KATHRYN BENJAMIN (Fall 2014)
Department: African Diaspora Studies
Project Title: The Impact of Marronage in the Great Dismal Swamp In History and Memory
This study is a critical examination of both the history of the Dismal Swamp maroons (individuals some would label “runaway slaves”) and of the politics of race and representation of this history in public historical narratives and collective memory. The project focuses on the resilience and survival of African American maroon communities within the Great Dismal Swamp, a huge morass of swampland straddling the Virginia/North Carolina eastern seaboard throughout the period of 1700-1865. Part of the study explores the internal dynamics of resistant and generally self-reliant communities in the swamp interior, composed primarily of black maroons by the late 18th, early 19th century, as well as the influence of their activities and of the swamp itself on the surrounding plantation world. In addition to weighing the historical scale, scope, and impact of marronage in the Dismal Swamp counties, this research examines how racially shaped power politics of representation in the dominant historical archive and in institutional (re)presentations of local, regional, and national history work to silence, erase, or else distort both these histories of African American agency, survival, and resilience, and our memory about these histories. The dissertative emphasis on the material history of marronage and the historical veracity of its impact throughout and around the swamp questions current representational practices led by institutions such as National Park Services and US Fish and Wildlife Service that facilitate collective memory (or forgetting) of this history amongst local communities. The project objective is to critically examine the effects the politics of power in historiographical and institutional representations of resistant and agentive actions of the enslaved have on the memory and by extension, on the sense of identity and belonging held by local African American communities.
CHARISSE BURDEN-STELLY (Fall 2014)
Department: African Diaspora Studies
Project Title: What’s Left of African Diaspora Theory?: (Re)Turning to Political Economy and Articulating Culturalism to Economic Realities
The objective of my research is to comprehensively refocus the analytical framework of African Diaspora Studies as a necessary step in examining the “turn” in globalization to new centers of accumulation in the global south. I argue that such a turn has profound implications for the emergence of new understandings of blackness. As such, it is important to bring the theorizing and analysis of the global political economy more centrally into the scholarship of African Diaspora Studies. There is a growing significance of affective ties forged out of Diaspora articulations and their critical significance in an emergent global economy focused on “South-South” relations. I argue that diasporic ties are being harnessed in the service of global capital through forms of governmentality. This is becoming even more significant in the wake of the phenomenal growth occurring in many African economies that is transforming the continent into “the New Asia.” My approach to Diaspora confronts the intellectual and material problems posed by the “cultural turn” in Diaspora Studies. This, I argue, has led to a scotoma in the theorizing of the relationships between statist discourse, the global political economy, and the production of Blackness.
SARAH COWAN (Fall 2014)
Department: Art History
Project Title: Harlem Dwelling: Roy DeCarava's Fine Art Photographs, New York City, 1948-1996
The African American photographer Roy DeCarava captured his native Harlem in black and white photographic prints for nearly five decades beginning in the late 1940s. Though widely accepted as an important contribution to modern fine art photography, DeCarava’s work has been the subject of relatively little scholarly analysis. This gap in scholarship results in part from the interpretive challenge to art historians presented by his photographs. This disciplinary challenge arises from the intersection of: DeCarava’s race and its bearing on his relationship to the place and people he photographed; DeCarava’s unprecedented artistic choices in photographing Harlem’s residents; and the status of the medium of photography in the visual culture of the United States at mid century. My prospectus research asks how DeCarava’s implicitly political photographs, situated idiosyncratically in the art worlds of New York at mid century, offer a lens onto the broader cultural and economic climate of the United States.
BEEZER DE MARTELLY (Fall 2014)
Project Title: Grunge's Racial Imagination: Whitewashing the Seattle Sound and Body
Grunge, a music genre that blends metal and punk dubbed the “Seattle Sound,” emerged in the mid-1980s during a time of vigorous city boosterism. Coalescing in “seedy” nightclubs and restaurant backrooms in Seattle’s “blighted” Chinatown District, grunge helped give the area a racial makeover. How does centering race in grunge open new possibilities for examining the cultural and spatial work sound performs? First, I will consider how sounds, like the distorted guitar, originally coded as “black” migrated through heavy metal, hardcore punk, and grunge to be re-racialized as “white.” This migration bespeaks the “gentrification” of rock. Nevertheless, this study also interrupts a black and white racial binary, insisting on the significance of Asian American musicians. Examining how the genre refigures multi-ethnic Seattle as white, I explore how Asian American musicians navigated the music industry and struggled to maintain claims to the spaces in which the genre developed. Given that clubs central to the genre’s development were concentrated in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, I ask how and by whom were Asian American grunge musicians structured as “foreigners,” and to what extent does this process relate to a wave of neighborhood redevelopment and gentrification? Overall, this project examines the potential for ephemeral sound to transform physical reality, tracing this power through the racial imagination.
KATRINA C. L. EICHNER (Fall 2014)
Project Title: Queer Perspectives on Racialized Sexuality in 19th Century Fort Davis, Texas: Navigating Nervous Landscapes
Racist readings of African-American heterosexuality rooted in the nineteenth century have interpreted black sexual expressions as inherently “savage” and requiring social control. Eichner’s archaeological research queers the reading of black heterosexuality as deviant by showing that normative heterosexual practice is an unachievable reality. Rather, heternormativity is a structuring ideal which is mimicked through a variety of behavioral expressions that leave behind material traces. Through an investigation of the material and documentary remains of the racially segregated, nineteenth-century military establishment of Fort Davis, Texas,Eichner shows that the artificially structured fort community was not just regimented as a means of instilling discipline and enforcing power hierarchies. Instead, black bodily practice was regulated to prevent buffalo soldiers from accessing women. By investigating how gendered and sexual relationships were used by members of a multi-ethno-racial community to navigate this racially nervous landscape, Eichner argues that the economic and social commodification of these interactions resulted in increased access to material resources and social support. By entering into heterosexual and homosocial relationships, both informally and formally, black soldiers used this new social mobility to maintain autonomy over their social interactions and masculine rights.
TASHA HAUFF (Spring 2015)
Department: Ethnic Studies
Project Title: The Politics of Native Language Writing: Lakota Writing at Standing Rock
My dissertation draws attention to the significance of Native language writing in contemporary articulations of Native sovereignty. Historically and today, Native Americans have used writing to articulate Native identity, Native sovereignty, and therefore Native resistance to settler colonialism. Most of this writing, however, is in English. In this current period of Native nationalism and expansion of tribal sovereignty, Native peoples are actively claiming self-determination and returning to traditional cultural practices, values, and, pointedly, languages. However, there is little research on how Native peoples are taking up practices of Native language writing in their articulations of Native sovereignty, or what ideologies, policies, or structural obstacles influence the production of Native language texts. My research aims to address these gaps through ethnographic, archival, and cultural analysis at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, where there is a century-long history with Lakota language writing and a growing effort to revitalize the Lakota language. In this context, I ask: How are Native Americans using Native language writing and for what purposes? What influences Native peoples to write in one language over another? What are the possibilities and limits to Native language writing? And how have these dynamics influenced understandings of Native identity and sovereignty?
PATRICK JOHNSON (Fall 2014)
Project Title: Negotiating Past Black Media
My research explores how past black media texts function in the lives of black college students and contribute to their conceptions of blackness. Drawing on in-depth interviews, focus groups and textual analyses, my project examines how past media shape black cultural memories thus highlighting shifting constructions of blackness in popular culture. I am particularly interested in the ways students, who did not experience black media texts in their original temporal context, leverage past black media to substantiate their conceptions of generational difference. Additionally, I investigate how participants’ gendered positionalities inform their readings and memories of past black media texts.
MUNIRA LOKHANDWALA (Fall 2014)
Department: Film and Media
Project Title: Afterimages of History: Encountering the Archive in Contemporary Global Film and Video
My dissertation studies artist film and video practices that engage with archives or archival processes to challenge deeply embedded notions about the photographic image’s link to indexical and evidentiary “truth” within the systems of colonial, imperial, and state archives. More broadly, my dissertation is interested in how artists employ moving images in the process of archival excavation and archival production in order to expand the scope of what might be considered “historical” production, as well as to highlight the limits and possibilities of archival imagining for our understanding and experience of the past. My dissertation focuses on the works of artists and artist collectives based in the U.K., South Asia, Middle East, and the U.S., whose works address contemporary social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental “events” through an engagement with literal and figurative archives.
MARGO M. MAHAN (Spring 2015)
Project Title: Race, Masculinity, and the Development of Wife-Beating Laws in the U.S.
My dissertation investigates the role of race and masculinity in the development of wife-beating laws in the U.S. Because the two periods in which anti-wife-beating laws proliferated – 1870-1900 & 1970-2000 – coincide with first and second wave feminism, scholarship assumes that feminist activism brought about these laws, which legislatures therefore enacted in order to protect women. However, the first state to criminalize wife-beating was Alabama in 1871. Although Massachusetts followed suit months later, much of the legal shifts toward criminalizing wife-beating occured in Southern states where there was neither a feminist movement, nor female collective action against wife-beating. The questions that guide my research are therefore: What were the social conditions in which anti-wife-beating laws emerged in the U.S.? What do these conditions reveal about the primary functions of these laws? Using historical comparative analysis of the late 19th-century South and North, my preliminary findings suggest that anti-wife-beating laws were merely one tool of many that functioned to control the labor and degrade the social status of black men in the South, and European immigrants in the North. My research therefore reveals how racial and nativist projects to maintain racial domination motivated the emergence of the “feminist” laws that scholarship and social policy continues to conceptualize as apart from race, ethnicity, class, and masculinity.
MELINA M. PACKER (Fall 2014)
Department: Environmental Science, Policy, and Management
Project Title: The Politics of Pop: Soda Tax Policies and Social Anxieties
Advocates champion sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes as a powerful policy solution to the perceived problem of obesity, while critics maintain SSB taxes are both regressive and ineffective. This project explores and complicates this debate by comparatively analyzing anti-soda campaign content and imagery in two US cities: Berkeley, California and Boston, Massachusetts. Low-income women of color are especially targeted in weight-centric campaigns such as the soda tax effort, frequently characterized as the most overweight and unhealthy population in the greatest need. Given recent scholarship and activism challenging the construction of obesity as a disease, Western women’s particular histories of weight-based discrimination, and low-income populations and people of color’s historic social marginalization, my analysis of two soda tax campaigns––“Berkeley vs. Big Soda” and “Fatsmack” (Boston)––reveals the extent to which anti-soda and anti-obesity rhetoric reflects and perpetuates deeply entrenched social anxieties regarding the (physical) space low-income people and women, particularly those of color, may occupy.
JOCYL SACRAMENTO (Fall 2014)
Project Title: Critical Race Dialogue and Curriculum: Teacher Collaboration and the Implementation of Ethnic Studies in High School Classrooms
In the United States, Ethnic Studies has become a highly contested arena at the K-12 level. Programs like Tucson’s Mexican American Studies have been dismantled. In direct contrast, some California schools are taking action to institutionalize Ethnic Studies. This project examines the emergence of comparative Ethnic Studies at the high school level in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am particularly interested in exploring the relationship between critical race dialogue and the teaching and learning of curriculum that recovers and reconstructs the counternarratives, perspectives, epistemologies, and cultures of those who have been historically neglected and denied citizenship or full participation within traditional discourse and institutions. Through an ethnographic approach, I will generate data through participant observation and semi-structured interviews to understand how race, gender, sexual orientation, and class inform the development and implementation of high school comparative Ethnic Studies curricula. This study demonstrates several implications for the field of education, particularly within teacher education and teacher professional development.
BIANCA AYANNA SUAREZ (Fall 2014)
Department: Education - Social and Cultural Studies
Project Title: Educational Ideas in the Movement Era: A Narrative History of the Politics of Race, Class and Knowledge in the Detroit Public Schools, 1954-1976
This dissertation excavates the educational ideas of racial minorities which shaped the Detroit Public Schools in the transformative movement era of 1954-1976. I approach my research from the perspective that educational ideas are reflective of political, economic and socio-cultural relationships forged through historical processes. Through an oral history approach to educational research I prioritize narrators’ conceptualizations of education and highlight the social processes which informed core ideas and protest politics. This work situates narratives and educational visions within historical processes that include the Great Migration, the effects of chattel slavery and settler colonialism, and the practices of institutionalized racism in the auto industry, urbanization and public schools. Further, this dissertation considers the role of educational struggle as part of a larger liberation movement. The CRG grant supports travel to and from Detroit to conduct oral history interviews with narrators and to conduct archival research at the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs and University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library.
JENNIFER TUCKER (Fall 2014)
Department: City and Regional Planning
Project Title: On the frontiers of governance: Affect, Race and Illicit Trade in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay
The volume of illicit transborder trade running through Ciudad del Este, Paraguay once exceeded the GDP of the entire nation. My dissertation describes how Ciudad del Este acts as a regulatory node in shifting geographies of illicit trade by considering the sites through which the border trade and urban space are produced, regulated, and contested: the street, the shopping mall, the frontier, and the body. Against imaginations of lawlessness, I argue the city is artfully governed by alliances of local state and non-state actors, like gentleman contrabandistas, political fixers, local bureaucrats, customs officials, and regional judges. These uncommon alliances govern through producing legal and spatial ambiguity and by contingently circulating state benefits, like provisional tenure security for street traders and legal immunity for contrabandistas. Yet street vendors strategically engage emotion, exploit regulatory contingency, and call for a situated ethical response to the uneven distribution of vulnerability. I argue the emotive topographies and racialized body politics of everyday regulatory relations can be diagnostics of power. And so, I use the emotional displays of street vendors as a means to analyze the intersubjective relations through which governance and rule are performed, reiterated, and contested.
HANNAH WAITS (Spring 2015)
Project Title: Missionary Positions: American Evangelicals and the Transnational History of the Culture Wars, 1945-2000
This dissertation is the first comprehensive history of US missionaries in the late twentieth century, and the project explores a paradox – how did white US Christians become more progressive in their critiques of global racial hierarchies, yet more conservative in their politics of gender and sex? Two processes form the core foci of this research. First, this study examines post-colonial changes in the Global South during the 1950s-1970s, when colonized subjects revolted against European occupation and contributed to global debates about the politics of race. Second, this study examines the American culture wars of the 1960s-1990s, during which conservative white factions of US Christianity formed the New Christian Right, which extended its influence into national and international politics by focusing especially on issues of gender and sex. By using a transnational frame, this project illuminates how the biggest domestic processes were imbedded in international ones – how the US culture wars were but a local phase of a world problem.
CRISIS JOURNAL TEAM (Spring 2015)
Rodrigo Ochigame (Interdisciplinary Studies), Meg Perret (Gender and Women’s Studies), Taliah Mirmalek (Rhetoric), Julia Roma (History), Steven Yi (History), Nihil Shah (Mathematics)
Project Title: Crisis Journal
Crisis is an open-access, peer-reviewed, not-for-profit journal that bridges the gap between scholarly research and creative practice. The journal focuses on analyses of intersecting systems of oppression, such as white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and colonialism. We continue the tradition of thinkers who have worked at the intersections of theory and praxis, fiction and nonfiction, scholarly and popular works: Cidinha da Silva, Solmaz Sharif, Gloria Anzaldúa, Audre Lorde, Aimé Césaire—our inspirations. Although a handful of these thinkers are gaining acceptance within academia, none of them were initially accepted in academic spaces, much less published in academic journals. Even the most radical journals of decolonial and feminist scholarship have rigid expectations in regard to form, tone, and language, expectations that invisibilize personal experience and marginalize alternative forms of knowledge production. Crisis creates a space within academia that recognizes these forms of knowledge production and presentation as methodologically valid, theoretically rigorous, and academically important. Crisis accepts submissions in a variety of languages.
NAPHTALIE JEANTY (Fall 2014)
Project Title: Queerness is for White People: The Effects of the Idea of African American Sexual Deviancy among 19th Century Buffalo Soldiers
The goal of this project is to investigate male-identified homosociality within black communities by tracing masculine relationships within 19th century gendered labor spaces through an archaeological and an interdisciplinary approach. This study analyzes Buffalo Soldier troops stationed at Fort Davis, Texas from 1867-1891. It presents results from a summer 2014 excavation carried out adjacent to the modern remains of the fort. Main sources of evidence that I employ include: historical documents, recorded information about living arrangements, a literature review, and glass remains that show evidence of drinking which may have helped to promote a homosocial environment. I approach this research with a queer perspective and by merging black feminist and transnational feminist frameworks that allow me to focus on the bonds and relationships amongst African American soldiers that did not subscribe to traditional heteronormative practices. Because so often these relationships are obscured within documentary and material records, this paper engages with queer politics, while acknowledging histories of colonialism and slavery, that aim to address queer identities within African American communities-both historic and modern.
MORGAN RANDALL (Spring 2015)
Department: American Studies
Project Title: Oshun Honey: Democratizing the Black Superheroine
My project seeks to understand how Black women interpret themselves within the context of the comic book superheroine, by giving them creative involvement in a comic book with Black superheroines whom they design. Very few Black women superheroines exist in mainstream comics. Those that do often face more than the sum of the stereotypes associated with their race and gender individually—their duality carries its own stereotypes. This project seeks to give Black women themselves an opportunity to define their own image in the comic book medium. The super-powered heroes and heroines of comic books are important to us more for the struggles they share with us than for the other-worldly foes they vanquish. Thus, the comic this project creates will tell not just a story of a few Black superheroines, but of the Black women who created these characters, their struggles and their triumphs.
JINOH RYU (Fall 2014)
Department: Gender and Women’s Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies
Project Title: Transnational Feminist Approaches to the Identities and Experiences of Asian TCK Women at Cal
Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a term that refers to “a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture.” TCKs accompany their parents across national borders and into different societies before they build a coherent sense of cultural identity and “home.” Given their early exposure to multiple norms that may conflict with one another, Third Culture Kids carry a distinct consciousness and multifaceted subjectivity.
My research examines how UC Berkeley students who identify as Asian TCK women interpret and negotiate with their transcultural identities and experiences. I use transnational feminist approach in the intertextual analysis of 15 interviews. The study focuses on how global capitalism, neocolonialism, and neoliberalism as TCKs’ initial agents for highly mobile childhood may have affected their un/conscious cultural identification with or inclination toward (honorary) Whiteness. I also hope to find out how Berkeley politics of and education on diversity and the diverse sociocultural environment of San Francisco have possibly enabled Asian TCK women to reevaluate hegemonic Whiteness and to embrace their unique cultural backgrounds.