Major(s): Religious Studies
Minor: Text and Tradition
Mentor(s): Lerone Martin
Project Title: Religion, Hip Hop, and the War on Drugs
Project Description: Using the methods and frameworks of Imani Perry, Josef Sorett, and Michelle Alexander, my project examines how rappers use Christian and Muslim motifs with reference to the War on Drugs. More specifically, I look into KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions in the 1980s as they invoke Islamic themes while addressing social ills and solutions to those ills. Such a study demonstrates the elasticity of particular religious themes, the decades-spanning impacts of the War on Drugs, and the interplay of law, religion, and music.
Major(s): Environmental Policy, IAS: Development
Mentor(s): Venus Bivar
Project Title: Incorporated to be a Sewer: A Historical Analysis of Air and Water Pollution in Small-Town Illinois.
Project Description: Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, small, minority populations in western Illinois were disproportionately exposed to environmental toxins, as a result of large industrial operations in the region. Inundated with Superfund and Brownfield sites, these communities have suffered grave economic, environmental, and health impacts with little to no recognition. My project will seek to historicize the environmental injustice imposed on the towns of western Illinois and manifest the pernicious correlation between environmental damage, race, and class.
Major(s): IAS: International Affairs
Minor: South Asian Language and Civilization
Mentor(s): Shefali Chandra
Project Title: Global Indians: The Case of Jagmeet Singh
Project Description: My project investigates how Desi diasporic politicians use their identities to amass political capital in domestic and global affairs and centers on Jagmeet Singh, the leader of Canada’s New Democrats Party (NDP) and Canada’s first visible minority in the race to be the next Prime Minister. Instead of stepping inside and outside of his ethnoreligious identity, Singh positions it at the center of his public political persona in both domestic and global politics. Transforming his identity into a political moral compass which charters his course in Canadian politics and policymaking, Singh’s religious, ethnic, and linguistic differences to the Canadian norm of whiteness becomes an asset and a legitimator for his political leadership. Singh connects his experience as a visible minority in Canada to the experiences of other vulnerable populations in Canada to gain political capital and form solidarity with other Canadian groups and people.
Nicci Mowszowski, Class of 2021
Major(s): IAS: International Affairs, Germanic Languages & Literatures
Mentor(s): Erin McGlothlin
Project Title: Uniting the Broken Nation: National Discourse in German and Ukrainian Holocaust Memorials
Project Description: National discourse in a local Holocaust monument is often difficult to decipher and obfuscated from monument viewers. This project aims to understand how, during periods of national reconfiguration in Germany and Ukraine, local monuments became inscribed with nationally inflected discourses on the Nazi genocide, which served similar functions of “uniting the broken nation.” By translating and comparing Holocaust monuments to each other as well as to respective national discourses communicated in speeches and documents, this project examines both how the nation speaks through such monuments, as well as who the monument positions in the national audience. Such objectives will provide a window not only into how Holocaust memorials have been used as tools to construct and refine a national identity, but also how, despite drastically different memorial cultures, Germany and Ukraine similarly distance the reconfiguring nation from an incriminating and uncomfortable past.
Major(s): History, Economics
Mentor(s): Elizabeth Borgwardt, Steven Hirsch
Project Title: “America’s St. Helena”: Filipino Exiles and U.S. Empire on Guam, 1901–1903
Project Description: During the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), General Arthur MacArthur deported forty-three Filipino political prisoners to Guam as a means of emphasizing the renewed vigor of U.S. Army “pacification” efforts. Though banished for their perceived political loyalty to the Philippine Revolution, exile was more than solely punitive for this cohort of deportees. As articulated through parole and oath-taking, deportees and naval officials engaged one another in demarcating the carceral politics of the prison of the Presidio de Asan. Filipino political prisoners exchanged partial acquiescence to U.S. colonial rule for degrees of personal authority and autonomy, subverting the constraints of banishment and exile. Reading across archival documents, memoirs, and official government reports, a portrait of life in exile on Guam for Filipino prisoners slowly emerges, with MacArthur’s deportees playing the Janus-faced roles of valued professionals and marginalized prisoners. Writing this history from the perspective of the penal colony contends with the consequences of exile beyond punishment as it considers Guam a laboratory of conciliation intimately tied to the praxis of U.S. colonial state-building in the Asia-Pacific.
Efua Osei, Class of 2021
Major(s): African and American American Studies
Minor(s): Political Science, Design
Mentor(s): Lerone Martin
Project Title: The Cultural Significance of Black Femmes in 90s MC Culture
Project Description: My intended research project explores the socio-political culture of the 90s that produced Black femme-inclusive spaces in the world of MCing. I plan to investigate how these Black femme rappers used the art form to document their experiences, frustrations, and guilty pleasures regarding sex and intimacy, thus creating this pre-21st century sex positive movement amidst a heavily misogynistic art form. While the basis of my research will be rooted in 90s music, I intend to look to contemporary Black femme MCs as a means of examining the trajectory of Black womxn in rap/hip-hop. This will further draw on the conclusion that these 90s MCs laid the groundwork for current powerhouses such as Megan Thee Stallion, CupcakKe, Mykki Blanco, and Rico Nasty to candidly and unapologetically make art about sex, pleasure, and love, and to bring those conversations to the forefront of social and political discourse.
Elizabeth Schwartz, Class of 2021
Major(s): English Literature
Mentor(s): Melanie Micir
Project Title: “I am a writer of fiction”: Reading Race as a Literary and Social Form in Contemporary U.S. Metafiction
Project Description: My project uses ideological and formalist methods to analyze U.S. post-9/11 metafictional novels — Percival Everett’s Erasure, Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper, and Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao — that treat race as a social and literary form. I use the publishing industry as a case study to ask how the novels interact, dialogically, with the contemporary racial project in the U.S., which denies of the relationship between race and economic success, while simultaneously racializing those who are systemically barred from accruing capital. I suggest metafictional narratives casting race as a form enable literary critics to trace the rhizomic nature of power in the racial capitalist publishing industry.
Major(s): Latin American Studies and Spanish
Minor(s): Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Mentor(s): Bret Gustafson
Project Title: Articulaciones Feministas: Contemporary Bolivian Feminisms and the Struggle against Gender Violence
Project Description: Over the past decade, Bolivian feminists have articulated a struggle against increasing rates of gender-based violence, particularly femicide, in ways that challenge the existing historical molds for emergent women’s movements in Bolivia. I hope to contextualize this moment in Bolivian feminist history and tell the story of the past decade of feminist activism through the eyes of the activists who have shared their perspectives with me. My project then situates these articulations within their global and regional contexts, demonstrating that contemporary Bolivian feminisms engage with transnational movements while remaining deeply locally autonomous.
Kaysie Wachs, Class of 2021
Major(s): Religious Studies and Classics
Mentor(s): Lance Jenott
Project Title: Power Struggles in Pachomian Women’s Monasteries
Project Description: My research investigates the complex system of authority in Pachomian women’s monasteries in fourth century Egypt and asks who really had authority over these women. They had their own abbess, but how did her authority compare to that of their appointed male supervisor? How much control did Pachomius exercise over them in practice? And, to what extent did they govern themselves? Answering these questions will allow me to catch a glimpse of how ancient Christian women responded to the male-dominated hierarchies within which they lived, how much they subjected to it, and the ways they may have found to counter it.
Hannah Ward, Class of 2021
Major(s): Art History and Archaeology, History
Mentor(s): Anika Walke
Project Title: Art in War: A Study of Matisse’s Bathers with a Turtle During World War II
Project Description: The Saint Louis Art Museum is well-known for their colossal Matisse painting titled Bathers with a Turtle. This painting was bought by Joseph Pulitzer Jr. in 1939 at a Nazi-held art auction in Lucerne, Switzerland. This auction consisted of pieces considered by the National Socialist government to be “degenerate” and were sold in an effort to raise revenue for the Nazi War Machine. Matisse’s Bathers with a Turtle was previously owned by the Folkwang Museum in Essen, Germany, which was well-known for their display of modern art. After the Nazi rise to power many of the paintings from this museum were purged and taken into Reich property. The Matisse painting was stored by the Nazis until the 1939 auction in Lucerne when Pulitzer and his new wife bought the piece. Pulitzer stated that he “faced a terrible conflict — a moral dilemma. If the work was bought, we knew the money was going to a regime we loathed. To safeguard the art for posterity, I bought — defiantly!... But the real motive in buying was to preserve the art.” But his purchase, along with the other buyers at the auction, poses an ethical dilemma: though he saved a magnificent piece of art from destruction, he also funded the Nazi government through his purchase. My Kling project will focus on the justifications that American museums and collectors made when purchasing works of art from this auction with a focused case study on Joseph Pulitzer’s purchase of Bathers with a Turtle. I will also study how the National Socialist government used art as a mode of creating revenue to fund the Nazi war machine by hosting this auction.
Major(s): Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Cognitive Neuroscience
Mentor(s): Rhaisa Williams
Project Title: A Serious Matter: Self-Making within Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated
Project Description:While some research has been conducted by scholars like Deborah E. Whaley, Paula Giddings, Gregory S. Parks, and Clarenda M. Phillips on historically Black Greek-letter sororities, their work focuses on the sociopolitical and historical legacies of these organizations. Distinctly, my research examines the dynamic relationships between Alpha Kappa Alpha and its members. I aim to understand how this unique environment cultivates and maintains certain embodied identities within a contemporary landscape. Using mixed ethnographic methods of semi-structured interviews, oral histories, and participant observation, I investigate how pledge processes, service programming, intra-Greek affiliations, and many other features of these organizations create ritual and vernacular tradition amongst Black women. This research is important to highlight the realities of a relatively misunderstood subpopulation within Black communities as well as offer a way of imagining more inclusive notions of Black sisterhood and Black womanhood in the 21st century.
Major(s): IAS: Development
Mentor(s): Zhao Ma
Project Title: “Otherness” in Chinese National Cinema
Project Description: My research looks at the rhetoric of self and other in Chinese “main melody” blockbusters in the twenty-first century along with their public reception, in order to investigate how these films facilitate the process of envisioning China in an era of commercialization and globalization. The primary sources for this project include representative main melody films and published as well as online movie reviews on Douban to examine the messages encoded in these cultural products and how they are decoded by different audiences. While previous scholars have studied main melody films, few of them have focused on the perspective of the audience; the recipients of the main melody often take little space in scholarly discussions. Therefore, my work provides an analysis of both the production and consumption of main melody blockbusters in China, with a hope to facilitate the understanding of the interactions and negotiations in the process of constructing an imagined nation.