Spring 2018

*Maren Aida Hurley-Matz - We Charge Genocide: The Impact and Contemporary Legacies of the 1951 We Charge Genocide Petition (Outstanding Thesis Award 2017-18)

We Charge Genocide: The Impact and Contemporary Legacies of the 1951 We Charge Genocide Petition (Outstanding Thesis Award 2017-18)

Maren Aida Hurley-Matz

This research examines the 1951 We Charge Genocide petition, in its original presentation, the subsequent state efforts to suppress the petition, its erasure from the modern Critical Genocide Studies canon, and its contemporary legacies at work today. I argue that the WCG petition’s arguments of genocidal violence (police brutality, vigilante violence, incarceration, and economic disenfranchisement) remain relevant today, given the scale of violence still perpetrated against Black people in the United States. I also argue that the US has continuously engaged in social alienation of Black people and that this should also be considered a fundamental component of the genocidal violence at work. Finally, I explore the embodied legacies of the petition evidenced through the Chicago activist group We Charge Genocide and their submission of a 2014 Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture. The fact that the We Charge Genocide petition is being used as a contemporary model for the Chicago anti-police brutality movement is evidence not only of its original cogency, but also its credibility and longevity as a legal document. I conclude that the process of developing these types of international claims derives legitimacy not from the state, but instead through processes of witnessing and recognizing lived experience within the community. This allows for radical reimaging of the future, actualized through grassroots action and solidarity, thus unsettling state hegemony on a local and global scale.

*Cierra Correen Bland - ‘My lonely is mine’: Social Isolation in the Black Woman’s Search for Freedom (Distinction, 2017-18)

‘My lonely is mine’: Social Isolation in the Black Woman’s Search for Freedom (Distinction, 2017-18)

Cierra Correen Bland

This paper examines two novels written by Black women in the 20th Century, Sula (1973) by Toni Morrison and Plum Bun: A Novel Without A Moral (1929) by Jessie Redmon Fauset to understand the social isolation that Black American women face when they commit to living their lives in pursuit of freedom, as they have come to define it. I argue that Black women are consistently punished for deciding to live a life outside of what is expected of them based on their race, gender and class. It is within Black women’s literary tradition to use art as a medium for self-expression and self-articulation. Black women’s literature works as a site for understanding the conditions of Black women’s lives because it is the medium through which Black women have been able to express the truth of their condition without invalidation from the white-male-patriarchal knowledge validation process. I analyze these novels to understand what the expectations were of the protagonists, how each subverted those expectations, and how their communities reacted. I then compare this to the experiences of other middle-class Black women who found themselves isolated in their communities. I conclude that it is access to freedom, or the ability to demand it because one can afford to, that isolates many middle-class Black women from their communities and other Black women.

*Dominique Flaksberg - The Urban River Movement: Aquatic (His)tories of Sao Paolo (Distinction, 2017-18)

The Urban River Movement: Aquatic (His)tories of Sao Paolo (Distinction, 2017-18

Dominique Flaksberg

*Shanley Mitchell - Branding Bhutan (Distinction, 2017-18)

Branding Bhutan (Distinction, 2017-18)

Shanley Mitchell

Bhutan, a symbolic Shangri-La, first opened its doors to tourism in 1974. Since then, the tourism industry has grown to become one of the largest contributors to the country’s GDP, and is coined as a “high value, low impact” industry. In order to compete in the global marketplace, Bhutan sought to brand a uniform image of the country that displays its policies surrounding Gross National Happiness (GNH), vibrant cultural heritage, and a ‘pristine’ environment. This study focuses on analyzing how Bhutan’s nation branding affects the way tourists comprehend and interact with the country’s natural and constructed environments. It addresses two fundamental questions. How do Bhutan’s nation branding efforts help maintain a ‘high value, low impact’ tourism industry? Can marketing Bhutan’s environment as “pristine” influence behaviors that help preserve it? This study drew preliminary connections between religion, branding, tourist values, and environmental behaviors. This research shows that, while incomplete as a comprehensive development strategy, nation branding has been successful in both attracting tourists to Bhutan and influencing their behavior while in the country with the majority of tourists interviewed citing environmental conservation and GNH as the most critical issues Bhutan is addressing. Indications of success within this approach not only offer further opportunities for Bhutan to pursue sustainable development, but also serve as a model for the rest of the world which demonstrates the possibility to meet the material needs of human civilization without sacrificing ecological health.

*Cassidy Nelson - Argentina llamando: Grassroots Refugee Resettlement in Argentina (Distinction, 2017-18)

Argentina llamando: Grassroots Refugee Resettlement in Argentina (Distinction, 2017-18)

Cassidy Nelson

As global displacement climbs and ‘traditional refugee resettlement countries’ in the global West increasingly divert refugees from their own borders by implementing anti- immigration policies, countries in the global South are increasingly partaking in the global refugee regime as resettlement host countries. Argentina, one such ‘emerging refugee resettlement country’ has created a private sponsorship program aimed at resettling Syrian refugees through a vast nationwide network of community-based organizations and Arab heritage associations. In an effort to begin to map interactions between llamantes (private sponsors) and Syrian refugees, this thesis explores the role of these heritage organizations in shaping refugee resettlement in Argentina. Through archival research of provincial and national periodicals and interviews with leaders of organizations facilitating refugee resettlement, I found that Syrian refugee resettlement sites directly correspond with existing nodes of the Arab Argentine diaspora, revealing both a transnational and grassroots character to the evolving and expanding processes of refugee resettlement and integration in Argentina. As refugee resettlement is likely to continue in Argentina, the Southern Cone, and throughout the global South, it is imperative that we continue to build a comprehensive understanding of how resettlement plays out on a local-global continuum to inform the way that policies are created and implemented.

Jessica Rose Copi - Moving to the Mitten: Refugee Resettlement in Michigan

Moving to the Mitten: Refugee Resettlement in Michigan

Jessica Rose Copi

This thesis analyzes contemporary refugee resettlement in Michigan. Through my research, I address the impact of refugee resettlement on the established population of Michigan, and also the reactions from the established population. I posit that the attitude toward refugee resettlement from the established Michiganders varies by region based on race, religion, and economics. I compare the impact of refugee resettlement in Grand Rapids, which is in the west half of Michigan, to that of Detroit, which is in the southeast. Detroit and the surrounding suburbs have a unique immigration history compared to that of the rest of the state, and this affects the discourse on a local level. I discuss Michigan’s unique position in the refugee resettlement and immigration conversation, compared to its Rust Belt and Midwestern neighbors, because of the history of Middle Eastern and Arab immigration to the Metro Detroit area. I attempt to demonstrate the distinct attitudes from the established populations based on their diverse populations and histories.

Alexa Davis - The Sports Industrial Complex: Uncovering the Lie of “Amateur” Athletics

The Sports Industrial Complex: Uncovering the Lie of “Amateur” Athletics

Alexa Davis

This essay explores the growing sports industrial complex on a national level with the National College Athletics Association and on an international level with the
International Olympics Committee. These two organizations were used as case studies because of their different governmental relationships but with similar scales of profit and the lack of a preexisting case study between the two. With the military industrial complex and the iron triangle it creates as the base model, the essay goes in depth as to how this dependency is created. The sudden availability of TV broadcasting changed the model of amateur athletics to follow that of professional athletics but the student-athletes still weren’t paid. Lawsuits, attempts to unionize, and lasting injuries still haven’t been able to change this model of exploitation. The sports industrial complex ultimately permeates this idea of a skilled worker, or in other words, the elite athlete, as an amateur and in this paper will explore the implications of that in relation to labor disputes, sexual assaults, health complications, and unsafe work and learning environments.

Bennett K. Donine - To Make A Virtue of Necessity: Creative Constructions of Fertile Bodies in Contemporary Cuba

To Make A Virtue of Necessity: Creative Constructions of Fertile Bodies in Contemporary Cuba

Bennett K. Donine

This thesis explores art as a form of resistance by examining the work of contemporary Cuban visual artists Sandra Ramos and Belkis Ayón and performance artists Ana Mendieta and Tania Bruguera. I ask the question: How can society reimagine fertility (defined as the quality of being fertile and productive) while critically assessing “freedom of choice making”? Reproductive definitions of the fertile body have long been defined by histories of nation-making and political dominance. By examining the work of these Cuban artists, I claim that a non-reproductive definition of the fertile body is being written, painted, and performed in reaction to a coercive institutional narrative. I demonstrate how the art produced by these artists provide an entry point into the historical legacies of colonialism as they relate to Cuba. “To make a virtue of necessity” is a theme explored throughout this thesis. I define “To make virtue” as an expansion of Audre Lorde’s uses of the erotic as self-making, through which the four Cuban artists I discuss engage in, specifically, in reinterpreting, transgressing and transforming racialized and sexual processes that social and political institutions consider as the very nature of individual subjects identities (Payne, 1997: 31). By studying applying the idiom “To make a virtue out of necessity” to the discussion of fertile bodies, I examine both the entanglement of nationalism and gender and the capillary structures of power through which people and institutions interact. Making a virtue of these choices, within the parameters of predetermined limits, can still be a mode of reclaiming, in that people continue to make the best out of the limited resources available.

Sarah Jane (SJ) McIntyre - The Texture of Plastic: Unearthing the Political Ecologies of Trash

The Texture of Plastic: Unearthing the Political Ecologies of Trash

Sarah Jane (SJ) McIntyre

The word plastic stems from the greek word plastikos meaning something that can be shaped or molded. Plastic opens up endless avenues for Humanity to manipulate Nature
into shiny, clean, durable forms. If nature is used to shape plastic, how does plastic in turn shape nature? I argue that plastic is a utopic material used for colonial conquest, a product of consumer capitalist culture and a protagonist in global environmental racism. My research explores the social lives of trash to understand the material consequences of plastic on the land and in the body. From deep sea trenches to landfills in the Global South, I explore the politics of global trash flows. Waste does not reach a landfill based on chance. Trash clutters, obliterates and impacts marginalized communities around the world due to a series of colonial and capitalist processes. I use a lens of political ecology to investigate invisibility, disposability and vulnerability behind trash. I unearth the social textures of plastic by looking through the material to understand how trash is a slow steady process of colonial exploitation within the Anthropocene.

Cairi Elizabeth Myers - The Unlucky Ones: How the Lack of Supportive Policies Affects U.S Working Mothers

The Unlucky Ones: How the Lack of Supportive Policies Affects U.S Working Mothers

Cairi Elizabeth Myers

Why is the United States the only developed country that does not offer paid maternity leave to working mothers? According to the International Labor Organization, 185 countries offer
mandatory paid leave. Almost every country has at least 12 weeks of paid leave, while the ILO suggests mothers should receive a minimum of 14 weeks. Without going too far, within our own region, in comparison to the U.S. Mexico and Canada, our neighboring countries, have a similar government structure, landmass and population to the U.S. but they both have a paid maternity leave policy in place. In order to understand why the U.S doesn’t have a maternity policy, I looked at the history of the working mother in this country. In doing so I went back to the early 20th century, and learned that steps that were taken by the government to offer aid to working mothers. In 1935 the welfare system started as a way to get working white widowed mothers out of the work place and back into the home. This was also the time that the social security act, AFDC ( aid to families with dependent children) started. This program had limited policies which benefited a particular type of woman, with racial and class distinctions. However there was a period of time when the idea of paid leave came up during WWI and WWII. This came with the drop in population and greater need for women to work and have children. However the policy was never put in place. So why doesn’t the U.S support the working mother? The answer I came to was in America’s
values. These lie on individualism, self-sufficiency and not being a burden to your country.

Maysie Smithwick - Heaven is a Rave on Earth: Ecstasy, Queerness, and Resistance in Electronic Dance Music Culture

Heaven is a Rave on Earth: Ecstasy, Queerness, and Resistance in Electronic Dance Music Culture

Maysie Smithwick

What follows is a theory of rave as a form of resistance. This thesis elucidates the ways in which rave abandons political reality through the transformation of sensual perception. Looking specifically at the phenomenality of the ecstatic, I uncover the ways in which rave produces the capacity to escape the incarnate repression of the body. I use queerness as my locus of
investigation because queer people invented electronic dance music culture (EDMC) so that they could liberate their bodies from socio-political control. I address the “peak” experience of rave, ecstasy, as a sensation of euphoric transcendence, which defies corporeal oppression and connects people to one another. The ecstatic produces an immediate, internalized sense of liberation from social restraints. It allows people to reshape their identities and identifications with others through abandoning rational classifications. The rave is only temporary, but it can transmit its ethos of inclusivity and liberation into the outside world once people enter a flow of life that does not belong to political or social structures. This flow is inherent within all of us, but can only be reached when we abandon reality. The utopia of the rave gives people a glimpse into an irreality of ecstasy; the ecstatic produces autonomy, pleasure, and a connectedness with a dimension of life that has no structure or restrictions.

Michael A. Tull - No Soy Tu Amante

No Soy Tu Amante

Michael A. Tull

I Am Not Your Latin Lover. No Soy Tu Amante. Is a start of reclaiming oneself. What and who I am is not defined by you and your needs. It is what being latino means in a machista culture. In addition, living in this culture as queer and Latino is to constantly redefine. We must overcome the ugly truth of statistics, stereotypes and negativity of how we are depicted.

Fall 2017

Kodi Dolson - Taming the City: Making Food (Im)Mobile

Taming the City: Making Food (Im)Mobile

Kodi Dolson

Every city seeks to maintain a balance between chaos and total order. This process is one that needs constant maintenance and tweaking. This is a process that I call taming the city. In the city of New York, street vendors and food trucks have played a direct role in because of what they offer and what they represent. In this, I explore the role they have played in the city’s landscape in the past, the role they are playing now, and what the future looks like for them. They have gone from being marginalized, poor culture to the hip new thing in the 21 st century. As the attitudes about the carts themselves have changed, the laws that rule over them have also changed.

Allison Filosa - The Political Economy of Permitting

The Political Economy of Permitting

Allison Filosa

This paper analyzes and explores the permitting system and regulations for food vending in New York City. While receiving a permit may seem like a simple process, the bureaucracy and regulations involved create many difficulties and issues for the vendor. Dating back to the beginning of the city itself there was always some form of regulations that vendors were required to follow. As time went on, the city has had many periods where street vending was either heavily restricted or rejected completely; however, the street vending industry continued to flourish despite government disdain. Today, there is the famous cap system set in place that limits the amount of Mobile Food Vending Permits distributed by the city’s Department of Health to 4,235. Without these permits and a Mobile Food Vendor License, food vendors are not legally allowed to vend on the streets of New York. The cap system, that was initially set up in 1981 to promote entrepreneurship for the individual as opposed to big businesses, has created many problems for the potential vendor and the entire food vending industry. Currently, there is about 2,500 people on the waiting list for the Mobile Food Vending Permits and many can remain on this list for over a decade. This is because a permit holder can retain their permit until they cease to renew it. As food vending is predominately run by low income immigrants, waiting so long for a legal permit is just not an option for many. To be able to vend, most people must look for other avenues to make that possible. Through the city there are some other legal ways in which vendors can sell, however, these methods are restricting and come with their own disadvantages that are not viable for most. One way is through the Parks Department where vendors pay to vend within the city’s parks. These prices can be exorbitant, as some vendors can be paying over $200,000 to vend in Central Park. Most people, however, vend either without a permit, which could leave the vendor in legal trouble, or by an illegal permit through the black market. Permits on the black market can be priced at as high as $20,000 for a two-year period from the original owner. Permits are not legally transferable, so the permit is always owned by the original owner and essentially rented. The black market exists solely because of the caps system and takes advantage of the many people who vending is their only option. The rest of the paper explores the precarious balance between state power and resistance.

Holly Reinsch - Don’t Get No Respect: Alienation and Advocacy among Street Food Vendors

Don’t Get No Respect: Alienation and Advocacy among Street Food Vendors

Holly Reinsch

New York’s street vendors are a ubiquitous presence throughout the city’s sidewalks. Halal stands and coffee carts have seemed to become as solidified in the city’s landscape as its iconic yellow cabs, providing cheap eats and convenient goods on nearly every street corner. Despite this, vendors are not welcome. Struggling between being seen as invisible landmarks of the city, largely ignored, and hypervisible targets for hostility due to the perception that they are “dirtying the streets,” vendors are forced to navigate systems that are intentionally in opposition to them while lacking the political power necessary to resist. Strict laws imposed by the city have left vendors drowning in debt from arbitrary fines, while the extreme difficulty surrounding attaining one of the city’s limited number of legal permits have left many with no option but to seek other means of retaining their business. Law enforcement officials, rather than offering their protection, instead take advantage of the complex policies surrounding vending and the ambiguous legal status of vendors to demand bribes or threaten arrest. Local residents and lawmakers have attempted to force vendors out of their neighborhoods with the intent of “tidying up the streets,” further alienating vendors within their own communities. With anti-vendor sentiment embedded in the most authoritative structures of society—the city, the law, and the community—vendors are forced to construct their own systems of support. Advocacy groups such as the Street Vendor Project and VAMOS Unidos offer vendors a means to organize while acting as an authoritative legal body when addressing issues of the law. Familial bonds, which encompasses ties between fellow vendors as well as blood-related family members, provide vendors a means of unifying together to extend interpersonal support in times of crisis. These self-created systems, formed out of necessity, serve as platforms for vendors to have their voices heard. However, vendors should not have to solely rely on a handful of self-created structures to change systemic suppression and the public perception: deliberate efforts to combat the biases surrounding vendors is a necessary step for changing oppositional structures that prevent vendors from being seen not as invisible or hypervisible, but simply “visible,” and requires both individuals and authoritative systems to re-evaluate the current image of vendors—as well as the type of people who make up vendors– as the dominating narrative.

Barbara Seabra - Empowered or Excluded? Women Food Vendors in New York

Empowered or Excluded? Women Food Vendors in New York

Barbara Seabra

Social, political and economic empowerment of women is a serious concern among the global female population, and developed countries host the major opportunity for its expression and expansion. Yet, thousands of women come in New York City searching for better opportunities and have to join the informal sector of the economy in order to provide for them and their families. This paper draws on reports, academic literature and personal narratives as it navigates the experiences of women working as street food vendors, and seeks to understand whether food vending can be perceived as a tool for women empowerment in New York City.

Olympia Shivdasani - Let them Eat Teardrop Cake: Cultural Capital in Williamsburg

Let them Eat Teardrop Cake: Cultural Capital in Williamsburg

Olympia Shivdasani

This paper examines the nature of Williamsburg’s changing foodscape using perspectives of culture and media. The growing presence of gourmet food trucks and street vendors offering novelty food items have produced changes for the local food industry, as well as community food dynamics. Initial catalysts of change are analyzed through processes of gentrification and placemaking that have enabled the conditions for the contemporary foodscape to emerge. New economic and social functions in the area are representative of demographic transition resulting from gentrification, where new residents have typically been of a younger and more affluent segment. Structural change has worked in conjunction with gourmet food trends and social media to enable a digitized visual food culture. Specifically Instagram as an image sharing platform has been a central feature in the success of street vending due to the phenomenon of posting photos of food, where such imagery is also a semiotic reference of culture and identity in the neighborhood. The prevalence of Instagram in the foodscape then leads to the role of cultural capital, which proliferates the popularity of street vending through displays on social media acting as a social currency, and causes eating to evolve as a spectacle. The implications of a digitized food culture are then examined through media and reproduction, and how the workings of social media are altering perceptions of the area from virtualization. Finally, Williamsburg’s food culture is looked at from a postmodern perspective in terms of pastiche, image content of largely hollow stylistically reproduced images, as seen in generic food posts, as well as the breakdown in high and low culture.