Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • Alien Spaces: Planning, Reform, and Preservation on the Lower East Side, 1880-2002

    Author:
    Rebecca Amato
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Gerald Markowitz
    Abstract:

    In this project, I trace the ways in which reform and urban planning discourses, shored up by a desire for ethnic and racial regulation, defined the Lower East Side as an "alien space," both removed from and problematic for the rest of New York City over the long twentieth century. I argue that this sustained discourse of "alienness" in the service of regulation - varying from Progressive reform efforts at the turn of the twentieth century to the racially-charged citizen participation efforts of the mid-twentieth century urban renewal era to the battle for community preservation in the face of increasing gentrification at the turn of the twenty-first century - had a direct impact on the built environment of the Lower East Side. This approach to the neighborhood's formation and development not only links language (the discursive production of the area) with action (its demolition, construction, reconstruction, and preservation), it also highlights the profound fissures that existed in liberal reform, particularly with regard to race and ethnicity. Even when ambivalence toward the Lower East Side's ethnic population was not readily apparent, as in the language of social science and the maps of urban planning, it was implied by ongoing questions about the fitness of Lower East Siders to determine the fate of their own neighborhood.

  • For Love and for Justice: Narratives of Lesbian Activism

    Author:
    Kelly Anderson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Blanche Cook
    Abstract:

    This dissertation explores the role of lesbians in the U.S. second wave feminist movement, arguing that the history of women's liberation is more diverse, more intersectional, and more radical than previously documented. The body of this work is five oral histories conducted with lifelong activists and public intellectuals for the Voices of Feminism project at the Sophia Smith Collection: Katherine Acey, former Executive Director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice; Dorothy Allison, author and sex radical; Suzanne Pharr, southern anti-racist organizer and author; Achebe Powell, activist and diversity trainer; and Carmen Vázquez, LGBT activist and founding director of the San Francisco Women's Building. Taken together, their stories dovetail into a new narrative about the relationship between lesbians, feminism, and queer liberation, from the late 60's to the present. In addition to the edited transcripts, this dissertation includes a new chronology of gender and sexual liberation, demonstrating the interconnectedness of late 20th century social change movements, and a chapter on oral history methodology. This work adds to our collective knowledge about lesbian lives by sharing five important life narratives, contributes to a re-imagination of the vast and intersectional scope of second wave feminism and sexual liberation, and attempts to disrupt conventional methods of documenting and sharing history by privileging oral narratives.

  • Ethnicity in Hagiography: The Case of Darerca/Moninna/Modwenna/Modwenne in the British Isles, Seventh to Thirteenth Centuries

    Author:
    Diane Auslander
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Thomas Head
    Abstract:

    Abstract ETHNICITY IN HAGIOGRAPHY: THE CASE OF DARERCA/MONINNA/MODWENNA/MONINNA IN THE BRITISH ISLES, SEVENTH TO THIRTEENTH CENTURIES By Diane Peters Auslander Adviser: Professor Thomas Head This is a contextual study of four related hagiographies written from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries in the British Isles. It is probable that there was a seventh-century original that is no longer extant much of which was retained in the tenth-century life. The saint herself is Irish and the earliest name we have for her is Darerca, but her name changes as the lives are rewritten. She is called Moninna in the eleventh-century life, Modwenna in the twelfth-century vita, and Modwenne in the thirteenth-century vie. Darerca is an Irish saint who lives and travels within Ireland and her Irishness is retained throughout these vitae. In the Life of St. Moninna, however, the saint's persona has been conflated with the legends of other saints of the British Isles, many of whom are difficult to identify with any certainty. Moninna's hagiographer includes her Irish journeys, but has her traveling to Scotland and England. In England, she is said to have founded Burton Abbey in the midlands, indicating that her name had become confused with that of a St. Modwenna whose relics were buried at Burton Abbey. In the early twelfth century, the abbot of Burton Abbey rewrote the Life of St. Moninna, retaining its Irish elements, but making it more relevant to an English audience. In c.1235, the text was reworked again at Burton in Anglo-Norman verse. The period during which these four lives were written was one of almost constant movement of peoples and mingling of ethnicities in the British Isles.. For some newcomers, such as the Vikings, the processes of resistance were succeeded by varying degrees of assimilation. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, however, there developed a virulent institutionalized ethnic hostility toward the Irish. Therefore this study examines these lives through the lens of ethnicity, ethnogenesis, assimilation, and bias.

  • Narratives of Interiority: Black Lives in the U.S. Capital, 1919 - 1942

    Author:
    Paula Austin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Herman Bennett
    Abstract:

    Abstract NARRATIVES OF INTERIORITY: BLACK LIVES IN THE U.S. CAPITAL, 1919 - 1942 by PAULA C. AUSTIN Advisor: Professor Herman L. Bennett This dissertation constructs an urban, social and intellectual history of poor and working class African Americans in the interwar period in Washington, D.C. Although the advent of social history shifted scholarly emphasis onto the "ninety-nine percent," many scholars have framed black history as the story of either the educated, uplifted and accomplished elite, or of a culturally depressed monolithic urban mass in need of the alleviation of structural obstacles to advancement. A history of the poor and working class as individuals with both ideas and subjectivity has often been difficult simply because there are limited archival sources. "Narratives of Interiority" uses data collected and other materials created by social researchers in the Progressive era's burgeoning social science fields to examine the everyday lives, movements, and articulated thoughts of a disaggregated African American poor and working class. While sociological and social welfare materials have been criticized for contributing to the racialization of crime and the pathologization of black urban life, they also offer historians a rich archive from which to cull the complexities of daily existence and inner life that transcend the instrumental renderings of black pathology and the narrow configurations of the black urban migration experience. This archive accentuates inner life, life of the mind, and the quotidian and brings into relief varied interpretations and understandings of political economy, educational possibilities, citizenship, family, appropriate (legal, respectable) comportment, and conceptions of self as articulated by black poor and working class individuals themselves. Furthermore, an historical examination of social science research materials instead of social scientists' and reform workers' interpretations of that material complicates an analysis of early sociology, problematizing ethnographic methodology, but also interrogating the possibilities for voice and visibility that sociological and anthropological research projects offered, and offers, people with little access to politics and visiblility writ large.

  • Sex and the Nation: Sexuality and Criminal Justice in Revolutionary Mexico, 1920-1940

    Author:
    Ira Beltran-Garibay
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Susan Besse
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the way in which notions of sexuality were interpreted and reworked by the criminal justice system and the citizens that fell under its purview during the decades immediately following the revolutionary struggle in Mexico. The dissertation examines legal and criminological literature as well as a sample of four hundred and fourteen cases drawn from Mexico City criminal and juvenile courts. The cases include criminal offenses such as rape and seduction, and homosexuality, prostitution, incest, indecent behavior and indiscipline in the home among minors. It traces the foreign and national influences that shaped the Mexican criminological establishment's views on sexuality and argues that despite major reforms to the criminal justice system after the Revolution, many continuities existed between Revolutionary legal approaches to sexuality and those of its Profirian predecessor. At the same time, the dissertation examines closely the way in which court officials during the 1920s and 1930s constructed arguments and reached court decisions. In this way, the dissertation shows the way in which old notions of honor and sexual purity were put to the test under the new Revolutionary regime. It reveals how traditional understandings of sexuality could coexist with "modern" notions. An examination of the cases reveals what conflicts could occur between reform-minded government officials and the general public that sought the intervention of the courts to solve disputes of a sexual nature. Finally, the dissertation shows how the Revolutionary criminal justice system could only be successful when the goals of the public officials coincided or, at the very least overlapped with those of the citizens that were involved in the court trials.

  • For Right and Might: The Militarization of the Cold War and the Remaking of American Democracy

    Author:
    Michael Brenes
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Robert Johnson
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines how Cold War defense spending shaped the evolution of American political culture and public policy from the 1940s until the 1990s. It argues that the Cold War economy contributed to the realignment of American politics in the postwar era. The fight against global communism abroad altered the structure, purpose, and public perception of the federal government following World War II, but also subsidized corporations, suburban communities, and individuals affected by defense spending. The militarization of the Cold War therefore created various dependents of America's military and defense apparatus that continuously pressed for more defense spending during the Cold War, even if increases in the military budget were strategically and economically gratuitous. Americans in communities dependent upon defense contractors for employment and economic growth lobbied their political representatives to allocate more defense contracts to their towns, while defense companies and contractors formed alliances with activists, politicians, defense workers, and labor unions to ensure their profitability in the face of cuts to the defense budget. The combination of these forces created a unique "Cold War coalition" that worked to keep the defense economy active in shaping the domestic and foreign policies of the United States. As the constitutive elements of the defense economy were threatened with defense cuts and a thaw in the Cold War after the 1960s, they increasingly gravitated toward political figures and officials who promised continued defense spending. After the economic crisis of the 1970s, residents of such "Cold War communities" saw job losses to inflation and stagnation, but also to a drawdown in the Vietnam War and the era of détente. By the end of the Cold War, communities reliant upon the Department of Defense for employment supported "conservative" proposals for the reduction of federal taxes and government influence in regulating local economies, while also campaigning for additional federal defense contracts to keep local economies afloat. By exploring the realignment of American politics through the context of global events--and their impact on local politics--this dissertation considers how the personal livelihoods and political prejudices of Americans shaped both national politics and foreign affairs.

  • Crossroads: New York's Black Intellectuals and the Role of Ideology in the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965

    Author:
    Kristopher Burrell
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Clarence Taylor
    Abstract:

    Abstract CROSSROADS: NEW YORK'S BLACK INTELLECTUALS AND THE ROLE OF IDEOLOGY IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, 1954-1965 By Kristopher Burrell Adviser: Dr. Clarence Taylor This dissertation studies the importance of New York City, and the black intellectuals who gathered there, to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The figures discussed here merit the term "intellectual" because they were makers and purveyors of many ideas that sustained and broadened the movement. Studying key activist-intellectuals from across the ideological spectrum allows for a more complete understanding of the importance of ideas in propelling the movement. Looking at the ways in which black intellectuals evolved and used different ideologies in pursuit of racial equality is another way of demonstrating African American agency. This study writes against the characterization of the civil rights movement as primarily fueled by emotionalism and impulsive. Black intellectuals actively sought to plot out the course that the movement would take. This dissertation continues to move civil rights historiography away from the notion that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X provided the only two approaches for achieving racial equality by demonstrating that there was a broader spectrum of ideologies that African Americans used and adapted in trying to successfully prosecute their struggle to secure racial equality. Instead of merely two approaches--liberal integrationism and black nationalism--I argue that there were four main ideologies in conversation and contention with one another during this period--racial liberalism, conservatism, leftism, and black nationalism. This dissertation also contributes to the growing literature on the civil rights movement outside of the South. I make two main arguments about the significance of New York City to the movement. First, New York was important because institutions of every political and ideological stripe sank roots into and influenced the intellectual and cultural milieu of black New York and black America. Second, black intellectuals who were drawn to the city flourished because they sampled the extraordinary variety of ideas on display as they matured intellectually and developed their own strategies for growing and sustaining a national movement for social, political, and economic justice. For these reasons, New York is deserving of further study in relation to civil rights agitation and activism.

  • The 1935 Labor Rebellions and the Politics of African-Indian Solidarity in British Guiana

    Author:
    Nicole Burrowes
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Herman Bennett
    Abstract:

    Beginning in 1935, African and Indian youth, women and men who comprised the sugar plantation labor force in British Guiana, launched a series of strikes that sent shock waves across the British Empire. Joining the spirit of rebellion that engulfed the Caribbean throughout the 1930s, their actions caused massive political, social and economic unrest. British officials worked to understand what triggered the unrest and to preserve their political interests. Administrators in India wrote to the Colonial Office with concern about their compatriots across the Atlantic. At the local level, workers likened their cause to that of Ethiopia as it sought to rally the world in its defense against Mussolini’s invasion. My dissertation is the first full-length study of these labor rebellions by Indian and African plantation workers and, more broadly, of the 1930s, a period which remains understudied in British Guiana’s historiography. This is a story about the development of modern politics, overlapping diasporas, the seeds of solidarity and historical possibility. Based on extensive archival research in the United Kingdom, Guyana and the United States, “The 1935 Labor Rebellions” positions plantation workers as central actors in the evolution of modern politics in British Guiana decades before independence. Although predominantly linked to the history of enslavement, indenture and economic underdevelopment, the plantation was also the site of modern political action, coalition building and resistance. I challenge the dominant focus on racial conflict in the historiography of British Guiana by asking how cross-racial solidarity was enacted, and by interpreting its legacy for Guyanese realities today. Divided by colonial racism and subject to the needs of capital, plantation workers experienced a shared sense of suffering and subordination, although their circumstances and positionality differed. Their alliance neither implied nor provoked an eradication of racialized identities. Rather, I argue that workers employed these identities as a basis for concerted action, as well as a means of envisioning expanded anti-colonial international connections. Far from a triumphalist narrative, my project attempts to historicize frames of reference, identities and aspirations that emerged during the struggle of the 1930s that both constrain current thinking and highlight the unfulfilled visions of working people in Guyana.

  • The New Deal in Puerto Rico: Public Works, Public Health, and the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration, 1935-1955

    Author:
    Geoff Burrows
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Laird Bergad
    Abstract:

    During the 1930s, Puerto Rico experienced acute infrastructural and public health crises caused by the economic contraction of the Great Depression, the devastating San Felipe and San Ciprián hurricanes of 1928 and 1932, and the limitations of the local political structure. Signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration (PRRA) replaced all other New Deal activity on the island. As a locally-run federal agency, the PRRA was very unique and yet very representative of the "Second" New Deal in the United States--which attempted to move beyond finding immediate solutions to the most critical problems of the day and make permanent changes to social and economic life for all U.S. citizens. As the first archival analysis of the PRRA, this dissertation argues that the PRRA actively shifted federal policy in Puerto Rico from a paradigm of relief to one of reconstruction focused on the island's specific needs in the wake of the hurricanes and Depression. This shift mirrored the larger change from the laissez faire individualism of the 1920s to the more prominent use of federal power to intervene in socioeconomic life during the New Deal. By building the island's first truly public works and establishing its first public authorities to administer them, the PRRA constructed a new public infrastructure capable of addressing three interrelated goals: increasing life expectancy through concrete interventions in public health; providing more egalitarian public access to a safer and more permanent built environment; and limiting the private corporate control of Puerto Rico's natural resources. Designed by Puerto Rican engineers and built by Puerto Rican workers, PRRA public works projects made concrete contributions to the physical security of millions of Puerto Ricans through the construction of hurricane-proof houses, schools, hospitals, roads, sewers, waterworks, and rural electrification networks. These projects not only made lasting contributions to local social and economic life, they also had a transformative effect on Puerto Rican politics during the 1940s and the meaning of U.S. citizenship for Puerto Ricans in the twentieth century and beyond.

  • THE MEDICALIZATION OF STRESS: HANS SELYE AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE POSTWAR MEDICAL MARKETPLACE

    Author:
    Vanessa Burrows
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Gerald Markowitz
    Abstract:

    This dissertation employs historical methodology and public health theory to examine how critical changes in the culture and political economy of biomedical research shaped Hungarian-Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye's concept of biological stress, guiding him to develop a highly individualistic and commercially-appealing disease model that complimented major interests of the postwar medical marketplace: the state, the corporation and the consumer. In the mid-1930s Selye proposed that the human body adapted to a diverse range of stressors--including, extreme temperatures, intoxification, surgical trauma, physical exercise and complete immobilization--by releasing adrenocortical hormones to regulate bodily functions. For the next fifty years he devoted his career to studying the mechanisms by which stress operated, using his training in histology and biological assay to identify how stress altered biochemistry at the cellular level. Selye found that while the human body maintains homeostasis and mitigates damage from stressors by altering the balance of pro- and anti-inflammatory adrenocorticoids, a prolonged imbalance of these hormones can produce "diseases of adaptation," such as arthritis, heart disease, hypertension and gastrointestinal ulceration. While this General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) is universal, it is also highly individualized, as an individual's exposure to unique "conditioning factors" determines the type and magnitude of diseases produced by stress. Even though he complied with the reductionist methods of biomedical research, Selye's theory was a radical departure from the orthodox biomedical doctrine of specific disease etiology. However, by offering a multicausal theory of disease causation that embraced the concept of attributable risk, Selye helped to reconcile mid-century biomedicine with the contemporaneous rise in chronic disease in North America. Selye was a visionary, but was not insulated from financial and cultural pressures. In order to attract funding from philanthropies, private enterprise and the US and Canadian federal governments, he catered his research to appeal to mid-century public health priorities and the health concerns of North American patient-consumers: relief from chronic diseases and anxiety neuroses. Selye began using the term "stress" to describe the GAS at the end of the Second World War, after military neuropsychiatric research on combat stress had already given the term a medical valence. And in the early-1950s, as his controversial theory was vindicated by the therapeutic discovery of cortisone and ACTH, Selye began a vigorous public relations campaign to promote popular awareness of stress. In doing so, he appealed to the concurrent medicalization of anxiety and growing market for anxiolytic drugs, blurring the distinction between biological and psychological stress. Yet, he won validation for stress in the medical marketplace. Selye inadvertently advocated a psychosomatic perspective of stress by advancing an ethical code of "altruitistic egotism." He insisted that individuals must learn their own unique stress triggers and develop personal therapeutic strategies, especially in disrupting patterned "stress grooves" with useful "deviations," like reading a book, taking a walk, listening to music, or smoking a cigarette. While anxiolytic and adrenocoritcal medications might be useful in managing chronic conditions, to Selye will power and self-awareness were the most effective therapeutic weapons in combating stress. Stress, as Selye described it, offered patient-consumers a means of managing their own health. Yet, by advancing an individualistic and commercially-appealing theory of stress, Selye obscured ecosocial pathways of disease that distribute stress risk far beyond the control of individual interventions.