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Fall 2010 Abstracts

Nicholas Cary
The Gamehendge Effect: Phish and the Recontextualization of Countercultural Values for a Post-MTV Generation

The values of the hippie culture of the 1960’s and 1970’s, argues Nicholas Cary, are still widely held in the ‘Phan’ community of the 1990’s jamband Phish. His project highlights these shared community principles in order to explore the role of Phan rituals and practices in a concert setting as they recontextualize countercultural values. Many of these rituals and practices stem from a musical narrative set in a fantasy land called Gamehendge created by Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio. Through an analysis of this narrative, entitled The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, paired with an in depth investigation of the rituals and practices of the Phans, this project points to the potential construction of the concert to act as a countercultural space.

Kristy Lueshen
Take Apart: SFØ and Utopian Play in Post-Spectacular Urban Life

In this project, Kristy Lueshen examines the ways in which SFØ, an online/urban game, attempts to radically reinterpret everyday urban space through the implicit use of theories and practices from the Situationist International. SFØ’s street games and tasks create the possibility to lead players into critical investigations to discover and divert underlying urban structures that function as slyly oppressive mechanisms in what situationist Guy Debord deemed the ‘Society of the Spectacle.’ In the context of a post-spectacular political world, SFØ’s use of situationist tactics like détournement and the dérive reconstructs intentioned space into temporary, transformative moments of utopia. When players take to the streets, they excite the utopian project of bettering cities by viewing, and subsequently altering, the makeup of the cities toward a more livable, active space designed and (re)created by the inhabitants themselves.

Laura Strait
The Borrowed Drum: Developing Dependence in Haiti

This study looks at Haiti as a subject for the project of development implemented by core-nation states in concert with the IMF, World Bank, and WTO.  Engaging a political economy framework, Laura Strait assesses the contradictions between the discourse of development theory and implementation thereof.  By applying this framework to specific examples of lending and trading from "First World" to "Third World" nations, she asserts that the process of development actually forces developing nations into a perpetual state of "peripheral dependency."  The effects of this dependency in Haiti are then discussed in terms of their economic and consequently ecological implications, concluding that the causality of development practices has continually and indefinitely handicapped Haiti's infrastructure and capacity for self-sufficiency.

Stephanie Velasco
Reviewing Representations: Authoring Asian American Identities After The Joy Luck Club

Published reviews and marketing blurbs of Asian American fiction titles paint a picture of a homogeneous genre—the ascribed characteristics of which are informed by Orientalist tendencies. Stephanie Velasco examines Asian American fiction published by mainstream presses after 1989, the year Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club was published. The project illustrates how this novel’s critical and commercial success has framed and continues to frame discussions about Asian American literature. By identifying patterns in character descriptions, plot synopses, and themes highlighted in reviews of Asian American titles, the project argues that reviewers and publishers continue to reinforce romanticized and exoticized representations of Asian Americans. Finally, the project shows how contemporary Asian American authors navigate a field wherein only a very specific representation of their cultural identity is considered “publishable” in the mainstream.

Spring 2010 Abstracts

Dan Kauchick
Audism on Television: On the Marginalization of the D/deaf Community in Contemporary American Media and Culture

Historically, the dominant “hearing” culture has always approached the deaf more as an enigmatic group of disabled individuals and less as a legitimate linguistic minority.  In this cultural study, Dan Kauchick, drawing on the emerging field of Deaf Studies, performs a critical deconstructive analysis of the representations of D/deaf culture in recent episodes from the popular television shows House and Law and Order.  More specifically, he argues that such (mis)representations of the deaf/Deaf community reinforce its marginalization and isolation throughout society.  The project deploys the framework of De’VIA art to contrast some culturally empowering and complex representations of the latter with their rather negative and one-dimensional hegemonic media counterparts.  Kauchick seeks to uncover and subvert these very audist, phonocentric ideals and practices that serve only to reinforce and reproduce the very marginality of the deaf/Deaf community.   

Bailey Kelley
Beneath the Backpack: Interrogating the (Re) Production of Gendered/Feminine Subjectivities in Dora the Explorer

In this feminist intervention, Bailey Kelley interrogates Dora the Explorer, the popular pre-school TV program and the brand associated with it, in order to better understand the gender roles and subjectivities that Dora appropriates and (re)produces. Drawing on third wave feminist scholarship, this social semiotic analysis examines the ways in which Dora the Explorer presents a contradictory image of Dora as, on the one hand, an empowered, curious and active female subject and a traditional, subjugated, feminine subject, on the other. Kelley claims that the Dora brand ultimately and effectively resolves this contradiction by enabling the latter representation through its dainty, ultra-feminine products. This hegemonic (re)production of traditional gendered, feminine subjects, she argues, is both informed and propagated by the political economy of contemporary American society and culture.

Angelika Lewis
Bodies as Commodities: Trafficking in Black Female Bodies in the Antebellum South

Drawing on contemporary black feminist scholarship, Angelika Lewis seeks to examine white, male trafficking in black female bodies in pre-Civil War America.  She argues that in the context of the antebellum South, the business exchanges between white, male slave owners created and maintained an infrastructure that facilitated the commodification of the black female body.  Not only that, the racialized, sexualized, and objectified body of the female slave is an integral component in the slave/master dichotomy as the white male subject role is contingent upon the ownership of property and mobility in the socio-economic sphere. Unlike conventional studies that tend to look at issues of gender, race, and class as autonomous and isolated from one another, Lewis insists here on their necessary interconnections and articulations and locates race, gender and class within black feminist and Marxist theories as complementary frameworks for the contextualization of such complex issues.

Matthew McMunn
The Great Game of Scouting: “Orienting” Imperial Masculine Subjectivities in the “School of the Woods”

In this project, Matthew McMunn examines the Boy Scouts as an ideological state apparatus for the constitution of Western male subjectivity.  This constitution, McMunn argues, is grounded in sexist/racist practices and representations.  This project employs postcolonial theory to analyze various aspects of the material culture of scouting (relying primarily on the Boy Scout Handbook) and looks at the complex articulations of the Boy Scouts to the shifting contexts of imperialism.  McMunn claims that popular analyses and critiques of the Boy Scouts, which tend to emphasize the homophobic and sexist aspects of the culture, are limited by the rhetoric of equal rights.  He seeks to highlight the conflicting values of masculinity as represented by the iconic “Lone Scout” to perform a radical critique of the ideology of imperialism.  The project also shows that Scouting has been (re)appropriated for multiple, often contradictory colonial and nationalist political projects and programs.  The founding of the Boy Scouts in an era of increased anti-colonial unrest authorizes, in fact, calls for, the articulation of Scouting as a cultural phenomenon to the shifting ideologies of nationalism in the context of the decolonizing Third-World.