Sociology/Anthropology Senior Projects

Senior Essay and Thesis Abstracts 2016-2017

Caroline Agsten
Stratifying Spaces or Green Places? Gendering Public Parks in Beijing and Shanghai

From 1914-1925, Beijing underwent a vigorous public works campaign in which all formerly imperial gardens were converted into public parks. The dismantling of imperial walls coincided with urban Chinese woman beginning to occupy a more significant role outside the home. This thesis examines the role of public parks in Beijing and Shanghai as social organizing structures with specific attention to gender. Although the physical walls surrounding imperial gardens were knocked down long ago, access to parks and full use of them is still constrained by numerous factors. By evaluating contemporary phenomena with historical developments, I found that public parks today are still patterned by ideas about normative gender roles for Chinese men and women. Many park activities act as gendered performances that reinforce implicitly understood social roles. This thesis therefore describes how the built environment plays a fundamental role in constructing these gendered activities. But despite physical (and social) boundaries, park users are able to negotiate their positions by appropriating different spaces to pursue different leisure activities. Drawing on personal interviews and participant observation, this thesis illuminates a facet of the ongoing discussion surrounding gender roles, gender expectations, and gendered behavior in contemporary China. (advised by Prof. Oxfeld)   

Isabella Morganne Carey
Dividing Women: An Analysis of the Racial Reality that impacts Black and White Women’s Path to College
This research demonstrates that despite the rising college enrollment rates of women in the United States, access and attainment is not equal across all racial groups. By interviewing Black and White women about their college application experiences, this research draws parallels and highlights the differences in their lived reality. It reveals that there are still many obstacles that Black women face when going through the college application and decision process, many of which are perpetuated by the power structures and racist systems of society. Taking three main variables in pre-existing research that impact students’ access and attainment possibilities, I examine the different implications for Black and White women. I conclude with possible areas of focus for structural reform to reduce the racial achievement and attainment gap amongst Black and White women. (advised by Prof. Han)   

Aliza Cohen
“Willie Horton Syndrome”: A Case Study in the Transformation of United States Penal Culture

This thesis analyzes the transformation from a rehabilitative ethos of punishment to a penal system focused on stigmatization and incapacitation of the criminal. In order to understand this shift in American penal policies, practices, and sentiments, I examine the role of the visual in creating and sustaining our collective understandings of criminality. First, I explore the origins of the visual with the penal system. The contemporaneous rise of criminology and photography in the late nineteenth century facilitated the growth of a state apparatus concerned with understanding the criminal so as to better manage and regulate the criminal class. Second, I examine the case of Willie Horton, whose mug shot was circulated in the 1988 presidential election by Republican candidate George H.W. Bush as a way to portray his Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis as “soft on crime.” I conduct a content analysis of New York Times articles mentioning Willie Horton in order to track the lasting power of Horton’s image and to understand the role that Horton played in transforming how we treat criminals. I find that while the earliest iteration of the criminal photograph was used to better know the criminal, Horton’s mug shot rebirthed the idea that Blackness and criminality are inextricably linked, that the victim warrants protection at all costs, and that the criminal cannot be reformed and, thus, deserves incapacitation. (advised by Prof. Tiger)

Maggie Danna
Regulation of Homelessness in Sarasota, Florida: How Public Spaces and Laws Are Biased Towards the Interests of the Affluent and the Exclusion of the Homeless

This report explores the issue of homelessness in Sarasota, Florida and what actions Sarasota County and the city of Sarasota take in dealing with it. Sarasota’s economy is heavily reliant on the tourism industry, and the region has been experiencing a continuous influx of out-of-state retirees in recent years. Keeping the ambiance of the City of Sarasota beautiful and peaceful is important to both tourists and retirees. Many retirees are wealthy enough to purchase luxury housing, and this contributes to the rising cost of living in the area and increases economic strain upon the working class. With the average age of residents rising, Sarasota is attempting to draw in young business professionals and diversify the local economy. In this report, I look at local newspapers and minutes from relevant city and county meetings, as well as Sarasota County’s comprehensive plan, to see how the homeless are being treated and thought about in Sarasota. Looking through these sources, it becomes apparent that wealthier residents have a greater influence on city and county commissioners’ decision-making than others in the community do, and that Sarasota’s desire to strengthen its economy and its image while appeasing wealthy residents takes precedent over truly helping the poor and the homeless for the long-term. Instead, many short-term solutions are created to push the homeless out of wealthy residential areas and the downtown shopping district. (advised by Prof. Tran)   

Aoife Duna
The End of the Road: Resource Extraction in Canoe Country

This ethnography investigates issues of class, resource management, and community values surrounding a proposed sulfide-ore mining project near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a federally protected wilderness territory. The mining conflict is an issue of emerging meanings connected to ideological values and economic need; demographic studies show that park visitors are wealthier and better educated than local residents. Pro-extraction and pro-conservation arguments disguise the communal experiences of economic stagnation, class difference, and political marginalization of residents in Ely, Minnesota. My work investigates these experiences of marginalization and aims to answer the following questions: What are the narratives about the mining proposal and the town of Ely? How do residents of Ely articulate political marginalization through these narratives? How do pro-extraction and pro-conservation individuals establish their sociopolitical identity? Lastly, what were the historical, social, and economic interactions that created the sociopolitical separation in the mining conflict? I illustrate how the historical, social, and economic interactions in the Great Lakes region created the circumstances for these modern experiences of marginalization. The divergent arguments of extraction and conservation represent different visions of the future, and with them, different paths of socioeconomic investment that will transform the town of Ely. (advised by Prof. Sheridan)

Amir Firestone
Ingredients of Integration: A Study of Collaborative Cooking Classes as Mechanisms of Social and Cultural Integration of Syrian Refugees in Germany

Over the past few years, the United States and much of Europe have fallen into political turmoil in the face of the largest global refugee crisis since World War II. In the midst of growing social, cultural, and political tensions, some have sought creative ways to mend such divides and prevent further social and cultural schism. This thesis examines a method of integrating refugee and host communities in Berlin, Germany through collaborative cooking classes. Focusing on two cooking classes led by Syrian refugees, I examine how social relationships emerge from these interactions and study the role that food plays in facilitating these social interactions. A close analysis of these events and of nine follow-up interviews conducted with participants from these classes reveals various mechanisms for promoting sociability and communitas. I implement a holistic approach to analyzing these cooking classes by considering how these interactions function as rites of passage, rituals of reversal, social dramas, and exchanges of different forms of capital in which food plays a central role. Through this analysis, this study reveals the extensive potential of collaborative cooking for fostering social interaction among distinct cultural groups and offers insights into the practical uses of food and cooking to these ends. (advised by Prof. Oxfeld)

Hana Gebremariam
“I Miss Greens, but not Kale”: A Qualitative Analysis of Black and Latina Women’s Experiences with Food at Middlebury College

Food has a critical role in identity formation, group boundary maintenance, enacting racialized and non-racialized identities, and marginalizing racial and ethnic minorities. Although there is an extensive understanding of food and its various functions in society, there is very little focus on the food narratives of Black and Latina women, who share similar food histories in the United States. Thus, this research used in-depth interviews and participant observations to explore the complex role of food in Black and Latina women’s experiences at Middlebury College. I found that there were dominant food norms imposed through discourses of health that Black and Latina women negotiate at Middlebury College; however, they were able to use their racialized identities to critique and challenge these norms. (advised by Prof. Closser)

Yasmine Gilbert
The Patient’s Experience of Conventional and Alternative Approaches to Biomedicine: Ambivalence, Autonomy and Rationality

This research examines why, given the pervasive biomedical hegemony, certain individuals seek alternative health care. I draw on anthropological and sociological literature, which has suggested that people are ideologically drawn to alternative health modalities, such as chiropractic medicine, naturopathy and acupuncture by the promise of holistic treatment. Alternatively, previous research indicates that rejection of biomedical principles drives people away from conventional medicine and towards alternative modalities. The popularity of these alternative treatments contrasts the growing biomedical hegemony that relies on pharmaceuticals for sickness management. I interview individuals with chronic illnesses because pharmacological biomedicine is often unsuccessful at satisfactorily addressing these individuals’ health concerns. I also analyze posts on a popular health forum to better understand sentiments towards biomedicine, doctors, and alternative practices. Insights gathered in semi-structured interviews guided my analysis of the online discussions. My research indicates that frustration with doctor care, not biomedical principles, motivates people to seek alternative health care professionals. These individuals maintain their trust in biomedical tools, such as blood tests, while pushing back against traditional medical authority. While “holistic” concepts do justify alternative therapies, they do so only in contrast to conventional therapies. My research comments on the strength of the biomedical hegemony, the authority of doctors, and the importance of medical autonomy. (advised by Prof. Closser)   

Rebecca Johnson
Grading Shades of Black: Reproducing Skin-Color Hierarchy When Casting Black Women in Television Shows

This project looks at Black women appearing as leads in current popular television shows and analyzes them through the framework of a casting call case study. The casting call for the 2015 film Straight Outta Compton gave four categories for Black women to audition for – “A Girls”, “B Girls”, “C Girls”, and “D Girls.” The listing (posted on Facebook) used the letters  A – D to label the type of girls in a way reminiscent of grading in the education system. Getting an A would signify intelligence, while receiving a D would mean a poor performance and deviance in school. This project gives a historical perspective of colorism and the portrayal of Black women on television through history. With this knowledge, I draw connections between the history of skin-color hierarchy and education, refinement, and social acceptance. I find a societal preference for light-skinned Black women because they are thought to possess these traits while dark-skinned Black women are stereotypically believed to be uneducated and unruly. While the seven Black women I chose to analyze bring a greater variety of racial narratives to American television, colorism stereotypes continue to shape Black women’s progress toward equality in media representation. (advised by Prof. Han)   

Isabel Kannegieser
Signaling Status Through Sport

There has been extensive research that observes the ways in which successful, high profile, collegiate athletic teams are used as status symbols to market colleges and universities to a wide array of stakeholders. The literature suggests the status elicited by high-profile sports teams aids a higher education institution in three main ways: by boosting its “character and spirit,” both on and off campus, by providing various financial rewards and advantages, and by increasing its “visibility” amongst various applicant demographics. It is clear from such literature that the status high profile sports teams bring is invaluable to higher education institutions. However, organizational sociology and Weber’s bureaucratic model act as a lens to reveal that very little research has been done to understand how various administrative actors within these institutions utilize sports to promote their own personal agendas. These strategies allow them to elevate their status relative to both a) other organizations within the college and b) to outside organizations that are similar to them in both structure and function. The focus of my senior research work is to develop and present a more holistic understanding of the links between athletic reputation and success at a liberal arts school, and the various administrative organizations within the institution that capitalize on such performances. This project aims to understand whether intercollegiate athletics serve ulterior purposes for the liberal arts institution, and if sports accrue status to help preserve and reinforce the competition within a schools’ internal hierarchy. (advised by Prof. Lawrence)   

Jordan Killen
The Myth of Marinaleda: Ideology, Discurso, and the Creation of Utopia in an Andalusian Pueblo
This project explores the creation and perpetuation of revolutionary utopian ideology in Marinaleda, a village of 2,700 in Andalusia (the southern region of Spain). Specifically, my analysis addresses the following: 1) how regional social structures and historical movements set ideological and political precedents for the contemporary collective struggle that landless Marinaledan daylaborers initiated in the late 1970s; 2) how the ideology that emerged from that struggle has manifested in the conceptions that village residents express of themselves and of their local history; and 3) how both struggle and ideology have served to support and legitimize Marinaleda’s basic contemporary social structure and political hegemony. Methodology took place chronologically, in two main phases: first, fieldwork in the Marinaledan community, including participant observation and semi-structured interviews; second, analysis of interview recordings, fieldnotes, ideological materials gathered while on-site, and relevant secondary sources, synthesized into grounded theory. (advised by Prof. Stoll)   

Hye-Jin Kim
Baking “Granola Privilege”: A Case Study on College Outdoors Orientation Trips as an Institutionalized Mechanism of Social Reproduction

This senior project focuses on “granola” identity as a case study of privilege that is prevalent among students of elite liberal arts institutions. The theoretical framework for analysis is the role of institutions in Bourdieu’s theory of “cultural reproduction” and Goffman’s definition of “total institutions.” My research examines the institutional logic behind mandatory first-year orientation trips and how they shape students’ views of the ideal college experience. By studying the role of the institution in the perpetuation of “granola privilege” on campus, I aim to shed some light on these research questions: 1) Which values of today’s American elite are being reproduced through “granola” identity on college campuses? 2) How is the experience of participating in a wilderness orientation trip different than other types of trips in terms of activities, leaders and group dynamics? 3) What kind of effect do wilderness trips have specifically on first-years and their impression of the dominant campus culture? To answer these questions, I interviewed 15 first-year students from the same dormitory hall on their orientation trips and the social benefits of being “outdoorsy” or “granola” on this campus. (advised by Prof. Lawrence)   

Rachel Kinney
Norwegian Wood: Recontextualizing Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki Adventure

This project examines the symbolism of Inka balsa rafts, first within their original context in the South American maritime political economy during the 15th century CE and then in Thor Heyerdahl’s pseudoscientific Kon-Tiki reconstruction project of 1947. Scholarly understanding of the form and function of balsa rafts remains limited, and I therefore examine archaeological evidence, Spanish accounts, and ethnographic studies to fill this gap. Andean peoples frequently used balsa rafts for fishing and especially for obtaining and transporting the sacred Spondylus shell, a valuable trade good whose meaning elites controlled to create power in the form of social capital. Heyerdahl argued that South Americans traveled west in balsa rafts to populate Polynesia, although this myth- and diffusion-based theory lacks support. I believe that his ideologies of racism, sexism, nationalism, and colonization and his pseudoscientific approach concealed historical realities of the function of pre-Columbian balsa rafts. Heyerdahl saw his journey as a liminal adventure and thus used the balsa as cultural capital, which he converted to social capital through the popularity of the voyage and his subsequent Kon-Tiki book. Archaeology of the mid-20th century is not now known for its sensitivity, and Heyerdahl’s work, though pseudoscientific, follows the same tradition of archaeology as colonizing. I believe that if we would like to understand more about the past, we must acknowledge that any statements about the past are informed by and inform the present by practicing a postcolonial, social archaeology that attempts to correct historical wrongs. (advised by Prof. Sheridan)

Samantha Takahashi Lamont
The Fluid, the Fixed and the Fly: Mixed-Race Identity on Facebook

“Hapa” is a Hawaiian word meaning mixed-race. Among youth and young adults in mainland United States it has taken on a new meaning referring to someone who is part  Asian and part something else. In this project I examine the negotiation of identity on the Hapa Facebook group. My dataset consists in four months of user posts and responses on this page. I perform content and density of response analysis on the posts to understand: 1) the major themes mixed-race people use to make sense of their group identity 2) the ways in which members negotiate the tension between fluidity and security and 3) the ways in which virtual spaces influence how multiracial people form identity. I consider the identity work that participants perform in the Hapa group in relation to Zygmunt Bauman’s notion of fluid modernity, in particular his discussion of the tension between fluidity and security in modern identity. An analysis of the major themes shows that while Hapa members embrace aspects of fluidity, systemic racism complicates their ability to effortlessly cross boundaries and disrupt racial hierarchies. Members fill a desire for security through expressions of pride and solidarity, racializing their own experience as they do so. (advised by Prof. Nevins)

Adrian Leong
Decolonization at the Grassroots: Resistance and Place-making at a Migrant Village in Hong Kong

The ongoing pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong aims to purge the existing governance structure of the outdated prerogatives for the rich and the powerful that were put in place during the British colonial era. Currently, a resurgence of grassroots, community-based organizing is sweeping across the border zone in response to land disputes that were precipitated by major infrastructure projects. These movements of defiance and resistance are challenging the dominant spatial practices that target the political migrants who escaped southern China in the 1940s-60s. Breaking from the tradition of past mass mobilizations in the region, these organizing efforts address land issues. They rely on everyday forms of resistance as well as discursive strategies to animate the Hong Kong landscape with meanings derived from local history. Through a synthesis of the ethnographic materials collected through participant observation, naturalistic inquiry, and grounded ethnography, this thesis explores how the synergy of bureaucratic power, mass media, and the culture of the market is transforming the remaining farmland of Ma Shi Po in Fanling North, Hong Kong, into prime real estate. It documents the everyday forms of resistance and discursive practices that the people of Mapopo Community Farm in Ma Shi Po are using to fight back. In doing so, it provides insights into the workings of certain discursive strategies: specifically, how they engender social networks that create an emotive bond to land and the people who are sustained by it, along with a sense of historicity. This attention to spatial relations and material conditions has opened up new venues for the pro-democracy movement, just as regional integration in the Pearl River Delta becomes more imminent. The multiplying of place-based struggles like that in Ma Shi Po holds the potential to make the ground more fertile for the growth of a decolonized Hong Kong subjectivity, with respect to both the British past and current movements for self-determination from the Chinese government. (advised by Prof. Oxfeld)   

Shuba Maniram
Whiteness: Understanding Identity Through the Cultural Imagination

This research looks at the way Whiteness gets constructed through the imagination. Poor White people cannot control the social construction of Whiteness due to their economic position in society where negative terms are associated with their actions and living conditions such as “trailer trash” or “white trash.” This creates an image of conflict of what it means to be truly White. In this research, I explore the following questions: 1) how is Whiteness constructed through the class position of self-identifying Whites? 2) In what ways is the idea of “being White” illuminated through the symbolization of trailer parks? To answer these questions, I conducted interviews and secondary text analysis. Through these methods, I gathered opinions of Whiteness through lived experiences of white people and analyze the ways that individuals place themselves in a category that defines not just their physical attributions, but also the believed ways that Whiteness reflects certain behaviors in society. (advised by Prof. Closser)   

Patrick McElravey
The Purpose of Education: Cross-Class Interaction in the Elite Liberal Arts College

The contemporary narrative on the “crisis” in higher education – which accuses elite colleges of failing their disadvantaged students and perpetuating class inequality by encouraging the development of a singular mindset among its student body – calls into question the value and purpose of higher education. This paper examines this critique on the value and purpose of higher education by studying a unique site in the field of American higher education, the liberal arts college. This study asks: 1) What is the purpose of education for students who attend an elite liberal arts institution and how does this relate to students’ notion of “having a calling” within Weber’s “spirit of capitalism”? 2) How does a student’s definition of this purpose differ based on their relationship to social class and does their liberal arts education influence this relationship? 3) Can a student’s relationship to class predict how they make educational choices such as major decisions as well as how they value various aspects of their education? My data, gathered from survey responses from 125 Middlebury College seniors, suggests that students who have a more complex relationship to social class (i.e., students who both do not identify with and aspire to rise above their family’s socioeconomic status) exude “critical consciousness.” Contrary to popular critiques, these students do not adopt a singular mindset that sees the value and purpose of education as narrowly related to economic mobility or “the calling;” rather, they display “critical consciousness” by fundamentally questioning the values and purpose of education. (advised by Prof. Tran)   

Maggie Nazer
“You are the Cause of Poverty”:
A Case Study of Female Empowerment Discourses in Sierra Leone
Ranked as the 7th poorest country in the world, Sierra Leone attracts significant amounts of humanitarian aid and development assistance. The empowerment of females in the country is a concern for international development agencies and local development actors alike, and is addressed through the implementation of various empowerment programs targeting marginalized females from adolescence to adulthood. Based on five weeks of field research comprising of ethnographic and qualitative data collection, this senior project presents a case study of female empowerment discourses in Sierra Leone. Drawing on Foucault’s theory of discourse and its disciplining power, as well as the literature linking development practice with neoliberalism, my thesis compares the dominant discourse of female empowerment employed by institutional actors and development workers with the narratives of female participants. Through their discourse empowerment programs in Sierra Leone propel a neoliberal agenda and discipline women to view themselves and to act as the main carriers of responsibility towards their well-being and protection. Whereas the institutionalized discourse defines empowerment in terms of individual capacity-building and self-responsibility, female participants emphasize the structural obstacles rendering them incapable of affecting change in their lives no matter their effort, ambition, or desire for change. (advised by Prof. Closser)   

Adriana M. Ortiz-Burnham
Work Hard, Play Harder: Invisible and Unpaid Student Labor Outside the Classroom

This research project theorizes the time and energy students spend on their commitments outside the classroom as “work.” I pay special attention to the ways extracurricular activities in particular serve similar functions as the other kinds of work students perform. There are three main implications of this theorization. First, students are performing new kinds of labor that are rendered invisible by traditional narratives of work. Second, colleges and universities are becoming a part of work society by expecting and encouraging this (invisible) labor. Finally, labor sociologists are increasingly concerned with the labor process and with working time. This research contributes to this general trend by furthering discussions about work and leisure and introducing new theorists to this debate. I add that the emotional labor of women students and students of color is inseparable from the work of being a student, and complicates the work performed in the activities listed above. Moreover, reconceptualizing students’ activities as work has direct impacts on the mission of colleges and universities. (advised by Prof. McCallum)   

Morgan Randolph
Creating a Vaccine and Reinforcing Social Norms: An Analysis of the Commercial Advertising for the HPV Vaccine Gardasil

This research examines Merck’s campaign for the release and ongoing promotion of their vaccine Gardasil. While their campaign was obviously designed to take the path of least resistance toward generating demand for a new vaccine, their advertising decisions didn’t take place in a vacuum.  These decisions included marketing Gardasil as cervical cancer vaccine, downplaying the link between HPV and cervical cancer due to the sexual implications, marketing Gardasil heteronormatively and as a women’s-only drug, and using fear and doctors’ authority to sell Gardasil. These choices were more than just random choices, or choices made on the basis of creative expediency, or choices even meant to address the greatest threats to public health.  Instead, I believe that the strategy and execution of Merck’s release and promotion of Gardasil was driven primarily by numerous pre-existing cultural biases, negative social stereotypes, and the stigmatization of certain populations and practices.  Furthermore, my work pushes public health to consider that the ways in which Big Pharma uses these social factors to drive their marketing, not only fails to make progress against correcting biases and stereotypes, but in fact actually perpetuates and reinforces them. (advised by Prof. Owens)   

Erin Reid
Re-blogging and Resistance: Constructing an Oppositional Black Feminist Aesthetic on Social Media

My senior project focuses on the capacity of new media to combat dominant oppressive ideologies about Black womanhood. I use Tumblr as my case study in order to answer questions about the potential of social media to challenge hegemonic notions of Black womanhood and the Black female body. My central research questions are: In what ways do Black feminists use social media to push back upon dominant media discourses of Black womanhood? How does Black feminist engagement with social media open up the possibility for resistance of hegemonic notions of the Black female body, and create a self-defined subjectivity? Lastly, is there a way in which Black women’s self-representation within social media plays into and reaffirms the commodification of the Black female body? By engaging with the wider scholarly conversations surrounding the historical construction and dominant media discourses of Black womanhood, and deconstructing representations of Black female sexuality, I draw connections between how contemporary black women are shaped by history and mainstream media, and how they actively enact resistance through self-authorship and visual forms of self-representation. (advised by Prof. Tiger)   

Amanda Reilly
Looking into the World of Sports Media: How Forty-Five Years Under Title IX has Increased Opportunity yet Lacked Equal Media Coverage for Collegiate Female Athletes

Before Title IX was passed in 1972, female athletes had limited opportunities to participate in sports. Sports were more focused on men and what they offer – strength, power, agility, and speed. These were not categories used to describe women. These disparities also meant that media coverage of women athletes was distinctly different. As a result of the scarce media coverage females have become prone to different, even overly sexualized publicity. The saturation of male dominance in sports and the incomplete progress of Title IX towards equal opportunities for females prevent viewers from more fully experiencing and engaging with female athletes. Although women in sports challenge the association between masculinity and sport, many female media representations confirm gender differences through the emphasis on femininity in addition to, or even instead of, athletic strengths. These gender discrepancies are evident in college and university settings as well. Although Title IX equalized various funding differences between men’s and women’s teams, one-way status differences still persist is through portrayals of team and individual accomplishments by campus media and athletic department publications. (advised by Prof. Lawrence)   

Michelle Athena Roman
Shifting Narratives of Violent Female Criminality

This study examines how the violent female offender is made intelligible through narratives of risk in criminological texts. The rise in the incarceration rate of women as the drug war took off in the 80s-90s coincided with ideological shifts in how female criminality was understood and how it was managed. Through a textual analysis of two major criminology textbooks, I explore how violent female offenders are constructed as a legible category despite their inherently doubly deviant nature. In doing so, this analysis sheds light on the role criminology and feminist theory play in the construction of the violent female offender as a special category.  This senior work concludes that the shifts in ideology that were witnessed in the 90’s are still present in contemporary criminology and that the high-risk female offender is at once incredibly dangerous yet entirely preventable. (advised by Prof. Tiger)   

Elizabeth Stears
Born in the Bananas:
Constructing Ethnicity within the Socio Cultural Ethnic Labor System of Banana Production in Changuinola, Panama
This thesis discusses the construction of ethnicity within historic and contemporary groups of United Fruit Company (Chiquita Brands) employees and the inhabitants of Changuinola, Panama. Changuinola was constructed by the UFC in the early 20th century and has become an excellent case study on the structurally violent influences of the United Fruit Company on the lives and ethnic identities of its employees and Changuinolans. The Company was able to maintain an economically profitable Fordist plantation system by constructing a new labor system, worker communities and societal expectations within Changuinola as well as controlling an individual's ability to accumulate and convert capital within the confines of that same structure. This interplay between structure and agency comprises the Socio Ethnic Labor System (SCELS), which in turn is responsible for the construction of ethnicity within Changuinola. (advised by Prof. Sheridan)   

Henry Thomson
The Biopower of Organic Intellectuals: Reconciling Foucault and Gramsci to investigate the Socionature of Community Supported Kitchens

The neoliberal industrial food system is the dominant paradigm for food consumption and is hegemonic, reinforcing the system that created it. This system financially benefits large corporations while degrading the global environment, making humans sick, and enforcing class inequality. Recent trends in the study of “socionatures” suggest that reconciling the work of Antonio Gramsci and Michel Foucault is productive for analyzing socionatural systems, for studying the power structures of liberal capitalist social formations, and for developing a dialogue between these theorists. By developing their ideas of cultural hegemony, biopower, and the power of intellectuals, this project develops the critical scholarship on the complex socionature of food systems. A case study of Three Stone Hearth, an innovative Community Supported Kitchen simultaneously operating in, and resisting the capitalist liberal social formation provides an example of intellectual reclamation of biopower, the very notion of which deconstructs the established neoliberal power structure. This paper finds that Three Stone Hearth is not only an effective bottom-up approach to addressing critical issues within the industrial food system, but also an effective model for increasing democracy within the workplace. Increased democratization in the workplace has been discussed as essential to overcoming structural issues that face contemporary society outside of the food system. (advised by Prof. Stoll)   

Tegan WhitneyWorking Class Discourses of Meritocracy and Upward Mobility: The Endurance of the American Dream Ideology
This project aims to understand how ideologies are reproduced through discourses of working-class staff at Middlebury College. I focus on the American Dream ideology, as represented by belief in the meritocracy myth and upward mobility. As many ideologies employed in the U.S. promote and distract from the exploitation of certain groups, this work is relevant in considering the relationship between inequality and the American ethos. My research questions are as follows: 1) How do members of the working class imply, assume, promote, and reflect the American Dream ideology in their conception of themselves and the world? That is, how is this ideology reproduced by working class discourses of upward mobility and meritocracy? 2) Why do members of the working class not push back against this ideology? Interviews with staff members were conducted to observe the discourses involved in the ideology, and with what logic they are wielded. I conclude that the narrative constructed beneath the American Dream ideology framework uses an adaptable logic that does not result in questioning or resistance. (advised by Prof. McCallum)   

Sasha Whittle
The “F” Word
This project is about the concept of failure in elite liberal arts institutions. I examine this concept at Middlebury College through a discourse analysis of interviews with students and professors at the college, and through an analysis of archival material on academic policies. My research finds that failure, though widely perceived to be a problem of individual moral shortcomings, often serves a productive social function.  While it is currently fashionable to discuss the benefits of failure, these discussions largely center on what it may do to inspire more work and success within individuals. By contrast, I find it actually serves large institutions, much like the way Durkheim conceived of crime. Although this is a self-contained essay, I also directed a short film concurrently about my own experiences with these issues. (advised by Prof. McCallum)   

Michiko Yoshino
Everyone Is a Hero: Unmasking Gendered Morality in the Hero Shows of Japan

Hero shows are a part of popular culture in Japan, created after World War II. They usually depict a hero, villain, and an emcee. Although the storytelling is the classic narrative of good guy beats bad guy, the catch is that the hero cannot defeat the villain without the help of the audience, which is guided by an emcee. These shows give audience members a chance to actively participate in the shows and the success of the heroes, helping transmit new information from their experiences. Through interviews and surveys with hero show producers and audience members, as well as through my own fieldwork in Japan, I argue that through audience participation, the audience is socialized to a gendered form of moral education through these hero shows. Although these shows are meant to empower the audience, especially young children, and make them believe that everyone can be a hero, these shows are a space of discreetly socializing young children into Japanese beliefs about gender, hierarchy, and morality through heroic narratives. (advised by Prof. Nevins)   


Department of Sociology & Anthropology

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