Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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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.

  • 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.

  • ENVISIONED COMMUNITIES: AFRICAN AMERICAN LIFE AND THE MOVING PICTURES, 1896-1927

    Author:
    Cara Caddoo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Stuart Ewen
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the role of cinema in the modern black experience and the generative role that African Americans played in the creation of American modernity. Two questions animate this study. First, how did African Americans consolidate their institutions and social bonds amid the distending forces of turn-of-the-century migration? Second, how and why did cinema--as a location, medium, and set of practices--become so important to the collective articulation of black identity in the early twentieth century? By mapping the patterns of turn-of-the-century migration with the development of black cinema practices from 1896 to 1927, this project traces black economic, social, and cultural practices across space and time. It begins in the post-Reconstruction period, when African Americans looked inward to fortifying the institutions that stood at the center of black life. Yet at the same time, hundreds of thousands of black migrants were departing the countryside for the urban South and West. At this curious juncture when black life was both turning inward and expanding outward, African Americans used film as a tool for collective racial progress. Black churches, halls, and schools hosted moving picture exhibitions, which brought the race together and raised money for the construction of buildings that conspicuously demonstrated black material progress. Eventually black film exhibition moved into colored theaters, which became celebrated monuments of black life and public claims to urban space in the Jim Crow city. During this time, African Americans associated race and cinema primarily with tangible, physical locations. Yet when colored theaters started to compete with black religious institutions, middle class blacks were forced to reconsider the ideas of racial uplift, which championed both piety and black-owned businesses. After 1910, a series of events--including Jack Johnson's victory as heavyweight champion of the world--further shifted the focus from the exhibition site to the screen. Black conceptions of freedom and natural rights based on new sensibilities of racial representation informed the first mass protest movement of African Americans in the twentieth century as well as transnational formations of racial identity articulated by the race film industry.

  • 'Roman' Nation: racializing Italians (1903-1912)

    Author:
    Italia Colabianchi
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Marta Petrusewicz
    Abstract:

    `ROMAN' NATION: RACIALIZING ITALIANS (1903-1912) The existing literature on Italian racism has failed to analyze the thought of the right-wing intellectuals who gave life to the nationalist movement in the early 20th century. Current research provides only a fragmentary and episodic narration of the nationalist racial thought, and fails to insert its contradictions and complexities into the development of the nationalist ideology. The reluctance to apply a discursive methodology has been the primary cause of the failure of the existing historiography to recognize the nationalist racial discourse. This dissertation intends to fill that void by analyzing the writings of Enrico Corradini, Mario Morasso, Giuseppe Prezzolini, Giovanni Papini and other prominent nationalists. In this study, I argue that there is an important racial component in the early 20th century nationalist thought, and that this component emerges through the analysis of racial language, tropes, stereotypes, and metaphors. My thesis is that the nationalist imperialistic agenda determined their racial discourse. The nationalists considered the possession of a colonial empire as a necessary and unmistakable mark of the superiority of a nation on an international scale. The goal of establishing an Italian Empire was justified discursively with racial imagery and recurrent themes, above all that of "romanita'". In the nationalist imperialistic narrative, the Italians possessed certain qualities that were quintessential to the Italian race, and these qualities both enabled and entitled them to conquer and maintain a colonial empire. The discursive construction of the Italian race had to take into account the array of racial theories and beliefs that argued the inferiority of the Italian vis-à-vis the Nordic race. Against the theories that postulated the superiority of the Nordic man, the Italian nationalists tapped into an imagined Roman past, not so much negating the existing stereotypes but reinventing existing narratives. The colonial war absolved, in the nationalist narrative, the crucial function of being a catalyst for a surge in patriotism and racial pride, which would awaken the dormant racial qualities of the Italian population and clarify who was a member of the national community and who was excluded.

  • Keeping Fear at Bay: Twentieth Century Ecuador and the Eradication of Plague

    Author:
    Edward Cornejo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Alfonso Quiroz
    Abstract:

    Until plague's reappearance in China in the latter nineteenth century, plague had often been thought of as belonging to a distant continent and even more distant time in history. Turn-of-the-century maritime and technological advances, however, exponentially increased the fear, the panic, and the power that plague had over people throughout the globe. Ecuador fell victim to this scourge in 1903 and had to find ways to confront a disease with which it had minimal experience. Ecuador's anti-plague efforts, led by men such as Dr. Carlos A. Miño, were important steps in the confrontation of the disease. The campaign to fight plague took the form of four phases that ultimately helped Ecuadorian public health experts bring plague cases under control and eradicate the disease. This was not done, however, without assistance. On the one hand, the general Ecuadorian population seemed willing enough to follow the recommendations set by Miño and his staff: disinfection, fumigation, whitewashing, and other new scientifically hygienic measures. On the other hand, foreign experts from the United States were also instrumental in the eradication of the disease. By 1930, Ecuador had succeeded in eradicating the disease as a result of several intersecting factors. First among these was the constant vigilance of a public health apparatus that focused on information gathering and familiarity with the zones most affected. Second was the implementation of public health measures that focused on cleanliness, disinfection, and elimination of the rodent vector. Finally, it was the epidemiological and entomological expertise of Americans Dr. John D. Long and Dr. Clifford R. Eskey who dedicated themselves to the epidemiological studies of plague in Ecuador that helped seal the fate of the disease. Thus, the ambitious public health policies of Dr. Miño and his colleagues, combined with an infusion of new technology and expertise and the disinfecting of homes and public spaces, led to the nearly complete eradication of plague from the country in the 1930s. In the end, Ecuador's campaign against plague was married to Ecuador's modernizing drive of the late nineteenth century. In other words, modernization led to the eradication of plague in Ecuador and the disease's eradication was, in turn, a way by which to modernize the peripheral sectors. The evidence s questions the notion that modernization and modernity had always negative impacts on autochthonous communities. The case of Ecuador's highland areas illustrates that despite some unintended consequences there exist exceptions critical of modernization and that peripheral communities or peoples did indeed benefit from and, more importantly, took advantage of the scientific hygiene that was a product of turn-of-the-century epidemiological and microbiological knowledge.

  • America's Socrates: Sidney Hook and American Higher Education

    Author:
    Matthew Cotter
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Martin Burke
    Abstract:

    There was little that was uncontroversial about Sidney Hook (1902-1989), one of the foremost intellectuals, let alone philosophers, in America. He has long been regarded in contemporary intellectual circles and recent scholarship for his explication and philosophical analysis of German Idealism as a means toward understanding the roots of Communism, his superb expositions of John Dewey's pragmatism, his secular humanism, or for his almost militant anticommunism. This dissertation, however, examines a different dimension of his thought, namely the reception of his pragmatism as an educational philosophy. Ignored by most historians of American intellectual life, it was a comprehensive and systematic approach bent on clarifying and subsequently ameliorating the widespread cultural changes wrought by the Great Depression. From his post as chairperson at New York University's Washington Square College, he was among the first to eagerly and constructively press the range and import of Dewey's ideas to face the urgent educational problems facing higher education. When not engaged in matters related to the rise of European fascism or the famous Show Trials in the Soviet Union, Hook spent the bulk of his career introducing an entire generation of educators, administrators, and laymen to pragmatism's possibilities as a viable social philosophy. In so doing he initiated a lifelong debate with representatives of the St. John's Program over the nature, scope, content, and future of higher education. In so doing he recast the character of American Pragmatism.