Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

Abstracts - 13th Annual Undergraduate Research Conference

Rebecca ALIFIMOFF (History)


The emergence of mass media in fin-de-siecle France helped shape the Dreyfus Affair. It extended its reach far beyond the bourgeoisie. While new newspapers catered to the newly expanded literate population in France, the popular appeal of the picture postcard meant that news could, for the first time, be truly mobile. Postcards were sent via the international postal system that had been established in the 1860s and the 1870s thanks to the efforts of European postal reformers. Postcards carried current events across continents more quickly and for less money than newspapers could. Postcards travelled along social networks. They depended on personal connections to be sent and used and their messages were altered by the message of the sender. Halfway between the letter and the published political cartoon, picture postcards were a medium on the frontlines of public opinion. They invited political commentary from their users and allowed those users a medium through which they could send their political opinions to the rest of their social circle. Postcards might be regarded as historical oddities, but they were also objects that seemed to occupy a unique cultural space. They offered an opportunity to understand what the Dreyfus Affair looked like as it was happening and how the general public talked about and negotiated their way through it. Though there is a danger of drawing too close of a comparison, the picture postcards of the nineteenth century prefigured modern social media in many ways. Like social media they were used to strengthen social ties from a distance. They could create a sense of intimacy and shared experience despite physical separation. Cards bearing politicians, actresses, images of interesting places, or souvenirs of important events were used to create a shared frame of reference for current events and moments of cultural importance. Much in the same vein, modern social media is a source of connection. It enables its viewers to share intimate parts of their lives with people across the globe. Posts telegraph experiences — mountains climbed, wedding vows made, tired-eyed selfies from the depth of the library indicating books studied. Like with the picture postcard, experiences can be shared online without someone being physically present for them. The internet also offers access to a shared sense of social consciousness. Viral images, posts, hashtags and memes can act like the newsstands of nineteenth-century Paris, setting the topic of conversation for a disparate set of users across the globe.

Merobi DEGEFA (Health and Societies)


This research began with the aim of identifying if there was a difference between public and NGO clinics when it comes to addressing the dignified care provided in Ethiopia. The study findings, however, illuminated that what is defined as dignified care is contingent on social, cultural, and economic contexts. The standards for dignified care that each facility prescribed to was built on a western model, however, the local economic and cultural context made it impossible for the attendance of these standards. Shortage was one of the factors that characterized the care that is delivered. In times of shortage, medical professionals had to resort to alternative methods. At times the alternative methods practiced created ethical concerns. However, there is no framework available in which these problems can be understood and addressed. The findings of this research emphasis how lack of resources affects the care that is provided. Not only as it is understood medically but also in a sense of what is prioritized. Additionally, at times what the patients define as dignified can be different from the prescribed form of care. This raises the importance of including local voices, especially voices of the mothers who are receiving the care when it comes to maternity care. With the presence of external forces such as the hospital administration, the government, and international health organizations, the patient’s desires are neglected. The focus becomes about the goals that these actors have placed, and the standards of care get defined by their priorities. The data and analysis presented illuminate the need to reevaluate what dignified care means and how to best provide the best level of care.

Michael Winston JOHN (Political Science)


Throughout the field of Comparative Politics, the notion of ethnic conflict has provided a niche level of analysis to describe tensions that arise at the convergence of difference. Social scientists have historically defined ethnic conflict as a violent confrontation between distinct cultural, linguistic, or religious groups. Under this vantage, scholarship has inquired into the ways in which disparate groups defined ethnically, make demands on the state, and how such demands become translated within electoral politics. As the language of ethnic conflict becomes used to describe the political dimension of life in Guyana, it must be rooted attributed to its proper historical origin. In Guyana, the communities the compose the land of many waters has been deliberately controlled, manipulated, and exploited in pursuit of a venture that only invested saw humans as a means to an end. In addition, it failed to consider the very lived experience of the aboriginal communities, who were the first people to make Guyana a home. As the body politic has operated primarily between Afro-Guyana and Indo-Guyanese communities, the impression of racialized conflict is only rooted in the underpinnings of labor formation beginning in the colonial era. To manipulate communities under racialized systems of control, and strip them of the economic safety net that their very labor produced, is not a situation conducive to ethnic conflict. It represents a resource curse and indoctrination within a racial – capitalist state. As we think about the way these legacies continue to be evoked, rooted our discourse in history is of significant importance. It helps us ground our modern reality in a particular continuum. Guyana is not prone to conflict. It is not steeped in a racialized society. It represents a people maligned, with political structures and political leaders who employ the vestiges of a colonial system in their self-interest. As we envision of the future of new potential, removing people from the position will never be enough to achieve a new democratic vision. Such a project will require the deliberate deconstructed of institutions - political, economic, and cultural to build a new vision that represents the collective freedom of all who call this northern South American nation home.

Sophia LINDNER (Sociology)


This project evaluates how declines in tourism affect the race-driven disparities in the entrepreneurial tourism economy in Cuba and the ways that colorblind ideologies influence perceptions Cubans have of these disparities. The study seeks to determine two outcomes: first, the degree to which changes in racial disparity during tourism decline can be anticipated by changes in racial disparity during tourism influx; and second, the trajectory of colorblind ideology amid tourism decline in comparison to tourism influx. Part one of findings indicates that while high tourism increased racial disparity, low tourism did not necessarily lower disparity as may be anticipated.  Interviews with casa particular owners suggest a difference between black respondents who reported increased financial struggle due to inability to keep up with expenses such as taxes and home repair and white and mestizo owners who reported stability or prosperity due to ease of sustaining these expenses with external income. This difference suggests a heightened necessity of remittance reception for survival during periods of decline, as well as heightened effects of disparities in resources acquired during pre-decline eras. Part two of findings suggests that colorblind ideology persists and may even intensify under tourism decline. Interviews showed that trust in revolutionary egalitarianism, economic individualism, and assumption of racist ropes remained prevalent rhetorical frames used to alternatively explain or refute the existence of racial disparity. The persistence of this ideology complicates processes of identifying and addressing the aforementioned disparities because it obscures the systemic processes that exacerbate disparities. As they continue to increase, knowing the ways in which they are addressed and/or avoided becomes crucial to strategies for their elimination.

Stefan RANOSZEK (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics)


READ THE FULL PAPER HERE. This project characterizes the discussion of sex work in South Africa within the context of the U.N. Human Rights mandate and the differing stances of key political actors in the country. I will then present the four broad categories of legislative alternatives for regulating the sex industry namely: full-criminalization, regulation, partial-decriminalization (the decriminalization of the sale of sex only), and full-decriminalization. The current state of the commercial sex industry in South Africa leaves little room to argue that the status quo (full-criminalization) is an effective or even adequate model of regulation and whilst studies regarding the consequences of regulation will be considered in this project regulation will be shown to be an inviable option. This discussion of regulative alternatives for the South African sex industry will thus be narrowed to a consideration of partial and full decriminalization. To this end the findings of the South African Law Reform Commission’s (“SALRC”) 2015 report, independent studies, and academic theory, will supplement a contrast of the objectives and arguments advanced by Embrace Dignity, a non-governmental organization and leading advocate of partial-decriminalization in South Africa, and the Sex Worker Education and Action Task Force (“SWEAT”), the longest-standing NGO lobbying group on this issue committed to a full-decriminalization agenda. In May of 2003 New Zealand, by a single-vote majority in parliament, decriminalized the sex industry and, whilst vastly removed from South Africa culturally and socio-economically, the New Zealand case is referenced by SWEAT in their campaign for decriminalization and so will be considered here. Ultimately the findings of this study and others, in conjunction with theoretical arguments and analysis, conclude in favor of the full-decriminalization of the commercial sex industry in South Africa. Rather than protect those who are most exploited and abused in sex industry the current law in South Africa sees sex workers vilified and further harmed by police. Whilst partial-decriminalization does extend formal legal protections to sex workers it does not ally them with law enforcement.

Alia SCHECHTER (History)


The women’s suffrage movement in Mexico lasted almost four decades (1917-1953) and was regularly forced to change political messaging to adapt to the changing political and social currents. In the years after Lázaro Cárdenas’ presidency, the language used to justify women’s political enfranchisement shifted from an equality-centric argument to one that highlighted the differences between men and women. This thesis seeks to examine the factors that led to such a significant discursive shift in the women’s suffrage movement and how these factors affected the movement’s achievements. My first chapter analyzes how contradictions in the post-Revolutionary state created political pressure for women’s organizations to work within the government bureaucracy and, as a result, adopt rhetoric that was less subversive. My second chapter addresses how women’s organizing changed over the course of the 1940s, which provided evidence for speeches and campaigns of how women were able to use their “maternal” skills for social good. Lastly, I argue that this language made its way into the political mainstream – both for male and female political figures – because of Amalia Castillo Ledón and her tireless efforts both in Mexico and in international feminist circles.

Samantha W. STEIN (Health and Societies)


Bioethics regards autonomy, the capacity for an individual to make their own decisions, as a cornerstone of ethical biomedical research. Ideally, researchers realize autonomy through informed consent, a practice wherein they communicate study details to potential subjects, enabling potential subjects to make enlightened decisions regarding their own participation in research. Emergency medicine, however, frequently does not sustain the conditions requisite to consent potential subjects due to fleeting therapeutic intervention windows and incapacitated patients, challenging models of autonomy oriented around the individual. Faced with conditions that preclude consent, how do clinician-scientists perform biomedical research in a manner they and the regulatory authorities overseeing their research deem ethically acceptable? What are the loci of disagreements about what constitutes ethical research? Between 1981 and 1996, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration placed a legal moratorium on research without consent, yielding pushback from emergency medicine clinicians who claimed that the consequential lack of research ironically rendered most usual practice experimental. In 1996, the Food and Drug Administration released 21 CFR 50.24, an amendment to federal policy which permits exception from informed consent (EFIC) research given that certain community engagement procedures (technically termed Community Consultation and Public Disclosure) presuppose experimental interventions. The use of such community engagement procedures in lieu of informed consent begs an investigation of functional overlap and its ethical implications: How do emergency medicine clinician-scientists calibrate the ethical and political utility of EFIC community engagement practices with the ethical and political utility of informed consent? How do such calibrations configure clinician-scientists’ rationalization of research without consent? Drawing on ethnographic data from my interview-based study of emergency medicine clinician-scientists I offer a semiotic sketch of the improvisational processes by which clinical/scientific actors marshal commensuration, a sociolinguistic process for realizing equivalencies, to achieve ethics aesthetics in previously uncharted domains. As the condition underpinning commensuration, clinician scientists reformulate autonomy in relation to various social collectivities rather than individuals. Commensuration thus enables two disparate practices for realizing autonomy to achieve ethical equivalence and consequently assume the stead of one another when indicated by clinical environs in combination with social demands. This equivalency evinces biomedicine’s reductive tendencies; perfunctory engagements between clinician-scientists and lay collectives, undertaken in the ethical stead of informed consent, render nuances of public receptivity to research illegible. Additionally, equivalency obfuscates the intermittently oppressive research participation experiences of actors for whom autonomy does not figure as the primary metric of ethicality. This thesis explicates 1) the empirical conditions which constitute a demand for equivalency between EFIC community engagement practices and informed consent, 2a) the process of determining lay expertise relevant to EFIC research and 2b) accordingly segmenting lay populations into ethically and politically useful collectivities, 3) thresholds of autonomy as a condition for commensuration, and 4) the ways equivalency negotiations continually redefine the diligent emergency medicine clinician-scientist and schematize public voices.

Sherry TSENG (Philosophy)


The principle of ex contradiction quodlibet stipulates that from contradiction, all propositions follow. From this, all explode into triviality; hence, the aversion towards contradiction. However, our social selves are mired with inconsistency and contradictions and identities built on a spectrum. The assumption of triviality from contradiction in formal logic makes it such that the contradictions found within natural language on our social identities equally trivializes those contradictory aspects: an infliction of epistemic injustice. To this, I argue that if natural language is to be formalized, then there exists a moral imperative to defer to paraconsistent logic, a set of logics bound by their commitment to reject ex contradiction quodlibet. Adherence to this logic is necessary to legitimize and validate speech expressing contradictory aspects of our social selves. The moral imperative to do so draws from the need to challenge the epistemic injustice inflicted by classical first-order logic following ex contradiction quodlibet. On this account, this paper is an exhortation to reevaluate the place of formal logic in the domain of natural language on social identity in the face of the normative concerns of epistemic injustice.

Archana UPADHYAY (History)


This thesis argues that these debates over the nature of Ottoman slavery and Britain’s corresponding antislavery policy show greater transformations in British antislavery ideology throughout the whole of the nineteenth century than conventional narratives show, especially when we consider them in conjunction with shifting debates in imperial ideologies and policies in the second half of the century. British antislavery efforts in the Ottoman Empire were essential to the decline of the slave trade in Ottoman regions and the Mediterranean, despite effective Ottoman representations of their slave systems as “mild domestic servitude”. These Ottoman representations, British understandings, perceptions, and their own representations of them, as well as British experiences with enslaved people and enslavers, are essential to our understandings of the ideologies of British global abolitionism and imperialism. By further incorporating British antislavery in the Ottoman Empire as a transformational part of British global abolitionism in the nineteenth century, we can see how shifts in Victorian discourse on gender, race, and imperial geopolitics—driven by the currents of far-reaching global transformations—shaped and were shaped by Ottoman representations slavery and British perceptions of it.