CANCELED: Graduate Salon: Ryan Bell and Brian Wright

Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 12:00 pm to 1:20 pm
Speaker(s): 
Sponsor(s): 
Program in American Studies

Ryan Bell

Candidates running for office from marginalized backgrounds face added hurdles relative to comparatively privileged ones, but the effect of associations with marginalized groups on comparatively privileged ones is an undertheorized topic in social science literature. Ryan’s project explores further whether and how racism, sexism, and heterosexism impact voters’ perceptions of candidates with close ties to marginalized backgrounds and — using an intersectional framework —investigates how these biases might play out differently for members of different social groups.

Graph of Ryan Bell's findings

The project first leverages the close ties between Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton with President Obama to demonstrate that Clinton is penalized more by racial resentment than Biden when each is associated with President Obama, suggesting that the racialization process is more complicated and can be affected by factors such as gender. In a second experiment, Ryan then manipulates the social identities of candidates running for office and whether those candidates are endorsed by groups advocating on behalf of historically marginalized groups such as women, people of color, and LGBT people. He finds evidence that these endorsements matter as much, if not more, in shaping people’s support for candidates running for office than the candidate's gender, race, and sexuality. Respondents appear to use these endorsements as indications of which groups a candidate will likely support while in office and whether the candidate will support or challenge the existing social hierarchy. Moreover, the evidence suggests that the effect of endorsements on candidate evaluations is stronger for some candidates than others, with comparatively privileged groups such as white men not being penalized as much as those that are (intersectionally) marginalized on the dimensions of race, gender, and/or sexuality. The evidence also suggests that the opposite result plays out under certain circumstances: respondents with low levels of sexism, heterosexism, and racial resentment are more likely to positively evaluate candidates with group endorsements than those without them. Together, these results suggest that the effects of a candidate's ascribed identity and in- and out-group evaluations are intimately tied to perceived group loyalties and are more complex and than ascribed identity alone.

Brian Wright

When the United States seized half of Mexico’s territory in 1848, the government and its settler legions had quite a bureaucratic headache ahead of them. What to do with all this conquered territory? How would they organize and govern the deeply ambivalent people of Mexico's former northern hinterlands? And what were they going to do with all the paper that these shaky frontier governments left behind?

Diseño del Rancho La Boca de la Cañada del Pinole (drawn land case map)

Diseño del Rancho La Boca de la Cañada del Pinole, Land Case Map A-321; BANC MSS Land Case Files 138 ND, p. 102; Bancroft Library, Berkeley, California.

Brian spent the summer trying to figure out how agents of the U.S. government, Indian peoples, upstart lawyers, everyday settlers, and a small army of oddball scholars encountered, collected, and thought about the archives of Spanish and Mexican California. Brian’s project hopes to trace how a series of ambitious Mexican governors made a last-minute effort in the 1830s and 1840s to give their colonization regime some legal force and put their vernacular state apparatus on paper. After the 1849 Gold Rush, land grant files, sketch maps, Franciscan diaries, government correspondence, and administrative treatises found their way into courtrooms and living rooms across the new state. Hispanic settlers plucked personal records from their basements to prove their claims to some of California’s most valuable and fertile land. White historians quietly plundered private homes and abandoned missions for scraps of what they saw as a long-departed Spanish paradise.

As they got more and more acquainted with the material residue of the past (and more distant from the past itself), Californians of all stripes agonized about the world they’d wrought. How would they remember the dramatic transformations introduced by American conquest? By the turn of the 20th century, scrappy antiquarians and restless academics had churned out stacks of enormous history books chronicling every recorded moment in the history of the region. And yet the quest for the past remained elusive. The Mexican archives would not simply relinquish the truth of yesteryear or explain the meaning of America’s “Wild West” — those mysteries would endure.