Emily Katz’s Senior Thesis Project

[Seniors in the SOAN department have the opportunity of pursuing a field-based research project that culminates in a senior thesis. I’ve asked our seniors to briefly describe the research project they are beginning to configure for fieldwork in the remainder of our academic year.]

When I think about how I learned about sex and communication, there are specific moments and conversations that stick out to me – moments that shaped the way I thought, what I perceived as normal, and my understanding of where I stood in relation to this “normal.” I find this process – the collection of moments and stories and facts that make up a person’s understanding of sex, their body, and their sexuality – particularly intriguing because of the way it influences how people engage in sexual interactions. As a member of Peer Allies, a group of twenty students on campus who focus on sexual IMG_4178assault support, prevention, and education, I spend a lot of my time working to understand why sexual assault happens. The longer I’ve been involved, the more I’ve come to realize that although we cannot do anything to ensure we, or someone we love, will not be sexually assaulted, we can take small steps to change our culture that allows it to happen so frequently and so normally. In order to change this culture, I believe we need to be shifting the way we learn about and talk about sex and communication. In American culture, this is particularly complicated, as we live in a society that is made up of many ethnicities, religions, and cultures, yet we often privilege only a small portion of these – especially throughout our public education systems.

For my senior thesis, I plan to investigate how the process of learning about sex and communication for people of different cultural identities (within American society) affects their conceptions of consent. How do we learn to engage in sexual interactions, and perhaps more important, how do we learn to communicate during them? How does this affect the quality and safety of these interactions? What roles do power and privilege play? I want to look into the intersection of formal and informal avenues of the learning process by comparing the education high school students receive in school to what they are receiving at home, and specifically how that differs across cultural identities. Ultimately, how does this process affect people’s conception of consent?

For this project, I will be focusing on how high school students learn about sex here in Tacoma. Although Washington state law requires HIV prevention education, as well as age-appropriate, “medically accurate sexual health education” (Washington State Learning Standards), and just this year implemented new health standards guidelines that include education surrounding gender identity, healthy relationships, and consent, districts are still able to interpret and implement the guidelines however they feel is appropriate. This means that the quality and depth of sex education greatly varies across the state. I will focus my time interviewing high school students, primarily 16-18 years old, in the Tacoma Public School system. Throughout this process, I will be conducting semi-structured interviews, as well as using visual methodology to map out how they learned about their bodies, sex, sexuality, and consent. I plan to sit in on sex education classes in various high schools across Tacoma whenever I’m allowed, as well as analyze the sex education materials used in these classes.

 

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Ariane Farris’ Senior Thesis Project

[Seniors in the SOAN department have the opportunity of pursuing a field-based research project that culminates in a senior thesis. I’ve asked our seniors to briefly describe the research project they are beginning to configure for fieldwork in the remainder of our academic year.]

For my senior thesis I plan to examine the lived experiences of individuals with facial anomalies. By facial anomalies, I mean physical craniofacial differences that require medical intervention. These can be either congenital, ones the individual is born with; or ones acquired later in life. For this research I intend to conduct a number of semi-IMG_5396structured ethnographic interviews with individuals born with facial anomalies. Additionally I am interested in speaking with the family and close friends of individuals with facial anomalies and hope to conduct participant observation in any support groups I am able to work with.

In doing this, I hope to examine how facial anomalies shape the development of an individual’s sense of identity and their social interactions. I am particularly interested in how these individuals perceive their facial anomalies and how that contrasts with social perceptions. I intend to address topics of normalcy and the stigma of physical difference particularly due to the inherent visibility of the face. In a continuation of my summer research, I would like to learn about what sort of social support these individuals have received and what further forms of social support they believe would be helpful. Further I hope to explore how media shapes the social understanding of facial anomalies and to examine the potential impact of problematic media portrayals on individuals with facial anomalies.

I am drawn to this topic based on my own personal experiences. I was born with a complete cleft of lip and palate. Seven surgeries later the scars, though much less noticeable, remain. To me, the experiences of growing up with a facial anomaly have become a fundamental part of my identity and a lens through which I see the world. I wonder if others are experiencing the same struggles with understanding the identity tied to facial anomalies and how it has affected their lives. Through this project I aim to better understand a group for whom, ironically, despite the visibility of their particular form of difference, have been rendered invisible due to social discomfort when it comes to addressing stigmatized differences.

Carley Arraujo’s Senior Thesis Project

[Seniors in the SOAN department have the opportunity of pursuing a field-based research project that culminates in a senior thesis. I’ve asked our seniors to briefly describe the research project they are beginning to configure for fieldwork in the remainder of our academic year.]

Nationalism is popularly defined as “patriotic feelings, principles, or efforts.” But how is nationalism fostered? Under what conditions does it flourish? What historical moments and experiences inform our experience of nationalism or the lack thereof? There are so many ways that one’s national identity can be formed, reformed, shifted, and re-focussed. In my thesis, I intend to explore how individuals’ and communities’ identities influence perceptions of national belonging. I will specifically be examining nationalism within the context of Hawai`i and Hawai`i residents,  a notably diverse region of America.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_650I hope to hear from a wide variety of individuals who call Hawai`i home, including those whose families have lived in Hawai`i for multiple generations. I will be conducting semi-structured interviews and administering a survey with those interviewed. I’ll be examining three generational tiers of Hawai`i residents: 1) people who were born in the territory of Hawaii and lived to see Hawai`i’s shift to statehood, 2) people who were born in the state of Hawaii and lived to see the centennial anniversary of Hawai`i’s overthrow and 3) people born after 1993 (the centennial anniversary of the overthrow). I hope to sample from a diverse population in terms of racial and ethnic identities, gender, age, sexuality, religion, etc.

I hope to hone in on the intersectional significance of Hawai`i’s political, economic, racial and ethnic history, as it is quite unique. Hawai`i has gone through phases of chiefdom, kingdom, territory, and statehood. As a result, Hawai`i’s historical relationship with the United States has been profoundly complex. I hypothesize that personal identity, historical heritage, and Hawai`i’s historical context will impact and complicate nationalism in the context of Hawai`i.

Julia Lin’s Senior Thesis Project

[Seniors in the SOAN department have the opportunity of pursuing a field-based research project that culminates in a senior thesis. I’ve asked our seniors to briefly describe the research project they are beginning to configure for fieldwork in the remainder of our academic year.]

Building a city requires more than just tall buildings and tourist destinations. The obligation is twofold; not only must the city cater to a future clientele for local investment, but it must also fulfill the needs of its existing residential members. Although people can usually agree on the  importance of fulfilling these two obligations of the city, it is often a bit harder to agree on which obligation holds priority and should come first. For some, the relationship between urban planners and community members begins with broad yet strong and detailed plans that carry over the course of 10 years. 21908568_10208348283905198_2115064969_oFor others, that relationship begins with the organization taking place at the center, driven by the community members who have long resided in the neighborhoods themselves.

As a student of sociology and anthropology, my perspective on this relationship is inherently biased. Having understood systems of oppression and the linkage between power and knowledge, my work has often leaned towards focusing on the ethnographic narratives of communities and the external impacts of society alone, rather than gauging a more holistic view that could potentially explain why the external “pressures” may be a factor in the first place. Furthermore, my extended interests in urban policies and the processes in which they are drafted, not to mention who they are drafted by and for; these are the themes that propel my research.

My senior thesis shall expand on my previous research, continuing my investigation of the positive and negative outcomes that can arise from urban planning. I’ll be assessing two neighborhood revitalization projects — the first being in Tacoma’s own Lincoln District, and the second being in the place I call home, San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunter’s Point neighborhood. Although the two cities differ in geography, the strategy and the purpose of the two revitalization projects are the same: to increase economic viability, reinvigorate a local identity and reintroduce an “isolated” community back into the broader populace. I plan to conduct my interviews in administrative spaces, including city council meetings and project committee meetings. I also intend to gather narratives of a varietal population: in addition to speaking with long-term residents (10 years or more) and short-term residents (5 years or less), I will be gauging the opinions of temporary resident/visitors that frequent the project sites as well. It is my hope that the insight gathered in this research will empower cities and their communities to uphold accountability throughout the project’s entirety.

 

Austin Colburn’s Senior Thesis Project

AColburnPhoto[Seniors in the SOAN department have the opportunity of pursuing a field-based research project that culminates in a senior thesis. I’ve asked our seniors to briefly describe the research project they are beginning to configure for fieldwork in the remainder of our academic year.]

Few understand the difficulties that many public school students face on a daily basis. Depending on the magnitude and source of these troubles, students might respond directly or indirectly. In the absence of trusted community members or support networks, student behavior might be coded with important messages that get lost without adequate inquiry into the student’s experience. Because dropping out from high school is one of these behaviors, as well as a decision carrying profound impacts on overall life chances, I intend on studying it as a form of resistance against oppressive forces and structures operating against students. To this end, I will focus on two topics; the anthropology and sociology of education as it relates to high school dropouts in the United States, and literature on theories surrounding resistance, everyday and otherwise.

I plan on collecting the bulk of my data by conducting semi structured interviews in Pierce County with former dropouts, teachers, and staff members working in dropout prevention or GED (General Education Diploma) programs in order to highlight recurring narratives and key themes in the process of dropping out. I will center these interviews around answering three questions secondary to my primary research purpose; 1) what incentives keeps high school students enrolled?; 2) what forces push high school students to drop out?; and 3) what factors can encourage students to return to school or otherwise continue their education? Alongside the literature, I will also examine national and local data surrounding graduation and dropout rates to construct an ideal sample population for my study, as well as to identify group dropout trends that may not be explicit in the literature.

Much of my inspiration from this topic comes from my future career aspirations wedded with topics of interest from past courses. As an Education Studies minor, I was exposed to the field of education’s relationship to social science research. In Education 419: Schools in the American Context, I studied literature on the privatization and securitization of public high schools in low-income neighborhoods as driving forces for red-flag student behavior and absenteeism (Simmons 2015; Tanner-Smith & Fisher 2015). I was able to maintain this topic in SOAN 301: Power and Inequality, complicated by interdisciplinary research surrounding resilience and which I adapted from the course selections on power and resistance (Scott 1985; Johansson & Vinthagen 2007).

The two largest considerations that I anticipate navigating are respondent confidentiality and how my respondents will interpret the ends of my work. While the potential for harm to the respondent is minimal, I must take care to ensure that my respondents understand that this project is not a judgement of their character based on their life choices, but is an attempt to understand the social forces that encourage different people to make them. I hope to compare the findings of this study with how local dropout prevention programs approach student perceptions of schooling and dropping out. While I recognize the gravity and potential difficulty of the study, I believe this research may elucidate alternative teaching practices that could benefit both the teachers and the students that learn in their classrooms. Ultimately, I hope to contribute to the approach toward a more compassionate and culturally responsive public pedagogy.

Madeline Brown’s Senior Thesis Project

[Seniors in the SOAN department have the opportunity of pursuing a field-based research project that culminates in a senior thesis. I’ve asked our seniors to briefly describe the research project they are beginning to configure for fieldwork in the remainder of our academic year.]

IMG_0073As a Gender and Queer Studies minor at the University of Puget Sound, I have committed a significant portion of my education to approaching scholarly inquiry through a perspective steeped in gender theory. However, due the dense and intimidatingly academic nature of theory, it is rare that I have the opportunity to approach gender as an analytic category from the standpoint of colloquial discourse. Therefore, approaching the senior thesis project, I seek to re-engage gender from a new perspective, specifically, how gender operates for individuals in day-to-day interactions. In particular, I intend to qualitatively investigate the legitimacy of gender as a categorical lens for academic analysis through, and in addition to its operation as a method of individual self-identification. Using a cross-generational framework, I will examine gender generally as an analytic category by questioning how it is used as a self-identification mechanism, what it means to those who use it, and its origins in contemporary colloquial and academic discourse.

I will explore gender qualitatively through a series of semi-structured and audiotaped interviews. Study participants would ideally be composed of a stratified sample including 2 to 3 groups of generationally-divided individuals ranging from 18 to 70 years of age. Participants will be sourced from within Washington State. Analyzing the gendered self-identification process across several generations will offer a “real life” chronology of gender and its use as a category of identification that may present a history of gender that supports, contradicts, or otherwise provides commentary on gender theory and historiographies offered by gender scholars. In addition to the cross-generational framework, this study will also seek to offer a distinctly intersectional presentation of gender categories, their histories, and their development.

Gender theory used to inform the interview process as well as analysis will include key, canonical gender theory and historiography from the twentieth century including Foucault’s History of Sexuality, Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, and Black Feminist Thought from Patricia Hill Collins.

Casey O’Brien’s Senior Thesis Project

[Seniors in the SOAN department have the opportunity of pursuing a field-based research project that culminates in a senior thesis. I’ve asked our seniors to briefly describe the research project they are beginning to configure for fieldwork in the remainder of our academic year.]

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For my project, I will be examining the subjectivity of women living with chronic illness and the role of the American healthcare system in creating—and altering—the narratives of women’s lives. Subjectivity, broadly defined, is concerned with how power acts upon individuals and impacts their lived experiences and perceptions of themselves.  I will be comparing women with commonly diagnosed, fairly well-understood chronic illnesses and those with “contested” or rare chronic illnesses, investigating how these women perceive themselves and their interactions with their providers, their families and their communities. In short, I want to hear the stories that these women tell themselves about their illness, and how the stories differ based upon whether that illness is broadly understood or whether they have to explain or even defend their diagnoses. I also hope to explore how diagnosis prompts women to seek or create communities with others who have been labelled as they have, and what forms those communities take.  It is my hope that the comparison aspect of this project will allow me to understand the women’s experience more deeply than considering them on their own and that the differences between them yield interesting data.

I have lived with a chronic illness for much of my life, which has given me a strong connection to the issues at play in medical sociology. However, I have not been able to examine healthcare in depth in my college career, so I am excited to do so.  I have really been enjoying Sociology of Health and Medicine, which has fueled my desire to pursue a health-related senior thesis. I plan on building on existing scholarship on gender and chronic illness in the project, especially Bury’s concept of chronic illness as biographical disruption–an event that shifts or even destroys certain structures in people’s everyday lives, forever changing their understanding of themselves.

I will be utilizing semi-structured, ethnographic interviews with the women in order to gain my data for this project, with the addition of secondary sources of data.  These may include survey data, and interviews with health professionals. I also may do some observation or participant observation in community groups or Facebook groups of women living with chronic illness.  The comparison of the two groups of women will be key to the project—I am interested not only in how chronic illness impacts sense of self, but specifically how the type of diagnosis and public understanding of that diagnosis impacts patients.