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The Gender Play Gap: Social Prestige and Gendered Agency in Video Game Culture
Jeremy Brenner-Levoy, Department of Sociology

This project explores whether video games, where players’ bodies are tangential and their gender is unknown, replicate inequality that we see offline. That is, I investigate whether video game spaces become differentially prestigious and gendered, and how gendered agency and expectations may shape participation within this field. To do so, I will collect quantitative data with surveys and qualitative interview data on how gender shapes people’s prestige, involvement, and interaction within video games. This project will help identify whether: 1) differing levels of prestige are afforded different types of games and roles within games; 2) gender expression and identity shapes selection into different games and roles; 3) gender expression and identity impact role selection within specific games.

Reconstructing Freedom: The politics of race, violence, and womanhood in America, 1865-1920
Diamond Crowder, Department of History

My dissertation research focuses on newly freed black women in the late nineteenth and the twentieth century. During slavery, enslaved women were victims of sexual exploitation, assault, and violence and could not speak out against their perpetuators, both white men and women. Using a gender and race lens, my work seeks to reveal that newly freed black women did not stop being victims of sexual exploitation, rape, harassment once black women received their freedom. However, now that newly freed black women have their freedom in the post-emancipation era, newspapers, court records, and other primary source documents reveal how black women utilized the courts, legal aid, and other forms of the judicial system to speak out against their perpetuators who continue to sexually abuse, harass, and inflict violence on them. Sources have unveiled that white men were fined, brought to court, and sometimes found guilty on charges of sexual abuse, rape, and violence.

Whitney Extension Theorem for Curves in Carnot Groups
Hyogo Shibahara, Department of Mathematical Sciences

A typical question we ask in our everyday life is "If we need to arrive at multiple locations at different times, then can we actually find a viable path to make it a reality?". Motivated by this question, this research project explores a corresponding mathematical question: Can one characterize exactly when one can find a curve in a space that fits given data, such as times, locations, velocity and acceleration? Spaces of interest are Carnot groups, that are the ones with the constraint made on the directions that one can move in at each point. This restriction on the directions is natural for many circumstances. For instance, a car in a parking garage cannot move vertically and needs to go around to move upward.

Leaving Biddle City; The Invisible Diaspora
Marianne Chan, Department of English

A coming-of-age narrative, Leaving Biddle City is a collection of prose poems that details a Filipina American speaker's experiences as a teenager and young adult living in a mostly white community. The book explores the complexities of Asian American identity formation, memory and forgetfulness, intergenerational conflict, and the consequences of racial alienation. Moreover, through narrative, realist, and surrealist poems, Leaving Biddle City unpacks the storytelling process and the ways in which story shapes memory. From prose pantoums and ballads to flattened haiku and thematic autobiographies, this formally wide-ranging collection of poems grapples with how we understand ourselves, our histories, and the places where we are from.

In a second work, "
The Invisible Diaspora: An Examination of the Migrant Filipina Domestic Helper in Filipino American Literature and Film," I will examine the ways in which Filipina domestic workers are represented in three texts: Mia Alvar’s collection of stories "In the Country, Documents", a collection of poems by Jan-Henry Gray, and a nonfiction essay, “My Family’s Slave” by Alex Tizon. The Philippine economy depends on female labor. According to research done by the International Labor Organization, in the early 2000s, Filipino women made up 73% of the Philippines’ exported labor, an increase from 12% in the 1970s (Sayres 9). The export of Filipina domestic workers who send remittances to the Philippines makes up a large percentage of the Philippine GDP. While there are benefits to Filipinas working overseas—higher salaries and higher social status are among them—the live-in requirement of the occupation results in cases of abuse and exploitative conditions, especially when legal status is a factor. The hiddenness of the experiences of Filipino domestic workers makes the representation of their lives in literature and film all the more necessary. 

Explaining Military Innovation in Authoritarian Regimes
Bekir Ilhan, Department of Political Science

What explains military innovation in authoritarian regimes? The major theories of military innovation emphasize the role of senior military officers and civilian leaders under various international conditions. One strand of the literature argues that military innovation is often initiated by civilian leaders under immediate security threats, while the other branch suggests that military innovation is initiated by senior military officers in a low threat environment. While existing explanations provide valuable insights into understanding the causes and dynamics of military innovation, they have their shortcomings in explaining military innovation in autocratic regimes. I argue that the engine of innovation is civilian intervention in autocracies—but only during periods of low threat. In authoritarian regimes, periods of low threat give civilians incentives to cut the military budget and root out military influence in domestic politics, leading to military innovation at the strategic level.

A Theory of Moral Affordances in Dyadic Care Situation
Mark Ornelas, Department of Philosophy

I argue for an ecological approach to moral psychology. As such, I present a theory of moral affordances, which are opportunities for moral action that arise out of agent-environment relations. Specifically, I argue for a re-framing of traditional methods of explaining real-time, two-person, agent-patient care situations using an ecological psychology framework, or what I call caregiving affordances. The dissertation aims to demonstrate that the tools of ecological psychology should be considered by moral psychology researchers as a new avenue to understand human caring behavior in agent-patient situations. The theory focuses on the relationships moral agents have with their socially enriched environments. I build the theory drawing on Gibson's Ecological Psychology and Gilligan and Tronto's feminist Care Ethics.

Jakob von Uexküll’s Concept of Umwelt as an Account of the Mental
Elmo Feiten, Department of Philosophy

My dissertation develops a new reading of Jakob von Uexküll’s thought, contrasts it with his reception in French and German philosophy of the 20th century, and applies it to ongoing debates in embodied cognitive science. I draw a distinction between Uexküll’s use of Umwelt as an ethological heuristic on the one hand and the philosophical claim that each living subject lives in a private phenomenal world of its own on the other. I highlight that different responses in French and German philosophy, as well as contemporary embodied cognition, use different senses of "open" and "closed" in their discussions of Umwelt. Using these distinctions, I show fault lines running through the reception of Uexküll and the conceptual foundations of embodied cognition.

The Impact of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) on Indigenous Rights Legal and Policy Outcomes in the US and Canada
Francesca Gottardi, School of Public and International Affairs

Does international law influence domestic law? Does it shape the relationship between settler states and Indigenous peoples? The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is a groundbreaking international legal effort to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples. I examine whether the US and Canadian legal systems conform to UNDRIP by analyzing their current Indigenous (women’s) rights framework. To evaluate the impact of UNDRIP on law and policy, I focus on land rights and reparation claims, spiritual rights (sacred sites protection), violence against women, and forcible removal of children from their parents and communities. I posit that there is variation in the countries’ receptiveness to international law and that Indigenous peoples can use UNDRIP to reshape law and advance their interests.

Persistent Pestilence: Recurrent Yellow Fever Epidemics in Early National American Port Cities
Alysha Federkeil, Department of History

My project analyzes the public and private responses to recurrent yellow fever epidemics in the Mid-Atlantic urban centers of Philadelphia, New York City, and Baltimore, from c. 1793-1805, when yellow fever epidemics were at their height. The overall focus of my dissertation is to understand the ways in which yellow fever outbreaks changed the way people understood and interacted with their built environment. In order to accomplish this, I am using official and unofficial government records, newspapers, personal correspondence, and trade records. Combining public and private sources, provides insight into what regulations municipal officials debated as well as the responses of urban residents. The resulting narrative demonstrates how localized public health crises shaped broader political, social, and urban environmental trends in early national America.

Investigating Spatial Spillover Effects of Evictions Using a Spatial-Panel Model
Max Richards, Department of Economics

A growing body of literature in the social sciences has looked at both the causes and consequences of evictions. The center of focus has largely been on who gets evicted, and what happens to them. Just as important though is where the evictions take place. Although some studies have taken geography into account, this study uses for the first time a spatial-panel model to analyze the spillover effects of evictions across seven major cities in the U.S. The spatiality of evictions appears to be consistent throughout time, with significant levels of spillover. Census tracts that have higher rates of evictions are shown to correlate with an increase in evictions in neighboring tracts. This study is important for showing that any analysis of eviction rates that doesn’t consider a spatial component will have biased estimates.

Social Factors in the Use and Teaching of German: A Milieu-Based Approach
Mareike Lange, University of Cincinnati

This project examines the impact of social milieu on German language use. Contrary to traditional class models, milieu theories account for the complexity and intersectionality of extant social behavior such as language practices. As such, milieu research is practice-oriented, allowing for the analysis of complex linguistic behavior while averting one-dimensional social classifications.

This research contributes to the sociolinguistic documentation of spoken German by documenting diverse habitus patterns expressed through milieu-specific variation, which in turn addresses a lack of research on German in the American sociolinguistic tradition. This, furthermore, will provide new approaches to the underdeveloped field of class-sensitive language teaching. My research question is, therefore, twofold: What linguistic variations in German are associated with milieu groupings, and how can these findings enhance sociocultural/-linguistic diversity in German language pedagogy.

Past Dissertation Fellows

Dissertation Fellows
2021 - 2022
2020 - 2021
2019 - 2020
2018 - 2019
2017 - 2018
2016 - 2017
2015 - 2016
2014 - 2015
2013 - 2014
2012 - 2013
2011 - 2012