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Current IRWG/Rackham Community of Scholars Recipients (2013-14)

Tiffany Ball

English and Women’s Studies

Feminine Troubles

My project, “Feminine Troubles,” considers the importance of nonsexual forms of intimacy within a salient primary text-Rosamond Lehmann’s popular 1927 novel, Dusty Answer. I argue that this novel explores unorthodox attachments and extraordinary affects that cannot be explained through recourse to either sexual arousal or the fixity of sexual identity categories. The novel’s decentralization of desire troubles theoretical paradigms within feminist, sexuality, and literary studies and enables an investigation of the underexplored links between femininity, narrative competition, pedagogy, and pleasure.

Johnny Berona

Psychology/Rackham Graduate School

LGBTQ Identity, Gender Nonconformity, & Recurrent Suicide Risk

Suicide is prevalent among adolescents and young adults in the United States where it is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 13-24. Suicidal behavior frequently recurs – a third of adolescent suicide attempters will re-attempt within two years. Notably, to date there is no empirically supported intervention to prevent the recurrence of suicide attempts among youth broadly or among LGBTQ youth specifically. The proposed research will examine the role of LGBTQ-identity and gender nonconformity-based victimization and their effects on recurrent suicide risk to inform future interventions.

Scott De Orio

History and Women’s Studies

The Politics of Sex Offenders in the United States Since the 1960s

My dissertation investigates political and legal contests over sex offenders in the United States from the late 1960s to the mid-1990s. During this period, gay activists achieved the removal of state laws prohibiting some kinds of sex offenses, such as sodomy between consenting adults in private. However, the legal response to other kinds of sex offenses, such as child sexual abuse, became for more punitive. As it cuts across the history of sexuality, women’s history, and the history of the carceral state, my project seeks to account for the losses that have attended this intensification of stigmatizing sex crime policies.

Jodi Greig

Slavic Languages & Literatures

“The Queens of Lovetown: Michat Witkowski’s Lubiewo and the Historical Other”

My project is chapter-length treatment of historicized sexualities in Michal Witkowski’s novel, Lubiewo (Lovetown), which chronicles the sexual escapades of two aging cioty, or queens. Lubiewo dialogues with the burgeoning genre of the contemporary Polish gay novel, and demarcates between sexual and gender identities under socialism and the gej (gay) of the new capitalist era. Lubiewo playfully interrogates Western cultural colonialism, while eroticizing subjects rendered abject in mainstream political discourse. My dissertation examines how queer historiographical strategies of Polish LGBT historians and artists work to encourage or resist essentialist identitarian co-optation to which more “authoritative” historical work is susceptible.

Joshua Hubbard

History and Women’s Studies

The Bodies Politic: Women, Children, and Bio politics in Nationalist China

My research examines the significance of women and children in Guomindang (Nationalist Party) nation-building efforts in China from 1927-1937. During this “Nanjing Decade,” the Guomindang aimed to revive the Chinese nation by strengthening the bodies of women and children. Textbooks, government policy, and censored news media charged women with producing and rearing virile sons capable of military service and healthy daughters who would become mothers themselves. I argue that the intersection of global, biomedical models of sexuality and local, state-supported Confucianism made the maintenance of healthy (heterosexual and reproductive) bodies a matter of both filial and national duty.

Alison Joersz


Discursive Politics of Gender in Haiti

My project analyzes face-to-face interactions within two Haitian development organizations. I focus on the social circulation of gendered norms and the mobilization of gendered organizational strategies. In an environment where information flow is always partial, negotiations about the kinds of evidence that “count” typify debates about social and political issues and bring to the surface normative ideas regarding gender, sexuality, and nationality. Participants also mobilized understandings of women/gender when envisioning effective organizational strategies. I investigate gendered strategies as a form of impression management in the face of foreign donors with participation of women contingent on controllability.

Michelle Marie Johns

Health Behavior and Health Education

Constructing the Body: Young Women’s Body Esteem and Differences by Sexual Identity

My project investigates how young women’s sexual identities inform their perceptions of their bodies, specifically why sexual minority women report better body esteem than heterosexual women. By using cognitive interviewing techniques to assess young women’s understanding of the Body Esteem Scale for Adolescents and Adults – a standardized, quantitative measure of body satisfaction – I challenge traditional health research methods that assume a universal female experience of the body. In recruiting women of diverse sexual identities to discuss their interpretations of this scale, I highlight how sexual identity constructs women’s attitudes, values, and beliefs about their bodies’ size, attractiveness, and desirability.

Gabriele Koch


The Libidinal Economy of the Japanese Sex Industry: Sexual Politics and Female Labor

This dissertation is an ethnographic analysis of the mainstream Japanese commercial sex industry and the competing human rights movements that have formed around it. I argue that the political-economic, legal, and cultural structures that normalize sex industry work in Japan also legitimate a lack of attention to the human rights of female sex workers. This project theorizes how practices emerging out of the sex industry are linked to the gendered structuring of economic production on a national scale, and how competing human rights movements use different understandings of labor and sexual rights to mobilize resources to the sex industry in a context in which ideas about exploitation and sexual labor have hitherto rarely been invoked together.

Austin McCoy


The Hard Core Unemployed, Breadwinners, and Hardened Criminals: The Problem of Black Labor, Black Masculinity, and the Urban Crisis, 1967-1981

My project interrogates the relationship between perceptions of black masculinity and activist and policy responses to deindustrialization in Detroit between 1967 and 1974. I will particularly investigate leftists’ analyses of black male labor and urban economics within the context of local and national discussions of urban revitalization between the late 1960s and through the 1970s. During this period, black and white radical activists, civil rights institutions, black labor groups, urban advocacy organizations, liberal policymakers, and business leaders deployed various gendered archetypes of black male labor – such as the hardcore unemployed – in their quest to address the urban crisis in U.S. cities.

Lamia Moghnieh

Social Work and Anthropology

“Feminist Activism for a Society Free from Violence: Producing Non-Violent Bodies and Households in Lebanon”

This project examines local feminists’ struggle to protect women from domestic violence and marital rape in Lebanon. By relying on ethnographic research from Lebanese feminist non-governmental organizations and collectives, I look at how these organizations identified and produced certain gendered bodies and places as violent in Lebanon, and transformed them through different gendered bodies and places as violent in Lebanon, and transformed them through different interventions and programs like group therapy, psychological clinics for men, art therapy, legal activism and nationwide campaigns against domestic violence. By focusing on how Lebanese feminist activism imagined a society free from violence and problematized existing cultural notions of masculinity, domesticity, religion and the household, this project traces the new contested between feminist organizations, the Lebanese state and religious leaders, and examines the transformation of women victims of violence through their programs.

Dahlia Petrus

Modern Middle Eastern and North African Studies

“Becky from Babylon” and Other Arab “Women in the American Imagination”

This project aims to analyze representations of the American Middle East, with a focus on gender and music. I am interested in examining textual and visual forms of representations of Arab/Middle Eastern women in the American imagination within available archival material. There is very little scholarship on the representation of Arabs and the Middle East in the American imaginary and discussion is scarce on how these cultural representations help form genderized social, racial and ethnic hierarchies. This research is original since bibliographic searches reveal little to no research discussing representations in music and gender together. My thesis will be in conversation with scholarly works from a variety of disciplines and will contribute to an under researched field as well as to the growing body of literature on Arab American feminisms.

Timeka Williams

Communication Studies

The Black Woman that Media Built: Interpretation, Spirituality, and Scripts for Black Womanhood

This study explores the ways that Black women interpret their faith-infused media landscape (secular media and media with a particular spiritual message), and use those inferences to define the gender roles appropriate for Black womanhood. Thus, it is a study concerned with interactive processes of meaning making (understanding representations of Black womanhood at large) I collect qualitative interview data from 40 Black women: ten media professionals, and 30 audience members. Ultimately, I argue that Black women co-construct everyday literacies – ways of reading media, culture, and social experience – that shape their self-perception and performances of womanhood.

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"The Community of Scholars symposium was a very interesting panel and great evidence of the terrific strengths of the COS grant program. Such promotion of interdisciplinarity only happens at UM!"

Prof. Sandra K. Danziger
Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work
Research Professor, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy