2012 - 2013 CRG Student Research Grantees

AY 2012 - 2013 CRG Student Research Grantees

Grid with photos of AY 2012 - 2013 CRG Student Research Grantees

AY 2012 - 2013 CRG Student Research Grantees


NAOMI BRAGIN (Spring 2013)
Department:  Performance Studies

Project Title:  Hip-Hop Dance Is Black Power: Kinesthetic Politics and Black Performance

My dissertation project is the first major theoretical investigation of the California foundations of hip-hop dance. My project forms a ‘Left’ Coast archive of 1970s Black Power, Gay Liberation, Funk, and Disco Era dance styles. Audiences worldwide learned these dances during weekly broadcasts of Soul Train, television’s longest running black popular music and dance show. I argue black communities performed kinesthetic politics—critical consciousness of power and difference, realized through a collective sense of motion. Soul Train dances also came from gay underground clubs, complicating views of hip-hop as rigidly gendered and inherently homophobic, and suggesting kinesthetic politics could queer black political consciousness. I study how kinesthetic politics produces collective techniques—aesthetic principles of movement, abstracted from shared, everyday experience, which train people to move, and know, together.

Department:  Jurisprudence & Social Policy

Project Title:  The Promise of Accountability: Countering Bias in Decision Making

This study is one part of my dissertation project, which, at its core, seeks to answer the following question: What is the extent to which, the context in which, and the mechanisms by which accountability can serve as an effective strategy to address explicit and implicit racial bias in decision making? My project examines this question within the context of the criminal justice system and the types of decisions that prosecutors in particular make with respect to criminal cases. Employing both organizational analysis and experimental methods, my project understands bias as not only an individual-level phenomenon, but also as something that can be shaped and influenced by the organizational context in which a particular decision process is situated. In this phase of the project I draw on a national sample of adult participants to experimentally examine the relative effectiveness of two types of accountability–directed and undirected–over a series of decisions regarding a hypothetical criminal suspect.

Department:  Ethnic Studies

Project Title:  Appraisals of Competency: Race, Gender, and the Rhetoric of Federal Indian Law, 1945-1960

In the years following World War II, the status of federal Indian tribes was dramatically reconsidered. Beginning in the late 1940s, federal Indian policy was aimed at officially ending the relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes, or, as the Bureau of Indian Affairs called it, “a withdrawal from supervision.” This new policy direction would ultimately result in the unilateral termination of over 100 federally recognized Indian tribes by the mid-1950s. As part of their determination for which tribes would be terminated, the BIA offered “appraisals of competency.” These official “appraisals,” made by BIA agents, provided an evaluation of the social, cultural and economic “progress” made by Native men and women in the tribe, and determined whether or not Native peoples were “prepared” to be “released” from federal supervision. Drawing upon archival materials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, this project argues that these “appraisals of competency” demonstrate a racialized and gendered evaluation of Native American communities by the federal government, and highlights how these forces have influenced critical directions in federal Indian policy in the second half of the 20th century.

VEENA DUBAL (Spring 2013)
Department:  Jurisprudence and Social Policy

Project Title:  The Last Cowboy: Freedom, Flexibility, and Myths of Legal Identity in the San Francisco Taxi Industry

While substantial research across disciplines has investigated the devastating impact of neoliberal economic reforms on the lives of low-income workers in the United States, much less is known about how workers make sense of their “precarity” and how these meanings impact potential collectivities. This study of San Francisco cab drivers examines worker narratives on freedom, identity, and organizing to understand the mass – but not collective – activity of resistance in the industry.

San Francisco taxi drivers, like a growing number of workers, are legally classified as “independent contractors” and work outside the context of labor protections. Corporate regulation and restructurings, financial medallion schemes, and a reserve army of workers ready to take over their jobs exacerbate driver insecurity and make taxi driving a financially unstable and vulnerable job. As scholars have well documented, in addition to the economic consequences, such precarious work also dislocates people psychologically, impacting the health and stress level of workers. And yet, despite the insecurity and difficulties the status brings to their lives, my findings reveal that many San Francisco drivers prefer the identity of “independent contractor” to that of employee.

Based on four years of ethnographic research, including in-depth interviews of San Francisco taxi drivers and activists, my research reveals how workers make sense of liberalization and forage for a sense of authentic freedom and masculine power, feelings that are otherwise enigmatic in their chaotic and precarious work lives. These findings point to a potential new path towards comprehensive worker rights, protections, and benefits – a path that deviates from traditional independent contractor misclassification litigation and that requires a fundamental re-orientation to workers and their lives.

Department:  Ethnic Studies

Project Title:  Modes of Domesticity: The Intersections of Indian Domestic Service and WWII Politics in the San Francisco Bay Area

This research project examines the effects of Stewart Indian boarding School in Carson City, Nevada. While no longer in operation, for decades, the school administered an Outing Program. The Outing Program was a job placement plan for recent female graduates. In the program, young Indian women became household servants, hotel maids, nannies and the like. On account of Stewart’s program, across the region and in nearby states, young Indian women began careers in domestic servitude in hotels and wealthy homes.

During WWII, a number of Stewart graduates were placed in the San Francisco Bay Area. This project traces their stories and their communal efforts that contributed to the creation of the Bay Area Indian community. Modes of Domesticity will critically examine the Outing Program and such boarding school methods that disrupted and reshaped Native men and women’s traditional roles and power. Through this project, I will examine how the imposed career path affected the lives and families of the women it “served.” Importantly, Caitlin hopes to tell a story of their agency and survivance.

Department:  Ethnic Studies

Project Title:  The Derrion Albert Beating: Visual Representations of Racialized Violence

Derrion Albert, an African American male, age 16, was beaten to death outside his high school on the south side of Chicago in September of 2009. His murder, recorded on a bystander’s cell phone, was widely circulated on the Internet, and his death quickly became a national spectacle. In my research, I analyze how visual representations of Albert’s murder, perpetuated racialized and gendered narratives of black masculinity1. Juxtaposing Albert’s school portraits, with the video of his beating, I show how both these images offer distinct, but interrelated symbols of blackness that buttress the formation of post-racial ideologies that simultaneously blame working class and poor African American urban communities for their lack of achievements, while embracing “exceptional” individuals of color, such as Derrion Albert, as part normative, national subjects. In my research I hope to gain a deeper understanding of how incidents of violence such as the Derrion Albert beating become national spectacles. I am interested in analyzing how “black on black” violence in particular is displayed as an ongoing narrative of “self-inflicted violence” in urban, black communities; a narrative, which according to Martita Sturkin is made to appear “replaying constantly, repeating again and again”2 Lastly, I contend that the sensationalism that surrounded Albert’s murder effectively eclipsed the devastating affects of widespread school schoolings which took place during recent educational reform.

TALA KHANMALEK (Spring 2013)
Department:  Ethnic Studies

Project Title:  Living Laboratories: Remapping the Legacy of Experiments in Empire

My grant project is a continuation of ongoing research for the third chapter of my dissertation on the medical inspection of immigrants by the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) at Angel Island during the Chinese exclusion era (1882-1943). In the early twentieth century, San Francisco was the main Pacific gateway into the nation. Often referred to as the “Ellis Island of the West,” Angel Island was one of two seaports of entry at which discriminatory immigration policies were enacted through a wide range of practices. However, the Angel Island Immigration Station was characterized by the mass detainment and deportation of Asian immigrants in particular. While race became a determining factor of citizenship with the Chinese Exclusion Act, “loathsome and contagious diseases” were also legal causes of exclusion. In Chapter 3, I am interested in how medical inspection was leveraged to regulate immigration and as such, conflated excludable diseases with other legal classifications of difference like race, class, gender, sexuality and ability. I argue that medical or “line” inspection was the Federal law’s most effective regulatory mechanism precisely because it mobilized discourses of health to inscribe difference into the bodies of individual immigrantsand onto populations of “others.”

Department:  African American Studies

Project Title:  The Practice of Freedom: Reconsidering Freedom in African American Literature

My dissertation is an interdisciplinary study of the meaning and experience of freedom in America as read through African American literature. The goal of the project is to grasp what Ralph Ellison describes as “…a certain degree of freedom that had always existed in my group’s state of unfreedom.” By analyzing the complexities in African Americans’ struggle for freedom and by exploring the possibilities within how African American writers and vernacular cultural practices imagine what it means to be free in America, this dissertation works to understand freedom as an experience that is made—constituted by practices—and not as an entity conferred. My dissertation focuses between 1863 and 1964, analyzing the rhetoric around freedom as found in key political and legal documents, first and second hand accounts of how African Americans describe their experience of freedom, and essays written by some of the more prominent writers in the African American literary tradition. I am seeking support from the Center for Race and Gender for archival research, collecting oral histories and interviews of formers slaves and race leaders during this time period describing the gap between the freedom they imagined and experienced, how the racialized and gendered values of American society impacted the meaning of freedom, and how they adjusted in their vernacular practices to make their own freedom.

Department:  African American Studies

Project Title:  Cotton Framed Revolutionaries: T-Shirt Culture and Black Power Iconography

My project focuses on radical iconography of the Black Power Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States and the t-shirt trade industry. I am concerned with the discourse surrounding Black radicalism and the ways appropriated images from the past informs historical memory in the present moment. Using visual analysis, remix theory, performance theory, African Diaspora Studies, and cultural studies, I investigate t-shirt culture as not only a form of commodity culture associated with the t-shirt industry but as a meaning making behavior. I contend that “wearing history” is a type of performance, and that individuals who don the symbols of African American protest tradition extend and enliven that tradition by and beyond aesthetic means. I explain how contemporary products remix and reimagine not only the images (both the physical image and the iconic, “public” image) of specific individuals and groups, but also their political philosophies and the overarching tenets of the Black radical tradition. My central concerns are how these t-shirts convey historical, cultural, and political meanings in the present moment, and how they relate to modern political struggles and communication within the African diaspora.

Department:  History

Project Title:  Mexican American Historical Thinking in the American Southwest in the Pre-Chicano Period

My dissertation is a study of Mexican Americans and the intellectual networks that shaped their historical thinking (historicity) in the American Southwest. I hypothesize that the historical imagination of Mexican Americans developed in three stages: the post-annexation period (Mexican Cession following the U.S.-Mexican War in 1848), the early twentieth century, and the Chicano period. With annexation, Mexico lost approximately half of its total territory to the U.S., including the historically and racially diverse population living within it. At this time, U.S. racial ideology was premised on black-white constructs of race. Mexican Cession, then, complicated this black-white binary model, creating a racially ambiguous place for Mexican Americans in the historical imagination. This uncertainty suggests the development of identities based on black-white racial constructs, but also by historical constructs. In other words, race matters to my project for the types of historical claims made about a community or individual. Questions central to my research include: How did the black-white binary shape Mexican Americans historical thinking, and how did this influence their self-identification? At this current stage, my research is focused on Mexican American and non-Mexican American intellectuals in early twentieth century Texas and the academic networks that shaped historicity and race identification.

Department:  History

Project Title:  Unfinished Freedom: Slavery and Citizenship in Post-Emancipation Southern Courts, 1865-1896

My dissertation tells the story of legal Reconstruction in the post Civil War American South. Specifically, I examine post-emancipation slave cases. These cases involved slavery and slave law but were not decided until after the Thirteenth Amendment legally abolished the peculiar institution. I analyze the ways in which black and white litigants, their attorneys, and state judges confronted an uncertain legal landscape that had been fundamentally changed by the Civil War. The ways these men and women shaped the post-bellum legal order and the impact that they had on their own individual futures, on the South, and on the American legal tradition more generally, has not been included in traditional treatments of Reconstruction. I intend my work to address this missing historiographical element, and expand our understanding of the legacies of slavery and the multiple meanings of post-bellum freedom.

KRISTEN SUN (Spring 2013)
Department:  Ethnic Studies

Project Title:  The Politics of Memory and Gender in Memorializing the Korean War

The symbol of the violated women’s body, particularly by U.S. soldiers, as embodiment of the traumatized Korean nation is a common trope within South Korean films about the Korean War and its aftermath. Furthermore, sexual violence against Korean women by American soldiers is a particularly contentious topic within contemporary South Korea yet rarely depicted in spaces of national memory. These national memories of the Korean War (the war film and the war museum) are inherently masculine. However, within the American context, there is a wide body of discourse by Korean Americans on traumatic memories and the intergenerational trauma that stems from war. Scholars such as Ji-Yeon Yuh and Grace Cho discuss the legacy of Japanese colonialism (comfort women) and U.S. imperialism (military prostitutes) on women’s bodies as the source of trauma for second generation Korean American women. Why is it that contemporary Korean American memories of the war and attempts to reconcile these memories gendered female? While trauma and PTSD are discussed within veterans’ communities as direct forms of trauma stemming from war, why is intergenerational and “indirect” trauma feminized? My project seeks to explore the politics of memory and gender in the process(es) of memorializations of the Korean War.  Kristen Sun discusses her research onCRG’s SoundCloud Channel.

CONNIE WUN (Fall 2012)
Department:  Education

Project Title:  Where Violence and Discipline Intersect: School Discipline Policies, Prisons, Race & Gender

Within the past few decades, there has been growing attention towards the relationship between schools and prisons. School discipline scholars contend that contemporary school discipline policies and mechanisms resemble and reflect the infrastructure, pedagogical practices, and philosophies of the penal institution (Saltman & Gabbard 2003; Schnyder 2010). Such policies and practices demonstrate an intersectional relationship between schools and prisons (Meiners, 2010).

Although boys and girls of color are both disproportionately represented in school discipline data, most literature has focused on the impacts that school discipline policies have had on the lives of males of color (Rios, 2010). Research on the relationship among punishment, discipline policies and masculinity has been useful in helping us to understand the ways that discipline practices police and punish particular masculinities. However, little is known about the effects that these discipline policies have on young females of color, including the intersectional forms of violence that these girls experience inside and outside of school (Richie, 2012; Roberts, 2012). This project seeks to fill in this gap in school discipline literature by exploring the connections between school discipline, racial and gendered violence.


Department:  Ethnic Studies

Project Title:  Cultural Revitalization Efforts and Indigenous Rights in Nahuizalco, El Salvador

Why do indigenous Salvadoran communities continue to endure exclusion from the Salvadoran nation-state despite the national government’s promotion of and the United Nations’ advocacy for indigenous rights? How are local cultural revitalization efforts actively creating consciousness among indigenous Salvadorans to identify and claim rights as indigenous peoples? How do indigenous rights organizations within El Salvador interact with regional and international organizations to put pressure on the Salvadoran government to achieve indigenous rights? My research project will investigate how cultural revitalization efforts help indigenous communities work toward political, social, and economic equality within El Salvador. I will conduct ethnographic fieldwork in Nahuizalco with the Náhua community, the largest and most prominent indigenous ethnic group in El Salvador. Methodologically, I will do archival research, participant observation, and conduct interviews with the leaders and members of Nahuizalco’s House of Culture, an organization that promotes indigenous rights and is at the forefront of local cultural revitalization efforts. My research will examine the extent to which cultural revitalization efforts are helping the indigenous rights movement improve the livelihoods of indigenous communities in El Salvador.

Department:  Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies, Ethnic Studies

Project Title:  Expression Through the Small Screen: How Asian American Students in UC Berkeley Respond to Asian American Cultural Productions on YouTube

While Asian Americans were historically marginalized from dominant media structures like Hollywood, they are able to form large followings through new media platforms like YouTube. Many of these cultural producers have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, and some of them produce videos with millions of views on a weekly basis, but are not commonly researched in academia. With this new space for widespread cultural production, I hope to explore whether these videos impact or express the opinions of Asian Americans at UC Berkeley in regards to pertinent Asian American topics like Alexandra Wallace’s video blog, Linsanity, family, and stereotypes. I will divide sixty Asian American UC Berkeley students into four groups of fifteen, based on these topics. I hope to understand how Asian American cultural producers on YouTube, along with their content, interact with UC Berkeley Asian American students and their experiences to structure or reflect their opinions, as well as the framework with which students consume the videos. It is important to understand the relationship between Asian American videos on YouTube and the Asian American audience because it reflects the changing dynamics of Asian American self-representation as it branches into new domains of cultural production and politics.

Department:  History

Project Title:  Erasing Arizona: The Purging of Mexican-American Educational Rights

In 2010, the Arizona legislature banned the teaching of Ethnic Studies in public schools (K-12) via House Bill-2281. This bill specifically targeted Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican-American Studies program. According to the proponents of this bill, the MAS program was “dangerous” because it promoted ethnic, racial, and class divisions among students. In my research project, I will go beyond such public declarations to investigate what were the historical and political factors that led to the drafting and adoption of HB-2281. My methodological approach will consist of archival research at Arizona Historical Society archives, at the University of Arizona Special Collections and at Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records. Furthermore, I will complement this research with semi-structured interviews with critical actors that were involved in the dispute including local Arizona politicians, MAS educators, and MAS students in Tucson. My project will directly engage with the growing historical and political literature documenting the struggle of Mexican-American students for education rights in the Southwest. Lastly, by documenting their fight to revoke HB-2281, I will seek to contribute to the literature on Latino social movements and ethnic political organizations.

Department:  English

Project Title:  Electronic Dance Mu$ic: The Theoretical Discourse on the Promulgation of Western Ideology in the Non-West

My research examines how electronic dance music festivals (or raves) subvert the push toward cultural globalization. This speculation is against the general perspective of the ravers on these festivals, which is that the ideology practiced in raving sites (peace, love, unity, respect, or PLUR for short) promotes acceptance of all cultural, sexual, racial, and gender identities. This notion is especially relevant to raves that are held outside of the U.S. and the “west” (including South Korea, Netherlands, India, etc.). But my research will argue the opposite: that underneath these raving spaces, the purity of its unifying and globalizing ideology is exploited by western capitalists for mass profit as well as western cultural imperialism. This notion is exemplified, for example, in the advertisements of Italian bags seen in these international events with the caption underneath that leave the impression of the superiority of the “west” and the inferiority of the “non-west” in regards to aesthetic production. These cultural artifacts will then illustrate how western cultural ideology gets disseminated throughout the rave sites, and by extension, expose the push toward cultural globalization as in fact, westernization.

Department:  Society & Environment

Project Title:  Indigenous Women and Water in Bolivia

Mujeres Indígenas y Yaku (Indigenous Women and Water) will examine the ways access to water in the peri-urban margins of Cochabamba, Bolivia are drawn around lines of race, gender, and socio-economic status. After the failure of water privatization by the World Bank, water cooperatives assumed responsibility of providing water to the unconnected in Cochabamba. However, access to water and sanitation remains incredibly low – 27% for drinking water and 12% for sanitation in neighborhoods in the Zona Sur – and indigenous women are disproportionately impacted by unequal access to water. I will partner with the organization I spent 10 weeks with this past summer, Agua Para el Pueblo, which works in the fields of water resources management, capacity building, social justice, community organizing, infrastructure development, and impact evaluations. The goal of this research is to complement existing literature about indigenous women’s access to water, sanitation, and hygiene in peri-urban Cochabamba, which is largely ignored by the government and marked by poverty, migration, and poor water quality due to exposure to raw waste.

MAI NHIA VANG (Fall 2012)
Department:  Social Welfare

Project Title:  A Critical Look at Domestic Violence through the Lens of Elder Hmong Women

Domestic violence continues to be a critical issue that has not been openly addressed within the Hmong community. My research project aims to study the perspectives of elder Hmong women (at least 60 years old) who have experienced domestic abuse, especially their perceptions of the root causes of domestic violence in the Hmong community, attitudes toward domestic abuse, and decision-making factors in seeking

help for themselves. My study will not only allow for an understanding of their coping experiences of domestic abuse and help-seeking behaviors, but also unmask their silenced stories and voices. These findings can be utilized as a tool in developing effective intervention for Hmong women with such experiences. What must appropriate resources look like for Hmong women who are forced to deal with this issue? Through a feminist lens, the issue of intimate partner violence will be better understood, as Hmong women will have the space to share how they look at questions of domestic abuse in the Hmong community. By having a deeper understanding of gender and cultural barriers, we can apply these concepts to other ethnic minority groups and develop culturally competent ways to serve these communities.

ALLI YATES (Spring 2013)
Department:  Interdisciplinary Studies

Project Title:  Pure Bodies – Probiotics and the Re-culturing of Colonial Hygiene in the United States

Probiotics, microorganisms known to benefit their host, appear in curious sites – from the projected $23 billion market involving upper-middle class white women searching for perfect intestinal balance to the international truggle to treat infant mortality in the ‘third world’. Lactobacillus reuteri is a strain that, according to its global distributer, “was isolated from the breast milk of a woman living in perfect harmony with nature in the Peruvian Andes.” In the same moment, world health efforts promote probiotics as a treatment for infant diarrhea and female sexual health issues in Sub-Saharan Africa. My senior thesis asks how early twentieth century narratives of racial impurity in United States food campaigns are reshaped today through clinical, corporate, and international discourses on probiotics. I will research histories of bacteriology and food nutrition, current probiotics advertising campaigns, and notions of intellectual property in relation to probiotics patenting. Finally, I will account for the role of racial coding in international aid efforts related to probiotics. My methodology will involve archival work as well as interviews with local and international yogurt producers, microbiologists, and practitioners of patent law. In examining the way probiotics travel, I can begin to explore how (and for whom) these microorganisms co-constitute human bodies.