João Campos (International Relations)
(DON’T) COME TO BRAZIL: HOW INTERNATIONAL ACTORS HAVE INFLUENCED BRAZILIAN ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY IN THE 21ST CENTURY
This thesis answers the question: how have international actors and events attempted to influence environmental governance in Brazil in the 21st Century? It uses qualitative process tracing to analyze how the key aspects of Brazilian environmental policy over the past two decades came to be, and how international factors played a role in shaping them as well as responding to them. The analysis is centered around two case studies that represent distinct moments in Brazilian environmental governance. In the early 2000’s, Lula’s first term institutionalized the environmental concern championed by transnational organizations through a closer partnership with national civil society and a strong national bureaucracy. After 2018, though, Bolsonaro’s anti-preservation priorities have caused a dismantling of environmental protections, which have elicited a forceful response from the international community in the form of forceful economic pressure to push for greener policies in Brazil. The thesis concludes that the extent to which international actors can influence Brazil’s government depends on the alignment of interests between the two sides and the influencing instrument used. During the Lula years, international actors focused on normative and institutional reforms, i.e. the UN’s sustainable development agenda and the participation of civil society in governmental decision-making, while economic pressure, represented by international agreements as well as purchasing and investment decisions, were preferred instruments during Bolsonaro’s presidency. Overall, this thesis sheds light not just on the international debate around environmental action, but also on how global forces can shape domestic policy more broadly. Read the full paper here.
Sally Chen (Political Science)
IS IT ALL A MIRAGE? EXAMINING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN AMERICA
Religious freedom is often seen as foundational to American life. It is hailed as one of the central unassailable freedoms for Americans and the reason why the Pilgrims settled North America. However, as with many things, upon closer examination, some of the promises of religious freedom look more complicated. This paper seeks to examine the concept of religious freedom in the United States by looking at how the concept came to be and if free choice of religion actually exists legally or if it is just a mirage. It questions the definition of religion, the dominance of Protestantism in American culture and laws, and the malleability of rights in the U.S. The paper constructs a genealogy of religious freedom which looks at its conceptual and historical roots; then analyzes Supreme Court cases to demonstrate how the unstable conceptual and historical roots of religious freedom play out in the law and in people’s lives; catalogues all of the Supreme Court cases related to the First Amendment and religion to see how the legal landscape has changed and served different populations over American history; and reaches some conclusions about the empirical viability of “religious freedom,” who the First Amendment actually serves, and implications for the future of religious freedom in the United States. Read the full paper here.
Carson Eckhard (History/English)
RAGGED BATTALIONS, PLOTTING LIBERTY: CONVICT LEASING AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF CARCERAL CAPITALISM IN FLORIDA, 1875-1925
The convict-leasing system, which rose to prominence across the South in the wake of the Civil War, was a system of incarceration in which convicts, who were often Black men and women convicted of petty crimes, were leased to private developers, who used them as a large, unfree labor force. By the onset of the 20th century, Florida had one of the largest and most brutal systems of convict leasing in the nation. Unlike other states, who primarily utilized the convict-leasing system as a means of sustaining the agricultural economy of the slavery-era, Florida employed convict-leasing to economically develop the state through the construction of infrastructure and the rise of the turpentine and lumber industries. Florida’s reliance on the lease system for the construction of industry throughout the state sets it apart from the penal systems of other Southern states, and accounts for the relative magnitude and harshness of Florida’s leasing system; a thorough analysis of convict leasing in the state therefore provides a historical lens through which to consider the roots of the American private prison and modern industrial penal labor more generally. Read the full paper here.
Tat Hang Henry Hung (Philosophy)
THE BOUNDARIES OF JUSTIFIABLE DISOBEDIENCE
This thesis centers on the question of when, how, and how not to engage in political disobedience. It first explores the classical Rawlsian view on civil disobedience and points out its limitations with respect to the range of allowable actions and application in semi-liberal societies. It then discusses and motivates the use of “uncivil disobedience” as an alternative means of resistance, and points out two important gaps in current philosophical discussions about uncivil disobedience. Finally, it proposes and justifies a “Matching Principle”, which suggests that it is prima facie justifiable to violate a civic duty against the state in an act of resistance if one is systematically deprived of corresponding right(s) by the state or its affiliates. Thus construed, the principle provides both a set of rules about when it is appropriate to disobey in a certain way, as well as a set of rules that regulate conducts during acts of disobedience. Read the full paper here.
Suchait Kahlon (History)
ABOLITION, AFRICANS, AND ABSTRACTION: THE INFLUENCE OF THE “NOBLE SAVAGE” ON BRITISH AND FRENCH ANTISLAVERY THOUGHT, 1787-1807
This thesis argues that the Enlightenment literary trope of the Noble Savage influenced British and French antislavery arguments between 1787 and 1807 in two ways. The first of these is through abstract arguments based on the social contract theory tradition. The second is by a humanitarian ethos that made empathetic identification with the “enslaved African” possible. This is not to imply that all antislavery texts belong to one category or the other, as many draw on characteristics of both categories. The thesis traces the history of the Noble Savage literary trope, including its racial and spatial transformations; draws connections between the Noble Savage, the social contract concepts then prevalent in political and social theory, and rational arguments against the trans-Atlantic slave trade made by antislavery advocates between 1787 and 1807; and details how antislavery arguments based in the language of humanitarianism employed the Noble African to create empathy among European audiences for enslaved Blacks. Read the full paper here.
Angela Kumirai (Health and Societies)
HEALTHCARE FINANCING IN BOTSWANA AND GHANA: A COMPARATIVE STUDY
As part of the commitment by governments to offer high quality and high access to their country’s populations, Universal Health Coverage is a milestone that many ministries of health in Low to Middle Income Countries strive to achieve. Healthcare spending thus constitutes a sizable amount of government expenditures. As much as nations have an imperative to offer high quality and high access to healthcare services to their citizens, they are also faced with the inescapable necessity to control spending. Health Technology Assessments (HTAs) are programs that systematically evaluate health technologies or health interventions. Unfortunately, there have not been many HTAs done for countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This study investigates the quality of health outcomes in two countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Botswana and Ghana, which have achieved universal health coverage through two different health access models. This comparison indicates that contributory health insurance schemes are not the most efficient or equitable ways to finance healthcare in sub-Saharan African countries. Ghana has achieved universal health coverage through a mandatory contributory insurance scheme but its health outcomes are steady, showing little improvement. This is compared to Botswana which has achieved universal health coverage through government revenue from minerals. Botswana’s health outcomes are rapidly improving and outperforming in areas such as maternal mortality. Read the full paper here.
Anna Lisa Lowenstein (History)
THE POLITICS OF PRIDE: CONSERVATIVE VISIONS OF AMERICAN NATIONALISM IN THE VIETNAM WAR ERA
The Vietnam War resulted in a military loss that forced Americans to reassess their notions of nationalism. The pacifist anti-war movement evoked deep emotional responses from both the political right and political left. These responses, compounded by the tense economic and social pressures of the 1960s and 1970s, motivated the left to reject nationalism. In contrast, the right embraced American pride and villainized the anti-war movement. Using documents, news and popular media, and literature from 1962 to 1986, this thesis argues that nationalism was essential in binding together three disparate groups of American conservatives in order to create a political coalition. These groups—the white working class, intellectuals, and far-right extremists—coalesced despite their varying social and economic needs and different visions of nationhood. The result was increased success for Republican politicians and a legitimization of conservatism in the public eye. Read the full paper here.
Erin O’Malley (Comparative Literature)
THE ASIAN/ALIEN IN AMERICAN LEGAL POLICY AND SCIENCE FICTION
When we read science fiction, we become capable of imagining a future divorced from the past, and yet we still encounter humanity’s domination of aliens and other-worldly creatures that are reminiscent of our lived histories of violence. Science fiction is more often than not the imaginary of the nation, a hyperbolization of America’s greatest strengths and most terrifying fears. Lisa Lowe writes that “the question of aesthetic representation is always also a debate about political representation,” and this paper seeks to bring the immigration term “alien” into conversation with the depiction of Asians as aliens in early 20th science fiction comics. It examines the figure of the Asian alien, the Asian who is (alien)ated from citizenship by legal measures aimed at maintaining an American nation for which American is a proxy for whiteness, as well as the extraterrestrial alien who is racialized as Asian as a tactic of othering Asians within popular culture. The paper argues that the language surrounding the Asian and the alien are in fact genealogically inseparable from one another. Popular culture fills in the linguistic void left by the legal definition of “alien” – which focuses on what aliens are not – with vividly imagined beings, as exemplified in this paper by the science-fiction comic Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and its invading Mongols. Read a draft of the full paper here.
Morgan Taylor (Health and Societies)
AN UNTOLD STORY: UNDERSTANDING THE BLACK MATERNAL MORTALITY CRISIS THROUGH PREECLAMPSIA, 1940-2020
The Black female maternal mortality crisis has roots stretching back to 1940, but until recently, it has struggled to get the recognition that it deserves. Over the past ten years, advocates, including Black women and their families, have been working to bring attention to the Black female maternal mortality crisis and shift the narrative around Black maternal health that has been perpetuated for the past 70 years. That narrative was informed by scientific racism, which led to the promotion of racist medical ideals that would shape the treatment of all Black women going forward. In conjunction with racist attitudes shaping the treatment of Black mothers, physicians and public health officials’ historical attitudes towards maternal mortality as a whole also contributed to the present-day crisis. Historically, there has been an effort stemming from physicians and public health officials to diminish the maternal mortality crisis in the U.S. and portray it as “cured,” even when in reality it was not.
These historical attitudes become even more apparent when looking at the history of preeclampsia in the U.S. Preeclampsia has disproportionality impacted Black women, but there is no scientific basis for why. Instead, looking at the longstanding social attitudes toward Black female maternal mortality helps us to better understand the disproportionate impact of preeclampsia for Black mothers. This paper will explore how this individualized blame narrative around Black female maternal mortality and preeclampsia has been crafted over the last 70 years and how that narrative has started to be overturned by advocates over the last 10 years. Read the full paper here.
Alexandru Zanca (Business Economics and Public Policy)
INEQUALITY AND DEVELOPMENT UNDER DEMOCRATIC NEOLIBERALISM: CASE STUDY OF CHILE
Is Chile actually the free-market transformation success pundits and cherry-picked statistics would have us believe? And how did Chile get to the point where elite discourse about economic performance and stability was so far removed from the lived realities of average Chileans? The answer lies in analyzing the role that neoliberalism, the guiding ideology behind Chile’s economic development and post-authoritarian transition, plays in social transformation and democratic participation. This paper argues that neoliberalism divorces political economy from democracy in order to protect private wealth accumulation and concentration from popular demands. Chile provides a prime example for this study, through the lens of the near “shock treatment” way in which neoliberal governing was introduced there in the ’70. The half a century passed since then has given neoliberalism time to show its true colors. This timeframe, coupled with the accelerated, surgical way in which neoliberalism was implemented in Chile, can provide us with foresight and theoretical implications for other, more slow-moving and more recent neoliberal endeavors around the world. Any state is defined by its geographical and material bounds – “the land” – and its institutional setup – “the law,” hence the paper’s choice of these categories as instrumental for the analysis of Chile as a project of neoliberal state formation. The transformations of “land” and “law” in recent decades amount to a stunted democratic transition, with broader implication for the future of neoliberalism and democracy in Chile, Latin America, and the world. Read the full paper here.