A new cohort of College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences students were recently awarded dissertation completion fellowships. The dissertation completion fellowships were established to reward excellence, persistence and hard work by doctoral students and to provide them with financial support so they can spend their last semester or two concentrating on the completion work necessary to finish their dissertations.
Rikki Bettinger, History - Latin American History
Dissertation: “Imperial Counterparts: North Atlantic Women’s Travels in the Caribbean and Mexico, 1800-1860”
In her dissertation, Bettinger examines the private writings of North Atlantic women who lived or traveled in the Caribbean and Mexico in the early nineteenth century.
“This dissertation asks what can be learned when we survey the corpus of extant diaries of traveling North Atlantic women, considering them as a type of imperial writing. It privileges women’s experiences and women’s writing, and seeks to explore those experiences in an interconnected, comparative framework,” says Bettinger. “Women were traveling to these regions in far greater numbers than heretofore recognized. By centering these diaries, this project allows for a fuller understanding of interconnections in the Americas, the role of women as travelers and writers, and the degrees to which constructions of gender and race, in combination with class, sculpted the experiences of women under colonialism in the early nineteenth century.”
In addition to published travelogues, Bettinger excavates the private writings of women including Margaret Curson, Mary Gardner Lowell, Margaret Morton Quincy Green, and Sophia Peabody who traveled to Spanish Cuba; Maria Nugent during her stay in British Jamaica; Francis Calderón de la Barca who visited Mexico; and Susan Shelby Magoffin and Anna Marie Jackson de Camp Morris who traveled through northern Mexico.
Eric McDonald, History
Dissertation: Violent Identities: Elite Masculinity and Slavery in Seventeenth-Century Barbados
McDonald’s research focuses on the cultural and political relationship between early modern England and Barbados's colonization, especially the island’s emergence as a slave society. He argues that political chaos and warfare fueled the ways in which the Barbadian elite approached establishing and governing a colony that turned on the enslavement of a black majority.
According to McDonald, violence structured life in seventeenth-century Barbados. The planter-elite defended the small island against invasions by the Dutch, French, and, in the shadow of the English Civil War, battled the Protectorate Navy when Oliver Cromwell sent a convoy to overthrow the island's leaders in 1652. Meanwhile, a staggering degree of everyday violence took place on plantations, haunting the lives of servants and slaves.
“My research documents the development of a rich and distinct masculine identity among elites in seventeenth-century Barbados tied to ideals of violence. There is substantial, unappreciated evidence that this identity was an essential, guiding force in the creation of Barbados and the unprecedentedly violent system of racialized plantation slavery that developed there,” says McDonald.
Christopher Murray, English/Creative Writing
Dissertation: The Specific Ocean
Murray’s dissertation is a collection of poems titled, The Specific Ocean. As the manuscript’s title suggests, it is concerned with specifics. The poems are filled with images, details, and the names of characters and places. This virtual ocean of specifics renders the world depicted as something often ominous and never easily knowable.
“As the speaker of the poems—a sort of amateur private investigator— inhabits a series of strange yet familiar landscapes (a motel in a desert, an abandoned campsite, a crime scene, an observatory), he wonders who inhabited these places before him, who will arrive next, what happened there, what is to be done now, how much time we have left, and whether we will be able to muster the resources needed to put things right,” says Murray. “In other words, the poems use specific locations as forums to investigate macrocosmic questions (political, personal, philosophical) in the microcosm of a specific environment.”
He notes that other characteristics of his poems are playfulness, a sense of humor, an appreciation of the beauty of the natural world, and a desire to find—amidst the chaos and confusion of contemporary life—some kind of transcendence.
Adrienne Perry, English/Creative Writing
Dissertation: See Through Girls
See Through Girls is a novel that is focused on the lives of Aimee and Ginny, two multiracial Barnard College students living in New York in 2013. In the book, readers follow the characters’ exploits as they attempt to bring forth radical change in their peers’ relationship to race and gender. See Through Girls is conceived as an English-to-English translation of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. More than paraphrase or imitation, this translation is an extension of Ellison’s novel.
Central to See Through Girls are themes of mixed-race identity, white supremacy, relationships among women, class, female relationships to power and male privilege, and the role between art and activism. Though it is a work of fiction, the novel connects these themes to contemporary movements, events, people, and locations.
“See Through Girls is ambitious,” says Perry. “It joins an urgent conversation about race, gender, and privilege in America.”
Bruno Ríos Martínez de Castro, Hispanic Studies
Dissertation: Writing on ruins: Political Operations of Contemporary Mexican Poetry 1985-2015
Rios’s dissertation focuses on contemporary Mexican poetry as a key tool to understanding the neoliberal era in Mexico, beginning with the presidency of Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado (1982-1988) and lasting until today.
“Considering the historical and political context that produces them, the primary purpose of this dissertation is to examine the different aesthetic and thematic strategies with which this corpus of works can configure a discourse of resistance against neoliberalism’s disarticulation of the political subject. I call these strategies ‘political operations,’” says Rios.
Rios analyzes works that create a discourse in response to four specific moments of political tension, namely the devastating earthquake from 1985 in Mexico City and the AIDS epidemic; the political transition of the year 2000; the so-called "narco drug war" during Felipe Calderón's presidency, and the destruction of the environment in recent years beyond the Mexican border. He then argues that poetry functions as a privileged form of literary discourse, capable of creating a political response that resists the appropriation of capitalist markets. In addition, he takes an interdisciplinary approach to his research by also examining the way the photography of Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide, and the cinematography of Latino director and writer Alex Rivera, can generate a dialogue with works of poetry in those specific moments.
Jonathan Solis, Political Science
Dissertation: "The Determinants of Government Perpetrated Attacks against Media."
According to Solis, many scholars recognize a free press’ importance to a healthy democracy and good governance. However, the factors that contribute to and determine press freedom levels remain surprisingly understudied in the political science literature.
“My dissertation focuses on the institutional determinants of when governments are more likely to attack media. Attacks include jailing journalists, harassing media personnel, or closing news outlets to control information the information they air or publish” says Solis.
He believes his completed dissertation will contribute to the media freedom literature in three ways – it will provide two new empirical datasets for researchers and finally it will introduce a new theory that includes the judiciary and regime type as determinants of attacks against media.
Kenicia Wright, Political Science
Dissertation: The Ties that Do Not Bind: Social Capital, Minority Female Representation, and Social Inequality in the United States
Wright’s dissertation argues that despite the fact that America is one of the most racially diverse democracies, and that representation is a core element of democracy, minority women are still substantially underrepresented.
“I address this shortcoming in my dissertation by linking the intersection of race and gender and social capital to policy representation of women of color,” she says.
Wright believes her dissertation offers several major contributions. First, she integrates three key scholarly traditions – legislative representation, social capital, and intersectionality– to study minority female representation and provide insight on the determinants of minority female representation. Second, she bridges legislative politics and the public policy literature by examining whether minority female legislators and bureaucrats substantively represent minority women’s interests. And finally, she offers an innovative theory that links the political effects of social capital to multiple social identities and answers the call for more application of the intersectional framework in political science and public administration research.