2017 Research Winners

Jessica M. Cooper, Department of Anthropology.  Mental health courts (MHCs) are novel criminal courtrooms that aspire to move individuals whom the state has convicted of a crime and diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder out of jails and into community mental health programs. Rather than merely outsource clinical care, these criminal courts actively manage and administer mental health care to individuals in their charge. Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in MHCs and their attendant clinical spaces in the San Francisco Bay Area, this dissertation examines the systems of evidence and ethics practiced in courtrooms-made-clinics. How does structural change in the criminal justice system reorganize political and affective relationships between offenders—considered clients in this context—and the state? The project hews closely to interpersonal relationships between clients and courtroom professionals to ask how care influences and directs statecraft.

Ahmad Greene-Hayes, Department of Religion.  In 1975, Alice Walker penned “Looking for Zora,” which appeared in Ms. Magazine. Within the piece, Walker documented her own journey to find Zora’s unmarked grave, sequestered under moss and weeds in a segregated cemetery in Eatonville, Florida. Like her final resting place, her literary work too had been forgotten. Taking Walker’s lead, as a scholar of Black religions, African American and Africana religious histories, and gender and sexuality in the context of Black church communities, and also as the descendent of conjurers, healer women and preachers from Americus, Georgia, Ahmad Greene-Hayes’ work “looks for Zora Neale Hurston” in the Southern Lowcountry, but also in the archives of Black religious life, especially as it pertains to Black Pentecostalism in the Americas. In particular, his project charts genealogies of relation, transformation, and resonance between African rituals and religious traditions, Hoodoo/Voodoo, conjure, Black magic, and other Lowcountry Black rituals to Black Pentecostalism in the 20th century, through the repertoire of Zora Neale Hurston and the Black people of faith she worshipped with and chronicled in her novels, academic texts, and folklore projects.

Janet Kong-Chow, Department of English.  Scholars rightfully note that black print culture in the American South had to overcome particularly arduous obstacles and hostile circumstances, from its earliest beginnings during the era of slavery. In Mississippi, as one example, law and custom decreed slaves were not allowed to learn to read or write, and at any black assembly—including religious gatherings—whites also had to be present. It was, furthermore, illegal to train any black persons as typesetters. The relative scarcity in surviving copies of Southern black periodicals makes it even more difficult to formally outline a history, let alone fully discern the ‘culture’ part of black print culture. To theorize on black print and the black press is often to consider the production of space within white culture—itself a production of a similar kind of space (the “mainstream” press), but controlled by a hegemonic class. Broadly speaking, this project seeks to interrogate race and cultural production within highly constrained environments and circumstances, asking: what do the intersections of precarity, radicalism, and (re)memory offer us as tools for understanding new forms of citizenship and belonging?

Sarah Matherly, Department of History. In the nineteenth-century United States hundreds of experimental communities formed and dissolved, characterized by a combination of chiliastic zeal and a faith in the rational and progressive basis of society. The communitarians behind these endeavors were motivated by the discrepancies in American life between freedom and bondage, affluence and want, capital and labor. They sought not revolution but reorganization: they viewed their communities as laboratories, where social scientists searched for the fairest and most efficient ways for people to live and work. My dissertation tells the story of one of these communities, Topolobampo, founded on the northwestern coast of Mexico in 1881 by a civil engineer named Albert Kimsey Owen. Topolobampo was to serve as the terminus for a transcontinental railroad he designed. It was to be a marvel of technological innovation, commercial vigor, and global trade, but it was also to be a worker-owned cooperative and a model of how capitalism and community might reinforce each other rather than competing. With its combination of rigorous social examination and the business of railroads, shipping, and agriculture, Topolobampo illustrates vividly the ways in which communitarians, far from withdrawing from mainstream society, were in fact deeply engaged in the project of national and global development. Communitarianism was neither a utopian dream nor a passing moment in American antebellum reform, but rather a malleable and enduring international movement that evolved in order to address the increasing imbalance of wealth and power in the late nineteenth century.

Shay O'Brien, Department of Sociology.  Local elites have long marketed Dallas, Texas as racially harmonious and business-friendly, even as they work to maintain dominance over what remains a highly unequal city. The tension between those interests has been particularly salient during the “racial crises,” highly visible disruptions to or consequences of the racialized social stratification system, that have punctuated city history since its beginning. I will begin my work this summer examining two crises in particular: the rise and fall of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s and school integration in the 1960s. Dallas is a perfect case study for tensions like these due to the city elite’s exceptional level of control and focus on city image. Further, as Dallas shares exaggerated versions of many of the features of cities in the middle and Southern U.S., and because it has only been the focus of a handful of works by historians and journalists, it is sorely in need of attention from social scientists. 

EB Saldaña, Department of Anthropology.  EB's work focuses on adolescent psychiatric residential treatment facilities (PRTFs) in Kentucky. Her work focuses on how organizations that provide long-term residential care and treatment to young women in Kentucky's child welfare system articulate care giving, service labor, and relationality in the commonwealth. This summer, she is exploring meanings of family, kinship, and accountability among staff in these types of facilities, and how caregivers understand the role of "the family" in treatment outcomes for their clients. She is also delving more deeply into the history of child welfare institutions in the Commonwealth, contextualizing youth institutions within the broader history of religious welfare organizations. She is particularly interested in the writings of Saint Mary Euphrasia, who founded several child welfare institutions across the United States.