergraduate Research Fellow at GW, Anissa is a member of the Elliott School of International Affairs’ Dean’s Scholars Cohort, where she researches literatures of dissent within authoritarian communist governments for her thesis. As a research assistant for Rituals in the Making, Anissa contributed translations of COVID-19 misinformation from Russian communities and conducted fieldwork at D.C.-based events, providing analyses for better understanding of sub-cultural attitudes towards the pandemic, as well as the political sentiments that underpin them.

Daria Dzen

Daria Dzen is a senior in the Elliott School at George Washington University, studying international affairs and anthropology with a concentration in global public health. She is currently pursuing her B.A. in International Affairs. Her research interests include maternal health and well-being, the practices and experiences of Physicians, and the role of misinformation in disrupting cultural practices. Daria joined the team in Fall 2022, and has since participated in the coding and background research needed to validate a periodized timeline of the Covid-19 Pandemic. She remains excited, interested, and passionate about continuing this important work!

Sara Ragsdale

Sara Ragsdale is an undergraduate research assistant and student at George Washington University, studying philosophy and peace studies. Her interests in the project center around language and misinformation within social media and how we use such outlets to craft identity in times of crisis such as the COVID pandemic.

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