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2020 - 2021

Memory and gender in post-dictatorial narrative (2000-2018)
Ursula Atisme, Romance and Arabic Languages and Literatures

The dynamics of memories capture, at different stages as well as different agents, divergent aspects of the past (Pollak 2006, Jelin 2002). The shifts that Argentine dictatorship memories have undergone since 1983 to the present time are an example of this. My dissertation seeks to understand the memory labor in gender representation and how breaking gender stereotypes may in fact change our understanding of historical events and identity, specifically that of the de facto government of Argentina in 1976. I review gender representation in a set of novels that discuss government violence during this time of military rule. I argue that failure sets the condition which broadens the recollection of the turbulent years allowing identities that were once repressed under the dictatorship to now be seen. I contend that these fictional narratives give an account of a transitional period where decentralization of ideologies is evident, the memory of homogeneous communities is problematized and latent subjectivities that confront hegemonic tendencies are incorporated. By staging the process of identity redefinition, gender naturalization as configured by the patriarchal system is questioned and the debate about identity is exposed. Additionally, I question the writer’s narrative strategies as active agents in the production of knowledge that is incorporated into the dynamics of memory and that operates in the configuration of identities. This is a descriptive-comparative study coupled with a critical reflection on strategies used to maintain or restructure identity, the production of knowledge and the fluid relationship between social actors that operate in the configuration of identities.

Voice, Body, and Identity: How Minority Opera Singers Navigate Race and Gender
Ayesha Casie Chetty, Sociology

Research on racial minorities in predominantly white fields has demonstrated the ways in which the privileging of whiteness negatively impacts people of color. My dissertation examines how racial minority opera singers navigate their outsider status while performing embodied labor in a field where their bodies are other-ed as well as physically, visually and aurally integral to their labor. As a historically and culturally white field, opera is a particularly interesting site of study because of the multiple layers of embodiment involved in performing roles not just through their outwardly physical bodies but through their instruments which are their bodies. I take an intersectional approach, analyzing how gender and voice type in conjunction with racial identity have an impact on singers’ experiences. This qualitative study draws on semi-structured interviews with 34 racial minority opera singers who are in transition from student to professional, to examine how they interpret, navigate, and survive in this field

Assessing Loyalty, Punishing Treason: Civilians under Martial Law During the American Civil War
Daniel Farrell, History
My dissertation project explores how treason and loyalty were assessed under United States martial law during the American Civil War. From the war’s immediate onset, Abraham Lincoln’s administration invoked broad authority to quell dissent and created a rigid distinction between loyal and disloyal citizens.  Nevertheless, while martial law implies a top-down federal process, my project investigates how enforcing unionism, particularly in the border south and within zones of Union occupation, was a mixture of local, state, and federal efforts that routinely acted independently of each other. Stated differently, state and local activism to quell treason often existed outside of federal mandates. Military officials similarly operated separately, guided by their ethics and local considerations, rather than adhering to the 1863 Liber Code, a set of rules and regulations directing the behavior of the Union armies.

Empathy, Emotion Sharing, and Self/Other Overlap
Maxwell Gatyas, Philosophy
Philosophers and psychologists often claim that empathy involves sharing another person’s emotions, or that it involves a blurring of the self and the other. For instance, when we empathize with another person’s grief, we share that grief and, in some cases, come to see that grief as our own. However, as of yet, there is no consensus regarding whether, and to what extent, emotion sharing and self/other blurring actually relate to empathy. Nor is there a clear account of how to best understand these phenomena. My dissertation addresses these issues. I provide an account of empathy that incorporates both affective sharing and self/other overlap, and put forth an empirically grounded means of understanding them. I also argue that, despite a recent wave of skepticism about the moral utility of empathy, it can play a unique and important role in our moral development.

Starshine, Stock, Clay
Sakinah Hofler, English & Comparative Literature

Starshine, Stock, Clay, is a novel that explores the problem of forced prostitution in America. This book is about a woman who is a prostitute, the mother of a young daughter, and the mother figure maintaining order over other prostitutes in the stable (a house where trafficked women stay). As the situation with her pimp becomes perilous, she must try to find a way out for her and her daughter. Through the study of critical works by narrative scholars, such as Monika Fludernik and Dorrit Cohn, and critics, such as James Wood, Sakinah has crafted a strong narrative voice. This novel interrogates the intricate relationship of consciousness, narration, and trauma while exploring a number of difficult questions: How does stigma inhibit disenfranchised women’s ability to rise above their circumstances? How does one recover from trauma? What can we, everyday citizens, do to help alleviate this problem?

The Migration of Women from Nepal for Domestic Work to the Gulf States and the Impact of Nepalese Government Policies Banning Out-Migration for Domestic Work
Sayam Moktan, Political Science

Although research on Asian migrant women in domestic work has been centered on the Philippines, Nepal has also relied on exporting domestic workers for the remittances they bring and employment opportunities for poor and so-called unskilled women. Nepalese women have been migrating for domestic work for decades until a full ban on that migration was recently instituted by the government. Through policy analysis, fieldwork observations, and interviews, I examine the reasons for and the impacts of this ban and earlier partial bans to determine if such “protective” measures, which do not extend to male migrant workers, actually endanger women more and what alternatives there may be to such measures. My findings enrich critical international political economy (IPE) scholarship.

Hearing the Gospel in a Silent World: Disability and Embodied Devotional Practice in the Early Modern Atlantic
Katherine Ranum, History

What can the human body reveal about the life of the spirit? My project explores historical questions surrounding religion and bodily practice in the dynamic environment of the early modern Atlantic world. Specifically, did disabled people understand their spiritual lives in different ways than their “normate” neighbors? Furthermore, did religious communities alter either their practices or their understanding of theology when faced with members whose bodies did not match the social norm? Through a series of case studies, I probe these questions in the context of Protestant and Jewish communities in the centuries following European contact. My dissertation includes the story of a deaf woman seeking membership in her Calvinist church in seventeenth-century Massachusetts, Jewish circumcision as a political act in the British empire, and unpacks the mysteries surrounding a deviant burial in pre-war Episcopal cemetery. I am grateful to the Taft Research Center for funding my research this year!

Through the Glory Hole: Cruising Strategies and the Surveillance of Public Sex
Kyle Shupe, Sociology

Despite the HIV/AIDS epidemic, police surveillance, and risks of violence, men’s cruising for public sex remains a persistent social practice in many public spaces. In this study, I investigate how cruisers navigate the risks associated with public sex as well as how police and other social actors surveil cruisers and public sex venues. I do a digital ethnography of social media sites facilitating public sexual encounters to see how cruisers discuss strategies and mitigating risks. I also conduct interviews with cruisers and other social actors about their cruising and surveillance strategies. In particular, I note the how cruisers, police, and other social actors adapt or maintain these strategies during the coronavirus pandemic, which has changed the rules for physical interaction and limited access to public spaces.

Queering the Future, challenging Patriarchy: An Analysis of Feminist Speculative Fiction’s Second Golden Age
Rebecca Thacker, English & Comparative Literature

I examine contemporary feminist speculative fiction through the lens of queer and feminist critical theory to illuminate the genre’s transformative potentiality. Feminist speculative fiction is an inherently political genre. The texts I consider (fictional, literary theoretical, and social theoretical) are connected by their desire to imagine alternatives to patriarchal social constructions. I put foundational queer theoretical texts in conversation with golden age speculative fiction to argue that gender/sexuality as represented in the golden age anticipates queer theory’s revision of feminist theory. I also address key themes prevalent in the twenty-first century’s second wave of feminist speculative fiction in order to elucidate the ways twenty-first century texts are writing into the golden age tradition and also to explore the influence of contemporary theorizations of gender/sexuality on speculative narrative. I conclude by theorizing why we have seen a proliferation of publishing in the genre and comment on the persistence of hope in these texts.

Mathematical Model for Frequency Demultiplication in Neurospora Crassa
Nayana Nilmini Priyashanthi Wanasingha, Mathematical Sciences

Circadian rhythms are a feature that found in many organisms, which play a vital role in maintaining the daily activities of ~24 hours. Entrainment to environmental cycles is a defining property of circadian rhythms, and entrainment of these rhythms by cycles that repeat twice or more often per day, which is known as subharmonic entrainment or frequency demultiplication, is also a characteristic that has been used to understand the architecture of circadian systems. Experiments show that Neurospora Crassa (filamentous fungi) exhibits frequency demultiplication to external temperature cycles with short periods. In this study, I plan to build a mathematical model representing core components of circadian system of Neurospora and use the model to describe molecular components responsible for frequency demultiplication.

Implementing Scaffolded Authentic Materials through an Inquiry-Based Approach for Beginner and Intermediate German Language Classrooms
Kayla Weiglein, German Studies

German language classrooms lack authentic materials, especially at the beginner and intermediate levels. Authentic or real-world materials are generally substituted for mock materials in the target language, which creates an unrealistic and inauthentic L2 environment. Motivated by the shortage of research on implementing authentic materials in beginner and intermediate level German language classrooms, my project proposes an inquiry-based theoretical framework, through the use of scaffolded WebQuests, for teaching with real world scenarios in German. I examine the effectiveness of an inquiry-based approach by creating and instructing a flipped 2001 German language classroom. In my flipped online classroom, students are tasked with conducting WebQuests at home and work on grammatical concepts during class time. The goal of the project is to analyze the qualitative data collected in the course, which is based on what the students produce throughout the course and evaluate the benefits and challenges of scaffolding authentic materials in the L2 classroom.

Statistical Emulation for High-dimensional Complex Simulators
Gang Yang, Mathematical Sciences

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) is an Earth remote sensing satellite that is designed to study space-based measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). The mission’s retrieval algorithm processes collected spectral measurements into estimates of atmospheric CO2. The retrieval is an inverse problem and consists of a physical forward model that represents the complicated physical relationship between atmospheric CO2 and radiances measured by OCO-2. This forward model is computationally expensive making quality assessment and uncertainty quantification of remote sensing retrievals prohibitive. We propose a joint framework for constructing low-dimensional approximations of forward model by combining Gaussian process emulation technique with dimension reductions for both input space and output space. Theoretical properties of the resulting statistical emulator are also explored.

Ian Bryant, Economics





Dissertation Fellows