2016 Research Winners

Richard Anderson, Department of History.   My dissertation, entitled “The City That Worked: Machine Politics and Urban Liberalism in Chicago, 1945-1969,” examines public administration and electoral politics in the archetypal Democratic city to trace the arc of urban liberalism in the postwar United States. While many observers, at the time and since, allude to “Chicago politics” or “the Democratic machine,” few have investigated just how the machine system worked or how it came to be. My dissertation explores the means and motives of the Cook County Democratic Organization led by Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, the most resilient urban machine in the United States and a bulwark of the national Democratic Party. Popular memory of the Chicago machine remains fixated on the late 1960s, when political repression and public corruption discredited the Daley administration. Yet by recovering an earlier period when Daley represented the apogee of postwar liberal governance, my project recasts our understanding of urban machine politics and modern liberalism itself. Moving beyond the rigid distinctions scholars have drawn between conservatism and liberalism in the United States, my project argues that postwar liberalism was much more protean. The Democratic machine under Daley represented multiple liberalisms. At heart, the history of machine politics in Chicago challenges narratives of “liberal decline” and “conservative ascendency” that have dominated the literature on 20th-century U.S. political history. I demonstrate that progressive and reactionary tendencies co-existed within American liberalism throughout the postwar era.

Grace Carey, Department of Anthropology.  Grace's work explores the meaning of place and community amongst Charismatic and other devout Catholic communities in the United States, primarily in southeastern Michigan and southwestern Florida. She is interested in how these communities and spaces are dreamed, constructed, and lived through placemaking, economic and legal systems, and imaginaries of nostalgic and utopic space. Her work focuses on the history of Catholic intentional community since the Charismatic Renewal Movement of the 1970s into the present with the building of a privately owned town centered around a Catholic University and promoting Catholic values and lifestyle. She is interested in what it means to be a moral citizen as an individual that co-interacts with these privatized spaces and the legal system at large and the processes of developing social organization and infrastructure to manifest vision into material space.

Chaya Crowder, Department of Politics.  The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has ignited dialogue and action about racial politics across the United States and internationally and it has worked to activate an "intersectional" political consciousness among young Black people in particular.  This paper combines information from face-to-face interviews that I have conducted with BLM organizers with text analysis of BLM-related organizations' postings on the micro-blogging platform Twitter to explore the extent to which the intersectional frame of the Black Lives Matter Movement is reflected in its online and elite-level discourses.  In particular, I use this evidence to analyze the extent to which and the ways in which BLM organizers' claims to place intersectionally marginalized groups such as women, queer, transgender, and disabled folks at the center of the movement are evident in the issues they address in their online activism.  Does their professed commitment to intersectional liberation embolden them to address issues within the Black community that have been ignored by traditional mainstream Black leaders and organizations?

Liora Goldensher, Department of Sociology. How do ordinary people in the United States interact with and shape science and politics in their most intimate familial moments?  When expectant parents in the contemporary United States decide where and how to give birth, private decisions are placed on public terrain. Birth and early parenthood constitute a brief—yet widespread—moment of encounter and sometimes conflict between family, state, and medical and scientific institutions. My research examines the practices of parents and care providers in the contemporary natural birth community in the United States.  I pay particular attention to questions of political subjectivity, online communities and the place of machines and technology in natural birth, and care providers’ and parents’ engagement with scientific and social scientific knowledge.

James Sasso, Department of Politics.  Scholars have investigated the expansion of federal judicial power as a relatively secular phenomenon; governmental growth along with statutes inviting increased litigation have pushed more issues to be decided in courts. Political scientists and legal scholars have also documented how politicians attempt to use the courts to their advantage when they would rather avoid sensitive issues such as abortion, a form of judicial empowerment reliant on political choices. This project adds a third dynamic—political polarization between national Democrats and Republicans—and hypothesizes that federal courts are becoming increasingly powerful because political parties, either through allied interest groups or on their own, have decided to litigate each other. In a polarized era, the unlikelihood of legislative action has made the courts attractive to politicians. The project will attempt to establish a pattern of litigation for important pieces of federal legislation (i.e. who brings lawsuits and how quickly) and then will examine groupings of cases (i.e. health care, environmental, or voting rights) as evidence of this changing judicial role.

Jennifer Soong, Department of English.  Before it found a place in the canon, the project of Modernist American poetics in the 20th century emerged as a performative and creative act, successful only insofar as it believed in the validating function of its own linguistic practice. Often drawing from its own unestablished authority, the avant-garde, though reactionary, claimed to be the last reactionary endeavor, at once liberating change from “change from” or “change as against” the status quo. The poetic manifesto and critical establishment of a new “set of measures, standards, voltometers” legitimized Modernist experimentation by setting itself up as both a creative and social act: the critique (of culture, politics, language) and the poem could not longer belong to separate spheres, as each would come to depend on the other. My project—which stems from an interest in radical poetics—thinks about how the Poundian tradition of self-education came to influence the various modes of curation, correspondence, performance, pedagogy, and publishing in the middle and late 20th century. Taking Ezra Pound as the multifarious figure of a subsequently diverse counter-tradition, my project attempts to locate the “margin” as both a physical and nonphysical/stylistic space in American poetic history. What is the aesthetic and political space of appearance and participation—which is to say: what is its form and formation? How do physical points of convergence in bookstores, readings, and publishers themselves fit into the alternative stories told by letter correspondence, literary dissemination, and the self-creation of an abstract but open tradition that interweaves styles as distinct as those of Leslie Scalapino, Lew Welch, Michael Palmer, Gary Snyder, etc.?