2020 Thesis Projects

Kate Baker

“The Equity Cost of ‘Institutionalization’: From Information Practices to Embodied Impacts in Public Administration”

In the United States, public and nonprofit administrative bodies rely on institutionalized processes to deliver efficiency, economy, and efficacy in their work. This paper argues that designed dynamics of institutionalization essentialize whole people, perpetuating inequity in the process. While public administration scholarship acknowledges that public and nonprofit workers are mission-driven representatives of public good and social equity, the established institutional theory and practice models fail to adequately interrogate institutionalization as a power-laden set of networked dynamics perpetuating institutional violence. The paper considers foundational and contemporary scholarship in the fields of organizational theory, institutionalism, and administrative theory through and against critical frameworks, to offer a critical systems perspective of institutionalization which connects most basic information-level administrative practices to more severe embodied impacts on equity. Ultimately, the paper calls upon public and nonprofit institutional workers – in their professional practices - and scholars – in the focus on and incorporation of critical rhetoric – to become critical administrators who intervene to ameliorate institutionalized inequities both for themselves and for the publics they serve.


Hannah Bakken

“Unconscious Boundaries and Paradigmatic Capture: The Fence in the American West”

The fence is an omnipresent material object in the rural American West, yet it is often unperceived -- it is expected and therefore taken for granted and unquestioned. The fence is a direct, material manifestation of the settler colonial power structures we function within; we live and remain within physical boundaries but also within individual and communal ideological boundaries; both of which keep us from deeper connections and realizations of experiences past our own. This paper reminds that settler colonialism is a structure and not an event — a structure of “paradigmatic capture” which is so deeply entrenched into the thought, ideology, and visual perceptions of the American West that it is rendered unnoticed. This structural paradigm limits future possibilities of relationality in order to sustain itself and creates a situation of “environmentally unconscious” perception — a foreshortening of attentiveness to the fence and therefore the structure of settler colonialism. This thesis argues that it is urgent for settlers to alter their way of looking inward and outward by engaging with the materiality of the fence. By exposing and advocating for an ongoing individual engagement with the material presence of the fence and therefore settler coloniality, this work presents a tool of close looking for a consistent reprocessing and revisioning of an individual experience through meditation, care, and settler responsibility in order to cultivate future efforts towards decolonization and healing in the American West.


Nico Bartulski

“Privileging White Women’s Innocence: The Use of Gender-Based Violence to Legitimize the State”

The legitimization of the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) results in harm that is intentionally directed at Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPoC) and Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPoC) via the carceral impulse. By upholding and relying on prisons and supporting criminalization and increased policing white feminist movements and the white women apart of them are complicit in both the historical and present sexual violence experienced by BIPoC and QTPoC as well as the targeted mass incarceration of BIPoC and QTPoC. The carceral impulse predicates the notion that relying on and looking to prisons as a form of justice and/or solution to harm is unreflective and instinctual. I offer a dimensionality to the term, carceral impulse, and examine the ways that a strategic reliance on the PIC is facilitated by the state. This privileging of white cis women’s innocence, safety, and interests as they pertain to issues concerning gender-based violence ultimately results in carceral feminism. This paper examines the privileging of white cis women’s innocence, safety, and interests above BIPoC with marginalized genders as a key aspect of white supremacy culture. The privileging of white cis women has dictated the popular discourse of movements that address gender-based violence within the United States from the 1960s to the present. Furthermore, the privileging of white women’s safety has erased and whitewashed the experiences and labor of BIPoC, specifically as it relates to prison abolition work. As a result, the topic of gender-based violence within white feminist movements has served to maintain the carceral system in the United States by further legitimizing the PIC as a source of justice through the use of measures, legislation, and laws.


Richard Boswell

“Neurodiversity, Inclusive Pedagogy and the Need for Peer Support in Postsecondary Education”

In 2018, more than 200,000 of the 21.1 million students enrolling in colleges and universities in the U.S. were on the autism spectrum, otherwise recognized as being neurodivergent. The awareness of neurodiversity is changing the approach of inclusive pedagogy on campuses and in classrooms, emphasizing the need for better understanding and more efficacious management of the particular challenges neurodivergent students face. Focused programs in a few institutions that work directly with learning-impaired students exist, but liberal arts schools are feeling the growing pains of reimagining outdated pedagogy. I argue that peer support, a form of bridge program that enables positive learning to motivate success, is essential in assisting the neurodivergent student population. Led by members of the neurodiversity community, peer support provides a working presence available to students, faculty, and staff members. In this paper I address what defines post-secondary peer support, why it is important, and its long-term benefits and success for the institution and the student.


Alexis Chapman

“Arts Engagement: Social Consciousness and the Art Institution”

Art spaces, their collections, and their public arts engagement programming have a history of aestheticizing “diversity” for capital and social gain. This paper seeks to acknowledge, critique, and highlight ways that those practices are being transformed through arts educational programming. Drawing on Nicholas Bourriaud’s theory of relational aesthetics, and Saidiya Hartman’s notions of critical fabulation, this thesis argues the need for counter-narrative creation. With these theoretical and analytical frameworks in place, the paper centers regional voices in arts engagement using examples of participatory programming and immersive curatorial projects from the Pacific Northwest.


Caitlyn Clester

“Unearthed Violence Stillness, Absence, and Alterity in Regina José Galindo’s ‘Tierra’”

This thesis considers the impact of stillness, absence, alterity, and affectual subversion in Regina José Galindo’s photographic still image “Tierra,” created in 2013. In this essay, I explore what I term the subversive affects of “Tierra,” through two methods: the idea of “stillness,” in which stories of violence are told by the survivors of violence instead of through a manipulated narrative and colonial historical framework, and “absence,” where subtlety is embedded within the details on an image, intriguing the viewer to look longer and recognize violence beyond the traditional presentations of falsely historicized pain. When intertwined, these evocative methods of image production (stillness and absence) allow for a visceral and impactful viewing experience. By comparing colonial methods of image-making with the subversive tactics of stillness and absence, this paper offers a newly conditioned praxis of viewing, one that allows for an empathetic and educational response to the violence inflicted upon marginalized people.


Adrienne Grimes

“The Algorithmic Gaze: A New Mode of Looking”

This paper challenges the erasure of marginalized voices on social media platforms by helping users understand the role of algorithms within the platforms. Focusing on Instagram specifically, the thesis exposes a new mode of looking that has emerged as the platform’s algorithm decides what users see in their curated feeds and what content is deemed appropriate or not. I call this new mode of looking “the algorithmic daze”. The paper begins with an evaluation of how algorithms work, frames the discussion using theories of the gaze, and concludes with a case study of Salty’s, a newsletter for and by women, transgender, and non-binary people, that exposes algorithmic bias. Through this examination social media users can become more conscious and critical viewers. After recognizing where there is room for improvement with Instagram’s algorithm and the team that creates/monitors it, this analysis can be applied to other platforms using similar algorithms.


Qamuuqin Maxwell

“Unlearning Subtler Colonialisms Through Storytelling”

This paper considers theory from a perspective informed by Indigenous traditions of storytelling. Following Brian Brayboy’s edict in Toward a Tribal Critical Race Theory in Education that stories are legitimate ways of knowing, I trace connections across realms of theory to both explore the stories that those theories tell as well as interrogate my own. By sharing the varied and various theorists who have informed my development and trajectory, I hope to demonstrate how listening to the stories of those both similar and different to us helps us all build more sustainable and vibrant communities.


Randall Meza

“White Epoch-alypse: The Settler Colonial Economic Paradigm Within Anthropocene Historiography”

The history that Anthropocene discourse writes is failing. In particular, this discourse fails to account for longstanding structures of domination in its writing of history, mainly settler colonialism. This historiography fixates both on origins that adjudicate a universalizing guilt and on a futurity that acts as a “settler move to innocence” (via Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang.) By applying the idea of divine economy from the field of theology, I assert that this historiography’s origins and futurity do not exist in isolation but as an active circuit. This cycle is what I call the settler colonial economy: a homogenous guilt is established to prescribe a futurity of innocence, which never fully absolves and leads to more universalizing guilt. I intend to offer a possible course of action in the present moment for white settlers in the hopes of rupturing this settler colonial economy -- a movement towards a settler dis/possession, which advocates for abolishing the structures that create and maintain white ways of life as well as moving away from the possessive logic of white kinship. Through this two-fold action of abolition and embracing a plurality of relationalities, white settlers could help attend to the longstanding structures of domination that Anthropocene historiography ignores all the while not relying on paradigms of guilt and innocence.

James Lee

“No Mere Metaphor: On the Return of Sovereignty in the Late Pasolini”

Critical scholarship around the Italian auteur Pier Paolo Pasolini’s final film, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, has often regarded the work as a damning allegory of the development of commercial capitalism in post-war Italy. While that reading is certainly justified, an alternative view of the work allows for a more literalist reading, in which the sovereign violence of the film’s fascist antiheroes is read as a prescient warning of an era to come. This essay explores the theme of resurgent sovereignty in Salò, using the near contemporary work of Michel Foucault in the “Security, Population, Territory” seminars. I argue that Foucault’s analysis of the two poles of state power – the administrative function of “governmentality” and the arbitrary power of “sovereignty” – is key to reading an important thread in Salò and Pasolini’s final prose works. It is finally in Pasolini’s concept of “anthropological degradation” that I show a novel reading of these poles’ codependence, where the tactical effects of governmentality, in their ultimate expression as late capitalism, prepare a homogenized landscape that anticipates the return of sovereignty. Pasolini’s film is thus read, rather than an allegory, as a vision or prophecy of a coming political violence.