Global Studies Capstone Projects: 2020 – 2021
- Spring 2021 Capstone Projects
Senior Thesis and Capstone Projects
“Restoring the Land: Traditional Agriculture for the Future” (Outstanding Thesis Award and Distinction 2020-2021) – Ashley Lituma
As climate change advances, it is becoming a huge factor in food security for communities across the globe. On Turtle Island, food apartheid is disproportionately impacting Black and Indigenous communities. Through archival research of digitalized settler diary entries and a series of interviews with Indigenous land activists and cultural workers, I focused on how Indigenous worldviews and languages can power radical alternatives to the current industrial food system. Upon taking a deeper look at the U.S. food system’s foundation in eliminatory histories of conquest, primitive accumulation, terra nullius, and settler colonialism, I found that these histories continuously inhibit the proper transformation of our food system. In order to heal, transform, and create a food system that truly nourishes Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, settlers must step back, give land back, decolonize, and center Indigenous knowledge systems.
“No Llames a la Policía: The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States and its Impact on Local Communities” (Distinction 2020-2021) – Fatima Espinal
Immigration law has shaped legal status categories and attaches consequences to them that create boundaries around citizenship. Based on an incident where an ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) bus was parked in front of a local supermarket in South Florida, “No Llames a la Policía” traces how the criminalization of immigrants has impacted local communities through a case study of this space. This thesis interrogates how the category of the criminalized immigrant has been shaped to benefit state structures. Through an ethnographic study of the supermarket in South Florida, hardships immigrants face are systemically rooted instead of individually produced. Politically, immigration laws in the 1980s to mid-1990s created an overlap between employment, welfare, and prison systems. Economically, these laws were created under an economic incentive in which the system created more paths for immigrants to be criminalized to fill prisons. Neoliberal forms of governance in the early 1980s established prisons as a funnel for the economy leading to an increase in immigrant detention. Socially, the narrative of the criminalized immigrant is maintained in the social sphere through the good versus bad immigrant dichotomy. Together, these factors construct the category of immigrant in the United States. To break the molds that criminalize immigrants, engaging in an abolitionist framework that includes sanctuary is necessary. Sanctuary poses a challenge to sovereign state power and abolition aims to abolish our structures of surveillance. Ultimately, this thesis argues that as long as structures of criminalization and social control remain intact, immigrants can not be truly liberated.
“The Crisis of the International Refugee Regime: A Case Study of Eritrea” (Distinction 2020-2021) – Erica Levenson
The flow of refugees out of postcolonial, so-called failed states in the Global South has steadily grown over the past decade. In 2019, the number of refugees reached 26 million, the highest ever recorded. This has garnered significant attention from the international community and resulted in the fear-mongering term “refugee crisis.” However, we cannot examine the structural conditions behind displacement without addressing the colonial problems inherited by postcolonial states. I use Eritrea as a case study to prove that colonialism creates a profound need within postcolonial states to foster an independent national identity that is often accomplished through authoritarianism, and ultimately creates displacement. By tracing the origins of refugee governance, I argue that the true crisis is how the Western actors responsible for preempting displacement are also the actors responsible for responding to it. International refugee law only recognizes three “durable solutions” to displacement: resettlement, repatriation, and local integration. In 2019, 1.84% of all refugees were resettled, repatriated or locally integrated while 62% lived in refugee camps. Camps have become fourth “durable solutions” in the Global South, where 86% of all refugees are hosted. Still recovering from the economic impacts of colonialism, host states in the Global South are unable to decline the monetary incentives they receive from states in the Global North to contain refugees in camps. These deep-rooted problems within the regime are predicated upon inequality and the violence of European colonialism. Therefore, I propose a policy framework that works towards the abolition and reconstruction of refugee governance.
Birthers, Midwives, and the Doctorization of Childbearing: An Analysis of the Impacts of Settler Colonialism on Midwife Care in the United States” (Distinction 2020-2021) – Delia Rogers
Birth in the United States has become overwhelmingly dominated by physicians and doctors. Only 4% of births in the United States are attended by midwives, and of those midwives, an overwhelming majority of them (95%) are white. But how did we get here? How is it that, over the last 150 years, midwives have gone from performing all births to performing less than 5% of them? I explore how this shift is tied to logics of settler colonialism as they have impacted midwifery in the United States. Through the history of the medicalization of the body as it related to birth and, more broadly, global reproductive justice, it is clear that hegemonic Western medicine has acted as a gatekeeper to birth as an autonomous experience (i.e. birthers having the means to control over their birthing methods and spaces). Linking this to the epistemic violence that comes along with the production of knowledge for and by the few, access to midwifery as practice becomes exclusionary. I draw from literature on critical science and technology studies, ecofeminism, and radical futurity to create a framework that looks deeply at how midwife care has become widely inaccessible in the United States, but is still the primary form of birth care in many other parts of the world. I argue that midwifery has been materially impacted by the logics of settler colonialism, including the colonial modern gender system (Lugones 2007), the imposition of Western scientific knowledge as true and valid, and the medicalization of the body and birth.
“Racial Animus and Disobedience: Examining the Manifestation of Excessive Use of Force During 2020 Anti-Police Brutality Protest” – Myrakel Baker
During the 2020 anti-police brutality protests, there were over 1,000 instances of police brutality against protesters, more than 500 instances of police using less-lethal rounds, pepper spray, and teargas; 60 incidents of officers using unlawful assembly to arrest protesters; 19 incidents of police being permissive to the far right and showing double standards when confronted with white supremacists; five attacks on medics; and 11 instances of kettling. Given the importance of demurral in democratic societies, I am working on the topic of the use of force because I want to find out if race played a factor in the varying use of force tactics used on 2020 anti-mask protesters versus 2020 anti-police brutality protesters so I can contribute to a better understanding of excessive use of force towards Black protesters. Police racism has been studied extensively by American researchers and politicians, with a general finding that “officers who worked in larger cities, or in areas with higher percentages of ethnic minorities, were more likely to show bias against black suspects”. However, studies of police racism during protests are less conclusive and treat protesters as a homogenous population. In this paper, I will examine the relationship between the police officer’s use of force and 2020 protesters, to help readers understand the overarching question of how the police officers’ use of force towards 2020 protesters illuminated racism in the United States.
“Radicalizing Video Games: Gaming as Experimentation for Alternative Futures and Self Liberation” – Sabelle Bergman
In this thesis, I focus on the potential for video games to be a unique site for change, radical
discourse, and transformation. My thesis is an exploratory analysis and a theoretical inquiry
on the ability to construct realities through the use of video games, and in turn, how these
constructed realities can facilitate situations and interventions that encourage consciousness
raising and critical thinking. The driving question at the heart of my thesis is: What worlds
can we construct and explore in video games and how can these worlds help us to imagine
different ways of being as well as alternative futures? The “we” I refer to are people who
play and make video games; and who are committed to social justice and seeing how these
can intersect. This particular potential of video games is largely unexplored and
undervalued within academia – but I argue it can be a very revolutionary tool.
“The ‘Permanent’ Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, An Analysis of the United Nations and US Media as Epistemic Actors: What Do We Know About Yemen?” – Evelina Dahlgren
Through content analyses of UN press statements and US media articles, this research investigates how epistemic actors have covered Yemen, the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, and influenced the public’s perception of the situation. This study takes both a quantitative approach in considering the number of times Yemen is discussed compared to crises of similar magnitude, and a qualitative perspective in reviewing what epistemic actors have said explicitly about Yemen since Saudi Arabia began an intervention in the country in 2015. The Saudi-led intervention—supported and funded by the United States as well as other Western powers—has resulted in a worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen and limited the possible solutions. Since Saudi Arabia and the United States are fueling this never-ending war, a demonstration of their involvement is crucial to the public’s holistic understanding and acknowledgment of the conditions which prompted this catastrophe. This research suggests that epistemic actors such as the UN and US media have not provided full context of the crisis in Yemen due to the US holding a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council and is a large funder of Saudi-military actions, leaving the public with insufficient knowledge. As public awareness aids humanitarian funding, epistemic actors must report sufficiently on emergencies such as Yemen.
“The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: A Colonial Analysis of the Genocide” – Fatema Dewji
One of the biggest atrocities that took place in Africa was the Rwandan genocide in 1994, which killed between 200,000 to 800,000 Tutsis. The disputes between the Hutus and Tutsis, which led to the genocide, dating back to the pre-colonial era in Rwanda. This paper looks into the legal system that was used to provide justice for Tutsis as a way to determine whether or not our current legal systems, which are built on the basis of colonialism, are sufficient enough to tackle and provide justice to violence that has pre-colonial roots. This paper first looks at why we commit genocide, it then provides a brief account of the pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial roots of the genocide as well as looks into the international communities’ response to this act of violence. The next chapter discusses the colonial nature of international law as well as Tanzanian refugee laws that change to become more suppressive of the rights of refugees. Lastly, the paper looks into the UN archives to analyze the cultural awareness and the lack of emphasis on the pre-colonial roots of the genocide, as well as provides an account of the Gacaca courts as an alternate justice system.
“The Question of Identity of Lebanese Americans in Dearborn, Michigan” – Xahraa El-Harake
Situated in the Detroit metropolitan area, Dearborn is home to the largest concentration of Arabs outside of the Middle East. It is also well known for being home to the Ford Motor Company, as well as the largest Mosque in North America. This thesis examines the formations of Middle Eastern identity throughout the city to gain a better understanding of what it means to have an Arab American identity, even though there seems to exist many contradictions between what it means to be simultaneously Arab and American. Specifically, it investigates Lebanese Americans in Dearborn, Michigan, who are the most populous Arab ethnicity in the city. To gather data on the identities of Lebanese Americans in Dearborn, I conducted six interviews via Zoom. The interviews revealed an interesting correlation between being Lebanese and being “very” prideful of one’s Lebanese heritage and ethnicity. While most interviewees also made correlations between the work ethic of Lebanese and the opportunity afforded in America, some also noted the stark differences between both cultures. In consideration of these responses, my own life experiences as a Lebanese American growing up in Dearborn, and the secondary research that was done, I argue that the Lebanese population in Dearborn has been able to build a sense of superiority in daily life within the community and in relation to other Arab ethnicities in Dearborn. This sense of superiority is rooted in having higher economic status, lighter skin tone, and practicing certain cultural norms which are deemed more favorable than those practiced by other Arabs.
“The Friend, Not the Lover: On the Fat Body, Desirability Politics, Medicine, and How the
Media Has Used the Construction of The Fat Body to Profit on the Public’s fear of Gaining Weight” – Ninoshkka Paul
In the past 30 years, bodies and their functions have consistently changed in the public’s eye view. Specifically, after the early 2000s, dieting and body dysmorphia became an increased phenomenon to younger folks growing up in that era. This means looking at Tv Shows, Book Depictions, and the harm that diet culture has done in trying to provide younger people with “healthy lifestyles”. This project will examine the history of Fatphobia, how it is inherently anti- Black/Indigenous, the steps that can be taken into aiding in a culture that we all partake in, and how the colonial project has constructed the bodies of BIPOCs to fit their own ideals of beauty. I will be using this thesis to research the long-term effects that eating disorders have on the human brain, and what happens when young folks eating habits are heavily policed by their own families and friends’ fear of fat.
“(Un) Learning: Decolonizing The Classroom” – Raquelle Querido
“Ankara, A Fashion Paradox: Notes On The Effects of The Intersection At Which Colonialism and Clothing Meet to Exploit Black People Globally” – Funmi Tejuoso
Through a historical tracing of Ankara’s journey into West Africa, this thesis paints a picture of how the infrastructure of the fashion industry is inherently colonial, as this popular wax print fabric I speak of is both the center of African fashion and a commodity brought to the continent by way of colonialism, implying that its existence in Africa and African diasporic communities is proof enough that colonial structures still exist. This paradox of Ankara as both the epicenter of African fashion and a colonial commodity is what leads me, after analyzing the psychology behind colonialism, to speak about Ankara’s present-day impact in fashion and what it can mean to seize back the means through which it is produced. I conclude my project with a creative component, where I lay out the details of a compound I would like to build in the future. Within it, I want to have a library, design studio, concept store, eatery and garden—amongst other things—for African communities impacted by the harm the fashion industry has caused to actively have a space where they can practice decentering colonialism’s effects through different processes, that will aid in the destruction of exploitative ways the fashion industry behaves towards Black people globally.
“Mother Tongue: The Relationship Between Language and Food in Liberian Culture” – Chyna Cassell
Divided into sixteen ethnic tribes, native Liberians lived and practiced their customs for centuries. After the conclusion of slavery in the United States, the American Colonization Society (ACS) sponsored freedmen to resettle on this already-inhabited land. The ACS and the Americo-Liberians imposed the English language and thus over sixteen indigenous languages that existed in Liberia became obsolete over time. In addition to the impact colonialism had on language, it also influenced food and cuisine in Liberia. Though the nation has been independent since 1847, Liberians have been tasked with navigating life in postcolonial society ever since. In order to understand the specifics of how Liberians maneuver through postcolonial structures, I traveled to Monrovia, Liberia in March 2021 to conduct an autoethnography as a Liberian-American. I immersed myself at the intersection of food and language in the domestic sphere. I found that these are means that allow Liberians to articulate care and nurture in spite of the burdens bestowed upon them by their nation’s complicated colonial history.
“Living in the Tension Between Opposing Ideologies: Women Instrumentalists in Cuba” – Victoria Heffron
Women instrumentalists in Cuba exist in a whirlwind of opposing ideologies. Situated within the context of socialist Cuba, they experience a music education which emphasizes socialist values, but also encounter a warped music industry that seeks to satisfy the needs of the Western tourist despite the capitalistic value system it creates. Interpreting my research through a feminist lens with an emphasis on capitalism critique, I analyze the ways in which women instrumentalists experience musical schooling, getting gigs and performances within musical tourism, the gendering of musical instruments, and community amongst women in the field. Women instrumentalists in Cuba exist in the ideological tension between capitalism and socialism. Socialist Cuba boasts of gender equality and grants education to all, whereas the country’s musical touristic industry warps to the form of capitalism by succumbing to the expectations of the Western tourist and undermines the importance of community and solidarity amongst women pursuing music. Women instrumentalists experience in the midst of opposing ideologies intertwine in a fixation on their bodies.
“Reinventing Coolitude Ancestry Through Mixed-Media” – Gabrielle Francis
May marks the month of Indian Arrival Day among Caribbean countries. On May 30th in 1845 the fatel razack brought indentured Indians to Trinidad and Tobago and the ratio of men to women on the first ship was 206:21. This landscape is one of a devastating gender imbalance. Despite this scarcity of women, that left us extremely vulnerable to brutal conditions, we have survived 176 years. As I reflect on what Indian Arriva/Survival Day meant then and now, I understand my work as a meditation on not just our history but the possibilities of our futures. As much as this is about honoring my ancestors and elders, this is a commitment to cultivating a world for myself and my descendants that protect, honor and uplift us. Coolitude is a framework coined by poet and scholar Khal Torabully that theorizies both a cultural and poetic identity encapsulating the trans-oceanic ancestral legacy of indenture. Following this academic framework, my thesis is mediation and anthology on the work of contemporary artists and scholars of indenture descent including myself, Suzanne Persad, Andil Gosine and Renulka Maharaj and the possibilities their work opens up around memory and space. With my unique perspective as a double major in both Global Studies and Visual Studies and a minor in Race and Ethnicity, I use mixed-media art as a way to approach, understand and reimagine Coolitude ancestry. Our ancestral legacies of indenture are also legacies of resistance and reinvention in multiple ways and this work is of deep love and care for my communities.
“The Rise of Female Voices Through Artistic Retaliation: Queen Latifah’s Impact” – Sarah Grados
The stigma of sexism has existed in society since eternity. Amongst the industries, the entertainment industry could especially be labeled as the flagbearer of sexism. In response to these oppressive standards, throughout the late 20th century, modern era feminists have tried to deplore these gender biased norms. Still, the entertainment industry is stuffed with content based on female derogation, particularly led by the hip hop industry. As the main leader of sexism and misogyny, there have been countless cases where male artists or the lyrical content of rap songs have blatantly objectified females, degrading their value to the mere objective of satisfying an ephemeral need for aesthetic or sexual pleasure. Rappers have inconsequently used women to their benefit, whether because of the fact that sex sells, or to satisfy the need for power; This practice of exploitation has run rampant in the industry at the cost of women’s equality within the arena. Of all the female demographics, black women are the most targeted for this type of exploitation because they were perceived as belonging to a submissive community – one that wouldn’t dare hit or talk back. However, black female rappers have raised their voice against this nihilistic attitude towards females. It has taken a lot of effort, courage, and strength to secure a position in the male-dominanted sexist hip hop industry. Amongst these African American female pioneers, the name of Queen Latifah has always been highlighted because of her unique way of cutting through the noise despite her struggles. Therefore, in response to these lived experiences as a black woman, this research paper intends to delve into the intricacies of intersecting factors that have led to such massive sexism in the music industry. In addition, this research is a case study of the toils that Queen Latifah had to face while speaking against gender inequalities, women objectification, and racial discriminations. This study shall focus on the extent of efforts that Queen Latifah had to exercise as she navigated through the instigative era of hip hop, in contrast to the struggles that a modern-day female rapper now faces by comparison.
“The Social Context of Food and Migration Among Trinidadian Migrants in the American South” – Emily Ling
This research takes a transnational approach to explore how food impacts Trinidadian migrants’ sense of identity in the South. Numerous scholars have studied how food and migration inform identity and a sense of belonging, but this paper specifically focuses on a group of Trinidadians who live in a region of the U.S. that has very small and sporadic Trinidadian populations. Through a series of interviews, this paper explores how food is deeply associated with nostalgia and memory in a way that informs how Trinidadians in the South see themselves in relation to their own histories and current environment. Food is a language that connects us to one another while still highlighting our ethnic and national backgrounds. The production and consumption of Trinidadian food in the South exists in a liminal space, and it is that in-betweenness that is crucial to understand Trinidadian immigrants in the South.
“I Care: Neoliberalism, Friendship, and YellowTail Wines” – Jasmine Santos
In this thesis, I examine the ways in which friendship has been transformed into a site of production for capitalist gains. The case examined is YellowTail wines and its impact on American Generation Z (GenZ) college students. This case was selected because of a gap within existing research concerning the social implications of alcohol industry marketing on this generational cohort. The guiding research questions were: How has neoliberalism transformed the experience of friendship in the US among Generation Z? What are the links between care and consumption in neoliberalism? A mixed methods approach was used to collect data. The first was content analysis, where I examined three YellowTail wine advertisements from their most recent campaign. Through ad examination I extract both the messaging and ‘sold experience’ attached to the product. My second method was formal interviews where I spoke to American GenZ college students to learn about their experience drinking wine with friends and how they understood the two YellowTail wine advertisements in question. The results from my work was that wine worked as a facilitator of care for this generational cohort. Moreover, the intimate moments that were a prerequisite for the care to take place was mediated through consumption. This paper is important because it helps better understand how market processes have unintended social consequences. Ultimately, this project works in the pursuit of becoming a more deliberate friend.
- Fall 2020 Capstone Projects
Fall 2020The Anthropocene’s Roots in Haiti – Vanessa AguasvivasWe Can’t Afford to Die: Death Memorialization Under Capitalist Pressures in Hong Kong – Yan Ki Bernice HoNew Aid: An Alternative System of Private International Aid Focusing on Direct Monetary Donation – Chloe KoehlerSomatic Descriptions of the Processes Affecting Detained Immigrant Children in Farmville, Virginia – Leigh-Anna NielsenPoliticization of Refugee Resettlement in the United States and its Effect on Kenya as a Country of Asylum – Corinne SweeneyThe Memorialization of Global Black Histories – Laura WaltonOn Human Natures: An Analysis of California’s Vulnerability to Fire – Alexandra Zenner
Lang Senior Work 2020