Undergraduate Honors Theses


Narrative and Nationhood
This thesis explores the centrality of myth in the master narrative of Serbian ethno-nationalism that erupted in the late 1980s through the 1990s. By looking at Serbian folk epics depicting the battle of Kosovo, this thesis examines the role of myth as a part of Serbian identity and culture. The way the myth of the battle of Kosovo is remembered is a way of reconstructing the past through using themes in the myth to manipulate public memory and political consciousness. This thesis shows that while myth represents a key construction of a master national narrative, the narrative does not represent the stories of all members of the nation. The theoretical and official “history” of a nation is separate from the lived history of individuals. The last chapter uses gender as a lens to examine the master national stemming from the Kosovo myth, showing how the national master narrative connects to the “myth of the all pervasive patriarchy” in how history is understood.
Negotiating Welfare Reform: A Conventional Narrative Re-Visited
In August of 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act and fulfilled his campaign promise to “end welfare as we know it.” Conventionally, the passage of welfare reform has been understood as a product of the ‘Republican Revolution,’ a backlash against government in which the party “took back” both chambers of Congress and discharged the ten provisions of the ‘Contract with America.’ This account treats welfare reform as a deeply political affair: President Clinton was thus put into the position of needing to pass conservative welfare reform. While this theory is not inaccurate, this senior honors thesis holds that it is incomplete. Therefore, any account of the passage of welfare reform needs to engage with the more complex dimensions of policy formation. I suggest that the PRWORA was signed into law by virtue of public opinion aligning with elite opinion. The latter required ‘dissensus politics’ to be overcome. I argue that this transpired, and further that a loose consensus was formed among the elites with respect to the contents of meaningful reform due to social science evidence emanating from the various states. Lastly, I contend that the ancillary features of the legislation were negotiated, for which the nation’s governors played an instrumental role. These matters reveal timeless truths about American politics and policy formation.
Quantifying Legacy Sediment in the Upper Charles River Watershed, Massachusetts
While it has been shown that extensive sedimentation in historic millponds has greatly affected streams in the Mid-Atlantic Piedmont region (Walter and Merritts, 2008), much less is known about the phenomenon in the heavily dammed areas of post-glacial New England. Some research has found similar deposits behind breached historic dams in the Sheepscot River watershed in mid-coast Maine, but at a smaller scale than those seen in the Mid-Atlantic region (Strouse, 2013; Hopkins, 2014). I attempt to further explore millpond sedimentation in New England by quantifying the volume of millpond sediment, also called legacy sediment, in the 171.3 km² upper Charles River watershed in eastern Massachusetts. Twenty three milldams were located in the watershed on 1850s maps, giving a damming density of 0.177 dams/km². Each historic dam that had since breached, 14 in total, was visited in the field to identify possible legacy sediment deposits. Legacy sediments were identified by their meter or higher terraces made of fine sands and silt and verified by comparison to sedimentary patterns found in other legacy sediment deposits and radiocarbon dating of material both within the legacy sediment and in the underlying layer. Legacy sediment terraces with an area of 1.68*10⁴ m² and a total volume of 1.29 - 2.57*10⁴ m³ were found upstream of two adjacent breached historic dam sites on the Charles River in Medway, MA. Radiocarbon dates from a coarse sand and gravel lower at 1.8 m depth returned pre-settlement dates of 1281-1391 cal AD (two σ). These dams were immediately downstream of a large glacial feature with steep banks along the river. The lack of legacy sediment at other dam sites and the lack of sedimentation behind intact dams suggest that a low sediment supply to millponds prevented legacy sediment deposits from forming in most of the watershed.
Refugee Policy in the 21st Century
Recent times have seen the world fall far short of its responsibility to protect and support refugees in crisis. Recognizing this reality, policymakers and scholars are beginning to push for a reassessment of the traditional solutions to refugee crises implemented by states, the United Nations, and non-governmental organizations. This manuscript aims to shed light on how these policymakers can coalesce around more effective solutions in the future. To do so, it will analyze three case studies of refugee crises in Jordan: the Palestinians, Iraqis, and Syrians. The cases will seek to answer how and why Jordan chose to “solve” each crisis in the ways that it did. It will then assess how various “solutions”—meaning policies, programs, or partnerships aimed at improving the livelihoods of refugees—have affected each group of refugees differently. The effectiveness of these solutions will depend on a number of factors which constrain or enable Jordan’s ability to support refugees. Ultimately, the findings reveal that some solutions will remain unattainable to refugees in the near future. Others solutions, however, are evolving in ways that open doors to new, alternative solutions which possess significant potential to deliver the rights and meet the needs of the world’s refugees more effectively. In a world fraught by the persistence of global refugee crises, it will offer a few reasons why we should believe current United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, when he says there is “some hope.”
Repression, Memory, and Globalization
This project involves the examination of Kurdish nationalism in regard to the formation, transmission, and materialization of political memory. Focusing on developments of the 20th and 21st century, this analysis contextualizes the mobilization of Kurdish political consciousness within the modern forces of globalization, digital technology, mass media, and international governance. Substantial attention is paid to the role of radio, TV, and the Internet in the processes of national imagining and political discourse. NGOs and superstate institutions like the UN are also examined, as they play a fundamental role in integrating human rights language and sub-national movements like the Kurds. Additionally, the ways in which these developments are manifested through public spaces of memory provide insight into the parameters and aspirations undergirding Kurdish national identity. This project seeks to claim that traditional definitions and typologies of nationalism are insufficient, and that the nation, seen as a community of memory, provides better access points to understand how nations are created in the modern age.
Selling Empowerment
This thesis explores the impact of femvertising on representations of women, its relation to and conversation with third wave feminism as a growing social movement, and its extension of a brand’s dedication to corporate social responsibility. Feminist critical discourse analysis from a third wave perspective was used to conduct qualitative visual and textual analysis of three different femvertising campaigns: Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty,” Always’ “Like a Girl” campaign, and Pantene’s “Shine Strong” campaign. Although femvertising diversifies the representation of women and girls in the media by challenging restrictive beauty standards and damaging rhetoric, it fails to accurately represent or reference the third wave movement by shying away from the feminist label and omitting mentions of intersectionality, sexuality, and storytelling. In addition, in order for femvertising to seem genuine rather than manipulative, the campaign must reflect a sustained effort on behalf of the brand to empower women and girls through philanthropic efforts and organizational partnerships.
Sex Differences in Oxytocin and Vasopressin V1a Receptor Binding Densities in the Mouse Brain
Oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (AVP) often regulate social behaviors in sex-specific ways. We hypothesized that this could be mediated by sex differences in the OT receptor (OTR) and AVP V1a receptor (V1aR) in the brain. Here, we determined whether there are sex differences in OTR and V1aR binding densities in nodes of the social behavior neural network in the mouse brain. We also compared sex differences int he OTR and V1aR in the mouse brain with those found previously in the rat brain. Although mice and rats are closely related species, they also display differences in social behavior. Therefore, we predicted to find similar as well as unique sex differences in OTR and V1aR in mice compared to rats. Generally, we found that sex differences in OTR and V1aR binding densities are region-specific and species-specific. In detail, male mice showed higher OTR binding density than female mice in the medial amygdala, anterior lateral septum, and posterior bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. This is consistent with findings in rats. Furthermore, female mice displayed higher OTR binding density in the anteroventral periventricular nucleus and ventromedial hypothalamus. This is in contrast to rats, where males showed higher OTR binding densities in these regions. Lastly, females showed higher V1aR binding density in the anterior bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. However, this sex difference was not measured in rats due to low receptor expression in this region. Overall, these findings demonstrate the importance to determine sex differences in OTR and V1aR across species to gain a better understanding of the sex-specific behavioral functions of the OT and AVP systems.
Sex Differences in Serotonin (5-HT) Activity During Safety Learning
Patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often show impaired ability to discriminate between “danger” and “safety” cues. Women are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with PTSD as compared to men; however, translational research has largely relied on the use of male subjects despite evidence of sex differences in fear-motivated behaviors. Serotonergic activity, originating in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) of the central nervous system (CNS), has been found to modulate fear discrimination in males and may contribute to sex differences observed in a Pavlovian fear discrimination paradigm. In this study, male and intact female Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to fear conditioning with (CS+/CS-) or without (CS+) a safe conditioned stimulus, then subsequently sacrificed for immunohistochemical analysis of serotonergic activity via quantification of tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) and Fos in the DRN. Females exhibited more rapid and robust discrimination between the CS+ danger cue and CS- safety cue as compared to males. Regardless of condition, females had more double-labeled TPH+Fos cells compared to males, but males had larger variation in TPH+Fos expression compared to females. A parabolic function for TPH+Fos counts predicted fear discrimination in males, but not females, reinforcing the view that serotonin is a modulator of safety-related behavior in males.
Silent Statecraft
In addition to negotiation, nonverbal signaling plays a large part in diplomacy. One such nonverbal technique is diplomatic revocation, in which a sending state summons its ambassador from a receiving state. Such an act has strategic value and can be used to discourage politically reprehensible acts in the receiving state, or further delegitimize its leaders or government to the international community, especially when accompanied by other sanctions or a comprehensive political agenda. Other times, revocation is reactionary, as in the cases of recalling an ambassador for poor conduct or as a precautionary measure against dwindling security conditions in the host state. In consulting scholarly work on the nonverbal dynamics of diplomacy and using an original dataset of over 1,000 instances of diplomatic revocation, this thesis examines the efficacy of diplomatic sanctions and concludes that 53% of diplomatic revocations are not intended as politically persuasive tools.
Symptoms of Self-Image
Illness touches all of us, both directly and indirectly, and to respond to a reality with physical and psychological ramifications, we turn to diagnosis for answers. The role of diagnosis is to place a name upon a bodily disorder, giving a patient some idea of what has gone wrong in his or her body, and how life may change. At its essence, diagnosis renders a mysterious set of symptoms into a tangible, understandable disease that can, ideally, be recognized and treated. Yet this perspective can seem strangely simplistic. How can a single word or phrase encapsulate the variable and far-reaching effects of illness on the complicated lives we live? And what are the effects of the application of the phrase to a patient’s life: a comforting awareness, an estrangement from healthy society, or something in between?


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