Announcing 2016 Graduate Student Research Awards

square graphic with text "2016 Graduate Student Research Awards"
2016 Graduate Student Research Awards
square graphic with text "2016 Graduate Student Research Awards"
2016 Graduate Student Research Awards

The Institute for Research on Women and Gender has awarded 23 graduate students funding to support wide-ranging projects related to women, gender, and sexuality.

IRWG/Rackham Graduate Student Research Awards and IRWG/Rackham Community of Scholars summer fellowships were granted to students from 17 disciplines, ranging from the arts and humanities to social sciences and engineering.

The Boyd/Williams Fellowship for Research on Women and Work was awarded to Emma Thomas (Ph.D. Candidate, History, Germanic Languages and Literatures).

The students were selected from a highly competitive pool. Their diverse set of projects demonstrates the scope of women and gender studies at U-M.

Rackham graduate student recipients and their projects include:

Sahin Acikgoz (Ph.D. Candidate, Comparative Literature)
Can the Lubunya Speak?: The Erasure of Transgender Subjectivity in Turkey and the Transnational Politics of Representation

This research project examines the epistemic erasure realized through the production of knowledge. Acikgoz intends to reveal how the Turkish ethnographers/historians, in their benevolent attempt to critique the state-sanctioned processes that expel transgender individuals from the public space, hegemonically silence transgender individuals through misrepresentation. This silencing deploys the conventions of imperial/colonial ethnography/historiography systematically used by Western scholars in their research on the indigenous/local transgender communities. These ethnographies/historiographies, in turn, structure the frames of subaltern self-representations. Acikgoz argues that only a transnational feminist analysis can critically challenge the implications of the epistemic erasure produced by these seemingly national forms of representation.

Anthony Alterio (M.F.A. Student, Dance)
New Beginnings to the Endings We Always Wanted

Anthony Alterio, with fellow dance MFA Charles Gushue, presents a dance performance that works to imagine new possibilities for identity and sexuality through the transformative act of live performance at the Duderstadt Video Studio on April 1st and 2nd, 2016. This work aims to disconnect, reconstruct, and embody the ways we think about gender and sexuality in western culture. The work of these two artists is pulled together through an exploration of the intermission in Inter-MENssion, a male-male duet between Anthony and Charles that asks what is possible in-between.

Lindsay Blackwell (Ph.D. Student, School of Information)
Discouraging the Online Harassment of Women through Technology Design

Women and minority groups are disproportionately affected by online harassment. When an online space is disrupted, marginalized users no longer feel safe participating. Thus, it is imperative that researchers, technology designers, and users work to build a better and more empathetic web. Blackwell will use computational, qualitative, and participatory methods to better understand how technology design can enable harmful behaviors—with the ultimate goal of identifying technology solutions to discourage them. The results of this work are critical not only for victims, litigators, and policymakers, but for the very future of the Internet: an invaluable global forum which must be protected.

Hannah Clark (Ph.D. Candidate, Psychology, Clinical Science Area)
Early Intervention for Women and Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence: A Six-Year Follow-Up

This six-year follow-up study is intended to determine the long-term impact of an intervention for women exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV), particularly with regard to participants’ continued IPV exposure and their executive functioning (EF). EF deficits have been found among women exposed to IPV, though the relation between IPV and EF is not well understood. Standardized measures of IPV, EF, and psychopathology symptoms will be used to determine the effects of IPV on women’s EF, whether these effects mediate the relation between IPV and women’s psychopathology, and to elucidate the nature of the association between mothers’ and children’s EF.

Danielle Czarnecki (Ph.D. Candidate, Sociology)
Modern Crosses: How Christian Women Navigate Maternal Desire, Religion, and Assisted Reproductive Technologies

Technological advancements in assisted reproductive technologies have created the possibility for infertile couples to have biological children. However, these technologies have also entered realms that most religions consider sacred—marriage, intercourse, and procreation. Missing from the literature on infertility in the United States is any consideration of how religion shapes the process of negotiating infertility and gender. For many, religion matters and plays a potentially critical, unexplored role in how women experience infertility. Czarnecki examines how Christian women navigate secular and religious messages about infertility and gender when making decisions about using these technologies.

Brady G’Sell (Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology and History)
Child Support Claims and the Making of Obligation in South Africa: 1960-2015

This project tracks the shifting efforts of single mothers in urban South Africa to secure resources for their families. Using archival and ethnographic data, G’Sell argues that women, men, and the state have participated in the co-construction of the obligation to support a child, a sociohistorically contingent practice. Since children, not women themselves, were seen as deserving support, women performed different maternal personae to justify their entitlement. Bridging an analytic divide between the domestic and the political, G’Sell argues these performances shaped women’s relationships with their children and sources of support that included the state, NGOs, neighbors, and fathers.

Samantha Hobson (Ph.D. Student, Sociology)
Growing a Budding Industry: The Experience Of Women Executives in Legal Marijuana

Women are now more likely to be a CEO in every major sector of the legal marijuana industry than anywhere in our conventional economy. Hobson’s exploratory research project examines the experience of women at the executive level of the marijuana industry. Through semi-structured interviews, she will examine how the obstacles that contribute to a “glass ceiling” in established, traditional industries are operating in this developing, nontraditional industry where women’s executive presence is increasing to shed light on how gender inequality is (or is not) being transcribed into this new economic sphere.

Jessica Joslin (Ph.D. Candidate, Higher Education)
Student Religious Identity Negotiation at the University of Michigan

Colleges overwhelmingly espouse a commitment to diversity in their mission statements, however, religious diversity remains on the sidelines of diversity conversations on many secular campuses. Women and people of color are more religious than their White male counterparts, thus how universities engage with religion disproportionately impacts these students. This project uses case study methodology to explore how students from a range of religious traditions perceive of and interact with others in the campus environment.

Christina LaRose (Ph.D. Candidate, Women’s Studies and English)
Arab American Women's Poetry: Addressing the Problem of Violence

This dissertation fills a research gap: to date there has not been a published scholarly monograph on Arab American women's poetry. Drawing on an analysis of over 1,400 poems by Arab American women, the project explores how these poets address the problem of violence and articulate peacebuilding strategies, both in the region and in a transnational context. The study focuses on several significant upheavals in the Arab region: the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after WWI, the subsequent French and British colonial interventions in the Levant, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Lebanese Civil War, the 1991 Gulf War, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Emily Macgillivray (Ph.D. Candidate, American Culture)
I Do Not Know Any Such Women: Native Women Traders’ Property, Mobility, and Self-determination in the Great Lakes, 1740-1840

This project is the first intensive study of the emergence of a group of economically privileged and politically influential Native women traders in the Great Lakes in the mid-eighteenth century. These women operated as their own principal brokers, acquiring property such as land and slaves. Macgillivray examines the both the women traders’ strategies to increase property holdings and political influence, as well as their experiences of gendered and racialized violence during imperial conflicts and shifts in power, such as the formation of the British and American border in the Great Lakes after the American Revolution.

Courtney McCluney (Ph.D. Candidate, Psychology)
Troubling Her: A Narrative Investigation of Black Clergy Women’s Strengths

Similar to other U.S. organizations, church leaders are majority White and male. Aspiring clergywomen encounter a ‘stained glass ceiling’ based on liturgical interpretations of the Bible, which routinely legitimizes and preserves traditional, gendered power dynamics in the church. This is especially apparent in predominately Black churches despite majority women congregants. This project examines the leadership experiences of Black clergywomen to capture the interplay of race and gender within an institutional power structure (the church). McCluney will capture Black women’s ability to enact strengths and agency in constructing positive leadership experiences through semi-structured interviews, multi-source feedback evaluations, and survey methods.

Josh Morrison (Ph.D. Candidate, Screen Arts & Cultures)
Camp Labour: Consumption, Exploitation, and Bashing Back

This project is part of Morrison’s dissertation, Labours of Love, which critiques materialist theories of value, questioning how minoritized subjects create cultural capital for themselves outside the flows of dominant affective economies of value. The dissertation chapter “Camp Labour: Consumption, Exploitation, and Bashing Back” examines how trans/queer subjects use camp as a recuperative, consumptive labour. Placing the films Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives and Killer Drag Queens on Dope within visual histories of exploitation cinema and radical activist media, this chapter intervenes in materialist theories of value, insisting on the centrality of identity in the conception of cultural capital.

Ariana Orvell (Ph.D. Student, Psychology)
Breaking [down] the Cycle: The Impact of “Motherhood” on Identity Separation & Motivation Among Women in STEM

Past research on stereotypes suggests that under threat, individuals suppress parts of their identity that are viewed as incompatible with success in a domain. However, this process can be costly for well-being in the long-run. This project examines whether priming the incompatibility between “being a mother” and working in a STEM setting will initiate a process of identity separation, wherein a women would disaffiliate from her motherhood intentions. This project may shed light on underlying mechanisms that explain why women are not pursuing STEM careers.

Michael Parmelee (M.F.A. Student, Dance)
Pleasure and Emergence: An Embodied Investigation of Identity Construction

This research explores the ways that identity is created through bodily experience and the body’s enactment of desire and pleasure. Using embodied practices and methodologies, Parmelee constructs choreographies to explore the notion that identity is continuously emerging from past experience, present context, and desires of the future. Investigating the germination, variability, and purpose of identity, Parmelee gives special consideration to the emergence of gender and sexual identities and the relationship between gender and sexual identities to desires for pleasure. This research will culminate in the production of a 45-minute dance work.

Ángela Pérez-Villa (Ph.D. Candidate, Women’s Studies and History)
Slavery, Moral Policing, and the Law in Colombia's Independence (1780-1830)

This project excavates the historical archive in search for elite and non-elite women who lived in Colombia’s largest slave society, the Province of Popayán, at its most critical period of transition from Spanish colony to independent state (1780-1830). It recuperates these women’s fragmented stories and juxtaposes them to other archival records to demonstrate the ways in which gendered relations of power both perpetuated and contested the institution of slavery at a critical time of political change.

Alessio Ponzio (Ph.D. Student, Women’s Studies and History)
Male-Male Prostitution in 1950s-1970s Italian Fiction

This project explores the discursive construction and practice of male-male prostitution in Italy between the 1950s and the 1970s through close analyses of popular magazines and newspapers, photography and film, fiction and academic publications, state archive files and interviews. Evidence from this wide range of materials can help us understand the relationship between social and cultural discourses about sex and sexuality public policy, and practices and performances of identity and subjectivity.

Mary Renda (Ph.D. Candidate, Romance Languages and Literatures)
Exercising Extractive Imperial Power: The Feminization of Natural and Human Bodies in the Andes

This dissertation examines the discursive ground upon which imperialism aimed at natural resource extraction is built. Through examining Andean literary texts and artistic work, Renda explores the gendered imaginaries that serve as the foundations of natural resource extractivist agendas and the kinds of provocations that can therefore be used to unsettle these foundations. Engaging with scholarship on the intersections between gender and colonialist, imperialist, and nationalist designs, Renda argues that it is not possible to overthrow regimes of natural resource extraction without first uprooting practices of patriarchal control over feminized bodies -- whether natural or human.

Sara Rimer (Ph.D. Candidate, Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Understanding the Experiences of Liberian Undergraduate Women Studying Engineering: Influence of Family, Mentors, and Role Models on their Motivations to Persist

This research project studies how family members, mentors, and role models have influenced the experiences of female engineering students in Liberia. Learning more about these experiences will immediately contribute to ongoing educational and outreach programs to these students; and will continue unearth important stories of these women that have not yet been told.

Catharine Saint-Croix (Ph.D. Candidate, Philosophy)
Social Identity and the Dynamics of Social Concepts

Social identities are the bridge between our personal identities and the social roles we occupy. In previous work, Saint-Croix and co-author Robin Dembroff developed an account of social identity aimed at answering the normative and theoretical questions central to the work this concept should do. This project further develops that framework and uses it to examine the development of social concepts such as race and gender through the interaction of social identity and social roles.

Christine Sargent (Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology)
Ambivalent Inheritance: Down Syndrome, Motherhood, and Disability Politics in Amman, Jordan

Jordanian mothers have begun to draw on the framework of disability rights and a repertoire of biomedical symbols to challenge local understandings of inheritance and relatedness that stigmatize mothers and their “defective” babies (Carsten 2002; Landsman 2001; Rapp 1999). Mothers are the first to encounter new forms of expert knowledge and activism seeking to transform local understandings of Down Syndrome. As mothers of children with disabilities, Jordanian women engage with and are subjected to new fields of expertise – and critique – that intensify the emotional, domestic, and practical labor they perform as mothers, wives, kin, and workers in formal and informal economies.

Kyera Singleton (Ph.D. Candidate, American Culture)
Talking with The Door Closed: The Gendered and Sexual Politics of Imprisonment

In the 1850’s, significant numbers of free and enslaved Black women were housed in the Maryland Penitentiary and the Baltimore City Jail due to overzealous policing and racist discourses of black criminality. This project investigates some black women’s desire to claim autonomy through crime, as well as the racist and gendered laws that deemed black women as inherent criminals. Singleton traces the experiences of black women with imprisonment in the Antebellum South, attempting to recuperate the often unknown history of the intimate lives of imprisoned black women in the nineteenth century.

Emma Thomas (Ph.D. Candidate, History and Germanic Languages and Literatures)
Contested Labors: New Guinean Women and the German Colonial Indenture, 1884-1921

This dissertation analyzes the complex roles occupied by indentured New Guinean women in what is generally understood as a thoroughly masculine colonial labor force. Despite their minority, women’s multiple and embodied labors constituted a vital yet highly contested aspect of the colonial indenture system in German New Guinea. Drawing on colonial debates and court testimonies of New Guinean women and men, this dissertation reveals women’s work as entangled in both the racialized and gendered notions that colonists brought to the Pacific islands, as well as local understandings of gender, sexuality, family, and the division of labor.

Alisa Yang (M.F.A. Student, Art & Design)
Please Come Again

Please Come Again is a multimedia installation featuring a three-channel video projection. This thesis project narrates three generations of Asian women’s sexuality through the lens of love hotels. Filmed in Japan, love hotels offer a private space for experiencing eroticism, intimacy and freedom of expression in a culture that demands selfless conformity. Yang uses love hotels as a metaphor for the female body, portraying the internal journey of Asian women exploring their sexuality. It marks an important departure from the traditional patriarchy, one that demands the role of women to ignore their own desires in order to serve their husband, family, and society.

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