Thesis Projects


Spring 2017

Sayre Quevedo
“Reconstructing Memory in Postwar El Salvador”
Outstanding Thesis Award 2016-17

Re:Construccion is a multimedia documentary art project that explores the legacy of the Salvadoran Civil War through the lens of six individual stories. The work is a product of two years of travelling, interviewing, and collaboration with Salvadoran artists, community organizations, and individuals across The United States and El Salvador. This paper is meant to explain the purpose and process of developing the work as well as emergent themes that appear
across the narratives. The project touches on themes of individual and collective memory as well as immigration and violence.
My paper looks at collective memory in the context of El Salvador and argues that a focus on the individual is needed to better understand it as a result of complex social conditions. My hope is that this paper might provide one lens by which to read the work presented in the exhibit catalogues.

Michael Kemmett
“The Atomic Farce: Deconstructing the Instrumentalist Mythology of America’s Nuclear Arms Regime”
Distinction Award 2016-17

This project is a discursive social analysis of nuclear weapons, as well as the physical and intellectual systems which contain them in the United States. It opens with an introduction that defines the American ‘nuclear arms regime’ and sets up critique of the instrumentalism and realism on which it has been rationalized and constructed. The first half of this text is an examination of the arms regime, including the atomic bombings in Japan in 1945, the construction of a domestic nuclear narrative, and the development of mutual deterrence theory. The second half contains the bulk of scrutiny and frames nuclear bombs as cultural artifacts. It explores nuclear anxieties in imagination and memory, the subliminal social functions of nuclear weapons, and the diminished role of cultural criticism and the humanities in nuclear studies. The paper concludes with an evaluation of the farcical nature of nuclear politics after the Cold War, as well as a call for a new critical theory of nuclear weapons in order to better understand how the nuclear arms regime obfuscates substance and meaning, thereby maintaining social hierarchy and empire.

Indigo Olivier
“A Geography of the Student Debt Crisis”
Distinction Award 2016-17

Since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, higher education has been framed as a private investment geared to developing the skills for a “knowledge economy”. A new neoliberal national politics would disinvest in public higher education, and in so doing, allow for education to be conceived of as a commodity. Budget cuts, commodification, and a predatory student loan industry that partnered with the state would all lead to our current student debt crisis. Limited discursive frames prevent any solution or mitigation to any of these problems and we should instead look at student activists from Occupy, Chile, Puerto Rico and the 1960s to chart a way forward. If debt was reconceptualized as a new form of financial imperialism, a network of new domestic and international alliances could be the solution.

Emilee Pelletier
“(De)Constructed Bodies: Transnational Adoption and the U.S. Body Politic”
Distinction Award 2016-17

This paper focuses on transnational adoption practices by the United States from the 1950’s to the present. It argues that effectively, the practice of transnational adoption works to expand the U.S. body politic. This body politic is largely characterized by whiteness that is manifested in and reinforced through the monitoring of bodies crossing borders and through the assignment of degrees of value and threat. These vary from one space to another and from one body to another through various lenses of race, ethnicity, gender, age, and sexual orientation. Transnational adoption is expansively networked and interconnected to intentional functions and activities of the state. It allows state regulation to permeate into perceived private spheres and legitimizes intervention in global foreign spaces. Additionally, it reinforces autonomy over foreign bodies while evading mainstream immigration controversies through a framing of humanitarian practice and its focus on family. This paper draws upon an interdisciplinary range of texts including reported government data, media publications, agency and adoption organization references and academic texts from feminists, economists, anthropologists, and psychologists. Through the discussion of historical origins, commodification of the body, and conceptualizations of multiculturalism that support my main argument, this paper attempts to illustrate an informed rendering of the U.S. structure of transnational adoption practice.

Reagan Rodriguez
“Identity Maneuver: Mapping Muslim LGBTQ+ Identity Politics and Representation in Contemporary U.S. Social Spaces”
Distinction Award 2016-17

This paper is set within the context of the United States, where cities such as New York and Los Angeles are some of the most diverse regions in the world in terms of identity, ethnicity, religion and sexuality. The paper examines the intersectional identity of LGBTQ+ Muslim, particularly how religion, gender and sexuality identity impact the navigation of self in relation to identity politics and space. This paper examines past research and current statistics on acceptance in different religious communities in varying regions in relation to identity and also examines the role of social space-both physical and virtual. The central question to be examined is: how do racial and religiosity identity politics function in relation to LGBTQ+ individuals with Muslim backgrounds navigating contemporary American LGBTQ+ politics and spaces? With both identity and space at the forefront, this paper will review and problematize identity and spatial politics in liberal spaces in the U.S. context. The paper uses a qualitative method and includes several interviews with LGBTQ+ individuals that are Muslim or come from a Muslim background as well as religious figures and activists in the LGBTQ+ and Muslim communities. A questionnaire utilized in the interviews with LGBTQ+ individuals is open ended and used mainly as a guideline for the process. The themes found in the discussion from the interviews include space, identity, religious impact, and family.

Renata Bolotova
“Hydropower Developments on Transboundary Waters as Source of International Conflict: The Case of China-Vietnam Tensions Over the Mekong River”

Never before seen world developments have created unique challenges in sustaining regional peace and security. An increase in their complexity is depleting the power of states to adapt. No problem is as pressing as future uncertainties due to newly emerged issues stemming from climate change, frequent droughts, and population growth that further deplete the Earth’s once abundant water. This, specifically, creates a challenge for countries sharing transboundary rivers, which are vital for their economies, human security, and food security. As a result, it is necessary to develop measures beyond traditional preventive diplomacy. A large body of literature predominantly focuses on water-related conflicts driven by asymmetrical distribution of a common river source in which the upstream well-watered countries hold a hegemonic power over their water-poor downstream neighbors. This paper analyzes hydropower development as a newly emerged trend of water use that has become contentious and increasingly detrimental to transboundary relations.

Paul Ivory
“Palestinian Identity and the 1972 Munich Massacre”

This paper aims to explore the relationship to the reemerging of Palestinian national identity beginning in the 1960’s and the 1972 Munich Massacre at the Munich Olympics by the PLO offshoot Black September. An analysis of the construction of Palestinian national identity before the Munich Massacre and of the specific relationship between media and terrorism. This paper aims to show how the creation of the new identity can be created and become globally known through the use of arms.

Dieudonné Kanyandekwe Rwaka
“When the Banlieue Rises: Community Isolation and the Fallout of the French National Identity”

The concept of community isolation implies that there is a downward spiral in which the social and institutional marginality of communities leads to poverty and urban segregation, which in turn reinforce the risk of long-term unemployment, massive incarceration and xenophobia towards those groups. Since the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice, most of Western Europe has fallen under a new order dominated by far-right movements, nationalism and xenophobia. Nonetheless, what my work will attempt to portray, is the relation between community isolation of Muslims, looking back at the 2005 uprisings in the banlieue of Paris by Muslim youth expressing their frustrations to joblessness, poverty, lack of education, inequality, racism, xenophobia, assimilation, loneliness, and exclusion; I will observe the ways that these issues faced by Muslim have not been addressed but rather ignored under the euphemisms of French national identity, and eventually facilitated the current populist order now growing in France. Since the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice, and the European Refugee Crisis, many have urged their anger towards immigrants and Muslims, mainly due to fact that these attacks were carried out by radicalized Belgian and French nationals. Nonetheless, the rapidity of the way this anger was geared towards immigrant communities reveals a deeper concern within the French population, one that has repeatedly celebrated its inclusive and multi-cultural communities, under its values of liberty and equality, but now needs to look at the so-called ‘enemy’ within, and the history that facilitated its conception.

Morgan Raspanti
“Undoing Settler Colonialism and the Heteropatriarchy: Indigenous Women’s Leadership at Standing Rock”

In February of 2015 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE), initiated construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The DAPL connects oil production in North Dakota to the crude oil market in Illinois. Last April, the proposed pipeline met its opposition as it encroached on the Great Sioux Nation’s Standing Rock reservation. As the pipeline neared its estimated 1,172 miles in length, Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies gathered on the Sioux’s ancestral land, to stand in solidarity on the front lines, and stop the settler state from reproducing capital through another violation against the land, the water, and the people.
This thesis reflects on construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Sioux treaty land at the Standing Rock reservation, as a very recent manifestation of settler colonialism’s legacy. By specifically looking at the leadership of Indigenous women, this research aims to unpack the significance of a social movement centering those who have experienced systemic violence and oppression based on multiple levels of their identity. Through opposition to the DAPL, a movement grounded in defense for the water, land, and future generations, Indigenous people fostered a space to collectively combat the trauma felt from generations of colonization. Despite the DAPL ultimately being completed, the movement that grew from Standing Rock is not defeated. The resistance at Standing Rock targeted greater systemic issues directly linked to history of settler-colonialism that sets the precedent for the current violence being felt by Indigenous (feminized) bodies and Indigenous lands. This very violence is what reproduces capital and sustains the settler-state. Through the analysis presented in this paper, the movement that occurred at Standing Rock, and the leadership that was centered within it, is situated as a revolutionary point in the longer history of decolonization and Indigenous resurgence across Turtle Island.

Lily Smith
“Examining French Secularism”

For several decades, French secularism has pervaded a national debate on the place of Islam in France. The significance of secularism in French political affairs is by no means a new phenomenon; strict Church-state separation has been a defining feature of French law and political discourse since the French Revolution, and has been implemented both in mainland France as well as in France’s former colonies in North Africa. This paper is a historical analysis, documenting the ways in which secularism, as well as Enlightenment and colonial ideologies, have continually informed and provided a justification for France’s attempts to subdue religious institutions and religious expression, both in France and in French Algeria. Overall, it illustrates how France’s strict secular political order, framed as imperative to social cohesion, is maintained by repressing cultural and religious diversity.

Charles Wong
“Age of the Subscription Economy: How has the Subscription-Based Business Model Changed Over Time?”

This research highlights the importance of the subscription model and how it has changed over time. In fact, there has been a spate of new types of subscription-based business models that challenge the traditions of older models. For example, the curated box model is an overhaul of a long-standing curation service model. Meanwhile, long-term subscription contracts are giving way to short-term contracts, allowing consumers to better manage their subscriptions, even though this means companies sometimes give up the predictability of their subscription-based business models Identified here are three factors that are shaping subscription-based business models currently: digitization, globalization, and the advancement of logistics. These three factors have already altered subscription-based business models and continue to do so, leading towards a future in which many more products and services become subscription-based. Such findings and others presented here can be used in the development of a better understanding of the benefits and risks of using subscription-based business models.


Fall 2016

Marissa Gery
“Do No Harm: The Medicalization of Torture at Guantánamo Bay”
Distinction Award 2016-17

This paper aims to consider the discursive ways Joint Task Force-Guantánamo (JTF-GTMO) works to produce the force-feeding of hunger-striking detainees as a modality of state care. An analysis of the JTF-GTMO force-feeding policy, euphemistically titled, Standard Operating Procedure: Medical Management of Detainees with Weight Loss, read against the accounts of hunger-striking detainees, reveals discursive efforts to render the resistant bodies of detainees—as well as the state-sanction violence enacted against those bodies—invisible. Against JTF-GTMO efforts to produce the force-feeding as “care,” this paper aims to expose a reality of state- sanctioned violence. In doing so, it aims to shatter the discursively produced façade that enables and sustains JTF-GTMO and U.S. power at large.

Joanna Shieh
“The Fate of the Western Sahara: the role of natural resources in the Sahrawi self-determination conflict”
Distinction Award 2016-17

The Western Sahara, a territory with ambiguous natural resource wealth, lies on the coast of North Africa and is subjected to the authoritative rule of Morocco through their illegal occupation. The indigenous Sahrawi population have demanded independence from the Moroccan state for more than forty years, and insist on complete political and economic freedom. This paper focuses on the role of natural resources in the conflict, and argues that their geopolitical qualities, as well as their significance in the global marketplace has contributed to the legitimization of Morocco’s occupation. At the same time, these same resources can be used to combat this legitimization by providing a tangible target for Sahrawi activism and an alternative legal space to help justify their self-determination movement. Literature on international law and human rights, as well as political science and political philosophy facilitate the analysis of both actors’ engagement with the natural resources in the Western Sahara.

Malaika Caldwell
“When Houses Turn To Ash: Exploring the impacts of dispossession through Sri Lankan artwork”

This research looks at representations of home in various poems and paintings, produced by Sri Lankans who experienced dispossession as a result of the Sri Lankan civil war, to see how their experiences impacted their sense of belonging. The goal of this research is to show how artistic expression can be an effective tool for analyzing the impacts of conflict and trauma. This paper provides a framework of the concepts of belonging that are essential to understanding refugee issues, and then illustrates with a personal analysis of paintings and poems to show how these concepts are represented through a symbol of home. These symbols of home further demonstrate how elements of loss and betrayal continue to impact the lives of refugees as they try to carve out homes in exile.

Lisa Quinley
“Helping Newcomer Refugee, Asylee, and Immigrant Youth Transition Into the New York City Public School System: Impact and Limitations of the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA) Model”

Refugee, asylee, and immigrant youth who are new to the United States have to transition into an unfamiliar public school setting, dealing simultaneously with language barriers, cultural transitions and new academic standards. The Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA) works in New York City to ease this transition. This paper explores the issues that these children face, including language barriers, acculturation, emotional adjustment and gaps in academic background. It then reviews the pedagogical methods that have been identified as best practices in dealing with these issues, in particular Cultural Sensitivity, Individualized Education and Emotional Support. Observations are made on the difficulty of New York City public schools in implementing these practices. Then the RYSA model is described in detail and reviewed against best practices using both an external evaluation and participant observation. RYSA is found to be very successful in terms of implementing the best practices, which in particular results in improving students’ confidence, self-advocacy and ability to communicate. However, the short time frame means that substantial English language learning and filling academic gaps is not possible. Also, RYSA can only cover a very small percentage of children in need. Additional funding would be needed to scale up this model. In addition, New York City public schools need to be adequately resourced and oriented to help these students complete their transition to the American academic system and to succeed in school.


Spring 2016

Jamey Jesperson
“Before the Binary: EnGendering Decolonial Futurity Through Contemporary Queer Resurgence”
Outstanding Thesis Award 2015-16

The year 2015 was marked the “Transgender Tipping Point” for bringing greater visibility to trans* identities than ever before in contemporary history. Along with this new consciousness, however, came increased awareness of how trans* lives are threatened by eliminatory violence, there being one recorded trans* murder every twenty-one hours in 2016. In order to remedy this crisis, it is crucial to locate its point of origin. Tracing the genealogy of queer elimination pinpoints this violence as, first, a symptom of European, (settler) colonial masculinity in panic. As an anxious weapon of 15th century imperial conquest, gendercide scourged through Indigenous lands disciplining and interpellating bodies into a rigid, regulatory gender binary. Through the unceasing longevity of binarism, this tactic of erasure has consequently leaked into the present, replicating logics of elimination onto (re)emerging queer bodies now exiled and persecuted in a world structured to ensure their non-existence. Exploring farther into pre-colonial history, one would also learn of the myriad queer societies to have once been—within nearly every epoch of time and across all geographies—before the binary. Modern queer bodies, then, may exist displaced in time, perhaps in a temporal diaspora. Thus, their emergence in the colonial present may also symbolize a resurgence of the past, shaking the hegemony of the colonial structure through the engendering of queer, decolonial futurity. If performed critically, the excavation of lost queer worlds could instigate anti-colonial (re)imagining and (re)building of futures finally fit to hold, represent, and free us all; futures that, for those displaced in queer diaspora, may finally feel like home, for the very first time.

Danilsa Alvarez
Soy tan dominicano como tú: The History Behind Statelessness in the Dominican Republic”
Distinction Award 2015-16

This thesis provides an in depth analysis of the long history of conflict, violence, and racial tension that have influenced the creation of statelessness among Haitian descendants in the Dominican Republic. It begins this discussion by addressing the state of Dominican sugar plantations during the Trujillo regime [1930-1961], primarily the prevalence of human rights violations and the aftermath of the 1937 Parsley Massacre, which divided Haitians and Dominicans along racial lines. It goes on to discuss the influence exerted by Joaquin Balaguer—a Trujillista and president of the Dominican Republic on seven different occasions—on the treatment of Haitian migrants and descendants in the country from the early 1960s to the late 1990s. It demonstrates how this history builds up to the 2013 Dominican Supreme Court ruling which denationalized Dominicans of Haitian descent rendering them stateless. This thesis analyzes the limitations of The National Regularization Plan, launched by the Dominican government in response to pressures placed by the international community, in its attempt to regulate the status of those affected by the 2013 court verdict. It addresses the realities attached to the stateless status, and the constant fear of deportation among members of the Haitian community in the Dominican Republic.

Aliyah Blackmore
“Spaces of Recovery: Conjuring New Narratives and Realities through Hip-Hop in Costa Rica”
Distinction Award 2015-16

As the United States was “coming off the heels” of the Civil Rights movement, from the 1960s and 1970s, a tone of revolution, reclamation, and reassertion of identity prevailed as Black and Latino/a communities were actively working to transform spaces that were violently neglected by state structures. From the rubble emerged a hip-hop that brewed in the spirits of radical organizing and mobilization. Youth began to create their own spaces—looking inward—of reflection, release, and recovery in public spheres in order to revitalize themselves. Capitalist modes transformed hip-hop, but as an “artistic and socio-political movement,” it became globally accessible—arriving to Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean; in this I will specifically refer to the emergence and repurposing of hip-hop in Costa Rica.
Hip-Hop became and continues to be a catalyst in the communities of Costa Rica for engaging with community, radical public expression, and producing new narratives. Thus, my findings suggest that hip-hop travels because it is a mode of cultural production from the spirits of radical mobilizing and self-affirmation, against a landscape of structural violence. Hip-Hop moves fluidly to communities globally, allowing for bodies to engage collectively to heal and generate spaces of recovery. Participants and contributors are powerful in occupying and creating stategetically ambiguous spaces, generating possibilities to understand the suffering of others while remaining cognizant of our own.

Isaiah DuPree
“From Exodus to Limbo: An Analysis of Congolese Refugees in Rwanda”
Distinction Award 2015-16

This thesis will examine the protracted refugee crises of Congolese refugees in Rwanda, who have been living primarily in refugee camps for over twenty years. Why has protracted displacement become the norm and not the exception in this context and in others? Both Palestine and Somalia will be briefly examined in relation to Congo for purposes of juxtaposition, and to demonstrate how protracted displacement is both international and increasingly complex in each context.
After a brief analysis of both the Palestinian and Somali refugee crises, Congo will become the main focus, beginning with the genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda. The genocide is inextricably linked to the plight and position of Congolese refugees both in Rwanda and Eastern DR Congo. The complexities of these conflicts demonstrate the variation of refugee narratives. From there, repatriation efforts will be examined, followed by insight into the life of a Congolese refugee living in Rwanda.
Critiques of the regulation of protracted displacement will be detailed, then potential solutions and improvements on the local, regional and international scale will be proposed. The thesis will then conclude with closing remarks critiquing the international refugee complex, a call for more ethical procedures, and general consciousness surrounding refugees. Research findings indicate that Congolese refugees remain displaced for a variety of reasons. The factors that perpetuate Congolese displacement are the impossibility of repatriation due to instability, ethnic tensions, the difficulties of gaining Rwandan citizenship, lack of economic opportunity, poverty, international complicity and complacency, and humanitarian mismanagement.

Kelsey Salyer
“Interrupting a Culture of Sexual Violence through Early Consent-Based Sexuality Education: A Children’s Book” & “Billy Doesn’t Know”
Distinction Award 2015-16

I present an analysis of sexuality education in the United States and its relationship to sexual violence. This is understood in the context of a culture where sexual and gender based violence is pervasive and normalized. Furthermore, sexual and gender based violence is not only an effect of power but a productive means to concentrate power, order society and enforce a strict gender binary. I interrogate the relationship between sex education and sexual violence so that I can make a meaningful intervention. I advocate for comprehensive, consent-based sex education to begin in kindergarten as a powerful tool to combat sexual violence. I have written a children’s story book about consent as a tool for care takers and educators to begin consent-based comprehensive sex education around five years old. Though my book never mentions sex or biology, it is nonetheless a tool for comprehensive sexuality education. I offer literature that challenges the normative fear-based, patriarchal approach to sex education.
We have an opportunity to use sex education as a space to combat ideologies of violence. I advocate that consent should be a part of school curriculum, and that it should be present in the informal education taking place through media and advertising, family and home life, and peer education. If sex education was contextualized with communication, respect, intimacy, identity and pleasure, then some of the harmful ways of thinking about sex and gender could be subverted. I propose that consent-based sex education encompasses all of these aspects and has the potential to build a culture of respect, rather than violence.

Ladin Awad
“In The Name of Identity: The Importance of Belonging in a Changing Sudan”

An exploration of identity politics in Sudan that seeks to contribute to a national and global discussion about identity and belonging in postcolonial societies. I hypothesize that the postcolonial state of Sudan imposes a single vision, a cultural hegemony that has been imposed through residual effects from the pre-colonial period, different ruling governments, the role of Islamic fundamentalism and many other factors. As a result, there is an assumption of a singular Sudanese national identity, which consequently erases many communities in the process. The main component of my thesis is a film documentary where I conducted interviews with Sudanese people to expose the microcosms of a changing Sudan. This paper takes the form of a guide for the film documentary, outlining and covering themes, topics, historical events, terms and concepts that are raised in the film. This project ultimately seeks to change the narrative of Sudan as a place plagued with turmoil and corrupt governments, but a country that boasts of a rich and vibrant history and an extremely diverse and multifaceted society.

Aisha Azam
“Beyond the “Saving Discourse: How to take the women’s rights/movement seriously without falling into the trap of the saving discourse in Pakistan”

As a Muslim women, as a daughter of a Pakistani parent, I have constantly been told that “I” need saving. Saving from my father, brothers or any male presents in my live. I need saving because they want to oppress me. They want me not to study, and to stay at home. They are going to dictate everything about me because I am a Muslim. This notion does not just not apply to me but to every Muslim woman in the Muslim world. I know this is not true but saving discourse overpowers all other discourses. This inspired me to look at this question of “How to take the women’s rights/movement seriously without falling into the trap of the saving discourse in Pakistan?” In order to get different points of view, I traveled to Pakistan over the winter break and interviewed and talked to different women in three different place in the Punjab that includes, lahore, Faisalabad, Kamlapur. What I discovered is that the that there is a feminist movement going on in Pakistan but it only focuses on a particular group of people who are elites, and women who are marginalized or victims of abuse are not the main focus. While I was talking to different people, I realized that there are different methods of looking at women’s problems and choices that are different from the framings of the feminist movement that we are familiar in the West.

Zain Bseiso
“Elitism in Identity Politics: Tactical Campaigning in Jordan”

Colonialism created an identity epidemic in the Middle East. The emergence of a Jordanian identity was met with challenges from previously existing identities in the region, but also from newly emerging identities as a result of wars in neighboring countries. The structure of the system in Jordan made it possible for elites to redefine Jordanian nationalism to meet their self-interest as well as the international community’s. This created the ‘ruling bargain’ where Jordan is to adopt policies that benefit the international community and the elites at the expense of others. The elites use campaigning as a form of tactic to maintain the status quo. This research aims to explore said campaigns because of their negative impact on development that is causing stagnation in Jordan which is taking a toll on the quality of life of the community. It will be established that campaigns are masked with the appearance of benefiting the community, when in fact they are meant to maintain the elites’ position in power. This research emphasizes the importance of the 2005 National Agenda as a starting point towards achieving reform. The methodology includes interviews with the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Jordan, H.E Eng. Atef Tarawneh as well as other Jordanian individuals. Secondary sources include books, articles, and journals but also Instagram.

Soukaina Dia
“The Gray Area Between Black and White: An Examination of Colorism Through the Scope of Haitian Society”

This thesis consists of a written analysis and a documentary film of interviews with Haitian diasporic youth. It explores how the colonialist imparted ideology regarded as ‘colorism’ has both shaped the classist framework of Haitian society in a historical sense, and has permeated within identification processes (both self and societal) of Haitian diasporic youth. This work was developed through a combination of critically engaging with ethnographic studies, and interview analyses.

Hannah Herrlich
“Women Fighting to Fight: Women’s Integration into Combat in the U.S. Military”

In December of 2015, the Secretary of Defense of the United States announced that women would no longer be banned from entering units of direct combat in the U.S. military. This decision has been received with a myriad of conflicting reactions, and many opinions claim that female integration into combat would weaken many important aspects of the U.S. military. Through tracing the historical lineage of integration into the U.S. military on premises of race and sexual orientation, it is clear that integration of women into ground combat units, will only strengthen the American armed forces, by allowing a wider applicant pool of qualified personnel. Additionally, arguments opposing female combat integration justify these claims through antiquated perceptions of the female body and the female mind.

Storm Hurwitz
“Classification Expansion & Political Subversion: Indigenous Communities and Internal Displacement”

This work, in critically drawing from contemporary Forced Migrant & Refugee Studies, Indigenous Studies, and Environmental Studies literature, seeks to understand the potential implications of Indigenous communities in Alberta, Canada, being understood as internally displaced persons. After an analysis of literature on the definition of Internally displaced persons and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, I apply the concepts of such classifications to Indigenous communities residing in Alberta. The paper concludes with considerations on the potential impact of Indigenous persons being classified as internally displaced persons due to displacement caused by the Settler State of Canada and the Alberta Tar Sands.

Akash Israni
“Life Underwater: Climate Change and its Effects on Small Island Developing States”

The purpose of this study is to identify the special vulnerabilities Small Island Developing States possess when it comes to the issue of climate change and its effects. With sea-levels rising rapidly, many low lying SIDS will be underwater soon if appropriate measures are not taken. This paper studies the effects and also focuses on the main causes for these issues leading to climate change. Another major aspect this study discusses is the response both from these small island developing states and the international community, which includes the major carbon emitters. Taking a position in the favor of Small Island Developing states, this paper highlights the best these nations are doing in response to climate change along with adaptation and mitigation measures. It also critiques the talks, agreements, and outcomes set out by conferences such as the Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris. This paper also sets forth the approximate financial requirements needed, compared to what the allotted funds are as of now for these vulnerable nations. Setting forth some recommendations in order to reduce the effects of climate change by keeping global mean average temperatures low enough to save Small Island Developing States, this paper tackles the issue of climate change through the perspective of Small Island Developing States, looking at reactions at the international stage by various leaders from these nations along with what people at the front stage or in these Islands itself are experiencing.

Iman Kanji
“Al-Maktoum Inc.: The Branding of Dubai: A Case Study of Social and Cultural Dissonances in Emerging Cities”

The essence of urbanism is such that it is an evolving and shifting landscape. In the 21st century, the world has experienced several globalizing shifts leading to an unprecedented sense of interconnectedness. In the past decade, Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, has undergone rapid transformation, whilst participating in a public social experiment. As a result of aggressive city branding, Dubai has been able to achieve a high degree of visibility as a city of glamor and luxury. However, beneath the surface, there emerge other factors that cause urban dissonances, a descriptive term for understanding how urbanism clashes with social values. My thesis seeks to examine the ways in which identity is negotiated as a result of state-led urbanization resulting in altered identity and changing patterns of consumption. It also addresses how the Government of Dubai is seeking to address some of the dissonances through the Vision 2021 Project and World Expo 2020.

Zuzanna Krzatala
“The Return of Street Politics: from KOR to KOD, Poland’s Manifestation of Dissent”

Veija Kusama-Morris
Stolen, Issue 01, Spring 2016”

Gabrielle Madden
“The Revolution to Come: A Manifesto for Believers in a Collective Humanity”

In the wake of the United States’ 2007/2008 economic crisis, rose the social movement Occupy Wall Street (2011). This movement focused on the massive wealth inequality in the United States and the lack of action being taken by the government to address it. It is through these critiques that we have seen a shift in the public dialogue and the rise of Bernie Sanders’ “political revolution.” This moment is the beginning of a change in the way we think, feel, demand, and revolt. In the form of a manifesto, this thesis is calling for revolution in the face of what I see as a global capitalist regime. This manifesto is grounded in Marx’s early writings, in which he examines human’s creation of both capitalism and god as systems of power and control. The relation of god, capitalism, and power in accordance with the contemporary political atmosphere poses the question; do contemporary societies have the ability to develop a new faith, or as I suggest, a faith in revolution? It is in response to this question that I will propose a new faith in the collective human ability. It is this faith that will lead us to revolution and the upheaval of our blind devotion to capitalism.

Lisa Mayer
“15 Minutes of Activism: An Analysis of Social Media Activism”

This thesis will aim to compare and critique activism and its byproduct, slacktivism. Starting with traditional activism, I will break it apart from online activism as understanding social media activism as a tool created by the millennial generation. By understanding this phenomenon of social media activism created by social media platform users as a dominant form of activism, we can critique the research question, ‘Is online activism leaving us with an illusion of activism?

Abigail Nicolas
“Barbarous Lands: A Photographic and Ethnographic Examination of Settler Colonial Militarism and the Case of the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne”

Barbarous Lands is a photographic and ethnographic project looking at perpetuated settler colonial violence in the sovereign and autonomous Akwesasne Mohawk Nation. This project has spanned 18 months exploring themes of nested sovereignty, settler colonialism, tribal autonomy, violence, self-sufficiency, and resurgence. Looking at the thriving community of Akwesasne it became undeniably clear at the end of this research that in order for this nation to thrive, the violence and surveillance practiced by the surrounding settler colonial states of the US and Canada must cease. Akwesasne’s internal economy is vital to its self-sufficiency and ability to prosper as a sovereign nation.

Kathryn Paul
“‘Searching for Paradise but Finding Another Hell’: Refugee Crisis in Bulgaria”

As the migrant crisis in Europe worsened, with Syrians joining refugees from other conflicts in the largest flood of immigrants since World War II, I chose to look at how it was playing out in Bulgaria, which is the poorest country in the European Union and has a population smaller than New York City. Bulgaria borders Romania, Greece, the Black Sea and Turkey, making it a temporary or permanent landing spot for many refugees from Syria and Iraq. Although it has not had a huge number of refugees in comparison with Greece or Italy, Bulgaria had not received this many refugees — – 30,000 last year alone — – in at least a decade. In my thesis, I focus on what Bulgaria’s responsibility is in the migrant crisis. A Human Rights Watch report published in April 2014 documents hundreds of human rights violations in Bulgaria in detention centers, refugee camps and elsewhere. I look at the frameworks of domestic, regional, and international laws that Bulgaria is committed to follow but instead has freely violated. I also explore how Bulgaria’s history has influenced the current xenophobic sentiment toward foreigners and Muslims in Bulgaria. My conclusion is that without a comprehensive E.U. compromise on burden- sharing, Bulgaria is unlikely to live up to its obligations to shelter the individuals and families who have sought a haven there.

Simone Roark
“Stuck in Station-ary: (Re)visioning City Space through Southern Tel Aviv’s White Elephant”

This thesis analyzes the new Central Bus Station located in the south of Tel Aviv as a microcosm for the urban Israel in transition. The mystical and contentious space of the building is under scrutiny for being a place more trouble than it is worth, and is currently being evaluated for total demolition. The structure is criticized due to its sheer architectural magnitude, inability to successfully generate enough economic gain, and abandoned levels that provide refuge to migrant populations. Yet, all three of these criticisms provide a progressive lens with which to understand the complexity of the southern population of the city – and their relation to Israel as a modern, branded nation.
Historically, Tel Aviv as an immigrant city has largely been accepting and even welcoming to notions of the foreign in relation to society. As the “other” begins to represent an image of Israel not under the Zionist demographic umbrella, resistance and neglect from both municipality and citizen has befallen the city’s south. By providing space for alternative communities to exist, the Central Bus Station has helped shape alternative forms of City, regenerated through economic independence, religious pluralism and cultural autonomy.

Hamida Shahab
“Re/Visions of Muslim Women’s Sexualities”

The life conditions of Muslim women have always been under an international spotlight because of the gender injustices that are perceived to be the fault of Islam. Contrary to this implication, Islam and its holy book – the Qur’an—has been misinterpreted for thousands of years by misogynistic ideologies that have solely aided in the progression of men. Under this patriarchal setting, women have not been given the opportunity to proper socio-economic opportunities that are inherently given to men because of gender. Feminist scholars have recently challenged these ideas of gender inequality and have taken extremely active roles in the gender debate by creating rereadings of the Qur’an. The result of this participation has created a global dialogue that challenges patriarchal norms for the betterment of Muslim women. It has also created a complex relationship between secular feminism and Islamic feminism, which has created a divide in contemporary gender politics.

Brenna Smith

Artist Statement: I created “Accomplice” as a way to try and reconcile my privilege in conflicting spaces across the world. I am a student at the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at The New School in NYC, a university that centers its pedagogy on social justice & civic engagement, and I’ve focused my work & research on Global Studies and Education Studies while spending my time with like-minded students, activists, and educators. But I constantly reflect on how to burst my academic bubble and combine my life experiences in order to activate my own efforts of social responsibility in a world full of disorder and injustice. As an American consumer, I have consumed ignorantly and supported companies that directly create the circumstances of deprivation in which so many people exist. I constantly struggle with acknowledging that my privilege has come with extremely painful consequences for other people around the world. I spend each day in a state of self-awareness about the role that I play in all of this, and the space that I occupy while actively consuming products from countries that are exploited to fulfill my wants.
“Accomplice” is a result of my choice to accept and acknowledge the complications I carry with me as an American consumer, and I am determined to find a way to erase the apathy that plagues our nation while sparking responsibility and conscious consumerism. I’ve created the “Accomplice” podcast & website to cultivate transparency and begin global conversations with each other about the problems we might be unaware of, or those which we tend to avoid. “Accomplice” is not here to provide all of the answers to these problems, but instead, to serve as a space for people to think critically about their global influence and engage in ongoing discussions while we figure out the solutions together.

Abbygail Talao
“The Impact of a State-Centric Feminism on Emirati Women”

This thesis aims to explore the trajectory of women’s rights in the United Arab Emirates. It focuses on the successes and struggles of female Emirati citizens in relation to their national government. This project is an attempt to change the Western understanding of a specific group of women who are almost always painted as submissive and static, but have always been active agents in deciding their realities and continue to work tirelessly in paving a more just and free world for other women who do not conform to the negative portrayals pushed on them. It is not up to western women or politicians to diagnose the gender inequality in Arab societies such as the UAE because Arab women themselves have always been aware and active in finding ways to resist the versions of patriarchy they live in. However, the non-transparent judicial system has enabled the Emirati Government to insidiously constrain women from achieving full equality. Although the government empowers them through leadership initiatives by giving them opportunities to advance politically and economically, legislations controlling them socially inhibit them from truly achieving gender equality. The work of organizations affiliated to the government discuss how Emirati women are striving to combat violence and challenge existing social norms.

Eugenia Vivanco
“DREAMers Movement: A Journey through the public/private dichotomy”

In the last few years, talk on the discussion over immigration, often labeled as a “crisis” has parted in two different roads: one pertaining the politics around decisions of border control and people attempting to come to the U.S. through methods of irregular immigration, and the other concerning the large and no longer hidden presence of the undocumented community in American society. Our politicians, our media, and the American public have been vigorous actors and talkers within the immigration framework. However, it is the second road, which speaks to most of us more directly. The undocumented community is now woven into the cultural fabrics of American society making it impossible to set them apart as an external or alienated issue. The Undocumented youth have played a central role in this process. The Dreamers, as they are called based on the name of their movement, have changed both the political and social conversation surrounding immigration. In this project, I argue that the movement created by this community has created a snowball effect and created such a huge impact that it has the strength to shape and inspire change at both the individual and collective global levels in both the private and the public sphere.

Sarah Yee
“Russia’s Territorial Conflicts: Implications for International Peace & Security”

Is the Russian Federation a destabilizing force through its territorial disputes conflicts? From World War II, through the dissolution of the USSR, to post-Cold War world order, Russia has presented itself as a prominent military power. Is a pattern of Russia’s military aggression emerging? What are the implications of military aggression on international peace and security? This thesis outlines territorial conflicts and disputes that the Soviet Union and Russian Federation have been involved in since World War II, and the connections between these conflicts to argue that Russia’s military involvement in territorial disputes is an escalating and destabilizing process. It brings to question Russia’s current involvement in the Syrian Civil War and the implications of involvement given Russia’s conflict history.


Fall 2015

Ranbir Ahluwalia
“‘Sikhing’ Identity in Hong Kong”

There are over 8,000 Sikhs living in Hong Kong. Hong Kong identity is stronger than it has ever been, as demonstrated by the Occupy Movement and the Umbrella Revolution. Hong Kongers are uniting together to protest against China’s disguised false sense of democracy. The primary goal of this research was to find out how Sikhs, as an ethnic minority, view themselves in relation to the local population in Hong Kong, and how they interact with the state in order to reveal a greater discourse on Sikh identity within the region. Gaining Sikh perspective on societal issues helps identify where Sikhs stand within this context, as many members of the faith identify similarly with the local people in regards to the issue of universal suffrage. In fact, some Sikhs consider themselves to be Hong Kongers. Retracing Sikh migration and re-migration patterns, and studying the histories of Punjab, Sikhism, and Hong Kong’s sovereignty reveals the reasons for increased migration. Preserving and honoring the traditions of the faith are integral to Sikh identity, resulting in a strong connection to the region of Punjab and preserving the language of Punjabi. Sikh identity includes a great sense of pride in the values of the faith, as a strong unified Sikh community is formed as a result. The Khalsa Diwan Temple in Hong Kong is the center of this community, and is one of the only institutions through which Sikhs directly interact with the state. The Basic Law protecting human rights freedoms in Hong Kong gives Sikhs autonomy to practice their faith, as notions of inclusivity bring Sikhs and the local population together. The lasting legacy between the Sikhs and Hong Kong is yet to be determined until the effects of China’s potential policy changes in 2047 on the Sikh diaspora are fully understood.

Emily Hwang
“Beyond the 38th Parallel: North Korean Refugees in South Korea”

As of March 2014, there are approximately 26,483 North Korean refugees living in South Korea, 40% of whom are children and young adults between the ages of 10 and 29. North 1 Korean refugees are referred to as “defectors,” or “ a person who gives up allegiance to one state in exchange for allegiance to another, in a way which is considered illegitimate by the first state.” In South Korea, defectors are referred to as Tal Buk Ja (탈북자), meaning one who escaped from the North. However, they prefer to be called Sae Toe Min (새터민), meaning person in a new land, indicating a desire to be considered a resident of South Korea and not merely an escapee of the North. Once North Korean defectors reach South Korea, trauma, stress, and the guilt of leaving family members behind pose as psychological barriers to integration, leading to high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder, high dropout rates for North Korean students, difficulty in securing high­-paying vocations, workplace discrimination, social isolation, and disillusionment.
The South Korean government, along with local and international NGOs and religiously affiliated groups, have provided North Korean refugees with financial, psychological, and vocational support to aid in the process of cultural transition. However, as Park Jin, the chairman of the South Korean National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Unification Committee commented, “The settlement of North Korean defectors in the South is not something that money alone can accomplish.” Through this thesis, I propose that local faith communities and ethnic Koreans (individuals of Korean descent who live outside of the Korean peninsula) will be increasingly essential in the construction of a theoretical cultural bridge. Local faith communities have provided resources such as “psychological first aid,” pastoral care, and structures for community building in various multi­cultural contexts around the world for many years. North Korea is devoid of religious freedom and yet, nearly 70% of refugees claimed to be religious, with three quarters identifying as Christian. Some churches in South Korea have special services dedicated to North Korean refugees and others offer financial and support services. In my research uncovering the role of religious institutions in the integration of North Korean refugees into South Korean society, I was able to draw parallels to the narrative of ethnic Koreans, who have characteristically relied on local faith communities to provide support through the process of migration. Furthermore, I propose that ethnic Koreans, who may or may not influenced by faith, possess a nuanced understanding of biculturalism and migratory issues specific to the Korean ethnicity.

Henry Villacorta
“Diplomacy Beyond The State: International Conflict and the Development of Multi-Track Diplomacy”

This paper explores the challenges to official diplomacy during international conflicts. The nature of conflict has changed significantly in the 21st century. While in the past the world has experienced the challenges of interstate conflicts (between states), today’s conflicts are increasingly intrastate conflicts (within states). Globalization and advances in information technology have allowed non-state actors to gain power in global affairs. At the same time, globalization has intensified the interconnected and interdependent nature of the world. Currently, the international community is witnessing the devastating consequences of an intrastate conflict. The situation in Syria, which began in 2011, has produced a severe refugee crisis that has extended well throughout the world. The armed conflict has escalated in recent month with international actors taking more coercive measures in hopes of ending the violence. With no end in sight to this conflict, we must seek to understand why our systems of conflict resolution have failed to deal with this.
I look at the development of multi-track diplomacy as a response to the apparent inefficiencies of official diplomacy in mediating international conflicts. I analyze examples of organizations that participate in the system of multi-track diplomacy and consider their contributions to conflict resolution. Our traditional understanding of official diplomacy is not entirely inefficient, but rather incomplete. In order to better address the challenges of the 21st century, new methods of diplomacy will need to take more proactive roles in mediating international conflicts. Successful multi-track diplomacy will strengthen the effectiveness of official diplomacy.


Spring 2015

Gabrielle Guiying Kuhn
“A Survey of National Identity in Transracial and Transnational Chinese Adoptees”
Outstanding Thesis Award 2014-15

Current studies on the topics of Chinese transnational adoption (TNA) and transracial adoption (TRA) have generally focused on issues of ethnic and racial identity and the importance of cultural socialization as an adoptive parenting practice. Very few, if any, studies deal specifically with the development of national identity in international Chinese adoptions, which this study attempts to explore. Despite an over 200-year history in the United States, Asian Americans have gained little attention in the larger discourse on race in America, and yet continue to face microaggressions including the racialized stereotyping of the “Model Minority” myth, being exoticized or treated as perpetual foreigners, and on the extreme end, some denying their person of color status. This study seeks to examine Chinese transracial and transnational adoptees through their relationship with their birth country and ethnic identity, and attempts to determine possible factors and patterns that contribute to feelings of national pride, patriotism, or shame. How has transnational adoption affected adoptees’ socialization into mainstream American society, their difficulties fitting into Chinese and Chinese-American society, and their sense of self and national identity? This thesis examines the literature on domestic and transnational transracial adoption; adoptive, racial, cultural, and ethnic identity and socialization; national identity; adoptive White parental colorblindness; Asian Americans; and other pertinent issues that relate to the transracial and transnational Chinese adoptive experience in order to examine the development of national identity in Chinese adoptees through a survey of 56 young adult Chinese adoptees with White parents.

Cecilia Frescas-Ortiz
“Mexico’s Paradox: Changing Migration Policies in the Context of Human Rights, Security and Global International Migration”
Honorable Mention Award 2014-15

Over the last two decades, Mexico has experienced an increase in international migration that is now part of a global phenomenon, as transit migrants and refugees entering Mexican territory, sometimes to remain and other times to continue their journey north to the US. Up until 2010, the state lacked a legal framework that could adequately address migration in its various manifestations. After the introduction of the 2011 Migration Law and the Law in Refugees and Complementary Protection, the state took on a human rights approach to addressing migration. However, this human rights approach was quickly undermined as the Southern Border Program introduced a largely security-based approach to migration management. Mexico’s most recent reforms are a paradox in that they adopt a human rights language while they also encourage border securitization and the expelling of migrants from national territory.

Horace Charles
“Permanence, After All:Perspectives of Culture and Change in Chinatown”

I aim to examine what images and ideas an ethnic enclave such as Chinatown in Lower Manhattan is expected to portray, and who is feeding the need for them. What is an ethnic enclave? Who or what defines an ethnic enclave and its functions? How do those functions shape what we think Chinatown is versus what it actually is? What purposes do ethnic enclaves serve, and for whom? How, in the case of Chinatown, have these purposes changed? This thesis examines what factors make us perceive Chinatown as something other than what it was created for, and whether or not these perceptions reinforce negative stereotypes of Chinese people and culture. Ethnicities congregating around certain areas (later referred to as “towns” or “Little”) do so to preserve the self both physically and culturally. By closely grouping together, a stronghold is established, and works to diminish the alienating feeling of being in a foreign land. And in the case of Chinatowns in the face of the Chinese Exclusion Act, this ethnic enclave played a crucial role in physical preservation, as attacks on Chinese owned businesses and establishments became more frequent. This thesis explores the history of the development of Chinatown in Lower Manhattan alongside contemporary perceptions and the commodification of Chinatown as an icon to analyze its transformations in the last hundred years from a “neighborhood of nuisance” to a thriving community today.

Tatiana Fedik
“The Hmong Around the World: Resettlement Policies and their Outcomes”

This thesis explores how the resettlement policies in three different countries, the United States, Germany and Australia, influenced the socioeconomic mobility of the Hmong, a people who resettled in these countries as refugees from the Vietnam War. I argue that even though resettlement policies are similar, the different approaches to resettlement by the federal and local governments and their different implementation by various actors affects refugees’ socioeconomic status and mobility, and their integration into a new culture and society.

Amira Gebba
“Politicizing Bodies: Female Genital Mutilation and The Political and Social Marginalization of Rural Egyptian Women”

This thesis is an examination of female genital mutilation and its ongoing prevalence throughout Egypt, despite its legal ban since 2008. The first part of the paper provides an understanding of the broader historical context of female genital mutilation globally, including: what exactly the practice entails, the various ways in which it is performed, the health effects that come with the different types of FGM, where and who it is practiced by and on, and the most typical justifications for the practice. The second section is dedicated to describing and evaluating the two dominant narratives for and against the practice globally and in Egypt. While the first perspective relies on a cultural relativist point­of­view, arguing FGM should be respected as an age ­old tradition, the second perspective is more concerned with addressing the human rights concerns about the physical consequences of FGM and sets up a framework for the legal discourse surrounding FGM. With a thorough critique on why these two discourses are simply too narrow to provide a fruitful alleviation of FGM on the local level, the third part moves on to describe how FGM can and should be placed in conversation with the imbalanced power relations between Egyptian men and women that make it inherently political.

Robert Ryan Halas
“Not Caring Enough: Healthcare Systems in Comparison”

The United States has the auspicious title of being the only western industrialized nation without a universal healthcare system, and more than any other healthcare system in the world the U.S. system is characterized by strong capitalist, ‘free-market’ oriented monetary incentives on care providers, insurance companies, and hospitals. Those incentives translate to substantially inflated healthcare costs and ultimately reduced quality of care for patients. They are stronger than any altruistic notions of the good will of doctors, and have funded the development of a highly influential healthcare lobby that has repeatedly proven itself to be more powerful than the aspirations of reform-minded political leaders. In a global context, where many nation’s healthcare systems produce health outcomes that are ranked far above those of the United States, and produce those outcomes at far lower cost, both as a percentage of Gross Domestic Productand in per-capita expenditure, the augment for sustaining the U.S. system in its current form grows thin. This paper will explore the history and development of the U.S. system, and explore the systems of incentives that make it the overly costly, relatively poorer quality system that it is, and will compare it with the healthcare systems of other western nations, namely that of Canada and the United Kingdom, and propose that the U.S. system be reformed along lines of the best features of those healthcare systems.

Tanvir Rafayel Moshin
“Potential Reforms For The United Nations Security Council: Why Haven’t They Gone Through?”

There have been various proposals for potential reforms for the United Nations Security Council and it raises the question of why haven’t any of the proposals gone through? The United Nations Security Council is responsible for the maintenance of peace and the prevention of global conflicts, but the Security Council has failed on many accounts in cases pertaining to intervention, genocide, and war crimes. The Permanent Members of the Security Council have received immense criticism over its controversial decisions and inactions. These factors have led to sessions and debates on the future of the Security Council, and what measures can be taken to reform the structure of the Council. The different models of reform present ideas for improvement towards the Council’s working methods and the expansion of seats on the Security Council. The models for reform also focus on the fate veto power. The failures of the Security Council in different cases give precedents for the proposed potential reforms, but with all the supportive evidence that necessitate reform, the proposals do not go through.

Leanna Payne
“The Political Economy of a 21st Century Pirate in Somalia: Rational Bandits, Pirate Law & Order, and World Political Ordering”

This paper examines the political economy of traditional models of Somali governance and how this relates to the relative successes of the Somali pirate industry to demonstrate an evolution in dominant political discourses and mechanisms of world ordering. Current interventions will not be successful given the trajectory of the pirate enterprise and the material and cultural realities of the Somali peoples. The efficacy of the one-size-fits-all model of state-building imposed by the international community is disproven by the very existence of Somali pirates. The nature of the international community’s continued interference in Somalia, tailored to their own agenda, demonstrates that in the 21st Century, the cognition of regional security is limited to the nation-state paradigm, signalling a larger shift in political thought given the inability for the international community to imagine space without a nation-state.

Tracey Pennito
“What to Study Before Promoting LGBT Rights in Senegal: Examining Structures of Senegalese Islamic and Spiritual Beliefs to Identify What United States Critics Look Past”

United States Media and Human Rights Organizations criticize Senegal for criminalizing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. They compare Senegal side by side with American LGBT progresses and describe the country as a Muslim, secular and democratic country. What is left out from U.S. accounts can be seen by examining how Islamic and animist beliefs are intertwined throughout Senegalese history and how the values they create are representative within the mindset of Senegalese culture. Examples of how Senegalese practice healing during hard times shows one way in which strong community bonds hold great importance in daily life. Attention paid to Islamic and animist beliefs and the values they create offer insight into how addressing serious abuses to the LGBT community can be negotiated. As women continue to fight to be seen as equal to men, their voices and opinions on their roles can be found in folktales and writings. These accounts display one way in which positive changes can be made in gender relations within the context of culture. This examination is important as the U.S. continues to criticize Senegal while failing to account for how strong Islamic and animist beliefs are within Senegalese society and processes of development.

Marina Isabel Salguero
“An Unending Fight for Equality: The Continued Marginalization of Guatemala’s Indigenous Population”

This thesis seeks to understand why the marginalization of Guatemala’s indigenous population persists despite the ratification of forms of legislation, which were specifically created and signed by the Guatemalan state to end such forms of marginalization and racism. By analyzing the implementation of the 1996 Peace Accords, which brought an end to the country’s 36-year civil war, and ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, it is made clear that the Guatemalan state remains unable and unwilling to integrate and represent its indigenous majority population. Based on my analysis of Guatemala’s history and politics, it has become evident that the marginalization of the indigenous population will persist if the country does not: truly confront and reconcile with its past; become truly representative of its peoples and allow increased participation of indigenous peoples in government; and truly embrace the multi-ethnic state that it is.

Kaila N. Zitron
“Corporate Food Regimes: Dimensions and Linkages to Rural Poverty in Brazil”

This paper engages with the theory of corporate food regimes and its dimensional linkage to rural poverty in Brazil. Brazil is a world-leading exporter of agriculture and livestock. This has boomed economic growth and increased the country’s GDP. However, there are entire rural population groups that are marginalized because of the overarching bias toward the export-market and its production. Corporate food regimes in Brazil describe the capitalist movement of reconfiguring the food system to achieve private geopolitical interests since the 1990s. This movement has been politically legitimated and commanded by private governance at the expense of rural dispossession and exploitation. Industrial agriculture economically overpowers small-farmers and through its corporate power has forced smallholder incorporation into the global food system. This has resulted in the amassed landless peasants and rural poor who could not compete in the export market. This paper finds that rural poverty in Brazil is exacerbated and reproduced through private governance of the corporate food regime. Corporate appropriation of privatizing inputs and social relations in turn reproduces severe poverty through exploitative labor and social exclusion.


Fall 2014

DeAunna Blackwell
“Overpoliced and Underprotected: Law Enforcement Officers’ Relationship with Black and Brown Low-Income Families”
Honorable Mention Award 2014-15

Artist statement: I chose to explore how the relationship between Law Enforcement officers and the community, affect the aesthetics of Black and Brown families[AF1] , because I’m interested in dissecting the impacts of the heavy presence of law enforcement on the physical aesthetics, and relational dynamics of black and brown low-income families, as well as the effects on the broader community. I am interested in exploring this topic specifically through the lens of dance and spoken word, because these art forms have the ability to cross cultural and social barriers and speak to audiences who would otherwise be unfamiliar with these familial and community experiences. I will examine the impact of over-policing in low-income communities of color through three main lenses: domestic violence, gang involvement, and the so-called “War on Drugs”. The broader media and social narrative on these topics influence how urban communities are perceived on a national level. My final goal is to uncover how low-income communities of color respond to heavy police presence, and show that they are actors in their own right, as opposed to passive recipients of oppression.

Brenna Haragan
“Haiti’s Mambo Marinettes: An Inquiry into the History and Contemporary Forces that Govern Haitian Women’s Experience of Gender, Sexuality, and Vodou”

This thesis is a response to the absence of research that targets shifting gender and sexual roles of Haitian women today. I attempt to construct a history of Haitian women’s experiences of political and social organization and Vodou participation. These experiences culminate in contemporary Vodou rituals that connect to the deity Ezili Freda, a lwa that depicts a certain notion of freedom for Haitian women that fall out of chaste or promiscuous sexual boundaries and seek to reaffirm their own sexual autonomy. Haiti has as a complex history of politicized gender violence that along with symbiotic Roman Catholic and Vodou religious codes coalesce in an environment in which female sexuality orients around the communal individual. Recent surveys and interviews in this work reveal the generational violence that has attached itself to the bodies and consciousness of Haitian women beyond temporal planes, but also the hope that is inherent within Vodou traditions. The contemporary Vodou community, both on and offline, is a space for women to realize their sexual nuances and occupy empowered positions. The sole purpose of Vodou spirit possession is to forge with ancient lwa in order to truly understand the truths hidden in one’s present. Contemporary female Vodou participants practice dialectical rituals that immerse the individual in a torrent of the Haitian women’s collective history of suffering and strength, pain and healing, repression and emancipation.

Evan Huang
“The Good and the Beautiful: A Critical Analysis of Chinese Cultural Policy”

The Chinese government has identified the development of domestic cultural production, based on traditional Confucian cultural principles, as one of its top priorities as a means to defend against potentially destabilizing and dangerous Western ideological influences. The Chinese government sees control of national identity and international cultural perception as imperative to domestic cultural stability and international political legitimacy as its population and economy continue to grow from an impoverished nation to a moderately wealthy society. This thesis critically examines the mechanisms and consequences of this policy.

Spring 2014

Ramona Moorhead
“Garments, Metrics and Poverty: The Development Experience of Bangladesh”
Outstanding Thesis Award 2013-14

This thesis seeks to examine the various forces and contradictions at play in global development. I use the perceived ‘success story’ of industrial-led development via garment industry expansion in Bangladesh as a case study to evaluate the theories and discourse that propone the Bangladeshi development model, and how it in turn creates ‘development’ in reality, via various economic indicators and social initiatives.

Kevin Seitz
“Third Culture Kids and Ethnic Identity”
Honorable Mention Award 2013-14

This thesis is comprised of two parts, a written section that explores the identity formation of Third Culture Kids and a design component that offers a visual representation of the Third Culture that references my identity. How do people form identity and a connection to a place that falls outside of blood and citizenship? By looking at how identity is formed in relation to blood or citizenship and comparing it to people who claim many different identities or not at all, it becomes practice that links identities.

Gabriel Stoltzfus
“Found Outdoors: Outdoor Education & An Environmental Ethic”
Honorable Mention Award 2013-14

This thesis is a combination of teaching methods and materials found in outdoor and environmental education. It seeks to synthesize an ‘environmental ethic’ from these approaches that addresses contemporary issues of environmental change and stewardship. In its second section, this thesis exposes how such an ethic can be utilized in two opposing ecological geographies. This section is comprised of two modules, or sample itineraries, for teaching ecology and an ‘environmental ethic’ on the Colorado River and in New York City respectively. In addition to providing an in-depth examination of the specific environmental issues that affect these places, these modules seek to explain the underlying ecological systems that support them.

Olivia Tarplin
“Critical Feminist Perceptions of Pornography and the Rise of Feminist Porn as a Political and Educational Tool”
Honorable Mention Award 2013-14

The purpose of this research is to determine what makes feminist pornography and what distinguishes it from mainstream porn. Anti-porn feminists link pornography to sexual violence, while pro-porn feminists and pornographers seek to make porn that speaks to women and marginalized people as a primary target audience, which contrasts with the mainstream porn industry’s exclusive heterosexual male target audience. By looking at various manifestations of feminist pornography today, and referring to established feminist theories of pornography, I argue that feminist porn consists of promotion of agency for all involved and often involves challenging mainstream porn tropes to expand the way gender is seen in porn.

David Coltun
“Biofuels, Land Grabs, and Indigenous Rights: The Guaraní-Kaiowá and the Sugarcane Ethanol Industry in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil”

Biofuels have become an attractive alternative fuel option, with Brazil gaining a global presence, serving as a large producer and exporter of sugarcane ethanol. Since there is a large global demand for these fuels, the amount of land required to meet it has increased. As a result, agribusinesses were leased large amounts of land, which resulted in land grabbing. The International Land Coalition defines land grabbing as “land acquisitions that are in violation of human rights, without prior consent of the pre-existing land users and with no consideration of the social and environmental impact.” In Brazil, this pertains to many indigenous people, specifically the Guaraní-Kaiowá people in the southwestern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, where they have been violently forced off their ancestral homeland by law enforcement and ranchers. Much of the time, they are occupying these lands as a form of protest in hopes of having this small region in the state demarcated and recognized as indigenous territory. Considering that the biofuel industry is one of the actors driving the land grab, this case presents the question of “what is the relationship between the global demand for biofuels and indigenous land use rights?” By analyzing the case using historical and current trends of the ethanol industry and indigenous rights policy, it is concluded that the global demand for biofuels is further perpetuating ideas of what indignity is and how land should be used, thus slowing down the demarcation process of indigenous land.

Casey Crockett
“Cultural-Ecological Theory and Native American Education”

My thesis looks at the how Native American’s history of colonization and assimilation in the U.S. plays a role in their academic achievement today. National assessment data show that many ethnic groups are doing better in math and reading than they were ten years ago, however the achievement of Native American youth has not changed. To understand why they are not improving and continue to have a high dropout rate, I use John Ogbu’s cultural-ecological theory of minority school performance. This theory says that minority groups who were forcefully assimilated into the U.S. society have a negative response to school. My main argument is that Native Americans have an educational disadvantage due to mistreatment and assimilation policies. Using the framework of the theory, I look at Native American history of colonization and assimilation and their responses to the systems that the U.S. has built for them. I put this in global perspective by exploring how other settler societies assimilated indigenous people. Indigenous groups in Australia have a similar history of assimilation as Native Americans and face similar problems in education. Historically based assimilation policies influence the negative educational experiences of both groups rather than helping them become self sufficient. I conclude that attaining educational equity requires equity in the school’s treatment of students and their community. John Ogbu’s theory helps us understand the forces that shape the state of education for all minority groups.

Aissatou Diallo
“The Role of Art in the General Understanding of the History and Legacy of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda”

Artist statement: This thesis explores what role can art play in the general understanding of the history and legacy of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in order to better understand the aesthetic responses to collective suffering and its relation to the politics in post-genocide Rwanda. I created paintings as a response to and a way of reflecting upon the genocide and the tension between beauty and the legacies of trauma I see in Rwanda today. Having had the opportunity to visit memorial sites and meet survivors, whose stories profoundly touched me, I felt a huge urge to translate to canvas what I saw and heard. Since my return, Rwanda has always stayed close to my heart, influencing not only the way I paint, but also the way I see the world. The memories of the smells, sounds, colors and of course the wonderful people always remind me of why I want to paint about this beautiful country. I am driven by a deep passion to express through my paintings as much about Rwanda as it is today.
I want to show the beauty and the tragedy, the dignity and grace of its people in the aftermath of the genocide to offer understanding about Rwanda to anyone who doesn’t know much about this country. Along with my painting, I explored what other artists have done on this subject. I looked into the work of both Rwandan and non-Rwandan artists who openly spoke on the experiences of horror, melancholy, and also reconciliation, forgiveness and healing.

Issachar Dieng
“Disgust and Respectability: The Revolving Door of Black Young Girls’ Public Identities”

Young black poor women have been ridiculed and belittled within the media and in social life, in a way that has affected the way that Americans empathize with violence enacted on their bodies. Public response often amounts to shaming black poor female victims because of their assumed role in their own marginalization. Using a theoretical framework that reveals how 19th and 20th century race politics and myths informed and shaped a politics of respectability and a politics of disgust, I demonstrate how these two political approaches are designed to maintain the low profile of the young black woman in society by first demanding respectable behavior that keeps her out of sight and second, demonizing her and excluding her from a politics of empathy should she deviate from social norms. I extend the work of other race and feminist scholars and highlight the ways that misrecognition of the black female body by specific individuals using the case of R Kelly as a preliminary example, leads to institutionalized racism through discriminatory social practices in the media and policies in the legal system and ultimately promotes internalized racism, such that young black women lose their voice and ability to advocate for themselves and for other black young girls that do not conform to respectability norms.

Morgan Ditmore
“Dissent and Disobedience: Corruption in China’s Rural Governments”

I begin by discussing corruption in China as a whole, quickly narrowing the subject matter down to corruption on a smaller, rural and local level. I seek to link the presence of corruption across local communities and governments with the decentralization of the Chinese Communist Party. Focusing on two types of corruption, taxation and real estate, I address my main question: Why does corruption exist and prevail in local governments in China? I analyze two cases of corruption in rural governments while focusing on the causes, events, and responses from both the people and the Chinese Communist Party. I go on to argue that a structure of decentralization, coupled with habits of governmental disregard for rural inhabitants, has created a system of blame and appeasement. The Chinese Communist Party has grown accustomed to wagging its finger at corrupt local officials while never successfully addressing or fixing the villagers’ problems. Only so much systematic neglect can occur before wide scale protests across China demand change.

Zyad Hammad
“Channeling Labor Unrest: Examining the Significance of Automotive Workers’ Strikes in the Pearl River Delta Region of China”

This is an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the strikes that took place at Japanese-affiliated automotive factories in China throughout 2010. Interactions between Chinese migrant workers (who initiated the wildcat strikes) and the state (the All China Federation of Trade Unions included) to determine what factors contributed to the strikes’ concentration at Honda and Toyota. These writings are an attempt to determine what led to the strikes, what effects the strikes may have had on trade and business, and why the Chinese government’s position on the strikes changed over time. The paper finds a limited role of political ideologies in fueling the workers’ movement; however, long term government goals are important in determining the local branch of the Chinese union’s behavior. It seems that Japanese management techniques played a major role in mobilizing workers, but the upheavals in 2010 were special because of the novel composition of the labor movement and a new sense of collective identity for migrant workers.

Eric Hubbard
“A Review: Post-9/11 Counter-terrorism Policy-Making in the United States”

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States led the U.S. government—and the executive branch in particular—to reconsider many existing laws and policies and to create new ones in relation to acts of terrorism. Key to this reconsideration of policy options by U.S. national security planners in responding to the 9/11 attacks was the question of whether a law enforcement paradigm or war paradigm was the most appropriate response to transnational terrorism where non-state groups are the primary actors. The US decision to frame counter-terrorism in the context of war shifted the global approach to counter-terrorism regarding both state and non-state actors and ushered in a global, asymmetrical and perpetual war on terrorism. This paper is divided into three main sections. The first examines US foreign policy shifts between World War II, the Cold War, Post-Cold War and Post-9/11 periods; the second section explores the new global battlefield for Freedom in the War on Terror, focusing on the relationship between the US and the Greater Middle East; and the third section concludes with impact analysis regarding the tension between ensuring security and protecting liberty in the post-9/11 era.

Aleksandra Kocic
“Disaster Prone?: Understanding Haiti’s Vulnerability to Natural Disasters”

In 2010, Haiti was struck by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. The effects and damage from the earthquake were astounding, as hundreds of thousands of people were killed, injured, and left homeless. In addition, deforestation has created catastrophe in Haiti, as soil has eroded, creating a runoff surface that causes flooding. In looking at both the earthquake and deforestation, this thesis raises the question of what makes Haiti vulnerable to natural disasters? This project seeks to use both deforestation and the earthquake as cases that explain why Haiti is vulnerable. In this project, vulnerability is defined as the social, political and economic conditions that have developed in society that ultimately impact the state’s capacity to respond and recover from the natural disaster. Findings reveal that the vulnerability of Haiti is tied closely to socio-economic issues of poverty and inequality in the country. Results also show that there is an intrinsic connection between the well-being of the environment and the state of society.

Sarah Louzon
“The interrelationship between public and private sphere: The National Identity Reconstruction Project in Post-Genocide Rwanda”

My senior thesis concentrates on the project of national identity reconstruction and the interrelationship between private and public historical narratives in post genocide Rwanda. I chose this topic because I was deeply intrigued by the apparent lack of a critical stance about the government and the genocide during my two visits to the country. Rwandans all had the same narrative preached and shaped by the government. At the same time, unofficial and counter-narratives are dismissed through different legal and political means. I wanted to explore the relationship of the boundaries of private criticism in the context of a public sphere controlled by dominant narratives. I argue that unless private and alternative views are implemented in the school system, the teaching of history in Rwanda will be flawed and the potential for future conflicts will remain a concern.

Manuela Stevenson
“Islam and Human Rights: Constitutionalism in Post-Awakening Egypt”

Following the Arab Awakening, countries in the Middle East and North Africa find themselves with new opportunities to develop their characteristic and aspirational legal frameworks in their new constitutions. Egypt is in the international spotlight with its new document, and at the heart of the conversations evaluating its consequences, particularly in terms of human rights and religious freedoms, is an established, multilateral debate concerning the perceived compatibility or lack thereof between (political) Islam and international human rights norms. I approach this conversation by first finding the roots of the main arguments asserting, for diverse reasons, that Islam and HR (human rights) are fundamentally or situationally incompatible and of the main arguments asserting the contrary for equally diverse reasons. Using Egypt as a case study, I then propose a theoretical reconciliation using an ‘Islamist liberal’ framework, namely, that a country can identify itself as both religious and liberal, and that a well-crafted constitution can simultaneously be historical, cultural and contemporary, globally ‘legitimate.’ The implications of such reconciliation are particular to Egypt but nevertheless relevant to other Islamic, post-Arab Awakening countries.

Eric Toole
“China’s Economic Turn: Historical Roots of Maoism’s Collapse and Market Reform”

In 1978, China began its post-communist transition. With the emergence of a new CCP leadership after Mao’s death, China would incorporate itself into the global capitalist system and contradict the anti-capitalism which had previously been the fundamental characteristic of the prevailing ideology: Maoism. As wage-labor and exploitation became the norm, the Maoist emphasis on class struggle was replaced with the imperative of economic growth regardless of the means. The transformation China underwent during this period is often characterized as the inevitable failure of socialism, followed by the “emergence of a post-socialist ideology” which could reconcile the regime’s past with the post-communist reality. While the new “ideology of development” is often taken as an infiltration by Western Neo-liberalism, in this project I trace its roots back to the famous “two-line opposition” which increasingly divided the Party from the mid-1950s over which aspect of modernization – socialism or industrialization – should take the leading role. Through a careful historical analysis of the succession crisis that followed Mao’s death and the earlier development of a “two-line opposition” within the Party, I seek to demonstrate that it was those who, from the founding of the PRC, opposed Mao and prioritized economic growth over class struggle who would develop an ideological alternative to Maoism and make China’s transformation. The emergence of an alternative ideology was thus the cause – not the result – of China’s transformation. Further, developed by prominent revolutionaries during the Mao-period, it retained the social objectives which had galvanized Chinese Marxism while positing a new means of liberation: Economic growth.

Sarah Vinoche
“Proselytism in Greece: Religious Persuasion v. Equality under the Law”

This thesis examines how the Greek constitutional model of the relationship between Church and state, juxtaposed with how the state responds to pressures from the Orthodox church, negatively impacts religious and non­religious minorities in Greece. Looking specifically at the constitutional prohibition on proselytism, I seek to examine the scope of religious freedom in light of Hellenic history, the Greek constitution and criminal code as well as international conventions for the protection of human rights and their interpretation by international human rights lawmakers and organizations. The ban on proselytism is a statute that is inconsistent with the constitutional prohibition of religious discrimination which in theory should protect the dignity of all individuals but in practice only protects members of the Greek Orthodox Church. As a member ­state of the European Convention on Human Rights, Greece is not legitimized to criminalize what it considers to be improper proselytism. Otherwise, it unavoidably ignores its own principle of the religious neutrality of the state.

Lee Webb
“Local Perceptions of Contract Farming in Thailand”

This study aims to contribute to the ongoing debate over whether contract farming benefits small-scale farmers in the developing world or leads to their exploitation. It begins by examining the theoretical rationale for contracting and goes on to analyze the nature of the contractual relationship in light of the relative power positions of each party: the companies on the one hand and the economically weaker farmers on the other. A 2009 case study documenting the arrival of contract farming in northern Thailand is then reviewed, together with the broader literature on the potential disadvantages of contract farming, in order to relate the farmers’ unfavorable experiences to the principles of contracts. Finally, this study offers a list of possible solutions to these problems that are potentially applicable to current and future schemes in Thailand, as well as to other parts of the developing world.

Fall 2013

Erin Diggs
“Women in Development: How Gender Stereotypes Are Informing Socio-Economic Development Policies in Rwanda and Around the Globe”

Since the mid-1970s, women’s empowerment and gender equality have become increasingly larger topics in the conversation on development. The country that has been exemplified for the fusion of gender equality with socio-economic development in recent decades is post-genocide Rwanda. Post-genocide Rwanda has been exemplified for its fusion of gender equality with socio-economic development in recent decades. With the country’s narrative being inspired by and rooted in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and the gender disparity that resulted from it, women have come to play a particularly important role in the country’s reconstruction. This project seeks to explore the influence of applied stereotypes on socio-economic development policies. The paper outlines various female stereotypes, including the inherited, feminist, womenandchildren, and mother/monster/whore perspectives, and the role they play in the subjugation of women in society. Using content analysis as its methodology and post-genocide Rwanda as a case study, this paper analyzes gender-related and socio-economic policies in Rwanda and in the international sphere (including the CEDAW, NFLS, BDPFA, and the MDGs). This exploration uncovers how outlined female stereotypes color socio-economic policy and in turn, undermine their intent and perpetuate asymmetrical gender relations despite women’s economic progress.

Alexandra Dominianni
“30,000 Unanswered Questions: terror, memory, and the aftermath of Argentina’s Dirty War through an artistic lens”

One of the darkest periods in Latin American history lies in the Dirty Wars that occurred throughout a number of South American countries in the latter half of the twentieth century. This time period is characterized by a widespread war against insurgency and subversion in the wake of the Western Hemisphere’s battle against communism. This study takes Argentina as its site due to the series of military juntas that governed the nation between 1976 and 1983 and executed a campaign known as El Proceso (the National Reorganization Process). During its rule, the military junta disappeared upwards of 30,000 of its own citizens. The Argentine National Commission on the Disappeared has since found evidence of clandestine detention centers throughout the nation that used torture tactics and murder in an attempt to “cleanse” the nation of the ailments of subversion.
The seven year time span within which the junta ruled produced a wave of loss, terror, and trauma throughout the nation. There has since been a struggle within the nation between remembrance and oblivion, shaping its rich art, culture, and politics. This thesis discusses the history of the Dirty War in Argentina and how its happenings are remembered and expressed since through memory politics via an analysis of different works of art. The project culminates with the author’s own artistic expression in an original choreographic work that seeks to emanate the Dirty War experience, drawing from the personal testimonies of survivors as inspiration.

David Levinson
“Mechanisms by which Ethnic Nationalisms are Formed: a perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”

Using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as its case study, this thesis examines what can make a cultural or ethnic identity nationalistic in scope. It posits that when an ethnic or cultural group is forced to become ‘the other’ by the majority, then often that group will embrace nationalism as a mechanism by which to emancipate themselves from the ‘othering’ process. The two drivers of ‘othering’ explored in this paper are the concepts of oppression and abandonment.
While this paper covers some background on Zionism, or Jewish nationalism, as mainly an Ashkenazi movement, its main focus lies in examining the factors after the creation of Israel that caused the majority of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews to embrace Zionism, a movement they had initially rejected or from which they had alienated themselves. On the Palestinian side, this paper argues that before considering Palestinian nationalism, the history of pan-Arab identity must be taken into account. It examines the emergence of pan-Arab identity as largely in response to, first, Turkish oppression and then, secondly, the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the division of the territory into mandates ruled by European powers. Finally, it discusses how Palestinian national identity began to express itself as a specific nationalism outside the pan-Arab idea because of Arab abandonment and Israeli oppression.


Spring 2013

Anita Willcox
“Transnational E-Waste Flows: The Case of a Toxic Trashline and Its Cycle of Environmental Justice”
Outstanding Thesis Award 2012-13

With the development of information technology and the rate of electronic consumption across the world, electronic waste or e-waste poses one of the greatest challenges of our post-modern high tech era. Between 20 and 50 million tons of e-waste are produced globally on an annual basis. The majority of this waste finds its way to developing countries for its final resting place, causing irreparable damage to human health and the environment. Global governance frameworks that attempt to regulate this global e-waste trash line find their ameliorative efforts undermined by the very nature of capitalism and national agendas in international conversations. The e-waste trash line also reveals an entire socio-economic structure within the developing world that is sustained by finding value in the developed world’s trash. Indeed the intersection of demand from developing countries and international relations in global environmental politics and political economy renders the narrative of e-waste transboundary flows far more complex than they appear.

Phelicia Magnusson
“Articulating Change on Franklin Avenue”
Honorable Mention Award 2012-13

“Articulating Change On Franklin Avenue” is an ethnographic study of how community actors in Central Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, on Franklin Avenue, are dealing across cultural, racial, and economic lines of difference within the context of gentrification. To dissect the narrative of change being produced and consumed about the Franklin Avenue community, this thesis explores the historic representation of Crown Heights in the media, and the present representation of Franklin Avenue as the “epicenter of gentrification” and a place of “unease”. Using frameworks from Elijah Anderson and Sharon Zukin, this thesis considers the roles of authenticity, consumption, social capital and race as factors that shape gentrification and affect spatial inclusion.
This thesis argues for recognition of the efforts made by longtime residents to push for the changes now taking place in the community, and a consideration of the present unease experienced by community actors as stemming from the systematic creation of prejudice and tensions surrounding racial exclusion within the wider historical context of the policies and actions that came out of The Great Migration, White flight, and de-industrialization.

Jessica Berger
“The Evolution of Value: Middle Class Luxury Consumption in Urban China”

China’s luxury market is growing at an exponential pace, making the Chinese the target demographic for many Western fashion designers. This research aims to answer the question: what has affected the buying behaviors of the urban Chinese since the opening of the market in 1979 and how has the growth of the consumer luxury market changed Chinese social values? While increased income has a positive effect on luxury buying behaviors, consumption motive is the most influential factor in purchasing decisions. In the Chinese context, these motives are different than in any other region because of the unique political and economic foundations on which social values are built in urban China. Using the social values framework developed by sociologist Pan Wei, I uncover the social values of the urban middle class Chinese that encourage consumption. In doing so, I show the linear relationship between political transitions and the growth of the luxury market which provides a possible explanation for why the Chinese have become the ideal luxury consumer.

Eric Simón Chávez
“Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility: Spurring Business Innovation and Competition”

Almost daily, news wires expose different social and/or environmental justice offenses affecting communities around the globe that can be traced back to one global corporation or another. If the standard naming-and-shaming tactics of watchdogs are no longer working, how else can we most quickly begin to address such offenses and hold these global corporations accountable for their actions and products? In the United States and much of the rest of our world today, there are two constants: democracy and capitalism. Despite the constraints these political and economic systems impose on the quick passing of legislation in a democracy wrapped in red tape, as well as the ability to rise against the power that capitalism grants corporations, there does exist a solution where all involved willingly participate. The innovative field of corporate sustainability and social responsibility (CSR) offers business the competitive advantage that would make advocating for social and environmental good through creative shared value not just a cost but an investment with potential for sizable profits.

Walker Dawson
“A Paradigm Shift in Global Norms: China’s influence in Africa”

China has recently surpassed the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner. As economic ties solidify between these two regions of the world, the West has begun to voice concern, focusing on China’s support for numerous authoritarian regimes across the continent. China claims to be forging a new path in terms of aid and nation building in Africa. This path focuses heavily on infrastructure development, which has produced greater, more visible results than the structural adjustment programs promoted by western institutions. China maintains a strict interpretation of state sovereignty, which, in cases like Sudan, allows it to purchase oil while ignoring the atrocities committed by the government. However, because of China’s experience in Africa, which in many cases has led to worldwide condemnation, China has begun to change its foreign policy stance. Instead of adhering to strict ideological principles, China is beginning to act more pragmatically in regards to trade, aid, and nation building. As China rises as a dominant global superpower, what does this signify for global norms that have been dominated for so long by the west?

Louis Duva
“UNESCO and the Politics of Cultural Preservation, Commodification and Disintegration”

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has set out to make the preservation of cultural identity a top priority in today’s globalized world. However, the agency’s work has, at times, had more negative effects than good. This essay examines UNESCO policy regarding cultural preservation in the age of globalization while identifying the direct and indirect repercussions of its involvement. A critical analysis provides a look into the weaknesses in the organization’s language and approach to culture and associated concepts such as development and human rights. I find that it inaccurately and ineffectively views culture from an ethnocentric, simplistic point of view, and its legally binding conventions are inherently passive. Using Tibet as a case study to examine the involvement of UNESCO in a culturally endangered, politically contested area shows the damaging consequences of its work, which leads to tourism-related cultural commodification and state-legitimized cultural disintegration.

Caitlyn Limato
“Availability, Agency and Access to Food in New York City’s Low-Income Immigrant Communities”

The focus of this work is to highlight the ways in which agency, access and availability differ among low-income immigrant communities in New York City. To do this, I compared the foodways of low-income Mexican immigrants living in East Harlem to that of low-income Chinese immigrants living in Chinatown (Manhattan) to better understand why Mexicans living in New York City yield significantly higher rates of obesity and diet-related diseases than Chinese living in New York City. While much of the literature suggests that obesity is linked to the lack of healthy food access, my findings suggest that this is a rather antiquated notion. I found that even though East Harlem did in fact have supermarkets and green carts available throughout the community, their rates of obesity and diabetes are among the highest in New York and the nation. The differences I found between Chinatown and East Harlem resulted in finding higher frequency of fresh food in Chinatown, and that there seemed to be more fast food advertising in East Harlem, which I propose as contributing factors to the differing rates of obesity and diet-related diseases within the two communities. Due to the fact that East Harlem’s community has not seemed to utilize the healthier food resources available throughout the neighborhood the same way that Chinatown’s community does, I have suggested that there is a need for culturally-conscious forms of agency to reshape individuals’ relationship with food in East Harlem that would empower them to select healthier options when it comes to diet and exercise.

Steven Macchia
“The Plot: Empowerment Through a Community Garden”

This thesis explores the ways in which community gardens can empower urban and lower income food desert communities. I found, most importantly, that community gardens provide community members with the ability to become food secure and food sovereign. This has proved to be important because when individuals become food sovereign they inherently become more financially secure through the large amount of money saved on food. The establishment of community gardens also prevents the need for transportation in order to access healthy food options. This research also found that providing communities with healthy food options leads to better diet choices, which in turn leads to better health and quality of life. By becoming healthier, individuals are able to lower the cost of annual medical care that they receive, a statistic in which the United States leads the world. The thesis also examines the process of establishing a community garden, explaining the many obstacles along the way, which ranged from dealing with community boards, working with the community itself and attempting to work through multiple city run organizations.

Fiona Mahurin
They Call Me Minor: Conversations with a Khmer Exiled American Poet”

The forced removal of Cambodian-American refugees who have served complete prison sentences in the United States, oftentimes for crimes for which they were convicted in their youth, exists within a particular history of banishment and exclusion enforced by US foreign policy, mass incarceration, and immigration detention. The deportation crisis is a result of normative discourses of citizenship, belonging and crime, which dictate a narrative of the ‘undesirable other’ to produce, justify and conceal systemic oppression. My particular interest lies in the Khmer Exiled American (KEA) led resistance against normative discourses through the reappropriation of their identity from ‘deportee’ to ‘exile’, which demonstrates agency asserted in the telling of their stories and the ways in which they enter spaces of dialogue. The following paper proposes an art exhibition to showcase the work of KEA poet, Kosal Khiev, and to encourage visitors to question their own assumptions of deportation policy impacting all immigrant groups by humanizing the issue and exposing the historical context of U.S. foreign policy regarding Cambodia, which has continually concealed and remained unaccountable for acts of violence, dehumanization, and the separation of families. The exhibition aims to facilitate the entrance of KEA stories and experiences into otherwise restricted spaces in order to challenge notions of citizenship and illegality as well as to create a collision between the occupation of space through non-physical means and suggested absence. The exhibition, still in its progress, and field research have been developed over the course of a collaboration between Khiev and I, over Skype and in person in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Sean Murray
“The United States and Vietnam: The Dichotomy of Political Memory and Its Resolution”

Memory, and the subjectivity of memory, have played a vital role in international relations between the United States and Vietnam before, during and after the Cold War. The dichotomy of memory between the United States and Vietnam contributed to tension in diplomatic relations. During this time, the memory of history, or mnemonic history, influenced United States foreign policy. Over the next 20 years, the role of memory in international relations shifted. This essay identifies how, over time, the shift in the importance of memory occurred following the end of the Cold War.

Madeline Rosario
“The Cost of Labor: Haitian Migrants in the Dominican Republic”

This thesis explores the present living and working conditions of Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic. The thesis focuses primarily on the agricultural sector of the Dominican Republic, predominantly it’s the sugar plantations. My thesis seeks to comprehend the factors behind Haitian migration to the Dominican Republic. Similarly, I question how the Dominican sugar industry has ‘survived’ over the decades? I analyze the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors of migration for Haitian migrants and ask why Haiti is not reluctant to send its nationals to the Dominican Republic for employment. My main question aims to address whether Haitian migrants are better or worse off economically in the Dominican Republic than in Haiti. My findings suggests that Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic slightly better in the country. However, I argue that their poor living and working conditions are not compensated by the wages these migrants earn. I suggest that greater political and social measures must be taken by both Haiti and the Dominican Republic in order to ensure that these migrants enjoy full social, economic and cultural rights during their work in the sugar plantations.

Zoe Rosenberg
“Dollars, Detention, and Denial: Privatization and the U.S. Immigration Detention System”

It has been 26 years since the last comprehensive immigration reform. The ambiguity of the legislation, exacerbated by its irrelevance to the present immigration demographic in the US, cannot effectively address the current system’s myriad issues, the biggest one being the “detention and effective removal” of people who have made this country their home. I am examining how legislation of the past two decades has helped to shape the institution of immigration detention and subsequently sustained its evolution into a for-profit private prison industry. I am also seeking to understand in what ways the privatization of immigration detention centers affects the experience of immigrant detainees. I conclude by highlighting some alternatives to detention that are rarely utilized by the federal government for their low profitability.

Thabisa Rulumeni
“For Better or For Worse?: Land Deals and the Implications on Food Security and Poverty through a Socio-Economic Developmental Lens”

This thesis explores the recent large-scale acquisitions and land investment deals that have been taking place in Africa. It includes three comparative case studies from Mali, Ethiopia and Madagascar and looks at the implications of these land deals on food security and poverty from a socioeconomic developmental lens. In analyzing and discussing the recent and ongoing land acquisitions on the continent this thesis reveals the competing narratives that are used in support of or in opposition to the recent acquisitions as a means to achieve development. This thesis concludes with recommendations with a focus on education as a tool for effective and sustainable development for the short and long run. This thesis also include political cartoons as a means of educating and communicating the subject matter through the medium of visual art.

Mica Scofield
“Queering Immigration Organizations: The Intersection of LGBTQI and Immigrant Rights”

Barriers to inclusion have historically been reinforced through U.S. immigration and legal systems that regulate the racial, gender, sexual and other identity characteristics of people in the country. In recent decades, immigration and LGBT(QI) issues have witnessed increased scrutiny; however, the intersections of these topics are rarely interrogated. As a result, queer immigrants continue to be denied recognition for their multiple vectors of marginality. This paper reviews how the lives and activism of undocumented queer immigrants threaten hierarchies of categorization by undermining the illusion that multiply subordinated identities do not exist. Through performances of visibility, undocumented queer youth, “Undocuqueer”, create possibilities for alternative spaces of inclusion.

Paulette Shubin
“Who is the Child Left Behind?: Inherited Inequality, Inherited Injustice: Education as a Site of Possibility and Disconnection”

With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), former President Bush’s administration introduced the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2001 as a sweeping reform to America’s failing education system. Although the law received praise and criticism in last ten years, its pillars have remained valued and secure, ensuring that a high number of students remain behind. Although Barack Obama’s administration has responded to criticism and its inefficacy by introducing ‘Race to the Top’, the inherited inequality dominant in the education system is reinforced by a standards-based methodology. I apply the ‘banking’ method of Brazilian Educator, Paulo Freire, to an abolitionist pedagogical framework as a way to potentially transform how racial and ethnic minorities achieve a critical consciousness about the world they are educated in. Examining practices of labeling such as ‘cultural deficient’ and ‘at risk’ was found to reinforce ideologies that make assumptions about the potential minorities possess as students. Rather than strive to engage students to become beings for themselves by challenging existing power relations, success in the status quo requires that students conform to ways of being and ways of learning in a system that devalues their differences. Images characterized as the ‘American Dream’ come to be associated with an ‘American Nightmare’ as institutionalized education reform measures reinforce categories to ensure hierarchies of students. Thus, I will describe how promises made by NCLB reinforced the very inequity it was aimed to abolish.

Zoe Wiggins
“The Contradiction Between Moral Relativism and the Belief in the Natural Rights of Men”

This paper is about a contradiction in a belief system held by many secular modern liberals in the Unites States. Many hold strongly to the belief in natural rights—and that these rights exist transhistorically and across all societies—yet are moral relativists. My aim in this paper is to show that this is a contradiction and that to uphold the belief in natural rights one has to believe in moral absolutes. If one wishes to remain a moral relativist, then one can no longer hold to the idea of natural rights. In this paper I go through modern natural right theory, analyzing Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau as a basis. I also interpret some of this theory through the lens of Leo Strauss, from his book Natural Right and History. Then, I analyze Rousseau and the concept of authority and autonomy through the lens of Richard Wolff, from his book In Defense of Anarchism. Afterwards, I attempt to make the case for a moral absolutist view and provide an analysis as to why moral relativism is ultimately problematic if one wants to defend natural rights. However, I conclude that the question as to whether people are born with natural rights is not an object of reason, but rather an object of faith, yet it is essential to have this faith in natural right in order to protect it.

Zakiya Zazaboi
“Sketches of a Child Soldier: (Mis)representations and Narratives of Youth Combatants in Liberia (and Sierra Leone)”


Fall 2012

Sofya Omelchenko
“China’s Involvement in Peace Processes in Africa”
Outstanding Thesis Award 2012-13

China is on a steady track to becoming a leader in the peacekeeping field. At present, over 2,000 Chinese peacekeepers are deployed each year, mostly in Africa, where China has significant investments that correspond with its economic and political interests. However, little research has been done to comprehensively analyze how China’s activities in Africa affect the continent’s fragile and post-conflict states. Through a multi-level analysis of China’s participation in international peacekeeping operations and of the effects its bilateral relations with individual African states have on the establishment of sustainable and lasting peace, this paper aims to answer two questions: First, how have China’s policies and actions influenced peace processes in Africa? And how can China enhance its engagement strategies to make constructive contributions to peace on the continent?
This paper analyzes four case studies: Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur and South Sudan, each of which illustrates a different side of China’s involvement in peace processes in Africa. Because its policy decisions are made on a case by case basis due to the complex interplay of China’s national interests and the unique context of each conflict, China has served both as a driver and a spoiler of peace. The paper concludes by drawing on the identified patterns that have worked to strengthen peace in the past and suggests ways in which China could minimize the negative effects of its involvement in Africa and enhance its constructive contributions to building a lasting peace in fragile African states.

Teresa Dorothea Eggers
“Art and the Global City: Understanding the Contemporary Art Scene of Istanbul”
Honorable Mention Award 2012-13

This thesis seeks to explain the swift emergence of Istanbul’s contemporary art scene over the last ten years by focusing on key components of art infrastructure in the city. With this purpose, the paper investigates how the contemporary art scene of Istanbul is produced, examines its growth within political, economic and social frameworks, and illustrates how the resulting art scene reflects the unique time and space of its creation. Converging interests of the current government regime, business, civil society and art enthusiasts are the basic points of analysis. Within this context, the role of contemporary art in mediating Turkish identity between Ottoman and European narratives, and between secular and traditional ideologies, is discussed. The expansion of the contemporary art scene is explored in relation to Neoliberalism, cultural policy and philanthropy, and finally, the political implications are surveyed. Related interviews, observations from site visits, and secondary research decipher the contemporary art scene of Istanbul.

John Brooks
“Understanding in New York City: Limited English Proficiency and Integration of Migrants”

Jessica Nina Rapchik
“Katyn’s Second Life: Visual Representations of Memory in the Commemoration of the Smolensk Tragedy”

Rachel Stine
“In the Quiet of the North”

A stage play about North Korea.

Jade Taylor
“Occupy the Hood and its War on Poverty”

Maria Jesus Verdugo
“The New Third Place: Imagining Communities in the Digital Era”

Online interactions happening in communities like Reddit, Anonymous and their predecessors; IRC; and the Well are offering a new place for informal public life, where the exchanging of ideas, civic engagement, and network creation happen. What used to be known as the third place, coined by author Ray Oldenburg (the home being the first place and the workplace the second) back in 1989, has evolved into a new type of social space that is fulfilling the void left by the erosion of cafes, local shops, public squares, and other types of third places in modern society and new suburban life. But online communities have added a whole new set of rules that make them go beyond what Oldenburg’s original third place was, which makes them deserving of proper analysis and investigation.


Spring 2012

Ariane Mallon
“Between Both Worlds: The Construction of the Iranian-American Identity in an Age of Extremes”
Outstanding Thesis Award 2011-12

This project offers a portrait of four individuals, my mother, aunt, and uncles, all of which were born and raised in Tehran, Iran, emigrated between the span of 1976-2000, and now live and reside in Buffalo, NY. Narration and analysis of their personal stories offers the reader a glimpse into the Iranian experience in America by focusing in on and understanding the formation of Iranian-American identities. This essay begins with an overview of the causes and characteristics of their emigration and proceeds to explain how the individual creates and perpetuates its identity. As much as my subjects make their own identity, it is not always under their control. I show how external forces, specifically aspects of mainstream American culture, cause the immigrant to be sensitive towards how they are perceived. This causes them to alter their behavior by striving to become more “white” and hiding their differences within its presence. The ensuing dual identity is characterized by an Iranian diasporic identity with Iranian cultural traditions as well as an embracing of notions of American civic nationalism. My family members serve as representatives of pre- and post-Iranian revolution migration (1978-1979), providing an alternative narrative to the stereotypes and popular imaginings of Iran.

Betsy Catlin
“’No Human is Illegal’: Undocumented Youth Activism for the Dream Act and Beyond” 
Honorable Mention Award 2011-12

This thesis seeks to analyze how U.S. society and law has constructed undocumented status and denied rights to the undocumented population based on this status. It aims to represent how the contemporary undocumented activism, which formed in light of the introduction of the federal DREAM Act, is challenging this denial of rights. It will provide a history of the origins of undocumented status and outline the way in which the question of undocumented personhood, status and rights has been debated in U.S. law, specifically in the Supreme Court case of Pyler v. Doe. This case ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny undocumented youth access to K-12 public education. Current undocumented activism around the DREAM act is addressing the limits of Plyler v. Doe, as it speaks to undocumented life and rights after high school. Yet, in fighting for the DREAM Act, undocumented activists are also acknowledging its limitations and extending their fight beyond the DREAM Act and beyond documented status through their demand that “No Human is Illegal.”

Imani Altemus-Williams
“Empowerment through culturally-based curriculum education: reconstructing and reclaiming the ethnic identity of indigenous youth”

In this thesis I demonstrate that the pedagogy and curriculum of La Raza Studies, and broadly of culturally-based curricula in general, have been effectively reinforcing a positive self-perception for youth of color. I focus primarily on Mexican-American youth; however, I have also explored the impact of similar programs on Afro=Brazilian and Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) youth. Secondly, my research addresses the impact that Ethnic Studies courses and curricula have on fostering an appreciation of history, language, cultural traditions, and a sense of community. Lastly, my research finds that Ethnic Studies has a lasting influence in empowering youth of color to actively engage in improving their communities and fighting against the various forms of injustice that affect them.

Joel Arken
“The Role of the Model Minority Stereotype in Shaping Identity among Chinese Children in New York City”

This project is an exploration of the limitations of the model minority stereotype in analyzing Chinese people, with a specific focus on Chinese elementary school students enrolled in an after-school program in Chinatown in New York City. This thesis finds that the lived experiences of the students, especially of children whose parents migrated recently, are made invisible through the problematic, simplistic but historically enduring stereotype and the dominant narrative it dictates. Qualitative methods including participant observation and interviews with the teachers form the basis of this research.

Danielle Docheff
“Mainstreaming Gender: The Importance of Including Gender Studies in High School Curriculum”

This project explores the importance of including Gender Studies in high school curriculum, looking at two schools in the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district in New Jersey. Because gender is such an inescapable factor in how we relate to our own selves and with each other, I make a case for how an informed, aware youth with this education is important both for individuals and for society as a whole in understanding identity, injustice, and action. Through interviews, surveys, and classroom observations, I found that the mere presence of Gender Studies is not enough, and that the way it is taught is essential to its impact. Students who didn’t have a comprehensive course talk about gender in problematic ways but do have the questions and skills to examine these issues. Those who did have a comprehensive course were better able to articulate an understanding of their place in their culture, and of how they can extend that understanding to create awareness and social change on local and global scales.

Johanna Goossens & Melissa Bukuru
“The Silenced History of Colonialism in American Textbooks”

This paper seeks to understand what narratives about colonialism are being perpetuated in American world history textbooks, and how the exclusion of certain information plays a central role in constructing the myth of America as a “liberator”. We place ourselves within the field of memory politics to establish a link between the role of the textbook and the creation of a national identity. We trace the history of textbook standards and education reform in the United States and analyze their links to political motivation. Further, we conducted a case study analyzing the treatment of conflict in the Middle East. We found that the editorial decisions made by textbook publishers, editors and authors have contributed to telling a particular story about the Middle East: one in which colonialism is barely connected to the conflicts today, and in which the US figures as a mediator and broker of peace rather than as an active player that has, time and again, chosen sides. In light of this discovery, in the last section we identify potential hurdles in teaching world history and globalization in a changing world, and point to some possibilities for teachers and curricula, acknowledging the potential of high school students to play leading roles as activists in the positive transformation of our societies.

Margaret Wenzel
“A Critical Look at the Decline in Undocumented Mexican Migration (2006-2011)”

The recent decline (2006-2011) in undocumented Mexican migration to the United States represents a shift from long-standing Mexican migration patterns. Various actors in the media and political elites have promoted the idea that it was mainly the effectiveness of US enforcement and the poor economy in the US that caused the decline. However, careful research reveals that the Mexican Drug War and social changes in Mexico, including improvements in education, a trend towards intraregional migration and urbanization, and a decrease in the Mexican birth rate, have also played a part in the decrease in flows. In order to develop adequate and effective immigration policies, all the factors that contributed to the decline must be acknowledged and more fully understood by the public and government in the United States and in Mexico.


Spring 2011

Raviva S. Hanser
“Valuing Water: A Critique of Water Privatization and A Look Forward”


Copies of past senior thesis projects are available to read in our office library at 66 West 12th Street, Suite 401.


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