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Undergraduate Fellows: 2014-2015

Kelsey Dayton

English and Political Science

Phrasing the Enemy: The Evolution of Counterterrorism Language and Policy Across the Transatlantic Alliance After 9/11

Advisers: Martha Crenshaw and Coit Blacker

Kelsey Dayton is a senior majoring in English and pursuing Honors in International Security Studies through Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. Her research interests include the use and effectiveness of rhetoric in modern societies and the interplay between public opinion, policy, and official representation of policy.
 
What is the focus of your current research?
I am looking at the language of terrorism-- not only how the Bush Administration diagnosed the problem, but how that diagnosis evolved and even the different rhetorical frameworks that the administration didn't use. 
 
What drew you to this topic?
I have always found the intersection of language of policy fascinating. The metaphors and allusions leaders use to get public opinion on their side is really revealing of how they approach a given problem. After 9/11, everything escalated, language-wise, and became a battle of Biblical proportions-- quite literally, if you look at some of President Bush's speeches. Terrorism had been a threat before, but now it was at the top of the list. Everyone was scrambling. I'm really interested in what the shift in language meant for how the United States and its allies approached this threat.
 
How are you conducting your research? 
I am reading a lot of speeches given by President Bush and his top officials, as well as publicly available documents such as Congressional hearing testimony. I am using my English background to analyze them qualitatively, and am developing an analytical schema to analyze them quantitatively as well. I will use interviews with speechwriters, analyses by different scholars, and data on counterterrorism policy outcomes. There is also a theoretical component, which involves a lot of the kind of reading and critical thinking that I really enjoy.
 
What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?
Terrorism didn't just pop into the national security policy world after 9/11. It has always been a threat, but before 9/11 it competed with other interests for attention from policymakers. After 9/11 it became the virtually unchallenged #1 priority for U.S. security policy. That sudden shift in focus and what it meant for the American bureaucracy is fascinating to study.
 
In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?
The language used by the Bush Administration created a paradigm for how the American public and even international audiences understood the fight. The fact that a collective viewpoint was created by so few and had such huge implications globally really shows how important language is.
 
How is your honors thesis impacting you academically and/or personally?
To do my research and write my thesis, I have to really have a conceptual clarity for what I am doing. If the theoretical basis is unsound, the whole argument falls apart. Once the concept and theory clicked for me and I finally figured out what I am actually doing, the project became really fun, intellectually. I have learned how to organize my thoughts. Before that click, I sort of knew vaguely that I was interested in this topic, but there was a huge literature and I still felt lost and aimless in it. Now I know what I'm doing, how I'm moving through it. I have direction, which is a really satisfying feeling.
Nicole Follman

Anthropology

The Food Movement in the Hearthland: The New Generation of Iowa Farmers

Adviser: Paulla Ebron

Nicole Follmann is an undergraduate majoring in anthropology with a minor in Spanish. Her interest in transnational exchange in the ideas, products, technology, and culture of agriculture has developed through her work and research in urban gardens in Madrid and Cape Town and in her research among soybean farmers in Argentina. 
 
What is the focus of your current research?
My research investigates how small- and mid-sized family farmers in central Iowa respond to critiques of their production (intensive, or "industrial" livestock or commodity agriculture). I am looking at how the local history of agricultural transitions shapes the way farmers discuss their work, how they situate themselves in debates about food systems sustainability, and how aspiring farmers negotiate the many influences and barriers to enter the field.
 
What drew you to this topic?
I am originally from rural central Iowa, with a family farming background. When I came to Stanford, I became interested in the vigorous debate about the crisis of American food systems: the environmental devastation wrought by monoculture agriculture and concentrated animal feeding operations and the public health catastrophe resulting from the subsidization of highly-processed, corn and soybean-based foods. I simultaneously became interested in global food security--and food sovereignty that is so often jeopardized by the "dumping" of cheap American corn on international markets. Curious about the portrayal of the farmers at the heart of these debates, I decided to study the producers themselves. I hope to unravel how they feel about and respond to the various representations of their profession by environmentalists, organic advocates, and the agriculture industry.
 
How are you conducting your research?
Over the summer of 2014, I spent ten weeks in rural central Iowa conducting anthropological fieldwork. I used ethnographic methods of participant observation and interviews, speaking with and learning from farmers, community members, and agriculture organizations in the area. In addition to coding my interviews to look for recurring themes, I am reading secondary sources and anthropological literature to write a thesis analyzing my findings.
 
What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?
People may be surprised to learn that about 80% of farms in Iowa are owned by families and individuals, while 8% are corporate farms, although the latter percentage is increasing. These two categories also overlap, as many farms incorporate in order to pass farms on to future generations. With the high cost of land, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the younger generation to begin farming without family support, even though the average age of farmers is 57.1 and many farmers are looking to transition their farming operation to someone else. It can be difficult to connect these beginning and retiring farmers, especially as wealthy out-of-state investors can present higher bids than young farmers.
 
In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?
It is important, in debates about the ideal form of agricultural production, to understand the farmers whose livelihoods are at the center of discussion. Though they are impacted immensely by national policy and regulation, farmers continue to make decisions that affect rural communities, the environment, and national and international food security. Many farmers expressed the need to bridge the rural/urban divide and for the public to have a better understanding of what it's like to be in their shoes. This thesis, in a way, attempts to do just that.
 
How is your honors thesis work impacting you academically and/or personally?
In this thesis, I am forced to be accountable to those who spoke with me at home in Iowa. Writing for an audience beyond just one professor has made me assess the accuracy and significance of everything I'm writing at a heightened level. Through the research and writing processes, I have been forced to question my position on this relevant issue of public debate. I hope that the work I produce can be put to use in further educating folks on all sides of the debate about the local specificities and individual lives within the larger national discussion of America's food system.
Emma Joslyn

American Studies

Genre Trouble: White Women Rappers and the Identity Politics of Popular Music

Adviser: Jeff Chang

Emma Joslyn is majoring in American Studies with a concentration in Gender and Sexuality in America. She is a member of the ASSU Sexual Assault Task Force, an editor of STATIC (Stanford's student activism publication), a player on the club tennis team, and a mentor for a local high school student with The Pheonix Scholars. She is also a research assistant for Professor Estelle Freedman and filmmaker Christie Herring, working with both on a documentary project about San Francisco community-builder Faith Petric, and working with Professor Freedman to design a course about music and social movements.
 
What is the focus of your current research? 
My research focuses on identity, genre, and popular music. I am studying the identity politics of popular music by examining performances by white women who rap.
 
What drew you to this topic? 
I became interested in hip hop scholarship when I took a class about the genre during my time abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. After that, my interest in gender, race, and hip hop came through as I studied media reactions to artists like Miley Cyrus's utilization of hip hop culture. I perceived an absence of academic analysis of white women who rap, so I decided to try my hand at it myself.
 
How are you conducting your research?
I am performing several close readings of performances by three different artists: Miley Cyrus, Brooke Candy, and a group called the White Girl Mob. I am applying a variety of scholarship to these performances and interrogating the ways the artists' identities as white women affect their work.
 
What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on? 
The first white woman to rap on a commercially recorded track was Blondie's Debbie Harry on the 1981 song, "Rapture."
 
In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic? 
This topic evokes many of the most dominant social issues that we are dealing with in American society. Through analyzing these performances, I am examining the relationship between race, gender, and the popular culture we all engage with every day.
 
How is your honors thesis work impacting you academically and/or personally?
My thesis work has served as a constant reminder that the elements of popular media that are often trivialized within an academic context are sometimes the richest sites for analysis. I have had to interrogate my own identity and own participation in popular culture ceaselessly along the way, and my consumption has become more intentional as a result.
Maya Krishnan

Philosophy

Human Experience and the Foundation of Geometrical Knowledge in Kant's Philosophy

Adviser: Allen Wood

Maya Krishnan is a senior majoring in Philosophy with minors in Computer Science and Classics. She is interested in the history of philosophy, especially Kant and Heidegger, the philosophy of mathematics, and the intersection between mathematics and theology.
 
What is the focus of your current research? 
I’m currently working on Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (the ‘first Critique’), which is one of the foundational texts of modern philosophy. I’m particularly interested in Kant’s views on mathematics and how they intersect with his philosophy of history.
 
What drew you to this topic? 
I’m really curious about how mathematical knowledge changes over time and how that change influences philosophical accounts of human reason. For example, when Kant thought about geometry, he was thinking about Euclid’s Elements, and his conception of rational knowledge was profoundly shaped by his understanding of the Elements. Nowadays mathematicians have a much more abstract understanding about what it means to do geometry and would consider the Elements somewhat ‘unrigorous.’ A contemporary account of rational knowledge would have to differ in many respects from Kant’s account because the status of mathematical knowledge has itself changed. 
 
I think it’s really interesting that what counts as "rational" is subject to some kind of historical variation and am interested in understanding more about the nature and significance of that variation. The fact that Kant himself worked on the philosophy of history then made me wonder about how (or whether) he thought about this kind of question.
 
How are you conducting your research? 
Research in the history of philosophy is about as low-tech as it gets — I sit at my desk, read the first Critique, and try to piece together what Kant is saying! 
 
What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on? 
I think they might be surprised to learn that Kant thought very seriously about history — he’s frequently presented as an "ahistorical" philosopher who is only interested in the timeless aspect of truth. But in fact Kant begins the first Critique with a statement about the historical trajectory of human knowledge and concludes the entire work with a chapter called “The History of Human Reason,” so history was definitely important to him.
 
In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?
Kant has had such a massive impact on modern philosophy that it’s impossible to even conceive of what philosophy would look like without him. To reach a better understanding of Kant is to simultaneously attain a deeper understanding the problems and positions that make up contemporary philosophy. But in spite of the fact that the first Critique is one of the the most influential (and one of the most studied) works of philosophy of all time, there are still so many aspects of the text that are not yet fully understood. So there’s a lot of work left to be done, especially on relatively understudied topics such as Kant’s views on history.
 
How is your honors thesis work impacting you academically and/or personally?
It’s opened my eyes to the degree of depth and complexity that can exist within a single text. The more I read Kant, the more I come to appreciate how much there is about Kant’s philosophy that I don’t yet understand. At first I found this stressful because it made me wonder how I could ever hope to master the whole Kantian system. Now I’m learning to embrace this experience as one of the best aspects of doing research: it makes me realize that the world is a larger and richer place than I had previously supposed.
Rukma Sen

English

Mother Monster, from Grendel to Lady Gaga: Constructing the Other Self in Anglo-Saxon Verse

Adviser: Elaine Treharne

Rukma Sen is  an undergraduate majoring in English with a minor in Philosophy. She studies the literary and artistic production of the Middle Ages, with a focus on Old English poetry. She spent her last two summers in England conducting archival research at The Bodleian and The British Library. Stanford supported her research with a Chappell Lougee Scholarship, and a UAR Major Grant. She is currently working with her adviser, Professor Elaine Treharne, on a Digital Humanities project funded by the NEH.  She spent a year as the SAR Interfaith Fellow, and has written and edited for The Leland Quarterly, and Stanford STATIC. She is a peer adviser at the English Department, and tutors with Structured Liberal Education (SLE)
 
In his Preface to Monster Theory, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen discusses the dangers of engaging with monsters—the monstrous is not so much its own category as it is a vessel for that which does not fit into other extant categories. The deviant, the  marginalized, the radical other in the bodies of the homosexual, the disabled, the woman, and the dark-skinned form the ranks of the monstrous.“Monster” is simultaneously ethical condemnation, aesthetic disapproval, and declaration of visible difference. In my thesis, I hope to examine the continuing power of the monstrous feminine motif. Images of seductive, cannibalistic women have endured from Homer's sirens to the 2013 film, "Under the Skin," which casts Scarlett Johansson as a man-eating succubus of sorts. Theorists like Barbara Creed and Julia Kristeva have argued that the terror of the feminine corresponds to a fear of abjection, a fear of being consumed by the womb, and a fear of castration. I argue that the monster emerges from woman's generative powers. When she creates--artistically or biologically--she forces her audience to acknowledge her body. My thesis will explore these themes of monstrosity and monstrous creation in Beowulf, Wonders of the East, and the Exeter Book elegies.
Neel Thakkar

History

Comparative History of Radio Broadcasting in Northern Rhodesia and India

Adviser: Richard Roberts

Neel Thakkar will graduate with B.A. (honors) and M.A. degrees in History in June 2015. He studies modern South Asia and Africa, focusing on the colonial period. Influenced most by the methodologies of social and intellectual history, Neel aims to understand imperialism not only as an economic relationship but also an ideological and cultural system – one which continues to define what we consider ‘modern’ (and unmodern) modes of thinking, perceiving, feeling, and belonging. In addition to his academic work, Neel continues to pursue his interest in journalism. Most recently, he was a reporting intern at WBEZ 91.5, Chicago's NPR affiliate station. He has also worked at The St. Louis Beacon and The Stanford Daily. He is the current editor-in-chief of Herodotus, Stanford's undergraduate history journal.
 
Neel's honors thesis is a comparative study of British colonial radio broadcasting in India and Northern Rhodesia. Emerging in the interwar period, broadcasting arrived late in the imperial project, but offered the state an important advantage: the chance to directly address millions of subjects for the first time. In the age of Gandhi, vernacular broadcasting promised the state a chance to engage in mass politics on its own terms. But what would it say, and how? Drawing on research from seven major archives in the U.K., India, and Zambia, the thesis argues that colonial broadcasters partly appropriated and partly invented indigenous cultures, joining them with imperial ideology to reduce potential unrest and portray the state as paternal and just. Popular culture took on new political significance, as broadcasters shunned ‘immoral’ entertainments, sought to standardize languages, and promoted industriousness. Broadcasting thus marked a significant shift away from the colonial state's longstanding strategy of indirect rule and towards a justification of rule based on development.
Nora Tjossem

English

Narrative Nothingness in the Dramas of Samuel Beckett

Adviser: Paula Moya

Nora Tjossem is an English major with an emphasis in Theater and Performance Studies. She spends much of her time on campus involved with student theater productions, in capacities ranging from actor to producer, director to lighting designer, and most recently, Artistic Director of the Stanford Shakespeare Company. She has also worked with professional groups such as Stanford Summer Theater, Playwrights Foundation, and This Is Shakespeare, as well as assisting research in lepidopterology and modernist archival work. An alumna of the Structured Liberal Education (SLE) program, she is a resident tutor for this year's students.
 
What is the focus of your current research?
I’m looking at three plays by Samuel Beckett and exploring their relationship to conventional ideas of narrative and drama. I hope to find out a little more about how Beckett destroyed or appropriated these ideas and shook up the theatrical scene in the latter half of the 19th century.
 
What drew you to this topic?
Last winter I studied at Oxford for a quarter and ran into several of Beckett’s works in both in tutorial and performance. Although I had seen a couple of Samuel Beckett’s plays before, I never realized quite how deeply he explored philosophy, language, and harsh themes with so much humor and intellect, nor how this had influenced theater at large.
 
How are you conducting your research?
Reading. Lots and lots of reading – but also talking to other honors students and scholars. Every now and then I will run into someone who is particularly taken by Beckett, whether for reasons of scholarship, personal preference, or philosophy, and the ensuing discussions have often reinvigorated my work.
 
What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?
Drama and narrative have been pitted against each other for a long time (see Aristotle’s Poetics) but drama has been put into a very weird position with the prevalence of widely (and cheaply) distributed texts. It raises a fascinating set of questions when you think about how the composition of drama before the domination of print culture compares to the plays that are written today, with the knowledge that they’ll be digested both by reading and seeing plays. Beckett is a very particular example of highly controlling but concise textual content that almost cripples the action on the stage.
 
In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?
Theater is a crucial medium in communicating ideas about the human condition, but one that is often called into question by those who see it as on its way out in light of TV and film entertainment. The strengths and effects of live performance are under threat, then, with respect to both film and print, but much of Beckett’s power is in the inextricable existence in the world of live performance. Many of his ideas of how we view our lives, interactions, and significance are brought to light specifically because these early works exist in a time and space that must be experienced at the rate we live our lives. So the fact that Beckett is read and performed with regularity and that he created drama with the tension of print and performance in mind, provoking questions of trustworthiness between narrative “versions” as well as the relationship between what appears on the page and what appears to an audience, makes him pivotal to the exploration of how we use and experience theater.
 
How is your honors thesis work impacting you academically and/or personally?
This is by far the most in-depth, long-term project I have worked on, and it is an opportunity for me to bridge my two primary areas of interest – literature and theater. It’s a time for me to do some dramaturgical work as well as literary analysis, and also for the challenge of staying on track with self-imposed deadlines. I have a lot of obstacles ahead in the density of Beckett’s material and honing in on which questions I really want to ask, but that’s half the fun.
Reno Tsosie

American Studies

The Harvey Couriers: Modern Women and the American Southwest in the 1920s and 1930s

Adviser: Alex Nemerov

Reno Tsosie is majoring in American Studies with a concentration in Art and Culture. He is currently the Community Service Chair for his fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi. Reno is also active in Stanford’s theater community and has served as costume designer for several productions. He is interested in analyzing fashion both from an academic and artistic viewpoint.
 
What is the focus of your current research?
My research focuses on fashion and cultural representation. I explore these themes by studying a uniform utilized by the Fred Harvey Couriers, tour guides, in the American Southwest. The uniformed look represents a turning point of American modernism that combines uniquely American aesthetics with contemporary fashion.
 
What drew you to this topic?
I was on a hiking trip at the Grand Canyon and came across the Harvey Courier uniform in a small museum. The uniform intrigued me with its combination of utility and aesthetics.
 
How are you conducting your research?
I am researching three main areas to better understand my topic. I am examining the Southwest's historical past, modernism through art and literature in New Mexico, and the conversations within the Fred Harvey company to create the Courier guide service. These three areas are studied through photo archives, journal compilations, and literary works.
 
What would people be surprised to learn about the topic you are working on?
I think the most surprising aspects of my topic are the layers and communities involved to create a genuine aesthetic. The Fred Harvey Company shepherded in the Southwestern aesthetic ranging through architecture to dress mainly directed from people not from the Southwest. They were part of a large wave of newcomers to the Southwest including figures like Mabel Dodge Luhan, D.H. Lawrence, and Georgia O'Keeffe.
 
In your view, why is it valuable to study this topic?
My research examines fashion and dress through perspectives of history, culture, and the arts that were directed by people whom all knew each other or were aware of then-contemporary and modern perspectives of identity. I think this is valuable because it looks at multiple perspectives to understand a single phenomenon. 
 
How is your honors thesis work impacting you academically and/or personally?
My thesis topic has helped shape my own worldview as a fashion designer. I believe that fashion is more complex than pure aesthetics, and can represent an intentional, often subconscious, interpretation of contemporary culture. It also helps to understand fashion's use of inspiration through a holistic interpretation rather than focusing on direct imagery to understand the designer's translation.