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Fall 2007 Abstracts

Alex DiGiacinto
Creating the Digital Sandbox? Implications of Spatial Construction in Cyberspace

Marsena Holsopple
Between the Covers: Sex, Gender, and the Search for Manhood: A Textual Analysis of Masculinity in Young Adult Fantasy Fiction

Tifani Lyons
Driving the American Dream

Nedda Mostafa
Trapped in the Alley With Aisha Kandisha: Sex, Power, and the Myth of (Fe) Male Superiority in the Modern Middle East

Mayra Rodriguez
Aztec Iconography/Urnam Images: A case study on the language of Chicano murals

AJ Sacco
Rabbits and Wands Aside: Ritual, Myth, and Conflict in the Subculture of Magicians

Adam Silver
Boystown, a Gay Ghetto? Urban Environment Shaping Identity and Culture


Spring 2007 Abstracts

Hope Bowie
Alien Invasion

One of the most recognizable symbols of America, the Statue of Liberty, proclaims the US a refuge for the ‘tired and the poor;’ yet foreigners are less welcome in this country precisely because they are seen as potential drains on society. By exploring Malthusian thought, social Darwinism, nativism, and the eugenics movement, Hope Bowie’s project examines the relationship between immigration legislation and xenophobia in particular eras.  Presenting immigration as not only an American issue, but rather as a global movement, Bowie’s examination of early American history and the portrayal of Mexican immigrants as the prototypical illegal alien in contemporary media highlights the urgent need for a new era in immigration reform in the U.S.

Gwendolyn Butkus
Food for Thought: Constructing a More Meaningful Meal in Schools

Claude Levi-Strauss said that food must be “not only good to eat, but also good to think.”  Generally speaking, the food served in US public schools is neither.  Learning seems to stop at cafeteria doors where industrial food is hastily eaten in chaotic conditions.  Moreover, the food in schools is evidence of a larger American eating disorder, a diet of food that is industrial, fast, junk, or heavily processed.  The Edible Schoolyard is Alice Waters’ model that addresses the relationship with food that this country lacks. Informed by the principles of the Slow Food Movement, the addition of gardens and a lunch curriculum transformed lunch for students in Berkeley, California, Gwendolyn Butkus explores the implementation of edible gardens at Dawes Elementary School in Evanston, Illinois, and its impact on students, the school, and the community.

Charles Castle
The Appropriation and Commodification of White Trash in the Reconstruction of Whiteness in America

The need to make whiteness visible serves to expose the conditions that have systematically and structurally positioned white skin preference as a locus of power and domination. Throughout the course of his studies of whiteness, Charles Castle discovered that the pro-active, anti-racist messages articulated by whiteness scholars and theorists are being undermined by the dominance of a new whiteness revelation – the appropriation and commodification of a white trash aesthetic. Through popular media texts, fashion, behavioral performance, and the influence and articulation of the contemporary self on society at-large, Charles exposes the various ways in which whiteness studies discourse are undermined by models of sustaining white privilege and identity as a core of social praxis in America.

Rubina Diggs
The Glass Ceiling: Race, Class and Public Education

Throughout decades, despite the implementation of public policies, impoverished African American students in the city of Chicago have been subjected to poor, segregated and unequal public education. By way of examining these inequalities, Rubina Diggs provides a quantitative analysis of 50 Chicago public elementary schools and a thorough critique of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) criteria instituted by the Bush Administration.  Through her analysis she sets out to explain why African American students underachieve disproportionately to their White counterparts.  Rubina examines the social, economical and political constructs that have been incorporated in US society that have been effectively utilized to maintain the dominant culture’s ideology.   

Ryan Fowler
Reel to Real: Portrayals of Mental Illness in Popular Film

When we imagine someone with a mental illness, we often construct an incoherent, perhaps babbling, and potentially dangerous person. Beyond the ‘lovable goof,’ the mentally ill are many times seen in popular culture as a threatening section of the population, in which the people afflicted do animalistic things that are potentially dangerous to everyone that comes in contact with them. But where do these ideas come from? Ryan Fowler examines how the often skewed representation of mentally ill characters in popular film shapes our view of mental illness and affects those living with it.

Laura Gross
“Can you move your satanic ritual over there? I wanted to dig up this grave:” The Multiple Functions of Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery

The now-defunct Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery is one of the oldest private cemeteries in Illinois, but is more well-known as a hotspot for drinking and destruction. Located in a Forest Preserve just south of Chicago, Bachelor’s Grove draws a late-night thrill seeking crowd, much to the dismay of the surrounding communities. The intentions of the visitors range from ghost hunting to historical preservation to general teenage deviance. Using the theories of Henri Lefebvre and Michel Foucault, Laura Gross explores the different groups who frequent the cemetery and examines how this space functions within the larger context of suburbia.   

Sarah Holderbaum
Crossed Over: Graffiti in the Mainstream

Graffiti, an integral part of urban landscapes, has been disappearing from the streets in many American cities.  While strict laws make graffiti illegal and hinder graffiti artists from practicing their craft on buildings, viaducts and subway cars, graffiti art has been appearing in other, somewhat unexpected mediums. Sarah Holderbaum explores the evolution of graffiti art from its origins as street expression to its presence in mainstream consumer culture.  While many may not view graffiti as art, graffiti has made quite a large impact on American culture.  Graffiti art as a commodity is a cultural phenomenon that has found its way into different vehicles such as prints, coffee table books, galleries, t-shirts and advertising.

Lamaiya Lancaster
The Movement and the Music: Creativity and Collaborations

Lamaiya Lancaster takes a closer look at creativity and how it is manifested through the art of collaboration. By questioning the attempts to quantifying the potential or aptitude for creativity through ‘creativity tests,’ Lamaiya emphasizes the importance of focusing on the creative process. Her discussion focuses on the creative relationships between choreographers and composers in collaborative works: first, with works created by choreographer Martha Graham and composer Gian Carlo Menotti; then, delving into her own experiences as a choreographer, she analyzes a collaboration she participated in with composer and fellow artist Christopher Bennett. It is a fresh look at creativity through the art of collaboration.

Michelle Molitor
Nostalgia for the Future (A Brief History of New Romanticism): Examining Personal Nostalgia and Its Effects on the Study of Subcultures

The nostalgia for punk seems to be a shared fondness amongst Cultural Studies scholars, as if nothing worth exploring existed between the demise of the Sex Pistols in 1978 and the rise of hip-hop in New York in the early eighties. In reality, dozens of new subcultures rose from the ashes of punk. Michelle Molitor’s essay discusses the foundations and idiosyncrasies of one specific post-punk British subculture, the New Romantics, and her tertiary relationship to it. What does it mean to be nostalgic for an entire subculture that seems to be based around a nostalgia for an era that never really existed in the first place? Does this revelation downplay the pertinence of the subculture? Beyond personal navel-gazing, is she merely engaging in reminiscing, or has she discovered deeper levels of meaning to the art of nostalgia?

Danielle Ormond
Self-Help Nation

Americans are exposed daily to some form of popular self-help: from the latest ‘how to’ Vogue issue, to Dr. Phil, to relationship advice from their favorite radio disc jockey. In her essay, Danielle Ormond analyzes best-selling self-help literature focusing on the pursuit of happiness. It seems that for some the pursuit of happiness exists within the writings of others that offer authoritative advice, misconstrued reality, and a list of tasks for success. By focusing on the ideological teachings and philosophies of the American worldview that are present in these books, Danielle is able to examine the social constructions that these self-help authors ignore.

Erin Polley
Soundtrack of Soweto: The politics of Kwaito in a new South Africa

On a recent trip to South Africa, House music lover Erin Polley was introduced to the local version of her favorite dance music. The style, dubbed Kwaito, emerged in the early 1990's right at the moment black South African youth were etching their culture into a new, post-apartheid South Africa. Inspired by House, Hip-Hop and South African liberation music during apartheid, Kwaito quickly aligned itself as the soundtrack of freedom. But is Kwaito political or just party music? Can it be both? Through an intriguing analysis of South African Justice Albie Sachs’ speech “Preparing Ourselves for Freedom,” Polley takes a look at political art and explores Kwaito’s meaning in a new South Africa.

Andrew Radlowski
“Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me?” An Examination of Our Cultural Conceptions of Older Age

The belief that older age is synonymous with both physical and mental decline has a long history in western culture. In his essay, Andrew Radlowski examines how generally negative cultural narratives about old age tend to limit the way people think about this social group.  In particular, he looks at evidence that demonstrates that such narratives can be harmful or detrimental to both those who are in the midst of older age and those who imagine what older age will be like.  Nevertheless, with a critical look at the systemic development of these negative cultural conceptions, his essay examines how birthday greeting cards can be a site for the creation, reinforcement, and continuation of ageism, or can be read as a subversive act against it.

Elspeth Roza
The Few. The Proud. The Female Soldiers of the Civil War

During the American Civil War, an estimated 400 women donned pants and cut their hair short in order to enlist themselves under a male alias and fight in battle. Elspeth Roza investigates this fascinating phenomenon to try to delve into the gender issues of 19th century war politics. Informed by theories of gender performance and analyzing a diverse array of historical documents—from pension documents to articles and illustrations published in Harper’s Weekly in the 1860s—her project focuses on the life of Albert DJ Cashier, the male alias of a woman named Jennie Hodgers who spent her life—during and after the Civil War—living as a man.