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Spring 2013 Abstracts

Caroline Browne
Many of These Children Are Not Like the Other: ADD/ADHD's Cultural Construction and Medicated Bodies
This paper contextualizes and critiques the increasingly normalized practice of medicating elementary students with ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) in contemporary USA. Through a close reading of the No Child Left Behind Act, and engagement with Louis Althusser’s theory of Ideological State Apparatuses, Foucault’s theory of Docile Bodies, and critiques of education provided by the field of critical pedagogy it both challenges the validity and necessity of the current rates of diagnosis and medication, but also fills a gap in the current scholarship by interrogating the contribution of the US public education system to the normalization of this practice. A combination of discourse analysis and ideological analysis contextualizes the argument that ADD/ADHD is a cultural construct; a result of the (re)production of dominant capitalist ideologies in public education, which both encourages and necessitates the normalization of medicating students with ADD/ADHD.

Stacy Bullard
“Can I Holla At You For a Second?” Street Harassment and the Public Performance of Patriarchy in Contemporary Urban America

This project is a feminist intervention in and against the widely popular and accepted, yet generally under-researched, practice and phenomenon of urban street harassment in contemporary American city-spaces. Unlike conventional scholarship, which has generally tended to focus almost exclusively on the legal aspects and psychological effects of this phenomenon, in this cultural study, Stacy Bullard seeks to rethink and expand the discourses and practices of street harassment to engage contemporary scholarship on gender hierarchy, sexuality and subjectivity, critical studies of space and place, and queer theory in an attempt to highlight the larger and deeper structures and social forces that animate and produce street harassment. Utilizing critical textual analysis, combined with a deconstruction of the patriarchal and capitalist ideologies expressed through street harassment, Bullard considers how the interaction of street harassment both informs and constitutes the parameters of gender-based inaccessibility in the American urban space through disciplinary modes of gender constraints and policing. The project argues that due to its public performance, street harassment reconstitutes gender subjectivities and roles in ways that serve to reinforce and reproduce dominant, naturalized heteronormative-patriarchal structures, practices, and subjectivities.  According to Bullard, any political project—intellectual or otherwise—against street harassment should, therefore, first start by interrogating these very structures and practices.  

Emma Hadden
Radicalizing the Contemporary “Gun Debate”: Rethinking the Genealogy and Politics of Gun Ownership in America

This project deploys historical and ideological analysis to examine American subjectivity in the context of self-defense and gun ownership. More specifically, Emma Hadden interrogates self-defense as a constitutional right and as a right of American subjectivity, arguing that it has historically been either partially or fully denied to specific social minority groups and subjects in the United States, namely Native Americans, African Americans, and women. She contends that the ideologies of Manifest Destiny and the American Dream were constitutive of an ‘emergent’ and later dominant American subjectivity defined by very specific modern ideals and democratic rights and practices and in sharp contrast to ‘Other,’ especially Native American, subjectivities and ideals.  Hadden also examines how African Americans—and the Black Power Movement in particular— have re-appropriated the Second Amendment and the right to self-defense in their attempt to form armed militias to fight against brutal police forces and violent white mobs.  By the same token, the thesis discusses the contradictory position of women in relation to the ideology of self-defense and traces women’s shifting access to the so-called rights of American subjectivity. Drawing on the field of American studies, post-colonial and neo-colonial theories, to supplement the historical-ideological critique, this project also seeks to radically problematize and contextualize the so-called “contemporary gun debate” in America, highlighting its reductive, contradictory, and polarized logic and nature. 

Joseph Hirsch
Spaces of Dissent: Occupy Wall Street, Anarchism, and the Emergent Physicality of Resistance

This study questions the effectiveness of traditional social movement organizing tactics, arguing that Occupy Wall Street’s broad and decentralized contestation of public spaces – drawing inspiration from the anarchist tradition – demonstrates a more effective means by which radical Left social movements can begin to incite major political shifts in the age of neoliberalism. This project asserts the movement’s emphasis on its physicality of resistant activity as a primary critical distinction between Occupy and other recent Leftist political struggles that failed to mobilize similar levels of engagement and notoriety. A critical-spatial analysis of the movement’s horizontally-organized protest camps, the Occupations, coupled with a discussion of the emergent political-economic implications of its anarchist-inspired organizational makeup, serve as the theoretical grounding for the study’s broader analysis. By linking the contemporary movement with a broader shift in dissident activity in the neoliberal/late capitalist epoch, this research illuminates how social movements’ turn towards a corporeal resistant praxis that reaffirms the centrality of the territory we occupy in daily life as the primary locations from which true political change can be realized.

Brett E. King
As the World TurnsGay, Not Queer: Privileging Heteronormalized Representations of Sexuality in American Soap Operas from 1977-Present

This project argues that American daytime soap operas, since the 1970s, have adopted prevailing discursive ideas of queerness, re-articulated them, and introduced new discursive understandings of queerness into popular culture. Most often, these re-articulated representations reflect a heteronormalized model, owing to myriad historically-situated discourses related to human sexuality (e.g., mental health, AIDS, and gender identity). This point is made through a broad examination of these shifting discourses, coupled with a direct analysis of salient queer characters and storylines that appeared concurrently within daytime serials. Building on Feminist and Media theory, this project includes Queer theory to frame a comprehensive historical-discursive understanding of queerness in soap operas.

Terry Littleton
God Made It Happen: A rhetorical analysis of Jerry Falwell’s response to 9/11

Using rhetorical analysis, this project examines the two texts of a Religious Right preacher, Jerry Falwell to examine conceptual continuity over twenty years and uncover key ideological concepts. While the Religious Right employs many methods to influence the votes of the evangelical congregation, this paper will focus specifically on Falwell and the use of Biblical metaphors in his popular evangelical discourse. The project examines the fear-mongering used to create hate and paranoia in audience of these two texts.     

Margarita Papalitsas
On Human Sex Trafficking and Glocal Activism: A Feminist Intervention

Globalization, understood as the increasing importation of the forces of capitalism into more areas of social life and more regions of the world, has resulted in unprecedented and increased flows and movements (both legally and illegally) of people and things.  The present Cultural Studies intervention seeks to focus on the global social phenomenon of human trafficking, with a specific focus on human trafficking for sexual exploitation at the current historical conjuncture.  Despite the relatively increased media attention and activist interest human trafficking have drawn in the last few years, this complex phenomenon only gets worse every year.  In this study, Margarita Papalitsas, drawing on her recent activist work with the Ohio-based non-profit organization Trade Justice Mission, seeks to engage and assess some of the recent political-activist projects that have committed themselves to fighting human trafficking in general and human trafficking for sexual exploitation in particular. Papalitsas claims that any productive, rigorous study of this complex, hardly traceable criminal industry must employ an equally complex, multi-perspectival, interdisciplinary approach. Combining a transnational feminist critique with a critical ethnographic approach, she attempts to reveal the multiple social and economic determinations that enable the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation. In doing so, Papalitsas seeks to help anti-human trafficking activists and practitioners not only rethink current prevention and victim aid tools and approaches, but also produce and create productive and efficacious tools, strategies, and tactics that are capable of putting an end to this disastrous phenomenon. 

Shelby Anne Rothman
Paradox on the Playa: Uncovering the Contradictions Embedded in Burning Man

This project examines the contradictions embedded in the stated goals and organizational structure of Burning Man.  Burning Man is something that is portrayed as positive in an alternative community; but in reality has its own hegemony and hierarchal bureaucracy. Through a discourse analysis and participant observation, this project shows that the ideologies of the culture are partially liberatory while most of the other aspects of Burning Man are hegemonic. The social contradictions of Burning Man are pointed out through employing theories of ideology, hegemony, place and space, heteronormativity, and subculture theory.

Caitlain Tinker
Contesting the Marginalization of Female Leadership in Sports: Women’s Struggle for Equal Opportunities in Men’s Collegiate and Professional Basketball

In this feminist critique, Caitlain Tinker interrogates the discourses and practices of gender discrimination in men’s professional and collegiate sporting institutions in the United States. This study focuses on delineating and ‘naming’ the discriminatory ideologies that are (re)produced by dominant social and cultural institutions, revealing in the process how these practices (over)determine gender equality in the professional and collegiate sporting field. To this end, Tinker performs a post-structuralist discourse analysis of what Louis Althusser calls the dominant ‘ideological state apparatuses,’ namely schools, the media and sporting institutions.  She argues that these institutions coalesce to form a network of power that produces, reproduces, and reinforces patriarchal discourses and practices that are not only problematic and contradictory, but also act as social barriers that restrict women from obtaining leadership positions in sports.  Based on the literature and data collected on men’s basketball in the United States, this study focuses on the category and experience of the ‘head-coach’ as revelatory of contradictory forms of gender discrimination, marginalization and misrepresentation that exist in men’s sporting institutions, especially the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). This study, drawing as it does on critical post-structuralist feminist frameworks, also seeks to contest and subvert the deeper social forces and cultural discourses that promote the phenomenon of institutionalized gender discrimination in sports.