Announcing 2021 Graduate Student Research Awards


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image with drawing of party banners, with a white circle in the center. Inside the circle, text reads 2021 Graduate Student Research Fellowships: IRWG
image with drawing of party banners, with a white circle in the center. Inside the circle, text reads 2021 Graduate Student Research Fellowships: IRWG

The Institute for Research on Women and Gender has awarded 12 graduate students funding to support wide-ranging projects related to women, gender, and sexuality.

Two Boyd/Williams Dissertation Grants were awarded for projects related to women and work. Through this award, IRWG supports projects that promote knowledge about and enhance understanding of the complexities of women’s roles in relation to their paid and unpaid labor. This prestigious dissertation fellowship is named for two sisters: Ruth Rodman Boyd (1892-1981), a longtime community activist, and Shirley Rodman Williams (1894-1999), who had a long career in the Detroit business community.

Ten IRWG/Rackham Community of Scholars summer fellowships were granted to students from disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, public health, and social work, whose dissertations focus on women, gender, or sexuality. All Community of Scholars awardees participate in a weekly interdisciplinary seminar during May and June, with time for individual research during July and August. The students were selected from a highly competitive pool. Their diverse set of projects demonstrates the scope of gender studies at U-M.

Boyd/Williams Dissertation Grant recipients and their projects are:

Erin Ice, PhD Candidate, Sociology, College of LSA
“Who is taking care of mom? How families make sense of unequal divisions of caregiving in the U.S.”

Caring for an elder is expensive, requiring time, money, and forgone opportunities, and the responsibility typically falls on women. However, these costs differ by social class. This dissertation draws on interviews with southeast Michigan families during the onset of new caregiving responsibilities, or a caregiving transition. By capturing the perspectives of multiple family members, this dissertation will shed light on whether gendered notions of responsibility are used to make sense of unequal divisions of care between family members. By studying families with diverse class backgrounds, this research will help understand the meaning of economic trade offs across social class groups.

Ta’Les Love, PhD Candidate, Communication Studies, College of LSA
“Labor They Love, Labor They Borrow: The Struggle and Exploitation of Black Women's Work in the Digital Age”

Black women’s labor in calling out racism on social media is an important area of study. The video sharing site, YouTube, fosters a significant community of Black women who use this platform to challenge racism, all while being suppressed by the site's algorithms. Through in-depth interviews and focus groups with Black women video creators, this project seeks to explore Black women’s digital labor experiences and their struggle to maintain and achieve visibility online. Further, this project aims to reveal the labor intensive experiences of Black women who challenge racism on social media platforms that are embedded with racist infrastructure.

IRWG/Rackham Community of Scholars Fellowship recipients and their projects are:

Sara Abelson, PhD Candidate, Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health
“Effect of Inclusive Campus Non-Discrimination Policies on Gender Minority College Experiences and Mental Health”

Gender minority young people face major mental health inequities compared to cisgender peers. Discrimination and bullying faced in school contribute to these inequities. This project examines whether expanding non-discrimination policies at colleges and universities to include gender identity and expression protects gender minority students from discrimination, victimization, and improves mental health.

Jasmine An, PhD Candidate, English and Women’s & Gender Studies, College of LSA
“Paper-work Poetics - Literary Responses to Empire in Southeast Asia”

As part of her larger dissertation, this project focuses on a comparative reading of two poetic texts: Diana Khoi Nguyen’s Ghost Of (2018) and Souvankham Thammavongsa’s Found (2007). Both poets use innovative poetic techniques to write alongside personal, paper-based archives created by legacies of the informal empire in Southeast Asia. Using the term "paper-work poetics," an interdisciplinary lens that draws on transnational feminism and queer of color critique, An argues that the aesthetic practices of these two texts reorient the narrative of US empire in Southeast Asia, highlighting the role that informal, soft power played during the Cold War era.

Grace Argo, PhD Candidate, History and Women’s & Gender Studies, College of LSA
“Constructing the American Family: Debates on Incest in U.S. Law and Culture”

Many Americans believe laws against incest are intended to prevent genetically close matings between consenting adults. In fact, the majority of incest cases in the U.S. involve father-daughter rape. Arog’s dissertation argues that the white supremacist, patriarchal, and bourgeois formation of the incest taboo in American culture has suppressed knowledge of and distorted attitudes toward incest as patriarchal violence. Using a wide array of sources, from enslaved girls' freedom petitions to 1970s feminist literature, Argo investigates how incest's transformation of the household from a "civilized" to an "uncivilized" space sheds light on conceptions of fatherhood, childhood, and the family.

Casidy Campbell, PhD Candidate, American Culture, College of LSA
“Sakia/Tyquinne Aleante Gunn: When Aggressive Black Girls aren’t Lesbian or Black Enuf”

On May 11, 2003, a straight, cisgender black man murdered Sakia Gunn, a 15-year-old black lesbian who was returning home with her friends from LGBTQ party in NYC. The chapter first recuperates the life story of Sakia Gunn and second, traces the consequences of the spectacularization of Sakia Gunn’s death by black queer internet users in the context of their epistemological and cultural contributions to the digital world. This research recovers the agency of Sakia Gunn and the black queer girls who wrote about her online, locating her claims outside of the representative aims of the black or LGBTQ communities.

Ana Sofia Cruz Bento, PhD Candidate, English and Women’s & Gender Studies, College of LSA
“Not a Flower To Be Smelled: And Other Badly Translated Portuguese Adages for Budding Feminists”

The ‘flower’ in the title refers to a woman who is disliked and should be avoided. There is disdain for this woman but also a power to her, much like the way female comedians have been characterized. This project, a curation of memories and theorizations, is an attempt to find oneself through feminist humor. Borrowing methods from feminist theory, stand-up performance, and memoir, this project tackles issues of female identity and agency from both practitioner’s and critic’s perspectives.

Lolita Moss, PhD Candidate, Joint PhD Program, School of Social Work & College of LSA
“A Qualitative Examination of Black Adolescent Girls’ Sexual Scripts, Media Use, and Perceptions of Intimate Partner Violence”

Intimate partner violence (IPV) among adolescents remains a persistent public health issue that disparately affects Black youth. Although Black girls consistently report high rates of physical and sexual violence at the hands of romantic partners, little research has investigated their perceptions of IPV or how they negotiate the sexual scripts implicated in their vulnerability to such violence. This study centers mainstream media as a key transmitter of sexual scripts such as “real housewife” and uses qualitative interview data to analyze how Black girls interpret sexual scripts and how these attitudes influence their perceptions of IPV.

Sauda Nabukenya, PhD Candidate, History, College of LSA
“In pursuit of Right and Justice: Ordinary people and the making of Uganda's legal culture, ca 1900-1980”

Although African legal historians and anthropologists have studied law and legal institutions, their studies have focused on colonial officials and elite agents' role in shaping colonial law and inventing African traditions. This dissertation examines how ordinary people, through their legal and extralegal strategies, shaped Uganda’s legal culture. Using native and British court records together with other related archival records, this research project investigates how ordinary Ugandans across temporal and spatial contexts of British colonization and independence therefrom used the court to protect themselves, their ways of life, defend their rights in a society where they were too often badly and oppressively governed.

Gabrielle Peterson, PhD Candidate, Sociology, College of LSA
“Understanding the Work in Motherwork: Black Working Class Mothers' Educational Advocacy”

This project adds to motherwork literature a deeper understanding of the ways working class women combine caregiving responsibilities with formal labor. The data deepens understanding of the balancing work that Black women endured in a restrictive labor market attending to community and familial needs. Further it demonstrates how an emphasis on the black working class, adds to literature that regards certain phenomena like respectability is exclusively middle class. Ultimately this demonstrates that Black women's (across classes) awareness of racial discrimination compels them to employ material resources, and gendered performances to access rights to citizenship in public institutions like education.

Adriana Ponce, PhD Candidate, Sociology, College of LSA
“Gender Inequality in Child Custody Arrangements: Caregiving, Power, and Money”

Parenting is an important site of gender inequality reproduction, as scholarship has demonstrated married mothers are overwhelmingly left to perform the childcare and housework. More parents are having to figure out how to share caregiving outside of marriage due to family demographics shifting towards divorce and remaining single. This qualitative study draws on 50 in-depth interviews to examine how parents (34 mothers, 16 fathers) with a child custody arrangement negotiate day-to-day caregiving and the state’s influence on these interactions. Ponce finds that participants followed cultural motherhood and fatherhood scripts that disadvantage mothers, further nuanced by social class and race.

Hanah Stiverson, PhD Candidate, American Culture, College of LSA
“‘Relentlessly Patriotic’: The Commodification of Male Supremacism and White Nationalism”

Consumer culture is an understudied realm in far-right studies, as is the blurry space between extremism and mainstream masculine culture in the United States. Through an examination of online merchandise shops, this chapter looks at two core elements of the commodification of far-right ideology; the emergence of “patriotic” cultural products that portray masculinity and whiteness as under attack, and the incorporation of pro-military, pro-police iconography as symbolic of extremist values. Through an analysis of the commodification and consumption of these material goods this project uncovers a variant of the “crisis narrative” that is vital to the far-right’s political goals.

IRWG graduate fellowships are offered once per year. 

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