Sociology/Anthropology Senior Projects

Senior Project Abstracts 2017-18

Note: senior project abstracts from 2007-2016 are available at

Jenn Ayer
Gender Role Portrayal in Disney and Romantic Films 1930s to 2017

Disney films have been a large part of modern pop culture since the 1930s. Many of the most popular Disney films have a romantic theme with highly defined gender roles. However, Disney films do not exist in a vacuum. It is important to look at other parts of pop culture when studying Disney films, such as how they compare to romantic films designed for adults. I examine two central questions: 1) How have Disney and romantic films changed their portrayal of gender over time? 2) How does Disney’s portrayal of gender compare to romantic films’ portrayal of gender? I studied the differences in gender roles based on the amount of agency that the main female character had in comparison to the main male character. I found that in general female characters in Disney princess movies had more agency than their male counterparts in the earlier films, but evolved to have more or less equal agency in more modern works. However, romantic films generally had female characters with less agency in earlier films but ultimately had similar amounts of agency to male characters in later films. In general Disney films gave women more agency than women were given in adult romance films. (advised by Prof. Han)

Margot Babington
Out of the Classroom and into the Streets: Understanding Intersectional Theory and Praxis Through the Women’s March on Washington 

My senior work explores the current conversations about activism framed through the recent popularization of the term ‘intersectionality’ in social media. Intersectional theory and praxis remains under debate in academia, creating an unstable framework for a traveling theory. Intersectionality’s current home in the neoliberal corporate university threatens the theory’s radical origins, but its growth online has the possibility to serve as a remedy. To comprehend the how the idea of intersectionality gets mobilized online, I address the following questions: (1) How does the symbolic meaning of intersectionality regulate discussions about activism on social media? (2) How does the unmooring of intersectionality from its academic roots and its proliferation in social media influence conversations about inclusivity in activism? In answering my questions, I present a case study of reactions to the 2017 Women’s March on Twitter to see how people deploy different ideas of intersectionality and which trends from academia make their way to the mainstream. I also provide a close reading of liberal media articles on organization of the march and its use of two symbols, the pussyhat and Sherpard Fairey posters, in order to understand how people create meaning around intersectionality through evaluating activism. An in-depth look into intersectionality reveals the theory to be a double-edged sword that is building more inclusive activism while also creating a feedback loop of criticism that stalls the movement’s progress. (advised by Prof. McCallum)                

Wes Becton
Musical Motivation: The Interactions of Rap Music, Perceptions of Race, and Team Culture on a College Football Team

The project investigates rap music, team culture and perceptions of race amongst members of a football team at an elite liberal arts college.  Previous literature on the topic has analyzed the appropriation of black culture through music and arts as well as the negative stereotypes often portrayed in rap music.  Building on that, this project determines how music interacts with race and team culture amongst members of the team.  Furthermore, I investigate how this music relates to the collective identity of members of the football team and the specific content of this type of music. Through participant observation and interviews, I analyze the role of music through the lenses of three key values of team culture: grit, “being where your feet are,” and short-term memory. (advised by Prof. Han)

Mary Baillie
Artemisia Too: “Taking a Swing at the Patriarchy” through a Performance Ethnography

The advent of ‘experimental’ ethnographic writing in postmodern anthropology has catalyzed some anthropologists to challenge experimentation within the ethnographic form itself. ‘Performance ethnography’ is a pioneering example, championing the use of onstage theatrical performance as an alternative, more publicly accessible output of social science to written text and analysis. This thesis examines the research and rehearsal process of The Anthropologists, a New York theatre company that seeks to create a devised ‘onstage ethnography’ showcasing the stories of sexual assault survivors within the framework of the ‘Me Too’ movement. The ensemble presents parallels across real life accounts of survivors ranging from contemporary interviews to the first ever known rape court trial transcript, the case of Artemisia Gentilleschi vs. Agostino Tassi in 1612. I worked for The Anthropologists as a “Creative Intern” in J-term 2018. Through observing and participating in rehearsals, interviewing company/audience members and experiencing the final show, I was able to identify how the group uses theatrical techniques and strategies to translate their anthropological research into a devised performance ethnography. Aided by a heightened exploration of Victor and Edith Turner’s “Performance as Pedagogy Framing,” Nicholas Long’s “Ethnographic Sociality” and Richard Schechner’s “Play Framing,” this thesis urges anthropologists to venture beyond the standard ‘ethnography habitus’ into the realm of devised theatre, onstage emotion and the intangible reality. (advised by Prof. Fitzsimmons)

Chris Boutelle
Contemporary Drag Queen Culture in Beijing: Transnationalism in a Chinese Space

Beijing now has a bourgeoning gay social network in nightlife, particularly through drag performance venues. The specific representations of drag queen performance, however, lack broader ethnographic analysis. The influence of Western media and foreign drag popularity have propelled Beijing drag into a transformative period. In this project, I explore three questions: (1) what are the opinions of Chinese drag queens in Beijing towards their gay identities and roles? (2) How do they relate themselves and their performances to the expression of gender and gender differences in contemporary China? (3) What are the implications of American influence on Beijing drag? Drawing on original field data and individual interviews, I present narratives of four Chinese gay men with connections to drag. Observations were done in gay nightlife spaces during drag events. The majority of the participants’ responses showed profound influence from Westernized media and transnational thought concerning gayness and drag. Both of these frameworks challenge Chinese traditional sexuality. These participants also expressed understandings of the Chinese gay self-identity and tongzhi politics as evolving. However, these findings show differences from the environment of American queer politics, and the participants articulated their identities with awareness of both transnational and Chinese elements. This research found that Beijing drag culture intricately balances US and Chinese influences. These findings, although restricted by a small availability of respondents, demonstrate the changing social atmosphere of drag queen identity in Beijing and show the necessity for analysis of minority gay cultures in China. Beijing drag culture is on the rise and requires further academic and ethnographic attention. Continued research on the specifics of what Chinese drag consists of holds the potential for greater insight into this nightlife sociality and into variable gay identities in China. (advised by Prof. Oxfeld)

Andrew Cadienhead
The Growth of Social Control within Elite Liberal Arts Colleges: Are College Students Being Coddled?

This paper examines the growth of social control within elite liberal arts colleges within the U.S, and the effect it has on college students and their ability to navigate emerging adulthood as they transition into society. Because it would be difficult to examine the growth of social control at all elite liberal arts colleges across the United States, this paper will focus primarily on the banning of alcoholic beverages at tailgate events at Middlebury as an example of the growth of social control. To understand the potential long-term effects of these newly established regulations/restrictions on United States college students, this senior work looks at colleges using Goffman’s framework for “total institutions.” I explore the following questions: Are college students at elite liberal arts institutions being coddled through the growth of social control? How does this affect college students as emerging adults and their ability successfully transition into adulthood? In what ways is the growth of social control within elite liberal arts institutions emblematic of changing conceptions of adulthood? My data, gathered by analyzing 99 comments made on an article on the online platform Middbeat, suggests that the growth of social control within elite liberal arts colleges may ultimately be slowing down the development of emerging adults, and can also be very harmful to the “social-psychological” environment that makes these institutions so special. (advised by Prof. Tran)

James Callison
Covering the Statue of Liberty: News Media Depictions of Immigration in the United States

This project examines the presentation of immigration issues in the U.S. mainstream news media. From Entman’s framing theory to Debord’s theory of the spectacle, scholars have attempted to define how hegemonic ideas in society are circulated. Recent history has witnessed successful anti-immigrant political movements, culminating in the election of Donald Trump and ascendance of the Alt-Right. At the same time, the news media has frequently covered and framed immigration issues and debates in homogenous ways. This study uncovers the tone, messages, and associations that print media make when disseminating information about immigration. The following questions guide my analysis: How do mainstream newspapers discuss issues of immigration compared to other stories? How does news coverage frame immigration and what metaphors or associations are created about immigration for the public to consume? How do major political, economic, and terrorist events create moments of spectacle in immigration news coverage and how do these events impact this coverage? I used content analysis software to conduct quantitative discourse analysis surveying the tone, metaphors, frames, and events associated with immigration in over 300,000 news articles from 17 mainstream U.S. news publications. I found that the news media depict immigration in a predominantly negative way and identify immigrant groups as closely related to criminality, terrorism, illegality, the economy, education, and humanitarian crises. (advised by Prof. Tran)

Chi Chi Chang
Stories, Organizations, and Social Movements: What Time is it? What do I do? Who am I?

This senior project looks at the role of stories in social movements, and the organizations that tell these narratives. I place the #metoo movement in the larger context of activism against sexual violence and harassment. Why do different organizations tell different stories about the movement? How are social movement organizations in conversation with each other? How does the attention economy impact the type of stories that get heard? My research compares two organizations: Workplaces Respond, a professionalized and institutionalized organization that provides resources and training to a range of workplaces, and Time’s Up, a newer, informal, celebrity-led organization that focuses on visibility and storytelling as justice. I analyze the stories these organizations tell, looking at narrative techniques, their relationship to time, assumptions about the audience, and the work that they do in building identity. Finally, I compare an earlier version of a Workplaces Respond story from 2012 to a more recent version, to see how organizations are in conversation with each other and impact each other’s storytelling. My findings show how different organizations hold different roles in social movements, and that this impacts and is reflected in the stories they tell. (advised by Prof. Fitzsimmons)

Sanchea Chung
Filial Tensions: An Exploration of Parent-Grandparent Relations Over Childcare in Urban China

Guided by research on intergenerational relationships, this essay investigates the complexity of parent/grandparent relations in urban China. It specifically asks how mothers and grandmothers interact over childcare and how they both feel about grandparents’ emerging role as caregivers. Data used for this study comes from interviews conducted with mothers in Kunming, China, content analysis of Chinese contemporary television dramas and ethnographic surveys on grandparental roles. I found that the relationship between parents/grandparents over child rearing among urban families is fluid, dynamic, and characterized by contradictory feelings. The practice of filial piety is changing in light of urban childcare demands. I conclude with some policy changes that could positively impact the grandparent/parent relationship over childcare in China. (advised by Prof. Oxfeld)

Rachel Cohen
“It’s Who I Am – It’s Everything”: How Vermont Farmers Find Meaning in Their Work

From Weber’s Protestant ethic to more recent conceptualizations of “meaningful work,” sociologists have long been interested in why people devote themselves to their jobs. This thesis provides a case study of meaningful work by examining the ways in which Vermont farmers find their work to be imbued with meaning. In the past few years, more than half of Vermont farms have lost money in their on-farm operations. Why, then, do Vermont farmers continue to farm? I conducted interviews with both first-generation and multi-generational farmers in Vermont to uncover farmers’ motivations for farming. I found that Vermont farmers find their work to be meaningful because it allows them to be part of a larger environmental and historical system, because they feel their work is necessary for society, because they sense that their physical work aligns with notions of “true work,” and because farming is instrumental in shaping their identities. I argue that the meaning that farmers find in their work serves a societal purpose – it keeps farmers farming, even in the absence of a substantial income. Additionally, I compare the farmers’ narratives with other accounts of meaningful work to show that the ideology of meaningful work is a broader cultural model. (advised by Prof. Closser. Rachel was the co-winner of the 2018 Margaret K. Nelson Award in Critical Sociology and Anthropology)

Thomas Crowley
Title: Risk Management Strategies for the Development of Artificial Intelligence

Experts believe that artificial intelligence (AI) risk management will become an increasingly significant global issue over the next 80 years. A 2016 email survey of 352 artificial intelligence researchers revealed that 5% of respondents believed that artificial intelligence would lead to an “extremely bad,” or catastrophic outcome for humanity within the next 80 years, while 48% of respondents believe AI risk management should be prioritized higher than it is today. The field of AI Safety will therefore be a growth area. In this project I measure the effectiveness of different spokespeople in influencing opinions for the field of AI Safety through a survey of 48 Middlebury College students. My results include an evaluation of the variable impact that different categories of spokespeople have on public perceptions of AI, a review of this data in light of sociological theories of risk management, and suggestions for further research on the field of AI Safety. (advised by Prof. Lawrence)

Anna Iglitzin
Evergreen and Always White? Race, Economic Mobility, and Higher Education in the State of Washington

Previous research into higher education as a mechanism for decreasing inequality has focused either on post-college economic mobility outcomes or has charted changes in college racial composition to weave a narrative about equality. This is exemplified by two recent articles published in the New York Times. The first article, from January of 2017, analyzed a report by the Equality of Opportunity project on how higher education institutions produce economic mobility for their graduates. The second, published seven months later, documented failures in campus’ attempts to equalize their racial compositions. My senior work combines these two topics previously treated as separate bodies of sociological research by focusing on how the racial composition of colleges and universities is associated with an institution’s mobility outcomes. My findings reveal that change in collegiate racial composition is associated with economic outcomes, though these associations vary depending on whether institutions are public or private and their levels of selectivity. My institutional analysis in Washington state identifies several areas necessary for statewide analyses to contribute to national research and policymaking related to educational access for racial minorities and economic mobility for low-income students. I conclude that different types of institutions should be assessed for the specific types of outcomes they provide, that mobility should be broken into both access and success rates, and that education-minded policymakers and administrators should broaden their definition of low-income students to include not only those from the lowest income quintile but also those from the bottom 40% economically. (advised by Prof. Lawrence)

Sarah Koch
Educational Opportunity? Come and Get It!: A Case Study of the Privatization of Responsibility for School Reform

In this thesis I compare advocacy for school desegregation to school choice policies in order to understand why advocates continue to link school assignment with greater school equality while also shifting responsibility for school placement from the state to the parent. For my data, I analyzed legal briefs submitted for Brown vs. Board of Education (1954) and the Congressional Record, in which the school choice provisions in No Child Left Behind (2001) were discussed. I find that both desegregation and school choice advocates articulate childhood as the time and school placement as a mechanism to operationalize greater “equality of opportunity.” However, desegregation advocates draw upon expert knowledge to argue for state responsibility for school placement while school choice advocates emphasize individualism (in the form of each parent’s intimate knowledge of their ‘unique’ child) as the legitimate basis for school placement. The shifts in the arguments that advocates use to justify their favored policies reflect shifting understandings of the problem of inequality from an institutional paradigm (that it is both created and solved by bureaucratic policy) to a paradigm that naturalizes inequality and locates it in the cultural and geographic context of the intractable “inner-city” space. This analysis serves as a case study of the rationales for the increasing privatization of school reform. (advised by Prof. Tran)

Joey Laliberte
Crafting Healthy Conceptions of Masculinity: How the Summer Camp Experience Influences Boys’ Expectations of Toughness and Expression of Weakness 

At the turn of the 20th century and prior to assuming office, Theodore Roosevelt delivered his Strenuous Life speech, articulating what he described as a “crisis of masculinity.” In response, Roosevelt called for a return to the outdoors, advocating further development of American summer camps and outdoor programs for male youth to reconnect with nature and rekindle their masculine identities. Ironically, following the century-long expansion of the outdoor industry and the development of summer camps and outdoor education programs, researchers have identified a newfound crisis of masculinity, through which boys are at risk of being hyper-masculinized and losing touch with emotionality and gentleness. This project aims to utilize summer camp-based survey research to discover whether camps in America still serve as an outlet for boys to address this newfound crisis of masculinity. Major findings indicate that boys felt a higher expectation of stoicism and toughness at school than at camp. Additionally, analyses by the five age cohorts at camp suggested that older boys generally felt greater expectations to be tough and avoid showing weakness at school, but less at camp. This research analyzes these differences in reference to other survey data and demographic information, in order to further understand the benefits of the camp experience, and how such findings can be applied in other childcare and education-based programs. (advised by Prof. Lawrence)

Noah Liebmiller
Cucks, Shills, and Globalists: The Function of Media Spectacle in American Alt-Right Press

This project examines the function of media spectacle in the American Alt-Right news press. The election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency in November 2016 challenged collective understandings of what is possible in politics, and also revealed the power and influence of a nativist, blithely transgressive new faction of American right-wing politics. A uniquely partisan online press ecosystem, which promulgates white nationalist viewpoints in the format of traditional journalism, has been instrumental in the formation and ascendance of the Alt-Right. This project identifies how these viewpoints are transformed into compelling narratives through the Alt-Right press’s deployment of media spectacle. Spectacle (the transformation of real, complex events into signifiers of abstract meaning through dazzling and compelling images) is a phenomenon that the Alt-Right press has mastered. My research applies discourse analysis to a sample of Alt-Right press articles and commentary from three preeminent Alt-Right websites (Breitbart News,, and The Daily Stormer). I use this data to argue that spectacle is a primary Alt-Right communication strategy which persuasively associates real meanings with abstract events. Through repetition, the Alt-Right press uses these spectacles to construct racial minorities as subhuman, the political Left as violent and corrupt, and their establishment-conservative rivals on the Right as humiliated and irrelevant. Alt-Right media deploys spectacle to argue that they represent a return to a “sane society,” free from the symbolic corruption of racial minorities and the Left. (advised by Prof. McCallum. Noah was the co-winner of the 2018 Lank Prize in Sociology and Anthropology)

Adam Luban
What 10 American Endurance Athletes have to Say about Doping Issues: An Experiment with Structured Interviewing

The world of international sports is frequently rocked by doping scandals. As a lifelong sports fan, I’ve seen many of my heroes felled by performance-enhancing drug use. As a collegiate ski racer, I’ve had to make my own decisions about what substances to put into my body. Illegal doping is wrong, but certain medications and other substances are allowed under the rules. Despite widespread use of supplements among athletes, there is little literature about how athletes differentiate between the categories of drug and supplement. My project addresses this gap through structured interviews with ten endurance athletes about doping, supplements, and regulators. Interviewees describe being subject to constant body-level surveillance that is actually ineffective at stopping doping. Foucault’s concepts of biopower and the panopticon help explain how institutions regulate athletic bodies. Despite the global prevalence of doping, there are large geographic differences in the discourse about doping. Regulatory institutions are products of western nations’ approaches to doping. Institutions are composed of western values, actors, and resources, and are designed to contrast sharply with eastern state-sponsored doping programs. Issues about doping and supplementation are complicated by how athletes and regulators perform on Goffman’s theoretical ‘front and back stage.’ While public statements from regulators and athletes uphold a zero-tolerance approach to doping, private actions reveal more nuanced approaches. (advised by Prof. Stoll)

Sylvia Lynch
La Vie en Blanche: The Gendered Experience of Women with Albinism in Cameroon and Tanzania

This study explores how women with albinism face different barriers to autonomy and how women differentially experience albinism in Cameroon and Tanzania. Previous studies and international reports on the persecution of people with albinism in Sub-Saharan Africa have largely omitted the gendered experiences of women with albinism. Additionally, the international community has focused on the persecution of people with albinism in Tanzania and Malawi, where the majority of attacks and murders of people with albinism have taken place, leaving other countries out of the dominant narrative. While many of the discriminatory and marginalizing experiences of albinism are common, the narrative is not universal. My interviews indicated different geographical experiences of discrimination in Cameroon and persecution in Tanzania. This project evaluates the intersectional marginalization of women with albinism in rural areas of Cameroon and Tanzania. I evaluate their marginalization by looking at access to economic, social, and political participation via education, employment, marriage, as well as their access to political and international institutions. My research shows that albinos constantly redefine and negotiate albinism. Albinos use political institutions in Cameroon and Tanzania as arenas in which they can assemble economic resources, social status, and alternate communities. I thus aim to understand the unique barriers that women with albinism face to full participation in society, and how they navigate the economic, social, symbolic, and political barriers they face. I draw upon theories of stigma, disability, witchcraft, and gender to understand the intersectional discriminatory and marginalizing experiences of women with albinism, and how they navigate their identities. (advised by Prof. Sheridan)

Katie Mayopoulos
Creating Trust Networks to Recover from Domestic Violence: Stories of Undocumented Latin American Women in Spain

Immigrant women are killed by their partners at the highest rates of any population in Spain. This study uses Putnam’s approach to social capital to explore how immigrant survivors of domestic violence initiate and sustain trust networks that help them leave their abusive spouses and heal from domestic violence. Using qualitative research methods, I focus on a specific violence prevention organization in Madrid and three of its clients who are survivors of domestic violence and also undocumented Latin American immigrants. I look at how these clients negotiate relationships with the Spanish violence prevention organization, fellow survivors of domestic violence and the Latin American immigrant community of Madrid. I conclude that trust networks do not necessarily develop as expected by Putnam: it can be hardest to trust those with whom we appear to share the most. (advised by Prof. Stoll) 

Matt MacKay
Grandstanding against Globalization: The Case of West Papua

This essay examines the deleterious impact of globalization on the lives of indigenous people in West Papua. Globalization operates on intersecting political, economic and cultural dimensions, and this paper explores that phenomenon as an imposing matrix of domination mandating West Papuans conformity with foreign markets. I argue that the market principles of capitalism and profit-seeking incentives of trade liberalization have shaped labor markets in West Papua, such that transnational corporations, abetted by intergovernmental agencies and Indonesian state actors, have economically marginalized this group of indigenous people. I examine how the Indonesian state, in particular, has recolonized West Papua under the guise of decolonization from Holland, and finally, I describe how this oppression manifests itself in public education. Ultimately, when considering human rights, I argue that recent history in West Papua problematizes the putative values of neoliberalism and globalization. (advised by Prof. Han)

Chandler Nemetz
Fabricating a Monster: The Enduring Panic Surrounding Robert Mapplethorpe

This senior project examines how the theory of moral panics helps to explain the endurance of an art controversy over the public funding of subversive art, as exemplified in the iconic figure of Robert Mapplethorpe. The open-endedness in the interpretations of works of visual art makes artwork an easy target for political demonization. I trace a series of Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs, as they were first institutionalized within a 1988 controversial art exhibit and how they were then taken and recontextualized in the Senate by Republican conservative politicians. Specifically, I examine how North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms used the AIDS epidemic in conjunction with Mapplethorpe’s photographs to reframe the artwork within a moral panic discourse. I apply entextualization theory in conjunction with the theory of moral panics to illuminate the manner in which Helms judiciously detached selected images from Mapplethorpe’s exhibit and recontextualized them as monstrosities to be expelled from civic life. I show how Helms produced a discourse of moral panic in his legislative work and constructed Mapplethorpe as a monster with such success that the name continues to signify monstrosity in right-wing politics, even thirty years later. (advised by Prof. Nevins)

Nadine Nasr
Trackies and Khakis: An Analysis of Mass Media, Sport, and Social Class

This senior project is concerned with the way in which the mass media, specifically working-class publications, behave as hegemonic institutions and are symbolically violent toward the working class. I focus on discourse about British rugby, colloquially known as the middle-class “gentleman’s sport,” and football (soccer), known as the “working man’s sport” in the UK. I identify subverted characteristics of social class and class conflict within the texts. The analysis is primarily constructed using a Marxist framework. I conclude that the British mass media behaves as a unified hegemonic institution and is symbolically violent toward the working class through its discourse on rugby and football. Further, the mass media is a mechanism for reproducing class hierarchies and maintaining the oppression of the working class in Britain. (advised by Prof. Sheridan)

Amosh Neupane
Death Behind Bars: Hospice Care in American Prison, its Goals and Implications

Of all places, the hospice movement has seen a considerable growth inside American prisons lately, and about 80 U.S. prisons now have prison hospice programs. Such programs predominantly employ the inmate-volunteer model, which relies on healthy inmates to take care of their dying fellows. These programs claim to reform criminals, while also giving dying individuals a “dignified death.” Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola (LSP) has been the vanguard of the inmate-volunteer prison hospice movement since 1996. By conducting content analysis of LSP’s hospice-related policy papers, in addition to analyzing documentaries and literature on the hospice program at LSP, I question this peculiar relationship between prisons and hospice care, two ostensibly incongruent institutions that exist symbiotically. I discover that prison reform initiatives like hospice have a managerial purpose, which undermines the central argument for instituting hospice, i.e., providing dignified deaths for prisoners. Pragmatically, hospice has immense immediate benefits; however, to reform prisons is to expand them, and as long as American prisons perpetuate both “social and civil deaths” through their dehumanizing practices, deaths can never be “dignified” behind bars. (advised by Prof. Closser)

Liddy Renner
The Whiteness of Natural Spaces: A Theoretical Approach to Understanding Race and Class-Based Exclusion in the Outdoor Industry

This senior work studies the historical production of ideas of natural spaces in the United States since the 17th century. I will attempt to answer one main research question: Why is the “outdoors industry” so White? To understand the historical and current function of leisure activities in natural spaces I explore sociological approaches to space, leisure, and power dynamics within a capitalist society. The social relations embedded in the practice of leisure and the creation of natural spaces have created the outdoor industry as a place primarily for White upper-class Americans. There is a need to recognize the social constraints that allocate leisure time to certain class segments, which determines their engagement in certain types of leisure activities. I use four outdoors education institutions as case studies of how hegemonic classist and racist biases get reinforced and embedded in the outdoors industry. I conclude that the outdoors industry is so rich and White because of its social history of class, which offers some guidance for what it will take to equalize participation. (advised by Prof. Sheridan)

Arianna Reyes
Sex Without Gender: Dirty Talk, Language Formation, and Liberatory Practices

This work is a historical and textual analysis of how sexual practices, and the epistemological methodologies used to classify those practices, relate to modern identity formation. ‘Dirty talk’ is language that people use to form both collective and individual identities, describe sexual practice, and ultimately facilitate pleasure. I use the works of social constructionists and modern case studies to argue that ‘de-gendered dirty talk’ is a liberatory practice with the potential to break down categories which are understood to be socially constructed such as gender/sex and race. (advised by Prof. Owens)

Roxxi Rivera
At a Crossroads: The Negotiation of Identity in Latina Religious Individuals Integrating into Secular Environments

This senior project examines the reconstruction and negotiation of identity in young Latinas with religious backgrounds when integrating into a secular college with a prevailing hook-up culture. From preliminary observations, I understood that many young Latinas expressed feeling restricted and controlled by their religious background and used the college experience, especially its hook-up culture, as a vehicle for reconstructing their sense of self. This led me to question the consequences of sexual liberation celebrated by the hook-up culture, and how these may affect the trajectory of young Latinas with religious backgrounds into secular higher education. To understand the experiences of these young adults, I ask how Latina college students who transition from a religious environment re-negotiate their identities in college, and how Latinx cultural and social norms about sex affect this process. The narratives showed that my original hypothesis described individual outlier cases, but not the sample as a whole. I learned that religion was just one of many dimensions involved in the negotiation/ reconstruction of identity, and that sometimes negotiation and reconstruction of identity was not reported or did not occur.  (advised by Prof. Nevins)

Cicilia Robison
Turning Trauma Not Tricks: How Prostitution-Specific Treatment Courts Define the Identity of the Prostitute

This senior project grapples with the construction of the identity of the prostitute through the lens of prostitution treatment courts. It analyzes three questions. How do prostitution-specific treatment courts construct the identity of the prostitute in relation to the crime? What are the rhetorics of social control operationalized within prostitution treatment courts to create and control the prostitute? What purpose does this specific construction of the prostitute serve in terms of the greater scope of sexual deviance control? I analyze documents produced by and for these treatment courts, as well as their websites and the information provided by institutions designed to buttress these courts. I also track a parallel criminal justice movement from the Progressive Era, as a foil for present-day events. I consider all of this through the lens of deviance theories of drugs and addiction, medicalized deviance, and moral panic theory. This is an exploratory work meant to open up new veins of analysis on the construction of the identity of the prostitute as a site for the social control of sexuality. (advised by Prof. Tiger)

Ben Sanders
Space-Conscious Considerations in Genderqueer Identity Development: A Situational Identity Approach

Looking at genderqueer identity development demonstrates the ways that particular spaces, times, and people influence how gender is constructed and embodied. This study focuses on seven genderqueer students at Middlebury College and uses Bourdieu’s theory of social fields to understand how these individuals influence and are influenced by gender norms. Two of the main findings of this study are that community size affects community formation and that the means for expressing non-normative gender are tempered by mainstream understandings of how gender is expressed and embodied. In short, the salient cultural capital for defining and expressing gender depended both on the size of the genderqueer community and the broader community’s overarching expectations of gendered embodiment, namely that gender will be visual and conform to expectations of a gender binary. The genderqueer community was too small to be able to have cultural capital relating to a genderqueer identity, so the relationships between members of the community relied more heavily on personal connection and social capital. (advised by Prof. Han)

Julia Shumlin
Sexually Violent Predator Statutes: The Liminal Space of the Carceral State

In this thesis, I use Washington's Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) statute to study the interplay between medical and legal knowledge in sex offender civil commitment laws. I also aim to understand how these laws interact with a larger shift away from a rehabilitative penal model. For my data, I analyze court decisions from Washington's Appellate and Supreme Courts in addition to academic articles on sex offender civil commitment from top journals of law and psychology. I find that medical and legal knowledge interact to cement a “new penology” system of surveillance, incapacitation and management of high-risk groups under the facade of a rehabilitative ideal. These statutes enact a liminal space that strip the SVP of his legal personhood. They employ actuarial tools and diagnoses to reify this liminal space and to construct new knowledge about sexual deviance that will metastasize throughout society. The category of the juvenile SVP is critical to this construction: he confirms the inherent “badness and sickness” of the SVP while serving as the necessary foil to the cultural ideal of the innocent child. The SVP serves as the first frontier and the perfect subject of the new system of punishment, in which carceral power increasingly permeates the civil realm. (advised by Prof. Tiger. Julia was the co-winner of the 2018 Margaret K. Nelson Award in Critical Sociology and Anthropology)

Priyanjali Sinha
Access, Boundaries, and Class in the Discourses on Menstruation in Gwalior

This study examines the discourses and practices around menstruation amongst Hindu and Muslim women with mixed caste backgrounds, but shared urban and emerging middle class identities, in Gwalior, India. Drawing on ethnographic research with women between the ages of 19 and 64 and Twitter feeds from the #lahukalagaan (tax on blood) campaign, this study seeks to understand the ways in which access to menstrual products, competing ideas of the body, class mobility, and appropriate menstrual management are negotiated. An analysis of gendered taxation through the lens of the #lahukalagaan movement and the materiality and economy of cotton reflects class-based consumption of menstrual products, which sheds light on access and women’s abilities to participate in these expectations. Furthermore, by examining an urban community made up of both Hindus and Muslims, this study also seeks to expand existing understandings of menstrual practice, which have previously focused on the maintenance of caste structure amongst Hindus. Class emerges as a more significant marker of difference and convergence in Gwalior and reveals an overlap in practices amongst Hindus and Muslims, despite narrative departures. Moving through the scales of the body, the urban community, and the nation, this study moves beyond dichotomies of purity and pollution to show how the conceptions, rhetoric, and boundaries surrounding menstruation reflect not just the expected markers and boundaries of caste and religion but also of class, ideas of modernity, and citizenship. (advised by Prof. Oxfeld. Priyanjali was the co-winner of the 2018 Lank Prize in Sociology and Anthropology)

Mari Tanioka
The Collective Memory Construction of the “Ianfu” System in Mainland China

This thesis explores the collective memory construction of the “ianfu” (慰安婦) system, an institutionalized form of mass rape established and perpetrated by the Japanese government and military prior to and during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) in mainland China. From the Mukden Incident (mannshuhenji, 満州変事) in 1931 to the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1945, the Japanese Imperial Force instituted the “ianfu” system in the majority of the regions they invaded and/or occupied. Since then, the collective memory construction of the “ianfu” system has been overwhelmingly dominated by the Republic of China (ROC) and the People's Republic of China (PRC) governments. The History (with a capital “H”) curated and (re)produced by the ROC/PRC governments has undergone immense transformations that are often attributable to the governments’ larger political schema. The study of the collective memory construction of the “ianfu” system explores processes in which certain memories are privileged and reveals the underlying mechanisms of power that come to monopolize the memory that is collectively remembered and re-remembered. In particular, this thesis focuses on the changing ways in which the PRC government, since it came to power in 1949, has strategically managed the memories of the “ianfu” system, reinforcing systems of oppression rather than illuminating the narratives of the survivors to seek justice. (advised by Prof. Oxfeld. Mari was the winner of the 2018 Senior Honors Thesis Award in International and Global Studies)

Julia Trencher
Welcome to America: The Border Crossing Experiences of Undocumented Migrants as an Introduction to “Illegality” in the U.S.

In 2016, the United States was home to more than 5.6 million Mexican-born undocumented individuals. The majority of this population came to the U.S. on foot by crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without identification. Attempted by hundreds of thousands of people each year, this journey is characterized by extreme physical trials in which migrants are forced to put their very lives in peril in order to make it across. Through an analysis of ethnographic data of undocumented Mexican migrants living in Vermont, I find that border crossing experiences serve as an introduction to the experience of “illegality” once in the U.S. Drawing on Willen’s definition of “illegality,” I explore how the sociopolitical and phenomenological conditions of border crossings prepare migrants for their experience as undocumented individuals living in the U.S. Through interactions with state agents, crossing guides, and the geographical landscape, I find that migrants “preview” how they will experience “illegality” in their host country. (advised by Prof. Closser)

Samuel Wegner
Utopia Now, Utopia Forever: The Role of Utopian Theory, Fiction, and Practice in the Process of Envisioning and Enacting Reflexive Social Transformation

This project interrogates the concept of utopia through the sociological lens of social transformation, as represented in both fictional and contemporary (that is, real-life, actually existing) contexts. In doing so, this project simultaneously challenges the assumption that sociology cannot speak to the speculated conditions and dynamics of future societies and explores the inherently sociological questions raised by utopian communities, both fictional and real. I study two works of fiction, Ursula Le Guin’s 1974 novel The Dispossessed, and Ryan Coogler’s 2018 film, Black Panther, for their representations of and value for sociological theories and strategies of social transformation. I then compare these fictional utopias with an actually existing utopia, the Spanish village of Marinaleda as described in Dan Hancox’s book The Village Against the World. This town actually implements sociological theories and strategies, and proves that utopia is both a means and an end to social transformation. (advised by Prof. McCallum)


Department of Sociology & Anthropology

Munroe Hall
427 College Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753