Student Research

2011 - 2012 Student Thesis Topics

S.M. Gray

Thesis Topic: This paper explores connections between social justice and music through the work of LGBT and queer musicians. Using a combination of personal interviews and research, each chapter highlights contemporary queer musicians and links their musicking with past music scenes, sociohistorical moments, and musicians. Beginning with the growing visibility of the LGBT population in the 1960s, I gradually move forward chronologically through the twentieth century to present-day, grounding the music scene of the era within the context of coinciding LGBT and queer politics, gender and sexuality academia, and feminist and queer theory. I simultaneously link each music scene to the present-day, offering examples of its legacy in contemporary queer music, and comparing the social justice work of today with the work of past decades. Using a matrix that examines the functions of musicking within social movements and how they connect with queer musicians’ modes of engagement, this paper delves into the value of musicking within a broader transformative social justice framework, and seeks to articulate ways in which music might contribute to social justice. More specifically, this work considers the unique role of queer musicians within contemporary social justice initiatives and considers the ways in which queer musicians might best engage in today’s transformative social justice framework.

Jiezhen Wu

Thesis Topic: "Community in Education: Lessons Learned from Around the World" (This thesis is under embargo until May, 2015)

2010 - 2011 Student Thesis Topics

Hilary Allen

Thesis Topic: Since the decision of Roe v. Wade, abortion discourse in the United States has been a heated debate between two polarized views. The ruling of Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1991) and the redefinition of "undue burden" made it possible for states to propose and enact more stringent abortion restrictions. Through a Peace and Justice Studies framework, I am investigating abortion access in Mississippi and West Virginia, not through the direct prohibition of abortion, but through indirect legislation that has severely limited access to abortion and other family planning services.

Sarina Bajwa

Thesis Topic: Social injustice and inequality pervade the world and attempts at reform and development never seem to reach the core of the problem or find a solution. Education has long been considered a means of empowerment and a method to provide equal access, but what happens when education is in fact perpetuating inequality? The issue of education inequity in the United States and abroad provides an insight into the perseverance of structural violence in the sociopolitical arena. The practices of education today often create an access gap that hinders society from reaching a more equitable and democratic reality. Through the narratives of children in the U.S. and across the world, the detrimental effects of structural violence in education are realized. In turn, a hope for a movement towards peace education and the establishment of structural liberty can be realized.

Hannah Catzen

Thesis Topic: Living in an ashram teaches you to celebrate little victories as the beginnings of large-scale change -- the smile of a three-year-old orphan, the blossom of a plant in a polluted concrete jungle, the laugh of a student after their first day in school. This change may appear to be trite and insignificant in Varanasi, India, where poverty, pollution, and corruption pervade every aspect of society, but it is change at this level that is necessary for sustainable global reform to even begin. Bal Ashram, a spiritual community and a grassroots-based NGO on the banks of the Ganges River, effects change slowly, but effects change truly, on both the individual and community level. My thesis explores both levels of change by alternating between a qualitative, observation-based analysis of the ashram and a memoir of my own experiences living there.

Annick-Marie Jordan

Thesis Topic: What is social exclusion? Who are socially excluded, and what is their experience characterized by? What historical systems and institutions have led to their exclusion, and what contemporary systems have sustained this exclusion? The nonprofit sector and the educational system are seen as traditional solutions to the problem of social exclusion; however, both are ineffective and problematic. The fragmentation of the nonprofit sector, as well as the inability of the educational system to change the social realities of the population fail to elicit real change in the lives of the socially excluded. How can new intervention strategies be developed and what are some immediate and long-term solutions to the conflict?

Josephine Kabambi

Thesis Topic: The occurrence of rape during the Congo wars and its continuance following the signing of peace accords have captured Western media attention as activists and politicians have worked to end the impunity of, and break the silence behind, wartime rape. The news media has played an important role in (re)producing several themes concerning not only rape "victims," but also the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a country. Media reinforces many stereotypes and creates dichotomies of "us/them" and "our/their actions and characteristics." It is therefore important to analyze and understand the ways in which the media we consume contains certain racist, sexist, and imperialistic assumptions. In this talk, I will reveal some of prominent themes present in BBC News reporting on wartime rape in the DRC.

Yasmin Kassam

Thesis Topic: On August 22, 1996, President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA, or "welfare reform"). PRWORA instituted a five-year ban on documented immigrants accessing some federal benefits like Medicaid. For documented, pregnant immigrant women who are unable to pay for prenatal care out of pocket, this five-year ban essentially blocked access to prenatal care. I look at the implications of this ban from various rights discourses (human rights, citizen rights, fetal rights) and social justice perspectives (from Liberation Theology to feminist theorists) to better understand the "justice" implications of this policy for documented and pregnant immigrant women.

Vivian Secaida

Thesis Topic: The first step to understanding the access to food as a human right is by analyzing the documents from which this imperative originated. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has published a methodological toolbox on how societies should try to secure adequate food for all because it is a basic human right. The idea of a human right is not only a moral imperative, but also a legal obligation. My thesis focuses on the idea of food entitlements and the rights-based approach to development, which are new phenomena of modernity. I first evaluate the history of these concepts before understanding why developing countries need to conform to this doctrine.

2009 - 2010 Student Thesis Topics

Katarina Dechert

Thesis Topic: Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala experienced a bloody and repressive Civil War, during which the government killed over 200,000 people. As the war dragged on, Maya peasants, as the primary targets of the violence, began to demand an end to the violence and to the unjust and oppressive social system. Indigenous women in Guatemala were at the forefront of this movement for peace, and continue to lead the efforts to pressure the government for justice today. Such women have spoken out against the war and organized against it. In my thesis, I share a story of the peace-builing efforts of Indigenous Maya women that incorporates their suffering, their strength, and their agency, in the effort to bring peace and justice to Guatemala.

Jennifer Hatch

Thesis Topic: Disadvantaged states are predisposed to poor outcomes in international environmental negotiations, but sometimes achieve unexpected success. What are the factors that lead disadvantaged states to achieve good outcomes in environmental negotiations? Examining ten international environmental negotiations over the past forty years, I perform an analysis of factors that may affect outcomes for disadvantaged states. The results indicate the common-pool-resource-likeness, congruity, symmetry and negotiator involvement all positively affect outcomes for disadvantaged states.

Kathryn Soderholm

Thesis Topic: Bioethics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the ethics of science, medicine, and related research and technology. As each new development provokes further bioethical debate, the question arises as to the role of scientists in such debate. Currently, scientists do not offer much beyond facts that they have the most active role in the overall process. Few scientists have bioethics training, although the number is increasing. However, there is little requirement for or availability of such training at the undergraduate level. This talk presents a series of proposals to add bioethics to the science curriculum of Wellesley College, either by adding a bioethics requirement to the relevant majors, or, perhaps more effectively, by incorporating bioethics training into class curricula.