Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • Alien Spaces: Planning, Reform, and Preservation on the Lower East Side, 1880-2002

    Author:
    Rebecca Amato
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Gerald Markowitz
    Abstract:

    In this project, I trace the ways in which reform and urban planning discourses, shored up by a desire for ethnic and racial regulation, defined the Lower East Side as an "alien space," both removed from and problematic for the rest of New York City over the long twentieth century. I argue that this sustained discourse of "alienness" in the service of regulation - varying from Progressive reform efforts at the turn of the twentieth century to the racially-charged citizen participation efforts of the mid-twentieth century urban renewal era to the battle for community preservation in the face of increasing gentrification at the turn of the twenty-first century - had a direct impact on the built environment of the Lower East Side. This approach to the neighborhood's formation and development not only links language (the discursive production of the area) with action (its demolition, construction, reconstruction, and preservation), it also highlights the profound fissures that existed in liberal reform, particularly with regard to race and ethnicity. Even when ambivalence toward the Lower East Side's ethnic population was not readily apparent, as in the language of social science and the maps of urban planning, it was implied by ongoing questions about the fitness of Lower East Siders to determine the fate of their own neighborhood.

  • For Love and for Justice: Narratives of Lesbian Activism

    Author:
    Kelly Anderson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Blanche Cook
    Abstract:

    This dissertation explores the role of lesbians in the U.S. second wave feminist movement, arguing that the history of women's liberation is more diverse, more intersectional, and more radical than previously documented. The body of this work is five oral histories conducted with lifelong activists and public intellectuals for the Voices of Feminism project at the Sophia Smith Collection: Katherine Acey, former Executive Director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice; Dorothy Allison, author and sex radical; Suzanne Pharr, southern anti-racist organizer and author; Achebe Powell, activist and diversity trainer; and Carmen Vázquez, LGBT activist and founding director of the San Francisco Women's Building. Taken together, their stories dovetail into a new narrative about the relationship between lesbians, feminism, and queer liberation, from the late 60's to the present. In addition to the edited transcripts, this dissertation includes a new chronology of gender and sexual liberation, demonstrating the interconnectedness of late 20th century social change movements, and a chapter on oral history methodology. This work adds to our collective knowledge about lesbian lives by sharing five important life narratives, contributes to a re-imagination of the vast and intersectional scope of second wave feminism and sexual liberation, and attempts to disrupt conventional methods of documenting and sharing history by privileging oral narratives.

  • Ethnicity in Hagiography: The Case of Darerca/Moninna/Modwenna/Modwenne in the British Isles, Seventh to Thirteenth Centuries

    Author:
    Diane Auslander
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Thomas Head
    Abstract:

    Abstract ETHNICITY IN HAGIOGRAPHY: THE CASE OF DARERCA/MONINNA/MODWENNA/MONINNA IN THE BRITISH ISLES, SEVENTH TO THIRTEENTH CENTURIES By Diane Peters Auslander Adviser: Professor Thomas Head This is a contextual study of four related hagiographies written from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries in the British Isles. It is probable that there was a seventh-century original that is no longer extant much of which was retained in the tenth-century life. The saint herself is Irish and the earliest name we have for her is Darerca, but her name changes as the lives are rewritten. She is called Moninna in the eleventh-century life, Modwenna in the twelfth-century vita, and Modwenne in the thirteenth-century vie. Darerca is an Irish saint who lives and travels within Ireland and her Irishness is retained throughout these vitae. In the Life of St. Moninna, however, the saint's persona has been conflated with the legends of other saints of the British Isles, many of whom are difficult to identify with any certainty. Moninna's hagiographer includes her Irish journeys, but has her traveling to Scotland and England. In England, she is said to have founded Burton Abbey in the midlands, indicating that her name had become confused with that of a St. Modwenna whose relics were buried at Burton Abbey. In the early twelfth century, the abbot of Burton Abbey rewrote the Life of St. Moninna, retaining its Irish elements, but making it more relevant to an English audience. In c.1235, the text was reworked again at Burton in Anglo-Norman verse. The period during which these four lives were written was one of almost constant movement of peoples and mingling of ethnicities in the British Isles.. For some newcomers, such as the Vikings, the processes of resistance were succeeded by varying degrees of assimilation. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, however, there developed a virulent institutionalized ethnic hostility toward the Irish. Therefore this study examines these lives through the lens of ethnicity, ethnogenesis, assimilation, and bias.

  • Ethnicity in Hagiography: The Case of Darerca/Moninna/Modwenna/Modwenne in the British Isles, Seventh to Thirteenth Centuries

    Author:
    Diane Auslander
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Thomas Head
    Abstract:

    Abstract ETHNICITY IN HAGIOGRAPHY: THE CASE OF DARERCA/MONINNA/MODWENNA/MONINNA IN THE BRITISH ISLES, SEVENTH TO THIRTEENTH CENTURIES By Diane Peters Auslander Adviser: Professor Thomas Head This is a contextual study of four related hagiographies written from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries in the British Isles. It is probable that there was a seventh-century original that is no longer extant much of which was retained in the tenth-century life. The saint herself is Irish and the earliest name we have for her is Darerca, but her name changes as the lives are rewritten. She is called Moninna in the eleventh-century life, Modwenna in the twelfth-century vita, and Modwenne in the thirteenth-century vie. Darerca is an Irish saint who lives and travels within Ireland and her Irishness is retained throughout these vitae. In the Life of St. Moninna, however, the saint's persona has been conflated with the legends of other saints of the British Isles, many of whom are difficult to identify with any certainty. Moninna's hagiographer includes her Irish journeys, but has her traveling to Scotland and England. In England, she is said to have founded Burton Abbey in the midlands, indicating that her name had become confused with that of a St. Modwenna whose relics were buried at Burton Abbey. In the early twelfth century, the abbot of Burton Abbey rewrote the Life of St. Moninna, retaining its Irish elements, but making it more relevant to an English audience. In c.1235, the text was reworked again at Burton in Anglo-Norman verse. The period during which these four lives were written was one of almost constant movement of peoples and mingling of ethnicities in the British Isles.. For some newcomers, such as the Vikings, the processes of resistance were succeeded by varying degrees of assimilation. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, however, there developed a virulent institutionalized ethnic hostility toward the Irish. Therefore this study examines these lives through the lens of ethnicity, ethnogenesis, assimilation, and bias.

  • Sex and the Nation: Sexuality and Criminal Justice in Revolutionary Mexico, 1920-1940

    Author:
    Ira Beltran-Garibay
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Susan Besse
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the way in which notions of sexuality were interpreted and reworked by the criminal justice system and the citizens that fell under its purview during the decades immediately following the revolutionary struggle in Mexico. The dissertation examines legal and criminological literature as well as a sample of four hundred and fourteen cases drawn from Mexico City criminal and juvenile courts. The cases include criminal offenses such as rape and seduction, and homosexuality, prostitution, incest, indecent behavior and indiscipline in the home among minors. It traces the foreign and national influences that shaped the Mexican criminological establishment's views on sexuality and argues that despite major reforms to the criminal justice system after the Revolution, many continuities existed between Revolutionary legal approaches to sexuality and those of its Profirian predecessor. At the same time, the dissertation examines closely the way in which court officials during the 1920s and 1930s constructed arguments and reached court decisions. In this way, the dissertation shows the way in which old notions of honor and sexual purity were put to the test under the new Revolutionary regime. It reveals how traditional understandings of sexuality could coexist with "modern" notions. An examination of the cases reveals what conflicts could occur between reform-minded government officials and the general public that sought the intervention of the courts to solve disputes of a sexual nature. Finally, the dissertation shows how the Revolutionary criminal justice system could only be successful when the goals of the public officials coincided or, at the very least overlapped with those of the citizens that were involved in the court trials.

  • For Right and Might: The Militarization of the Cold War and the Remaking of American Democracy

    Author:
    Michael Brenes
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Robert Johnson
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines how Cold War defense spending shaped the evolution of American political culture and public policy from the 1940s until the 1990s. It argues that the Cold War economy contributed to the realignment of American politics in the postwar era. The fight against global communism abroad altered the structure, purpose, and public perception of the federal government following World War II, but also subsidized corporations, suburban communities, and individuals affected by defense spending. The militarization of the Cold War therefore created various dependents of America's military and defense apparatus that continuously pressed for more defense spending during the Cold War, even if increases in the military budget were strategically and economically gratuitous. Americans in communities dependent upon defense contractors for employment and economic growth lobbied their political representatives to allocate more defense contracts to their towns, while defense companies and contractors formed alliances with activists, politicians, defense workers, and labor unions to ensure their profitability in the face of cuts to the defense budget. The combination of these forces created a unique "Cold War coalition" that worked to keep the defense economy active in shaping the domestic and foreign policies of the United States. As the constitutive elements of the defense economy were threatened with defense cuts and a thaw in the Cold War after the 1960s, they increasingly gravitated toward political figures and officials who promised continued defense spending. After the economic crisis of the 1970s, residents of such "Cold War communities" saw job losses to inflation and stagnation, but also to a drawdown in the Vietnam War and the era of détente. By the end of the Cold War, communities reliant upon the Department of Defense for employment supported "conservative" proposals for the reduction of federal taxes and government influence in regulating local economies, while also campaigning for additional federal defense contracts to keep local economies afloat. By exploring the realignment of American politics through the context of global events--and their impact on local politics--this dissertation considers how the personal livelihoods and political prejudices of Americans shaped both national politics and foreign affairs.

  • Crossroads: New York's Black Intellectuals and the Role of Ideology in the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965

    Author:
    Kristopher Burrell
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Clarence Taylor
    Abstract:

    Abstract CROSSROADS: NEW YORK'S BLACK INTELLECTUALS AND THE ROLE OF IDEOLOGY IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, 1954-1965 By Kristopher Burrell Adviser: Dr. Clarence Taylor This dissertation studies the importance of New York City, and the black intellectuals who gathered there, to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The figures discussed here merit the term "intellectual" because they were makers and purveyors of many ideas that sustained and broadened the movement. Studying key activist-intellectuals from across the ideological spectrum allows for a more complete understanding of the importance of ideas in propelling the movement. Looking at the ways in which black intellectuals evolved and used different ideologies in pursuit of racial equality is another way of demonstrating African American agency. This study writes against the characterization of the civil rights movement as primarily fueled by emotionalism and impulsive. Black intellectuals actively sought to plot out the course that the movement would take. This dissertation continues to move civil rights historiography away from the notion that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X provided the only two approaches for achieving racial equality by demonstrating that there was a broader spectrum of ideologies that African Americans used and adapted in trying to successfully prosecute their struggle to secure racial equality. Instead of merely two approaches--liberal integrationism and black nationalism--I argue that there were four main ideologies in conversation and contention with one another during this period--racial liberalism, conservatism, leftism, and black nationalism. This dissertation also contributes to the growing literature on the civil rights movement outside of the South. I make two main arguments about the significance of New York City to the movement. First, New York was important because institutions of every political and ideological stripe sank roots into and influenced the intellectual and cultural milieu of black New York and black America. Second, black intellectuals who were drawn to the city flourished because they sampled the extraordinary variety of ideas on display as they matured intellectually and developed their own strategies for growing and sustaining a national movement for social, political, and economic justice. For these reasons, New York is deserving of further study in relation to civil rights agitation and activism.

  • The New Deal in Puerto Rico: Public Works, Public Health, and the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration, 1935-1955

    Author:
    Geoff Burrows
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Laird Bergad
    Abstract:

    During the 1930s, Puerto Rico experienced acute infrastructural and public health crises caused by the economic contraction of the Great Depression, the devastating San Felipe and San Ciprián hurricanes of 1928 and 1932, and the limitations of the local political structure. Signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration (PRRA) replaced all other New Deal activity on the island. As a locally-run federal agency, the PRRA was very unique and yet very representative of the "Second" New Deal in the United States--which attempted to move beyond finding immediate solutions to the most critical problems of the day and make permanent changes to social and economic life for all U.S. citizens. As the first archival analysis of the PRRA, this dissertation argues that the PRRA actively shifted federal policy in Puerto Rico from a paradigm of relief to one of reconstruction focused on the island's specific needs in the wake of the hurricanes and Depression. This shift mirrored the larger change from the laissez faire individualism of the 1920s to the more prominent use of federal power to intervene in socioeconomic life during the New Deal. By building the island's first truly public works and establishing its first public authorities to administer them, the PRRA constructed a new public infrastructure capable of addressing three interrelated goals: increasing life expectancy through concrete interventions in public health; providing more egalitarian public access to a safer and more permanent built environment; and limiting the private corporate control of Puerto Rico's natural resources. Designed by Puerto Rican engineers and built by Puerto Rican workers, PRRA public works projects made concrete contributions to the physical security of millions of Puerto Ricans through the construction of hurricane-proof houses, schools, hospitals, roads, sewers, waterworks, and rural electrification networks. These projects not only made lasting contributions to local social and economic life, they also had a transformative effect on Puerto Rican politics during the 1940s and the meaning of U.S. citizenship for Puerto Ricans in the twentieth century and beyond.

  • The Fight Over John Q: How Labor Won and Lost the Public in Postwar America, 1947-1959

    Author:
    Rachel Burstein
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Joshua Freeman
    Abstract:

    This study examines the infancy of large-scale, coordinated public relations by organized labor in the postwar period. Labor leaders' outreach to diverse publics became a key feature of unions' growing political involvement and marked a departure from the past when unions used organized workers - not the larger public - to pressure legislators. The new recognition of the liberal public as an important ally and the creation of a program for targeting it signaled larger shifts in the American labor movement: the embrace of bureaucracy akin to other major postwar institutions; the promotion of politics over collective bargaining as the defining objective of the labor movement; the prominence of a new, educated class of labor leaders; and the deradicalization of American unionism in favor of the postwar liberal consensus. The dissertation details PR approaches of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and Congress of Industrial Organizations' (CIO) at particular crisis points in the late 1940s and 1950s, after World War II and before the emergence of the civil rights movement and New Left. These campaigns were responsive and defensive and showed the difficulty labor leaders had in controlling the terms of debate, even as they were successful in maintaining rhetorical popular support. The case studies examined in this dissertation are: 1) the AFL and CIO's efforts to defeat the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947; 2) the role of politics - particularly the 1948 election and the third party campaign of Henry Wallace - in forcing CIO leaders to expel communist unions from their ranks; 3) the 1955 merger of the AFL and CIO and labor's efforts to counter the trope of "big labor" in a world in which large institutions and elite groups increasingly vied for control; and 4) the AFL-CIO's efforts to redefine itself in the face of accounts of union corruption during Congressional hearings on racketeering in organized labor from 1957 to 1959. In all of these cases, labor leaders positioned themselves and the union members they represented as part of a larger public committed to the same political objectives. Ultimately, this was a losing bet; they traded relevance for acceptability.

  • ENVISIONED COMMUNITIES: AFRICAN AMERICAN LIFE AND THE MOVING PICTURES, 1896-1927

    Author:
    Cara Caddoo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Stuart Ewen
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the role of cinema in the modern black experience and the generative role that African Americans played in the creation of American modernity. Two questions animate this study. First, how did African Americans consolidate their institutions and social bonds amid the distending forces of turn-of-the-century migration? Second, how and why did cinema--as a location, medium, and set of practices--become so important to the collective articulation of black identity in the early twentieth century? By mapping the patterns of turn-of-the-century migration with the development of black cinema practices from 1896 to 1927, this project traces black economic, social, and cultural practices across space and time. It begins in the post-Reconstruction period, when African Americans looked inward to fortifying the institutions that stood at the center of black life. Yet at the same time, hundreds of thousands of black migrants were departing the countryside for the urban South and West. At this curious juncture when black life was both turning inward and expanding outward, African Americans used film as a tool for collective racial progress. Black churches, halls, and schools hosted moving picture exhibitions, which brought the race together and raised money for the construction of buildings that conspicuously demonstrated black material progress. Eventually black film exhibition moved into colored theaters, which became celebrated monuments of black life and public claims to urban space in the Jim Crow city. During this time, African Americans associated race and cinema primarily with tangible, physical locations. Yet when colored theaters started to compete with black religious institutions, middle class blacks were forced to reconsider the ideas of racial uplift, which championed both piety and black-owned businesses. After 1910, a series of events--including Jack Johnson's victory as heavyweight champion of the world--further shifted the focus from the exhibition site to the screen. Black conceptions of freedom and natural rights based on new sensibilities of racial representation informed the first mass protest movement of African Americans in the twentieth century as well as transnational formations of racial identity articulated by the race film industry.