IRWG awards 2018 graduate student fellowships


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

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

This year’s Boyd/Williams Dissertation Grants for Research on Women and Work were awarded to doctoral students Sandhya Narayanan and Marzia Oceno. The award supports projects that promote knowledge about and enhance understanding of the complexities of women’s roles in relation to their paid and unpaid labor.

The dissertation fellowship is named for sisters Ruth Rodman Boyd, a longtime community activist, and Shirley Rodman Williams, who had a long career in the Detroit business community.

The award includes financial support for doctoral dissertation expenses such as books, travel, production or exhibition costs, software, data collection, payment of subjects or other types of support needed to complete the project.

IRWG/Rackham Community of Scholars summer fellowships were granted to 10 graduate students from 10 disciplines, broadly ranging from the social sciences to the humanities and health-related fields.

The Community of Scholars program supports Rackham graduate students who are engaged in scholarly research or other creative projects focusing on women, gender or sexuality.

All awardees participate in a weekly seminar during May and June, and continue their research during July and August. Awardees will present their work at a public symposium in the fall semester.

The recipients of the Boyd/Williams Dissertation Grants for Research on Women & Work and their projects are:

Sandhya Narayanan

Market Women and the Politics of Indigenous Language Use in Puno, Peru

This project will investigate the social politics of indigenous language use among indigenous market women, who self-identify as cholitas, as they navigate local indigenous language ideologies, indigenous political movements, and changing conceptions of race and ethnicity through working in the public markets of Puno, Peru. Narayanan focuses on how the cholitas’ varying fluencies in Quechua and Aymara (the two main indigenous languages of the region) and Spanish enable them to be successful business women, and how their linguistic practices fit within the larger socio-linguistic landscape that engenders and racializes indigenous language speakers.

Marzia Oceno

Political Science
Will Any Woman Do? Feminists’ and Non-Feminists’ Support for Female Political Candidates

Theories of descriptive representation often posit that citizens are drawn to people from groups with which they identify. This literature, however, has very mixed results when it comes to gender. Women do not consistently support female political candidates. Why is this the case? This study argues that a crucial role is played by two distinct identities that are mostly orthogonal to gender itself: feminism and non-feminism. Oceno proposes a novel survey experiment examining how and to what extent both voters’ feminist/non-feminist identities and candidates’ cues about their own feminist/non-feminist ideology impact support for female candidates.

IRWG/Rackham Community of Scholars Fellowship recipients and their projects are:

Meagan Chuey

School of Nursing
Constructing a Theory of Refugee Health to Understand Reproductive Decision-Making in Refugee Women

The purpose of this study is to develop a theory of refugee health, which will guide research examining reproductive decision-making in refugee women. While over 65 million people worldwide are refugees, approximately half of whom are women, no theory exists to guide exploratory or clinical research regarding these forced migrants. Traditional migrant theory fails to recognize both the contributions that gender has on decision-making, and the important distinctions between elective and forced migration. This study will utilize theory analysis and synthesis, with integration of findings from interviews with refugee women resettled in Michigan, to develop a gender-informed refugee health theory.

Bri Gauger

Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
Feminism and Urban Planning History: A Revisionist Account

The rise of feminism in the United States converged with a pivotal moment in urban planning’s history, as the discipline broke away from a singular focus on physical land use and emerged as an applied social science marked by grassroots engagement. Because the contributions of feminist thought and activism to this transformation are largely absent from planning’s intellectual history, Gauger traces this lineage of feminism in the planning academy since 1965. Using cross-generational oral histories, archival documents and scholarship, Gauger examine how ideas traveled between feminism and planning and assesses their impacts on contemporary planning theory and education.

Joseph Gamble

Women’s Studies and English
Desiring Desire

In this chapter of his dissertation, Gamble uses the homoerotic relationship between Rosalind and Celia in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” as a conceptual lever for prying open the concept of “desire.” Working outside of a Freudian libidinal model in which desire is an expression of an innate force, Shakespeare’s play offers up a lesbian-like relationship in which desire is an affect one learns to inhabit. By centering lesbian-like desire, this chapter attends to gender, sexuality and class as mutually constitutive fields of power and epistemological processes in the play in order to offer a new theory of desire.

Jallicia Jolly

American Culture
“I’m Not Sick”: Critical Embodiment of Illness, Sexuality, & Self-Making Among HIV-Positive Jamaican Women

This dissertation examines the lived experiences of 16 HIV-positive young women who participate in Eve for Life, a sectarian psychosocial support group for HIV-positive young mothers in Kingston, Jamaica. Based on 14 months of fieldwork, the study melds ethnographic methods like semi-structured interviews, focus groups and oral history, with a theoretical optic that draws from critical race theory, feminist theory and cultural studies. The project foregrounds black female intimacy, desire and agency to study the self-making strategies that young HIV-positive Jamaican women use to refashion themselves as autonomous subjects while navigating entrenched norms of respectability, sexuality and physical health.

Tugce Kayaal

Eastern Studies
Adolescent Sexuality and Same-Sex Male Desire: Orphan Boys in Ottoman Konya during World War I (1914-1918)

This project analyzes the disciplining of adolescent boys’ sexuality and same-sex desire by focusing on the House for Orphans in the Ottoman city of Konya during World War I. During the war, the Ottoman state and society stigmatized orphan boys as “sexual deviants” who needed to be “fixed” in institutional settings in order to become proper men and citizens. Kayaal analyzes the condemnation and criminalization of adolescent boys’ same-sex behavior and desire against the backdrop of various institutional attempts at cultivating norms of modern citizenship and sexuality in wartime Ottoman Empire.

Peggy Lee

American Culture
Infrastructures of Care: Visualizing Crisis and Composure in Asian Racialization

This project theorizes (trans)national crisis and composure as central mediations in how Asian racialized bodies are seen/unseen, felt and “composed” within the shifting logics of racial and global capitalism. “Care,” through the optics of gendered labor, is both method and praxis, and guides approaches to literary and visual analyses. From 19th century coolie labor and the invention of the first-aid kit to the ongoing drug crises in the United States and Philippines, crisis and composure are bounded visual ideologies deeply ingrained in the perception and management of racialized others by governing institutions and the national imagination.

Andrea Rottmann

Germanic Language and Literatures
Queer Home Berlin? Everyday lives, subjectivities, memory of queer people in the divided city, 1945-1970

Rottmann’s dissertation, “Queer Home Berlin? Everyday lives, subjectivities, memory of queer people in the divided city, 1945-1970” reconstructs queer life-worlds in East and West Berlin between the end of the Second World War and the era of gay liberation. The third chapter brings together court, prison and psychiatric files, oral history interviews and other autobiographical materials to examine places of involuntary confinement in both parts of the divided city as a significant, if often hurtful, part of the experience of queer Berliners. Subjects that have previously seen little scholarly attention, such as women in lesbian relationships, trans people, and men who did not experience legal persecution are the focus of this project.

Sonia Rupcic

Redressing Sexual Wrongs in a Former South African Homeland

Drawing on 24 months of fieldwork in South Africa, Rupcic’s dissertation considers how survivors of rape pursue justice in a post-apartheid landscape of legal pluralism. From hair salons to courts, church to chiefs, this research tracks the biographies of sexual encounters through a variety of social spaces, observing material and discursive practices as they shape or do not shape indeterminate grievances into recognized categories of transgression. This project bridges anthropologies of law, African political theory and feminist jurisprudence, proceeding from the experience of survivors and their loved ones in order to inform new theories and practices of gender justice.

Sara Stein

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. Current literature uses the problematic language of “re-victimization,” which objectifies women, placing them in a passive role; personhood and agency are absent in this model. This study approaches the repetition of a cycle of IPV from a gendered perspective, focusing on women’s agency in partner selection, to explore the individual and social factors that affect this agency. Through the identification of the mechanisms linked to IPV re-engagement, this research aims to contribute to the creation of treatment and prevention interventions that treat women as active subjects.

Sunhay You

Women’s Studies and English
Comfort Women: Troubling Pathways to Law, Justice, Dignity

Transnational law and binational agreements continue to fail at bringing justice to Korean comfort women who were forced into brothels that serviced the Imperial Japanese military during the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-45). Sunhay You argues that these failures call for re-examining the romance that buttresses the law as the primary institution that can secure justice, especially as the law reinforces colonial logics of empire and patriarchy. She reads the novel “Comfort Woman” by Nora Okja Keller for how it troubles this romance, for reimagining justice as having more to do with constructing networks of care that can give witness to narratives that exceed singular events of injury.


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