IRWG announces 26 research awards for graduate students


The Institute for Research on Women and Gender and the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies have awarded funding to graduate students for wide-ranging projects related to women, gender and sexuality.

IRWG/Rackham Graduate Student Research Awards and IRWG/Rackham Community of Scholars summer fellowships were granted to 24 students from 16 disciplines, broadly ranging from the social sciences to the humanities and performing arts.

Two Boyd/Williams Dissertation Grants for Research on Women and Work were awarded to Charnan Williams and Patrick Meehan.

The graduate students were selected from a highly competitive pool. Their diverse set of projects demonstrates the scope of women and gender studies at U-M.

Read more about the Rackham graduate students and their projects below.

Boyd/Williams Dissertation Grants for Research on Women & Work were awarded to:

Charnan Williams

Ph.D. candidate, history
Claiming Property: Enslaving Black Women and Female Children in Antebellum Los Angeles, California

Although scholars and the general public assume that pre-Civil War California was a free frontier space, this work argues that an interrogation of guardianship laws from 1850-65 reveals that for black women and girls in “free” Los Angeles it often represented a place of slavery and servitude. Guardianship laws in California were not just a form of coercive labor practices, but were a thinly veiled legal designation to allow slaveholders to maintain ownership of enslaved female children by identifying them as wards of the state, despite the claims of their parents and other relatives.

Patrick Meehan

Ph.D. candidate, social work and political science
The Gendered Office: Women and Making a Difference Through Elected Office

This project develops and tests a new measure of behavior called political primacy that provides clarity on why some individuals are interested in running for office while others are not. Through interviews with candidates and non-candidates, and surveys of students in social work and law, Meehan explores the relationship between gender socialization and the value that individuals place on elected office as an instrument for making a difference.

IRWG/Rackham Community of Scholars Fellowships were awarded to:

Nurolhoda Bandeh-Ahmadi

Ph.D. candidate, anthropology
Anthropological Generations: A Post-Independence Ethnography of Academic Anthropology and Sociology in India

This ethnography charts several generations of anthropologists and sociologists associated with three North Indian academic departments from India’s independence in 1947 to the present. Drawing on anthropological studies of kinship to analyze these scholars’ ideas and practices surrounding generational relations and intellectual genealogies, Bandeh-Ahmadi provides a way to examine academic genealogies as socially produced (and sometimes competing) ideas affecting how scholars conceive of their academic worlds.

Lauren Benjamin

Ph.D. candidate, comparative literature
H.D.’s Feral Worlds

This project utilizes close reading of Hilda Doolittle’s posthumously published semi-autobiographical novel “Hermione” to argue for what Benjamin calls “feral modernisms” — or a ragged and unpredictable relationship with home. Working at the intersection of feminist critical animal studies and new modernist studies, Benjamin proposes an interdisciplinary understanding of how H.D.’s novel intertwines race, science, sexuality, gender and national belonging.

Annie Bolotin

Ph.D. candidate, English language and literature
Postmodern Poetess: Formal Experimentation and Political Engagement in Contemporary American Poetry by Women

This project tracks the idea that “the personal is the political” to examine how it has transformed from a second wave feminist slogan to a contemporary reckoning with globalization, imperialism, racism and nationality as forces shaping everyday experience. Through case studies of major American women poets, Bolotin illuminates how readers are asked to conceptualize their relationship to global politics and articulates how those visions contribute to contemporaneous understandings of the relationship between individual citizens, national politics and globalization.

Allison Caine

Ph.D. candidate, anthropology
Restless Ecologies: Socioenvironmental Transformations in the High Andean Grasslands

This research examines how alpaca herders — largely monolingual Quechua women — observe, evaluate and respond to environmental changes in their daily interactions with the animals and landscapes of the high Andean grasslands. It examines how changes to the landscape and shifting seasons are interpreted and addressed through the socio-environmental and spatial practices of animal husbandry, and articulated through idioms of relatedness between humans and non-human others.

Spencer Garrison

Ph.D. candidate, sociology
Gender, Rendered: Embodied Identity Management in Digital Worlds

With internet use and online community participation now more ubiquitous than ever before, it is critical to understand how these technologies may be working to shape the identity and presentation of their users (both online and offline). This dissertation asks how a specific cohort of users — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 — work to “triangulate” their self-presentation across four profoundly different online contexts: a social-networking site (Facebook), an image-sharing application (Instagram), a community oriented toward social blogging (Tumblr), and community-specific discussion forums.

Mary Hennessy

Ph.D. candidate, Germanic languages and literatures
Handmaidens of Modernity: Gender, Labor, and Media in Wilhelmine and Weimar Germany

This project analyzes the remarkably gendered history of German media during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hennessy suggests that women who worked as typists, film editors and telephone operators during this period were essential to the production and maintenance of culture, business, communication, industry and social life, and that the actions that structured their labor were essential to the material and discursive development of new media technologies.

Filipa Melo Lopes

Ph.D. candidate, philosophy
Gender, Disability and Social Standing

This project explores a parallel between gender and disability as normative social identities starting from the hypothesis that norms about both ability and gender are ‘fundamental’ to our social practices: they both have a special ubiquity, centrality and persistence. Drawing from earlier research, Lopes argues that ability norms, unlike most other social norms, work similarly as preconditions for social standing. If this is right, there may be common challenges for social change regarding both gender and disability.

Vivian Luong

Ph.D. candidate, music theory
Rethinking Music Loving with Ethnographies of Music Analysis

This dissertation investigates an implicit ethics in music theory — an investment in the discipline as a loving practice concerned with the proper ways of engaging with music. Luong examines a notion of love that spans mainstream as well as feminist and queer music theory — a love fixated on the relationship between a listener and music. Expanding on feminist and queer critique in music theory, Luong rethinks love as a force that produces relations beyond this dyad.

Jennifer Rubin

Ph.D. candidate, women’s studies and psychology
#fragilemasculinity: The Role of Masculinity Expectations and Anonymity in Men’s Harassment of Women in Social Media

While harassment of women in social media is receiving increasing attention, there is less attention to how masculinity expectations may drive some men to perpetrate online gender harassment in the first place. This project considers how technology may enable harassment, yet men’s motivations for harassment may be grounded in performances of masculinity and maintaining hierarchical gender relationships.

Sangita Saha

Ph.D. student, history and women’s studies
Transforming Domestic Labour, Constructing “Worthy” Selves: A Study of Women’s Autobiographies from 19th and 20th Century Bengal

This project focuses on the significance of domestic labor for women in colonial Bengal in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. Saha examines women’s labor practices through autobiographies written in the vernacular to explore the ways in which women in colonial Bengal constructed a sense of self through their labor.

Severina Scott

Ph.D. student, history and women’s studies
“We Fell for Vel”: Vel Phillips and Milwaukee’s Civil Rights Movement

This project explores past and present segregation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, centering on Vel Phillips, Milwaukee’s first women and African American council member. Phillips’s activism and political agenda that introduced fair housing legislation in the 1960s illuminates the history of segregation in this northern city. Scott will examine newspapers, council meeting tapes, newly available photographs, and oral histories through an analytic of gender, race, class and space.

ToniAnn Treviño

Ph.D. candidate, history
Narcotics, Family Networks, and State Imposed Stigma: Policing the Mexican Community in 1950s Texas Through Kinship and Gender

This paper investigates how lawmakers framed Mexican women as active participants in the drug trade in 1950s Texas, and the subsequent ways that law enforcement officials policed kinship networks as criminal enterprises. Treviño examines: Senate testimony on the Narcotics Control Act of 1956 regarding families and women drug bosses; Bureau of Narcotics surveillance in residential areas; and photographs from local law enforcement agencies documenting drug raids in Mexican homes.

IRWG/Rackham Graduate Student Research Awards were awarded to:

Sergio Barrera

Ph.D. student, American culture
Queer Latinx Performance: Resisting Confinement through Intimacy, Desire, and Love

This project applies a gothic/dystopian lens to two Latinx plays, through the analysis of sexuality in confined spaces. One play is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and the other in a prison. Barrera argues that these Latinx characters employ intimacy, desire and love as methods of resisting the social, institutional, and physical gaze that confines them with the goal of humanizing their performed sexuality in a space of confinement.

Cristian Capotescu

Ph.D. student, history
Giving in the Time of Socialism: Economic Life, Humanitarianism, and Mobility in Europe 1950s-1990s

This dissertation studies the little-noted engagement of women in charitable volunteer work in socialist Eastern Europe. It explores the ways in which feminist groups in East Germany and Hungary organized informal assistance to socialist Romania since the 1970s. This study recuperates the transformative, if often obscured, ethical practices appropriated by female volunteers through seemingly mundane acts of assistance and investigates the crucial role of sexuality and reproduction in the morally loaded non-enumerative labor regimes in socialism.

Amira Halawah

Ph.D. candidate, psychology
Pathways to College Major Selection: A Consideration of Both Race and Gender Socialization

Gender and racial diversity in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields in scant, and varies greatly between sub-disciplines of STEM. This project aims to further the body of literature on the underrepresentation of women in STEM by examining how racial and ethnic variation in gender norms and attitudes contribute to differences in STEM identity and college major selection.

Adriana Carolina Heredia

A.Mus.D. candidate, music composition

This dissertation is a multimedia work for string quartet, dance and interactive video entitled Ausencias/Ausências/Absences. It takes its artistic impetus from the last writings of three South American women poets who took their own lives: Violeta Parra, Alfonsina Storni and Ana Cristina Cesar.

Michelle Jones

Ph.D. student, sociology
Transnational Sex Wars Online & Off: Human Rights Discourses, Identity, and Postcolonial Contestation

This project compares Korean LGBT and unwed mother’s rights movements to explore how participants negotiate community belonging, identity formation and rights claiming in interaction with international NGOs, overseas, and transnational groups online.

Michelle May-Curry

Ph.D. student, American culture
Such Fine Familiarities: Caroline Bond Day and Mixed-Race Kinship Networks

In the late 1920s, Caroline Bond Day, a mixed-race black anthropologist and Harvard University master’s student, collected genealogical and anthropological data on 346 mixed-race black and white families. Many of the subjects were members of prominent black families of the New Negro Movement and Harlem Renaissance. This study uses Day’s archive as an entry point into a discussion of what a politicized mixed-race identity looked like during the New Negro Movement.

Robert Maynard

Master of Fine Arts student, dance
Dance Film and the Internet as Queer Landscape

This project is a dance film and original web platform that constructs a digital world through choreography and computer programming to explore online queer male identities. A virtual labyrinth of material, it uses internet-based interactions like popups and surveys to prompt viewers and allow them to navigate their way through original videos, GIFs, and audio tracks.

Stephen Molldrem

Ph.D. candidate, American culture
Programming Queer Health: Data Infrastructures and the Politics of LGBTQ Health in the United States and Metropolitan Atlanta

Molldrem’s project describes, firstly, how the interests of institutionalized LGBTQ political actors have come to play a central role in the reorganization of the U.S. health care system’s data policies and technological infrastructures, and, secondly, how local actors in LGBTQ health and HIV/AIDS care are responding to federal policy shifts. The research analyzes how new “big data” epistemologies and the development of health IT infrastructures grounded in “interoperability” principles structure the politics of sexuality, gender, and health care.

Jessica Moorman

Ph.D. candidate, communication studies
Sex, Lies, and Dating Advice: An Investigation of Black Oriented Relationship Media Use and Sexual Risk Taking Among U.S. Black Women

Guided by black feminist theory, this dissertation project uses interviews and a survey to explore how black-oriented relationship media — advice books, magazine articles, movies, pornography and television programs advising, representing, and reporting on b lack relationships — influences the sexual health of its target audience, single black women, ages 25-45 years.

Molly Paberzs

Master of Fine Arts student, dance
In Performance: the construction of female identities alongside feminist approaches within ensemble improvisation

Molly Paberzs and her collaborator Sadie Lehmker produced “Between Tomorrows,” a dance performance event on March 25 at the North Campus Research Complex. The installation event explored the connections between memory, place, and female identity through the lens of perceived, constructed and false self-narratives.

Sara Stein

Ph.D. student, psychology and social work
Unpacking Women’s Involvement with Multiple Violent Intimate Partners

Women exposed to intimate-partner violence often report involvement with multiple violent partners. This study explores women’s agency in partner selection to better understand the individual and social factors that contribute to repeated cycles of intimate partner violence.

Emily Vargas

Ph.D. candidate, psychology
Identity Crisis? Perceived Identity Conflict and Perceptions of Leadership Ability by Gender of Leader

This study uses a new measure to assess how leaders manage perceived conflict between their gender identity and their identity as a leader. The goal is to better understand and ameliorate underrepresentation of women in elite leadership positions.


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