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Fall 2008 Abstracts

Ariel Bolles
Heavy Metal Nation: The Country of Manowar

Scholarship on heavy metal has historically been limited to the genre’s history and issues of sexism and power within the genre.  Using the heavy metal band Manowar as its focus, this paper takes into account more traditional analyses of heavy metal while expanding the scholarship into patriotism, fan culture as Andersonian imagined community, and masculinity.  Through comparisons with hard country music scholarship and examples of post-9/11 country songs, cultural contradictions within the genres of both heavy metal and country music are considered.  These include the origins of leather as a symbol of masculinity, the international nationalistic following of Manowar, and the use of overt patriotic themes in music directed towards unknown, and known, oppressors.  This paper, by analyzing the “loudest band on earth,” seeks to justify the inclusion of music that falls in between “sub-“ and “pop-” cultures in the larger discourse of cultural studies.

Phillip Bratta
Flag Display Post 9/11: A Discourse on American Nationalism

After September 11th, 2001, Americans displayed fifty stars and thirteen stripes on front lawns, automobiles, pins, shirts, hats, pictures and memorabilia as part of a patriotic narrative about the 9/11 tragedy. The flag functioned as a communicative cultural artifact deployed in crucial and contested moments to symbolize a unifying national force. The "Red, White and Blue," as it has historically, filled gaps where inconsistencies arise in national discourse and disseminated and reinforced mythologies and narratives of a “coherent” imagined American nation. This project offers explanations for the fixation on the flag and how it conflates the ideologies of patriotism and nationalism by deconstructing three post 9/11 cultural images: (1) an NBC Special Report following the fall of the Twin Towers, (2) Thomas E. Franklin's Ground Zero Spirit, and (3) President George W. Bush’s September 20th, 2001 speech to Congress.

Salvatore Cassato
Making Sound with What’s Around: A Post-Colonial Exploration of Contemporary African Music

Elizabeth Foley
Deconstructing Race: Hollywood’s (Mis) Representation of Mexican Subjectivity

Historically, the construction of race in the United States privileges those classified as White. Race relations impact Americans everyday and those impacts are manifested in Hollywood films. In this paper, through textual analysis, I investigate the relationship between Whites and Mexicans in Hollywood movies produced in the U.S. from 1980 until today. More specifically, I will explore how race is constructed and what groups benefit from such hegemonic constructions. I will also explore how race constructions are manifested and how they serve to reproduce Hollywood stereo-types and schemas.

Terrell Isselhard
A Bridge to the Flesh: The Structural Mimesis of MTV and YouTube in the Neo-Futurist Theater Company’s Too Much Light Makes Baby Go Blind

Donna Kiser
Mothers of Incarcerated Sons as Invisible Victims: An Intervention

In 2007, 2.3 million people, the overwhelming majority of whom are males, lived inside United States prisons.  In this feminist intervention, I examine how the incarceration of male prisoners affects every aspect of the lives of their mothers. The first part of the paper interrogates some of the dominant, traditional constructions of motherhood and the role these play in the constitution of the “unconscious foundations” that shape mothers’ reactions to the incarceration of their sons. In the second part, drawing on the theories of Gramsci and Freiri, I reflect on the resistance of these mothers to participate in what would have been a fieldwork-based project, and to communication and self-examination more generally.  I, thus, conclude that these women, like many other marginalized groups, would benefit from progressive activist intervention that would provide them with the education, information, and above all, agency that would enable them to understand their conditions of existence and affect social change. 

Lindsey McLean
Eat Me: Food Advertising and the Construction of Feminine Subjectivities in Contemporary American Culture

In contemporary American culture, food advertising directed toward women routinely deploys language and imagery centering on issues of control, morality, agency, and labor that are articulated to dominant ideas, discourses, and practices surrounding the female body, roles of women and female sexuality. In this project, I examine the ways in which such rhetorical tropes in food related media (re)produce and even constitute feminine subjectivities and identities in contemporary culture. Drawing on semiotics and Foucault’s theories of objectification, I interrogate food advertisements in some recent women’s magazines to offer a symptomatic critique of the ways in which feminine identities are constituted through media texts and discourses.

Demetria Nanos
The New/Old Culture War: On the Politics, “Ownership,” and Theft of Cultural Antiquities

The ownership of so-called antiquities and other valuable cultural artifacts has always been under dispute, but assumes very specific forms under modernity.  Here, the question of who owns cultural objects and antiquities becomes entangled with the processes and practices of colonialism, anti-colonialism, war, nationalism and national identity.  This paper grapples with the political economy regarding these objects, their acquisition, and how they are deployed in the construction of nations, national history, and national identity.  I will also examine how these objects are implicated in the history of colonialism and imperialism.  More specifically, I will address the following questions:  What are the politics regarding the claims of ownership of antiquities and other cultural artifacts from the past?  Where do these cultural objects fit in the larger history of colonialism in the 19th and early 20th centuries?  Finally, how do these cultural antiquities get deployed in the processes and practices of anti-colonialism and national identity formation?

Daniela Sloan
Democratic Educational Reform: The Montessori Method as a Solution for Building on Educated Citizenry

In a nation whose founding principles require the consent of the governed, education that prepares its citizens to make prudent decisions by way of critical thinking is essential.  The United States’ discourse on educational reform, dominated by "excellence," "standardization," and "accountability," has made the goal of critical thinking close to impossible.  Consequently, the classroom has become saturated with “performance goals” which make educational experiences a means to an end rather than a meaningful process.  Through a comparative analysis of standards-based education and the Montessori Method, this paper provides approaches to creating lasting educational reform by adopting "mastery" rather than performance goals.  Using critical pedagogy as a backbone for this conversation, current priorities in public education are critiqued and solutions centered on fostering critical thinking are investigated.  In its entirety, this paper demonstrates how the century-old Montessori Method realizes the contemporary goals of critical pedagogy in creating democratic educational reform.  Supported by case studies and theoretical analysis, this comparison illustrates how the Montessori Method puts “theory into practice” providing instances of active instead of passive learning and contextualized rather than decontexualized education. 

John R. Thompson
Homo/genous Territories: Queer Youth and the Struggle for Public Space in Chicago’s Boystown

Public space has long been a central site of queer struggles for visibility and liberation. The proliferation of gay enclaves in major cities across the United States is a prime example of the ways in which queer communities have conceptualized, inhabited, and transformed public space. Such is the case with Chicago’s Boystown. Since its formation in the 1970s, the neighborhood has been celebrated as a cultural hub for one of the country’s largest metropolitan gay communities. Yet, as neoliberalism causes public space to become increasingly privatized, and dominant gay culture and politics becomes characterized by what Lisa Duggan calls “the new homonormativity,” Boystown has developed into a consumer-oriented business district. This has given rise to a powerful gay elite that has claimed ownership to the neighborhood while embarking on a campaign against the queer youth of color who frequently assemble in Boystown’s streets. This essay examines the ways in which the rhetoric of “safety” has been racialized, used to justify the privatization of public space in Boystown, and used to target and monitor those deemed as Other.

Spring 2008 Abstracts

Matthew Arkell
Shopping for Reality: Product Red and the Illusion of Consumer Agency

Andrew Breen
Routes, Not Places: Ecological and Historical Context of Community Aesthetics and Identity

Environmental issues, specifically environmental justice, have become a focal point of international public discourse, both political and economic, over the last few years. What is lacking in global discussions of humans' interaction with the environment is the question of the lingering effects of the industrial period's excesses, and the post-industrial period's indifference, on the aesthetics of former factory cities, and on the lives of their residents. What is to be done with the vast expanses of brownfields and crumbling industrial infrastructures that currently exist on the edges of U.S. metropolises? A prime example of this oversight exists in Chicago. Using political-economic, historical and geo-ecological analysis, Breen addresses the devastating impact that both the boom and bust of America’s industrial economy have had on the identity and ecology of the south side Chicago neighborhood of Hegewisch.

Rebecca Bunten
Forced Duality: A Historical and Rhetorical Analysis of Society’s Rejection of the Third Sex

Ebonni Chabala
How Free is Free? The Concept of Freedom of Speech in the Context of the War on Terror

Abagail Fritz
Dance for Freedom: The Appropriation and Development of Fire Dance into Modern American Culture

Nora Freeman
“Create…Change”?: Interrogating the Legacy of a (Liberal) Arts School

Katie Heath
The Paradoxical Design of American Apparel: Hypocrisy or Postmodern Jest?

Deedee Iwaegbe
Surveillance Culture: Technological Utopia or Fascist Dystopia?

Roger Llamedo
Political Participation in Cyberspace: Revolt, Fantasy, and Implications of Mainstream Media

Anita Simmons
The Root of All Evil: An Analysis of How Hip-Hop Adopted Misogyny