Global Studies Thesis Projects: 2012-2013

Spring 2012

Imani Altemus-Williams - Cultural Resistance: Empowering Youth Through Culturally-Based Curriculum

Cultural Resistance: Empowering Youth Through Culturally-Based Curriculum

Imani Altemus-Williams

In my thesis I demonstrate that the pedagogy and curriculum of La Raza Studies, and more broadly speaking culturally- based curricula in general, have in effectively reinforcing a positive self- perception for youth of color. I primarily focus 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 Ethnic Studies courses and curricula have in fostering an appreciation of history, language, cultural traditions, and sense of community. Lastly, my research proves that Ethnic Studies courses and curricula have 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 Invisibility of Lived Experience: The Role of Model Minority Stereotype among Chinese Children in New York City

The Invisibility of Lived Experience: The Role of Model Minority Stereotype among Chinese Children in New York City

Joel Arken

This project is an exploration of the limitations of the model minority stereotype in analyzing Chinese people with a specific focus on Chinese elementary students enrolled in an after-school program in Chinatown in New York City. The lived experiences of the students, especially the children of recently migrated parents, are made invisible by the problematic, simplistic, but historical stereotype through prevalence of the dominant narrative that is dictated through the stereotype. Qualitative methods such as interviews with teachers of the after-school programs and observation form the base of the research.

Melissa Bukuru and Johanna Goossens - The Silenced History of Colonialism in an American Textbook

The Silenced History of Colonialism in an American Textbook

Melissa Bukuru and Johanna Goossens

This paper seeks to understand what narratives about colonialism are being perpetuated within American world history textbooks, and how the exclusion of certain
information plays a central role in constructing the myth of America as a “liberator.” In doing this, we have placed 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 traced the history of textbook standards and education reform in the United States to cement the link between political motivation and the writing of textbooks. Further, we conducted a case study analyzing the treatment of conflict in the Middle East. We uncovered that the editorial decisions made by textbook publishers, editors and authors have contributed to telling a particular story about the Middle East: one where colonialism is barely connected to the conflicts today, and one that paints the United States as a mediator and broker of peace rather than an active player that has time and time again chosen sides. In light of this discovery, the last section seeks to identify potential hurdles in teaching world history and globalization in a changing world. We pointed to some possibilities for teachers and curricula that acknowledge the potential of high school students as activists who can play leading roles in the positive transformation of our societies.

Elizabeth Caitlin - No Human is Illegal: Coming out of the shadows as Undocumented, Activism for the DREAM act and beyond

“No Human is Illegal”: Coming out of the shadows as Undocumented, Activism for the DREAM act and beyond

Elizabeth Caitlin

This paper 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, 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. Plyler v Doe. ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny undocumented youth access 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 in their demand that, “ No Human is Illegal”.

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

Mainstreaming Gender: The Importance of Including Gender Studies in High School Curriculum

Danielle Docheff

The purpose of this project is to explore 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 ourselves and each other, I make a case for why it matters – how an informed, aware youth with this kind of education is important for both the individual and society as 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 creating a substantial impact. Students who didn’t have a comprehensive course talk about gender problematically, but do have the questions and skills to talk about these issues. Those who did have a comprehensive course allowed students to help them understand their place in their culture, and how they can extend that understanding to create awareness and social change on local and global scales.

Sarah-D'llona Louzon - The Interrelationship between public and private sphere: The National Identity Reconstruction Project in Post-Genocide Rwanda

The Interrelationship between public and private sphere: The National Identity Reconstruction Project in Post-Genocide Rwanda

Sarah-D’llona Louzon

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 have chosen this topic because I was deeply intrigued by the fact that not once during my two visits to the country have I heard Rwandans adopt a critical stance about their government and the genocide. Rwandans all had the same narrative, a narrative preached and shaped by the government in an effort to help its project of nation building. In parallel, any unofficial and counter-narratives are dismissed through different legal and political means. In turn, the boundaries of the private sphere are shrinking to the benefit of an ever-growing public sphere. My assumption is that, with time the youth of today will be the last on having to be tormented by their beliefs opposing the ones promoted by the government. Therefore, I am arguing throughout this work that unless deprivatization and de-individualization or 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.

Ariane Therese Mallon - Between Two Worlds: The Construction of Iranian-American Identities in an Age of Extremes

Between Two Worlds: The Construction of Iranian-American Identities in an Age of Extremes

Ariane Therese Mallon

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 my interviewee’s make their identity, it is not always under their control as external forces specifically, mainstream America causes the immigrant to be sensitive towards how they are perceived, thus altering their behavior by becoming more “white” and hiding their differences within its presence. This dual identity is characterized by an Iranian diasporic identity with Iranian cultural traditions as well as embraced notions of American civic nationalism. My family members serve as representatives of pre- and post-Iranian revolution migration (1978-1979), countering the stereotypes and popular imaginings of Iran.

Margaret Wenzel - A Critical Look at the Decline in Undocumented Mexican Migration

A Critical Look at the Decline in Undocumented Mexican Migration

Margaret Wenzel

The recent decline (2006-2011) in undocumented Mexican migration to the United States represents a shift from long-standing Mexican migration patterns. Various actors of the media and political elite have promoted the idea that it was mainly the effectiveness of U.S. enforcement and the poor economy in the United States that caused the decline. However, careful research revealed 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 of the factors that contributed to the decline must be acknowledged and fully understood by the public and government in the United States and in Mexico.

Fall 2012

Jessica Nina Rapchik - Katyn's Second Life: Visual Representations of Memory in the Commemoration of the Smolensk Tragedy

Katyn’s Second Life: Visual Representations of Memory in the Commemoration of the Smolensk Tragedy

Jessica Nina Rapchik

Spring 2013

Jessie Berger - The Evolution of Value: Middle Class Luxury Consumption in Urban China

The Evolution of Value: Middle Class Luxury Consumption in Urban China

Jessie Berger

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 affect 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 value 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 Matthew Simon Chavez - Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility Spurring Business Innovation and Competition

Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility Spurring Business Innovation and Competition

Eric Matthew Simon Chavez

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 the ability to rise against the power 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 divestiture but a business investment with the potential for incredible profit.

Walker Manchester Dawson - A Paradigm Shift in Global Norms: China's Influence in Africa

A Paradigm Shift in Global Norms: China’s Influence in Africa

Walker Manchester Dawson

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 them 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 their 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 the 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

UNESCO and the Politics of Cultural Preservation, Commodification and Disintegration

Louis Duva

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization has set out to make the preserving of cultural identity a top priority in today’s globalized world. However, the agency’s work has, at times had more negative effects of than good. This essay examines UNESCO policy regarding cultural preservation in the age of globalization while identifying the direct and indirect repercussions of their 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 they inaccurately and ineffectively view culture from an ethnocentric, simplistic point of view, and their 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 their 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

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

Caitlyn Limato

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. In doing this, I compared the foodways of low-income Mexican immigrants living in East Harlem to that of low-income Chinese immigrant’s 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 1 . 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 a 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 individual’s 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

The Plot: Empowerment Through a Community Garden

Steven Macchia

The Plots: a Roots and Vegetable Garden is the case study in which The Plot: Empowerment Through a Community Garden was written around. 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 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 within an individual’s community also prevents the need for transportation in order to access healthy food options. Through research we 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. Despite the success of our project we faced many obstacles along the way, which range from dealing with community boards, working with the community itself and attempting to work through multiple city run organizations.

Phelicia Magnusson - Articulating Change on Franklin Avenue

Articulating Change on Franklin Avenue

Phelicia Magnusson

“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 narraitve 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 represenation of Fanklin Avenue as the “epicenter of gentrfication,” and a place of “unease”. Using frameworks from Elijah Anderson and Sharon Zukin, this thesis considers the roles of authencticy, consumption, social capital and race as factors that shape gentrification, and affect spatial inclusion.
Arriving at a conclusion, “Articulating Change On Franklin Avenue,” 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 expereince amongst community actors as stemming from the systematic creation of prejudice and tensions surrounding racial exlusion within the wider historical context of the policies and actions that came out of The Great Migration, White flight, and deindustrialization.

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

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

Fiona Isabella Mahurin

The forced removal of Cambodian-American refugees who have served complete prison sentences in the United States, oftentimes for crimes convicted of during 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 toward normative discourses, through the reappropriation of their identity, from „deportee‟ to „exile‟, demonstrative of asserted agency in the telling of their stories and how they enter spaces of dialogue.The following paper proposes an art exhibition to showcases work of KEA poet, Kosal Khiev, and encourages visitors to question their own assumptions of deportation policy impacting all immigrant groups, through humanizing the issue and exposing the historical context of U.S. foreign policy with Cambodia, which has continually concealed and remained unaccountable for acts of violence, dehumanization, and 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 fieldwork research, has been developed during the course of a collaboration between Khiev and I, over Skype and in person and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Sean Michael Murray - The United States and Vietnam: The Dichotomy of Political Memory and its Resolution

The United States and Vietnam: The Dichotomy of Political Memory and its Resolution

Sean Michael Murray

Memory, and the subjectivity of memory, has 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 facilitated a cease in international relations. During this time, memory of history, or mnemonic history, dictated the 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 of importance in memory occurred following the end of the Cold War. From the beginning to the end of the Cold War, the role of memory remained in tandem with international relations, eventually leading to the closure of historical resentments.

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

The Cost of Labor: Haitian Migrants in the Dominican Republic

Madeline Rosario

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 sending their national to the Dominican Republic for employment. My main question aims to address whether or not 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 taking 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 M. Rosenberg - Dollars, Detention, and Denial: Privatization and the U.S. Immigration Detention System

Dollars, Detention, and Denial: Privatization and the U.S. Immigration Detention System

Zoe M. Rosenberg

It has been 26 years since the last comprehensive immigration reform. In this time, so many loopholes have been created in the system. 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 evolvement 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, and conclude by highlighting some alternatives to detention, which are rarely utilized by the federal government for their poor-profitability.

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

For Better or for Worse? Land Deals and the Implications on Food Security and Poverty through a Socio-Economic Developmental Lens

Thabisa Akude Rulumeni

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 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 includes political cartoons as a
means of educating and communicating the subject matter through the visual medium of art.

Mica Scofield - Queering Immigration Organizations: The Intersection of LGBTQI and Immigration Rights

Queering Immigration Organizations: The Intersection of LGBTQI and Immigration Rights

Mica Scofield

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 L. Shubin - Who is the Child Left Behind? Inherited Inequality, Inherited Injustice: Education as a Site of Possibility and Disconnection

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

Paulette L. Shubin

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 Rachel Wiggins - The Contradiction Between Moral Relativism and the Belief in the Natural Rights of Men

The Contradiction Between Moral Relativism and the Belief in the Natural Rights of Men

Zoe Rachel Wiggins

This paper is about a contradiction in a belief system held by many secular modern liberal in the Unites States. Many hold strongly to the belief in natural rights—and that this is something that exists trans-historically and across all societies–yet are moral relativists. My aim in this paper is to show that this is a contradiction and to uphold the belief in natural rights one has to believe in moral absolutes. If one wishes to remain a moral relativists, 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 will 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.

Anita Iju Willcox - Transnational E-Waste Flows: The Case of a Toxic Trashline and its Cycle of Environmental Injustice

Transnational E-Waste Flows: The Case of a Toxic Trashline and its Cycle of Environmental Injustice

Anita Iju Willcox

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, international relations in global environmental politics and political economy render the narrative of e-waste transboundary flows far more complex than they appear.

Zakiya Jessie-Yaingpu Zazaboi - Sketches of a Child Soldier: (Mis)representations and Narratives of Yout Combatants in Liberia (and Sierra Leone)

Sketches of a Child Soldier: (Mis)representations and Narratives of Yout Combatants in Liberia (and Sierra Leone)

Zakiya Jessie-Yaingpu Zazaboi