The Institute for Research on Women and Gender has awarded 23 graduate students funding to support wide-ranging projects related to women, gender, and sexuality.
The awards include one Boyd/Williams Fellowship for Research on Women and Work, 12 IRWG/Rackham Graduate Research Fellowships, and 12 Community of Scholars (COS) summer fellowships.
The students were selected from a highly competitive pool. Their diverse set of projects demonstrates the scope of women and gender studies at U-M.
Graduate student recipients their awards, projects and statements about their work include:
English Language and Literature, COS
“States of Identification: Gender Variance, Racial Rhetoric, and the Politics of the Photo ID”
Using the case of Lynn Edward Harris, the first recorded individual to receive a gender-responsive photo identification card without gender reassignment surgery, as a framing narrative, I investigate the relationship between photo identification, compulsory gender enforcement, and racialization in the second half of the 20th century. I argue that, by trafficking in dominant logics of whiteness and normative embodiment, Harris’ case marks a shift in how everyday photo-identification documents became technologies of exclusion. In doing so, I reposition transgender and intersex legal arguments for gender-responsive documentation as indelibly intertwined with the contemporary racist deployment of voter ID law legislation.
Anthropology and History, Rackham Graduate Research Fellowship
“‘Mama Africa’ The Concept of Matriarchy in Afro-Brazilian Religion”
My proposed project discusses the history of female power in Afro-Brazilian religious communities with an attention to the particularities of precolonial West African gender relations. The research seeks to address the following question: How does matriarchy become reconfigured in Afro-Brazilian religion as a memory of the African past? To discuss this, I use secondary sources to question the concept of “matriarchy” and to explore empirical histories of precolonial West African gender relationships. I then conduct original research in Bahia, Brazil, to explore the particular reinvention of Africa in this context through a focus on women’s authority in Afro-religious spaces.
School of Information, Rackham Graduate Research Fellowship
“Technological Support for Emotion Regulation and Healthy Eating Behavior in Women”
This research explores how mobile health apps can be designed to support the weight-management efforts of overweight and obese women who are emotionally driven eaters. Existing weight-loss apps tend to focus on the self -monitoring of weight, diet, and physical activity, thereby potentially turning app-supported weight management into a data-driven experience, rife with opportunity for “failure” if behavioral goals are not met. Therefore, this research aims to extend the paradigm of apps to address the lived realities of women who engage in emotionally driven eating in such a way that best promotes an overall sense of well-being, self-care, and self-empowerment.
“Ethics of Cuteness: Doll Play and Children’s Performance of Motherhood”
I analyze an episode of free play in which two girls act as mothers and caregivers to two inanimate objects whom they treat as their babies. I use this video clip as a lens into questions of the aesthetics of cuteness and the obligation implied by it. The vulnerability with which cuteness is often charged does not always render the cute object passive; rather we should look at the ways such vulnerabilities can act as powerful invitations to engagement. This project challenges us to think about the role of imagination in the constitution of childhood, femininity, and motherhood.
Communication Studies, COS
“The Playboy Pad: Negotiating Gender and Domestic Space in Postwar Magazines”
This project utilizes archival research and textual analysis to compare the intersecting discourses of gender, sexuality, race, class, taste, and domesticity that circulated within Playboy and women’s and home magazines from 1953 to1972. By focusing on the spatial configurations of the playboy lifestyle, this project seeks to complicate narratives of white, middle-class, suburban conformity; challenge existing narratives of the role of the bachelor pad in the playboy lifestyle; and provide further insight into anxieties over postwar masculinities by examining the role of architecture and design in negotiating relations of gender, sexuality, class, and taste.
“The New Gay Science: The (Re) Emergence of Biological and Genetic Theories of Sexuality”
Scientists and the public alike have increasingly adopted a biologized and/or geneticized conceptualization of (homo) sexuality. While biological scientists conduct research searching for the “gene for” homosexuality, the youngest generation of LGBT youth has taken up Lady Gaga’s anthem that they are “born this way.” Popular discourse about sexuality draws heavily on evidence from psychology in order to make claims about the biological fixedness of sexuality. My project explores this epistemic culture and its consequences for LGBT acceptance, inclusion, and civil rights. I investigate how constructionist theories of sexuality declined in the wake of new genetic and bio-psych tools and expertise.
Amy P. Cadwallader
Dance/School of Music, Theatre and Dance, Rackham Graduate Research Fellowship
“Researching Pole Arts in North America: The Development of New Choreographic Methodologies”
My research focus is to develop a choreographic methodology for pole arts, built on a foundation of ballet and modern-dance practices. My analysis of videos from established training resources and live performances of successful pole artists will enable me to create dances that highlight the gravity-defying acrobatics of pole arts. I will collaborate with U-M dancers to design pole dance choreography for presentation at academic, pole, and arts events. My research will acknowledge current and past views of pole dancing as erotic entertainment, and I will reclaim its theatrical origins to legitimize pole arts as an emerging art form.
“Mitigating the Effects and Legacies of Abortion Bans and Economic Austerity: Humanitarian Aid for Romania in the 1980s and 1990s”
My work studies networks of humanitarian lay practitioners in the Soviet Bloc that emerged to remedy the Romanian pronatalist and economic austerity policies of the 1980s and after 1989. In particular, I trace the flows of private aid to women and their families organized by East German feminist groups through extensive care package campaigns and illegal border smuggling. In doing so, I recuperate the unwritten history of a noninstitutionalized form of humanitarianism, notably its intersections with feminist transnationalism, women’s sexuality, and the politics of humanitarian aid.
English Language and Literature, Rackham Graduate Research Fellowship
“The Climbing Days of Dorothy Pilley”
My project revolves around the examination — in Magdalene College, Cambridge — of the letters, notebooks, and picture postcards produced by a remarkable British 20th century climber, mountaineer, and traveler: Dorothy Pilley. My essay, resulting from a consultation of her materials, will introduce a long-overdue chapter in the story of world mountaineering — thus inflecting the predominant narrative of masculine and manly exploration, encounter, and conquest into one that recognizes the creativity, grace, and sheer elegance of the women who accessed places of great beauty and hardship, and wrote about the wide, wide world with vigor, humor, deep intelligence, and great generosity.
Stephanie T. Fajardo
History, Rackham Graduate Research Fellowship
“Gender and Sexual Labor in the Post-WWII Philippines”
My project examines the efforts of the U.S. military and local officials to regulate sexual labor in the post-WWII Philippines. The designs of these interventions, and the form they ultimately took, figured the Filipina (female) prostitute as a threat to military strength, security, and the overall national well-being. These designs had a major impact on the lives of ordinary people. My research contextualizes the politics and cultural effects of this regulation, focusing on how the trope of the Filipina prostitute became a political tool for not only the U.S. military but also educated Filipinos, though for different purposes.
English Language and Literature and Women’s Studies, Rackham Graduate Research Fellowship
“Family History: Intimacy and Imperialism in U.S. Women’s Writing, 1870-1900”
This dissertation studies 19th-century popular U.S. historiography by excavating the historical narratives embedded in writing by women published between 1870 and 1900. While studies of this pivotal phase of U.S. expansion have long demonstrated that the racialized dynamics of conquest are fundamentally gendered and sexualized, they have overlooked the extent to which female-authored domestic texts created and popularized mythologies of the open West. By interweaving literary analysis with quantitative methods for coding new archival data, this project reveals how the work of a diverse group of women writers offers critical insight into popular imaginings of the US past.
Anthropology, Rackham Graduate Research Fellowship
“Pink Collars in Red China: Law and Affect in Chinese Women’s Everyday Lives”
My dissertation examines how female teachers as an emerging class of pink-collar workers in China and their employment disputes are key junctures of gender, law, and affect, where government promises for “rule of law” compete with citizens’ skepticism and their experiences with economic transition. Through participant observation in schools, a legal aid center, law firms, and courts, focusing on how teachers come to articulate their grievances, I ask what is “the law” and what kinds of gendered, moral, and emotional selves do people become when expectations for “justice” and “fairness” are narrativized and performed in terms of the law.
Katherine Jean Lennard
American Culture, COS
“Made in America: Violence, Industry, and the Bodies of the Ku Klux Klan, 1902-40”
In 1923, a small group of white women sewing in a nondescript factory in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, made 200,000 identical robes for members of the Ku Klux Klan. Shipped in unmarked packages to towns like Butte, Montana, and Columbus, Ohio, these garments materialized the ideology that the organization’s leaders promoted: the natural supremacy of white, Protestant, heterosexual, native-born American men. I argue that the factory’s gendered operations were a concrete example of Klan leaders’ attempts to present the organization as simultaneously modern and yet also nostalgic alternative to the social transformations that shaped the early 20th century.
“Good Girls, Bad Acts: How Sex-Workers-Turned-Missionaries are Redefining Moral Personhood in Detroit”
Focusing on Detroit as a case study, this project is an ethnographic analysis of “strip club missionaries,” a rapidly expanding national network of women (including former and current sex workers) who mix social service outreach with religious proselytizing at strip clubs, massage parlors, and pornography conventions. I theorize how practices emerging from this movement are linked to the gendered structuring of conservative Christian politics on a national scale, and how intervention groups use different understandings of labor, religious doctrine, and carceral feminism to mobilize resources to their former coworkers. As such, this project examines a shift in sexual disciplining within American Christianity just as it tells a story about women’s economic survival in the postindustrial Midwest.
Health Behavior and Health Education/School of Public Health, COS and Rackham Graduate Research Fellowship
“Exploring Intersectional Approaches between the Environmental Justice and Reproductive Justice Movements”
There is increasing interest among women’s organizing and indigenous movements in creating alliances between the environmental justice and reproductive justice movements in order to protect vulnerable communities from toxicants harmful to reproductive health. My dissertation examines how advocates working at this intersection are framing their work, with implications for cross-movement collaboration. Advocates will be able to use study findings to strengthen organizing efforts to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with environmental reproductive health inequities in communities of color and low-income communities.
“Of Women, Faith, and Nation: American Protestantism and the Kyrias School for Girls, Albania, 1891-1933”
This project examines the convergence of American Protestantism and nationalism to bring Albanian women into the public sphere between 1891 to1933. I build a narrative around the first Protestant mission for Albanian speakers, in Ottoman Görice (Albanian Korca), and the girls’ school that Albanians, Americans, and others administered for 40 years. It chronologically tracks women’s activism–moving between the Ottoman Empire, the United States, and independent Albania– through a number of empirical articles: from participation in mission work and education, in part one, to branch out into broader fields like national politics, and publication, in the second half of the dissertation.
Verónica Caridad Rabelo
Psychology and Women’s Studies, Boyd-William Fellowship
“Embodied (In) Visibilities: An Intersectional Examination of Janitors”
Janitors’ work is rarely noticed, unless performed incorrectly or not at all. Research on cleaners primarily examines the stigma of ‘dirty work’ at the expense of considering the invisibility of janitors. I offer invisibility as an analytical lens to understand the personal and work lives of janitors from diverse social locations. My intersectional framework draws from embodiment, habitus, and dirty-work theories. Semistructured interviews with 20 janitors will be analyzed using grounded theory and narrative inquiry, emphasizing gender, race, class, and immigrant status. Ultimately, narratives will illuminate transformational institutional practices to recognize janitors for their essential contributions to the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus.
Education Studies/School of Education, Rackham Graduate Research Fellowship
“The Pickens County Project”
Although studies have documented the experiences of teachers who worked in segregated schools in America, few historical accounts of African-American students’ lived experiences in segregated and desegregated schools exist. This project will examine the lived experiences of female African-American students who attended the segregated Rosenwald schools in Pickens County, Alabama. My research will use narrative inquiry to examine the lived experiences of African-American women who attended the Rosenwald schools and transitioned into desegregated schools in the south and north.
Rita C. Seabrook
Psychology and Women’s Studies, COS and Rackham Graduate Research Fellowship
“Greek Life and Gender Strife: The Relation between Fraternity Culture and Traditional Sexual Scripts, Sexual Violence, and Objectification of Women”
This project will examine college students’ thoughts about gender roles and sexuality. Special attention will be paid to the ways in which traditional ideas about men and women (e.g. men are only interested in sex, all women want to be in a relationship) affect young people’s satisfaction with their own romantic relationships.
Adrian Joseph Shin
Political Science, Rackham Graduate Research Fellowship
“Gender as a Bargaining Outcome: Economic Growth and Gender Equality under Authoritarian Regimes”
Research on economic growth and gender equality takes society’s accepted notion of gender for granted and attempts to assess how a patriarchal culture or the lack of employment opportunities hinders women’s political participation and rights. This approach is problematic for understanding women’s social status in authoritarian regimes where governments constantly seek to embed their ideal notion of society, including gender roles. My research argues the authoritarian governments, firms, and citizens constantly bargain over society’s notion of gender and relevant policy reforms, and elaborates on the mechanisms through which women under East Asian authoritarian regimes have redefined their gender roles while women in the Persian Gulf have made little progress.
Comparative Literature, COS
“‘Ayse Loves Fatma’ Representations of Lesbian (In) Visibility from Turkey”
Looking at three representations (literary, artistic, cinematic) of lesbian identity and intimacy from Turkey, I interrogate the relationship between the lesbian subject and the public space, and analyze the ways in which these works of art subvert state-sanctioned narratives of gender and sexuality. In contrast to previous queer scholarship in Turkey that has predominantly focused on cultural productions by or about gay men, my project aims to draw attention to representations of lesbian identity and intimacy in order to contribute to the formation of an archive of lesbian works, and to theorize the particularities of lesbian (as opposed to gay male) representation, visibility and invisibility within the Turkish context.
Dance/School of Music, Theatre & Dance, Rackham Graduate Research Fellowship
“The Visibility Project”
As a part of my embodied research practice, I have documented moments, images, and texts that help address my research questions about issues of genderqueer identity politics, power, and issues of surveillance. I use binaries such as seeing/being seen, having voice/being voiceless, and visibility/invisibility as springboards for my creative work. With the support from IRWG, I would be able to investigate these themes through the convergence of several media including dance, set design, and digital media technology. Produced in the Duderstadt Video Gallery in Winter 2015, this project aims to examine the edges of visibility in the creation of gendered and queered bodies.
Emily Jean Youatt
Health Behavior and Health Education/School of Public Health, COS
“Coming Out to Your Doctor: Interrogating Sexual Orientation Disclosure in Clinical Encounters”
The medical community emphasizes sexual identity disclosure (“coming out”) to health-care providers as a key component to improving the health of sexual minority women. Calls for disclosure persist despite scant evidence about the health benefits of this practice. Beyond potentially exaggerating the health benefits of coming out to providers, calls for disclosure have yet to theoretically situate disclosure decisions in the broader context of the sexual minority women’s lives, fail to consider disclosure among multiply marginalized women, and do not make clear whether women should disclose their sexual identity, attraction, or same-sex behavior during clinical encounters. Focusing on these three shortcomings, my project critiques coming out to providers as a strategy for improving the health of sexual minority women.