Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Meaning Making at the Interface of Gender, Disability, and Policy: Physically Disabled Women in London and Coventry, England Explore the Covention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

    Author:
    Heidi Bjorgan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Anna Stetsenko
    Abstract:

    Historically, persons with disabilities are socially, culturally, and economically underprivileged and neglected worldwide (WHO, 2006, 2011) and this is especially true of women with disabilities. The intersection between women's gender and their disabilities, although overlooked for many decades, has been described as the phenomenon of a dual handicap. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD, 2006) was created to protect the rights of all people with disabilities and, for the first time in history, identified women with disabilities as a population that has unique rights and needs that warrant special legislation and protection. This qualitative study explores the lived experiences of physically disabled women living in England, while contextualizing them within the discourse on disability rights within the sociocultural and historical-political context (England). The lived experiences of physically disabled women are posited to be mediated by human rights documents as well as by political discourses and practices that surround and accompany these documents. Framed in socio-historical cultural theory (Vygotsky, 1978) and Bakhtin's (1986) dialogical works, this study investigates how policy documents are meaning-making systems (Daiute, 2008, 2010) that shape and serve as the tools to organize and frame disabled women's experiences. Narratives collected through group meetings with 18 physically disabled women in London and Coventry, England, were first analyzed using a values analysis (Daiute, Stern, & Lelutiu-Weinberger, 2003) to understand the interactions between the CRPD and women's lives. Then a discourse analysis of group narratives and policy documents (Daiute, 2008) was conducted across the CRPD (2006) and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979) as activity- meaning making systems. Finally, a historical analysis of disability and gender within the UK and the UN was conducted. The major findings indicate that the intersection of gender and disability is historically absent within UK and UN activity-meaning systems (Daiute, 2008, 2010) as enacted in the CRPD and CEDAW treaty. The values analysis revealed disability and diversity education at local levels (schools, councils, hospitals) and their own participation in local politics, specifically for Lambeth, with a high level of value expressions. Surprisingly, both groups given their right to have a family and a home took an opposing view to the CRPD values. Interestingly, both groups described social practices such as staring, being ignored by others as being issues within their daily lived experiences, but still provided a subjective view to Article 6: Women and Disabilities. The study suggests that there is a need for further research on disabled women's perspectives and experiences within the discourse of human rights in order to develop socio-political practices that support rather than isolate disabled women.

  • Claiming Space, Redefining Politics: Urban Protest and Grassroots Power in Bolivia

    Author:
    Carwil Bjork-James
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Marc Edelman
    Abstract:

    This dissertation analyzes the role of space-claiming protests by primarily left grassroots social movements in Bolivia's current political transformation. Space claiming includes mass protests that physically control or symbolically claim urban space through occupations of plazas and roads, sit-ins, blockades, and other measures. As a theoretical construct, space claiming brings together tactics of collective action and meanings of public spaces, and looks at the consequences of their interaction. This dissertation is based on ethnographic engagement and oral interviews with protest participants and their state interlocutors during twelve months of fieldwork and archival research. By using detailed ethnographic evidence--of social life as experienced through the human body, the meanings attached to places, and social movement practices--it explains how grassroots movements exerted leverage upon the state through pivotal protest events. This study shows that the political import of these protests arises from their interruption of commercially important flows and appropriation of meaning-laden spaces in cities like Cochabamba and Sucre. Social movements used spatial meanings, protest symbols and rhetoric to build an imagined community of interest and sovereignty, which claims the right to direct the political course of the state. The presence of indigenous bodies, symbols, and politics in these spaces challenged and inverted their longstanding exclusion from power. The largest mobilizations exercised control over aspects of daily life that would otherwise be organized by the state. These interruptions of commerce and circulation, and the collective gatherings that directed them posed an alternate possibility of sovereignty. This put the existing order into question, forcing shifts in political life to resolve the temporary crises. At the same time, the practices of disruption were added to the routines of political practice, making future officeholders even less able to maneuver independently of the grassroots base. This dissertation explains why and how space-claiming protests work as political tools, and the ways that practices of cooperation, coordination, and decisionmaking within protest have become models for Bolivia's political culture. In doing so, it contributes to the study of social protest in Latin America, the theory of social movement practice, and the geographic study of political protest.

  • THE POLITICAL ETHICS OF INTIMACY IN AMERICAN EVANGELISM

    Author:
    Sophie Bjork-James
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Leith Mullings
    Abstract:

    The Political Ethics of Intimacy is an ethnographic study of how conservative evangelical ethics are cultivated within religious communities and become linked to political projects. Based on fourteen months of participant observation research in evangelical churches and Bible study groups in Colorado Springs, I argue that evangelical ethical life is modeled on hierarchical relationships defined by gender and symbolized in the patriarchal family. As the heterosexual nuclear family has become both the central metaphor structuring evangelical ethics and the site where lived evangelicalism is practiced, issues perceived as threatening this family structure are seen as threatening to evangelical ethical life. Thus, abortion and gay rights receive continuing political concern by evangelicals, while issues not framed as directly affecting the family receive less political concern. I show how the familial ideals that shape white evangelical ethical and political life are tied to a racial history of seeing the normative, patriarchal family as the moral foundation of the nation, ideas that shaped resistance to racial equality in the United States from debates about abolition to the Civil Rights Movement.

  • Place Attachment and Mobility in the Lives of HIV positive Men

    Author:
    Libby Black
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Susan Saegert
    Abstract:

    This study explored how transformative effects of an HIV diagnosis inform our sense of place and connectedness to a setting/place attachment and the influence on our use and movement in social space. Using Bourdieu's Sociological perspective I explored the notion of `knowing' or `habitus,' by investigating the nature of a person's position and the conditioning (social learning) of that position which can be viewed as a transformative process that effects, changes, and creates both the position and the conditions that govern practice. Methods: The research included semi structured interviews and (2) focus groups, where one set of groups had the specific objectives of the study disclosed to them, and the researcher surveyed the respondents on the types of questions and information they believed needed to be collected to capture their sense of social space. The final group was presented with the results of the initial group and asked to critique and inform the results. A total of 36 subjects were interviewed or were a part of the focus groups. Using cognitive mapping, I explored the places they frequent, noting physical settings, how these settings were used, evaluated and perceived and how they spent their time. Research findings: The findings reveal themes related to respondents' sense of place and connectedness and their sense of connection to those people and places they deem significant. There are examples of life philosophies that appear connected to positioning and are connected in influential ways to ones sense of `constriction' or `expansion.' When dealing with socially impoverished, isolated men, and their HIV diagnosis, their positioning and conditioning in social space, it appears their `situatedness' directly effects and instructs their `practical sense,' or everyday practices and this allows creative and instructive thinking that transforms their experience of becoming HIV positive into an experience of expansion and growth. Broader, the meanings people attribute to their histories, suggests how one comes to choose, use, and is transformed by the spaces supportive of them, are themselves products of the same cultures and social structures that produce and reproduce the `practical sense' of an agent.

  • On the Arithmetic and Geometry of Quaternion Algebras: a spectral correspondence for Maass waveforms

    Author:
    Terrence Blackman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Mathematics
    Advisor:
    Stefan Lemurell
    Abstract:

    Abstract

    ABSTRACT

    TERRENCE RICHARD BLACKMAN

    Let A be an indefinite rational division quaternion algebra with discriminant d equal to pq where p and q are primes such that p,q > 2 and let Opq be a maximal order in A. Further, let Opq,p2rq2s,r,s 1 be an order of index p2rq2s in Opq with Eichler invariant equal to negative one at p and at q . Finally, let Opq,p2rq2s1 be the cocompact Fuchsian group given as the group of units of norm one in Opq,p2rq2s. Using the classical Selberg trace formula, we show that the positive Laplace eigenvalues, including multiplicities, for Maass forms on Opq,p2rq2s1 coincide with the Laplace spectrum for Maass newforms defined on the Hecke congruence group Γ0(M) where, M, the level of the congruence group, is equal to p2r+1q2s+1, i.e., the discriminant of Opq,p2rq2s.

  • An Examination of the Goodness of Fit Model: How is the Relationship Between Child Temperament and Behavior Expressed in Different Types of Classroom Environments?

    Author:
    Sasha Blackwell
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Educational Psychology
    Advisor:
    Georgiana Tryon
    Abstract:

    The present study examined how the relationship between child temperament and behavior is expressed in different types of classroom environments in prekindergarten settings. Other goals of the study were to further operationalize the goodness of fit model in school settings and to evaluate possible interactions of process variables indicative of classroom quality with child temperament to see if these interactions predicted child behavior and social skills. Participants included 130 students and their teachers (N = 11) in three prekindergarten settings. Child temperament was measured using the Total Temperament score from the Teacher and Caregiver Temperament Inventory for Children (TACTIC; Billman & McDevitt, 1998). Classroom quality and environment characteristics were measured using the Program Structure scale of the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scales-Revised (ECERS-R; Harms et al., 2005) and the Sensitivity subscale score from the Caregiver Interaction Scale (CIS; Arnett, 1989). Outcomes in behavioral and social domains were measured using the Externalizing Behavior Problems and Social Skills subscales on the Preschool and Kindergarten Behavior Scales- Second Edition (PKBS-2; Merrell, 2002). Hierarchical linear modeling indicated that child temperament alone was the sole predictor of child externalizing behavior, while child temperament, disability status, and school program structure predicted child social skills. Overall, the study indicated that the goodness of fit model when operationalized in terms of the transactional relationship between temperament and environmental demand factors of characteristics of the classroom setting (as informed by the classroom quality literature) has predictive value and describes child behavioral and social outcomes in prekindergarten settings.

  • Pilgrimages to the Past: Place, Memory, and Return in Contemporary Life Writing

    Author:
    Marta Bladek
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    English
    Advisor:
    Nancy Miller
    Abstract:

    Pilgrimages to the Past draws from recent scholarship on autobiography, memory, and trauma, while attending to the historical and ethnic specificities of each text. Extending beyond an inquiry into how autobiographical narratives evoke place and how they present the interplay between location and remembering, my dissertation aims to show that the autobiographical impulse, or the desire to tell one's life story, is intimately bound with specific locations that inspire and facilitate remembering. Return lends the past new urgency and propels its narrative reconstruction. An important concept in this project is the dialogic dimension of the homonym routes/roots, which Susan Stanford Friedman sees as integral to processes of identity formation in an age of increased mobility. This analysis of the recuperative potentialities and reparative limits of return seeks to explore place as identity's foundational and transformational site. Going back affirms the returnees' connection to places from the past; at the same time, return changes how they perceive and inhabit their location in the present. Although returns are retrospectively oriented, they propel a prospective engagement with the past that both acknowledges its relevance and accepts its irretrievability. Insofar as visiting places of ancestral or personal significance ultimately leads to an incorporative separation from the past, Pilgrimages to the Past posits that journeys of return are, in fact, journeys of departure that result in the returnee's turn towards present and future. The diasporic quest for origins organizes Eva Hoffman's After Such Knowledge: Memory, History, and the Legacy of the Holocaust (2004) and Daniel Mendelsohn's The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million (2006). In Running in the Family (1982) and My Brother (1997), Michael Ondaatje and Jamaica Kincaid, two writers of the postcolonial experience now living in North America, play on "the return of the native" theme as they describe visits to their home islands, Sri Lanka and Antigua, respectively. The predicament of exilic homecoming, in turn, is the key theme in Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return (2003). Revisits to places of personal significance, rather than to a place of origin, give narrative shape to Susan J. Brison's Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self (2002), Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), and Alix Kates Shulman's To Love What Is: A Marriage Transformed (2008).

  • The influence of hepatocyte growth factor during phagocytosis by retinal pigment epithelium

    Author:
    Jonathan Blaize
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Biology
    Advisor:
    William L'Amoreaux
    Abstract:

    Processing of photoreceptor outer segments (OS) by the RPE is critical for maintaining the health of the neural retina. If any portion of OS processing is disrupted, or if the RPE suffer injury, subsequent inhibition of OS processing has deleterious effects. Therefore, it is crucial to understand OS processing in order to maintain visual health.1 Sub-retinal clearance of OS by RPE is facilitated by phagocytosis featuring both RPE-specific and Fc gamma receptor associated signaling cascades.2 Integration of these two pathways renders RPE capable of internalizing both specific and non-specific targets. To accomplish these tasks, there must be specific pathways available to present the cell with the protein machinery necessary for binding, internalizing and processing OS. The discovery that lack of c-Met signaling results in impaired phagocytosis in alveolar and hepatocyte macrophages suggests c-Met's role as modulator of phagocytosis.3 These data also suggest a role for hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), the natural ligand for c-Met activation, in preparing phagocytes for clearance of cellular debris. We propose that HGF activation of c-Met in RPE prepares these cells for phagocytosis by initiating a signaling cascade that includes activation of phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K). Subsequent activation of Rac1 by PI3K may regulate phagosome formation.4,5

  • Performed Identities: Theorizing in New York's Improvised Music Scene

    Author:
    Daniel Blake
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Music
    Advisor:
    Stephen Blum
    Abstract:

    This research looks at the diverse approaches to musical practice in New York City's improvised music scene. Using the ideas of improvisers living and working in New York, a central aim of this study is to explore the development of a musician's music theory as personal and implicit. Theory is defined here as a subjective and internalized body of knowledge informing the particular choices an individual improviser makes in real time, given an aesthetic landscape consisting of many other theories. The eighteen interviewees were each asked a series of questions pertaining to their experience as contemporary improvisers. From analysis of these interviews, three central topics emerged, which form the basis for the chapters of the dissertation. First, theory is an expression of an individual's identity, and that identity is performed in the act of improvisation. Second, there is a causal link between one's theory and one's musical practice, and this link is often expressed through "extra-musical" metaphors pertaining to the body. Third, the project holds that improvisation is an ethical act, the working out of musical and structural processes in real time, requiring a negotiation between the implicit theories of individual players whose aesthetic beliefs may be quite different from one another.

  • AN ITEM STIMULUS APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING TEST ITEM DIFFICULTY

    Author:
    Victoria Blanshteyn
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Charles Scherbaum
    Abstract:

    Understanding what makes test items difficult is an important step in understanding how individuals solve items on a test and in mapping the cognitive processes that are involved. However, there remains a gap in understanding how general stimulus features of items (e.g., length of a test item) impact the difficulty of items for a range of item types. In an effort to reduce this gap, the current study tested the impact of item stimulus features on item difficulty. The proposed difficulty framework utilized the radical and incidental approach of item generation theory (e.g., Irvine, Dann, & Anderson, 1990), which allows items to be decomposed into the factors that are hypothesized to impact difficulty as well as examine the impact of different item stimulus features on difficulty. To test the proposed framework, the current paper incorporated linear latent trait modeling (Fischer, 1973), an IRT-based analytical approach that expresses item difficulty in terms of underlying factors of stimulus complexity rather than individual parameters. Results indicate that certain item stimulus features, including language ambiguity, negative wording, constructed-response items, and colloquial knowledge impact item difficulty. Implications for test development are discussed.