Impossible Witnesses, Recording and Describing Slavery-An Exploration of Slave Letters

Slave letters, a crucial source for understanding American slavery, have generally been disregarded. Alejandra’s project seeks to analyze the letters in the Wilson Library at Chapel Hill in order to uncover a code/protocol for the slave’s definition and discussion of slavery. Entirely conscious of the audience of his letter, the slave had to learn how to communicate, producing a letter that encompassed both what the master expected/wanted to receive, yet also expressing the slave’s own views. Thus, far from being neutral documents, these letters are composed of many layers that often disguise the author’s true emotion. Alejandra’s project seeks to explore the duality of these letters, which hide any effusive emotion while they simultaneously manifest resistance. This research will provide historians with a different window of analysis into American slavery, as it examines a generally overlooked source and therefore forges new questions and interpretations

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Social Science

Targeted Spending for the Very Poor in Chile

During Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973-1989), Chile underwent extensive neoliberal economic reforms. The regime re-structured public social services and targeted them to the poorest sectors, while introducing private alternatives for those who could afford them. With the 1990 transition to democracy, the targeted approach of the previous regime was maintained, while overall social expenditure increased. Paradoxically, while poverty has sharply decreased, income inequality has worsened. Therefore, although Chile is often said to exemplify effective targeted social spending, it is debatable whether these policies allow for a viable escape from poverty. This research projects goal is to track Chile’s welfare policy from 1973 to the present, elucidating the key factors and political agents in this evolution. Toward that end, Tammy’s project, which will constitute her senior honors thesis in political economy, will combine interviews of policymakers and academic specialists with exhaustive library research of the archives at the National Library in Santiago, Chile.

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Social Science

A Spot for Us in Every Home: Deciphering the Creation and Proliferation of Queer Culture in Mass Culture

With an upsurge of homosexuals under the spotlight of popular culture, the inescapable visibility and representation of queerness leads to the crucial question of whether this ubiquity automatically denotes acceptance or even tolerance. Gary’s project, which will result in his Honors Thesis for American Studies, will delve headlong into the issues surrounding the representation of queerness in popular culture. Utilizing a wide array of theoretical texts including queer theory, popular culture, and advertising theory as his background, Gary will decipher and examine the sitcom Will and Grace and the reality series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, aiming to demystify mainstream medias self-aggrandizing creation of TVs gay heat wave: determining how alternative sexualities are in fact represented to the population and comprehending mass medias new infatuation with hitherto marginalized alternative sexualities.

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Social Science

Urban Mediation Committees in a Modernizing China

Twenty-five years of reform in China have impacted virtually all corners of social life. During the Mao era, urban neighborhood mediation committees helped to resolve disputes and conserve social harmony and stability in the cities. Today, the physical and social structures of China’s cities have changed dramatically, raising questions about whether these remnants of the Mao era can continue to play the same role as before. Connie Wu’s research will explore this question by comparing the present role of the mediation committees in traditional, Maoist, and modern neighborhoods of Beijing. Connie will analyze how factors like history, spatial and physical layout of the neighborhood combine with residents’ social class and community ties to affect the residents attitude towards the mediation committees, and the role of mediators in shaping urban life. Connie’s research will shed light on the relationship among extra-legal bodies, social networks, and the development of China’s legal system.

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Social Science