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Phone: 734–764–9537
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Current IRWG/Rackham Community of Scholars Recipients (2014-15)

Cassius Adair

English Language and Literature

States of Identification: Gender Variance, Racial Rhetoric, and the Politics of the Photo ID

Using the case of Lynn Edward Harris, the first recorded individual to receive a gender-responsive photo identification card without gender reassignment surgery, as a framing narrative, I investigate the relationship between photo identification, compulsory gender enforcement, and racialization in the second half of the 20th century. I argue that, by trafficking in dominant logics of whiteness and normative embodiment, Harris’s case marks a shift in how everyday photo-identification documents became technologies of exclusion. In doing so, I reposition transgender and intersex legal arguments for gender-responsive documentation as indelibly intertwined with the contemporary racist deployment of voter ID law legislation.

Meghanne Barker


Ethics of Cuteness: Doll Play and Children’s Performance of Motherhood

I analyze an episode of free play in which two girls act as mothers and caregivers to two inanimate objects whom they treat as their babies. I use this video clip as a lens into questions of the aesthetics of cuteness and the obligation implied by it. The vulnerability with which cuteness is often charged does not always render the cute object passive; rather we should look at the ways such vulnerabilities can act as powerful invitations to engagement. This project challenges us to think about the role of imagination in the constitution of childhood, femininity, and motherhood.

Monique Bourdage

Communication Studies

The Playboy Pad: Negotiating Gender and Domestic Space in Postwar Magazines

This project utilizes archival research and textual analysis to compare the intersecting discourses of gender, sexuality, race, class, taste, and domesticity that circulated within Playboy and women’s and home magazines from 1953 to 1972. By focusing on the spatial configurations of the playboy lifestyle, this project seeks to complicate narratives of white, middle-class, suburban conformity; challenge existing narratives of the role of the bachelor pad in the playboy lifestyle; and provide further insight into anxieties over postwar masculinities by examining the role of architecture and design in negotiating relations of gender, sexuality, class, and taste.

Jamie Budnick


The New Gay Science: The (Re) Emergence of Biological and Genetic Theories of Sexuality

Scientists and the public alike have increasingly adopted a biologized and/or geneticized conceptualization of (homo) sexuality. While biological scientists conduct research searching for the “gene for” homosexuality, the youngest generation of LGBT youth has taken up Lady Gaga’s anthem that they are “born this way.” Popular discourse about sexuality draws heavily on evidence from psychology in order to make claims about the biological fixedness of sexuality. My project explores this epistemic culture and its consequences for LGBT acceptance, inclusion, and civil rights. I investigate how constructionist theories of sexuality declined in the wake of new genetic and bio-psych tools and expertise.

Cristian Capotescu


Mitigating the Effects and Legacies of Abortion Bans and Economic Austerity: Humanitarian Aid for Romania in the 1980s and 1990s

My work studies networks of humanitarian lay practitioners in the Soviet Bloc that emerged to remedy the Romanian pronatalist and economic austerity policies of the 1980s and after 1989. In particular, I trace the flows of private aid to women and their families organized by East German feminist groups through extensive care package campaigns and illegal border smuggling. In doing so, I recuperate the unwritten history of a noninstitutionalized form of humanitarianism, notably its intersections with feminist transnationalism, women’s sexuality, and the politics of humanitarian aid.

Katherine Jean Lennard

American Culture

Made in America: Violence, Industry, and the Bodies of the Ku Klux Klan, 1902-40

In 1923, a small group of white women sewing in a nondescript factory in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, made 200,000 identical robes for members of the Ku Klux Klan. Shipped in unmarked packages to towns like Butte, Montana, and Columbus, Ohio, these garments materialized the ideology that the organization’s leaders promoted: the natural supremacy of white, Protestant, heterosexual, native-born American men. I argue that the factory’s gendered operations were a concrete example of Klan leaders’ attempts to present the organization as simultaneously modern and yet also nostalgic alternative to the social transformations that shaped the early 20th century.

Jessican Lowen


Rebecca Mandell

Health Behavior and Health Education/School of Public Health

Exploring Intersectional Approaches between the Environmental Justice and Reproductive Justice Movements

There is increasing interest among women’s organizing and indigenous movements in creating alliances between the environmental justice and reproductive justice movements in order to protect vulnerable communities from toxicants harmful to reproductive health. My dissertation examines how advocates working at this intersection are framing their work, with implications for cross-movement collaboration. Advocates will be able to use study findings to strengthen organizing efforts to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with environmental reproductive health inequities in communities of color and low-income communities.

Nevila Pahumi


Of Women, Faith, and Nation: American Protestantism and the Kyrias School for Girls, Albania, 1891- 1933

This project examines the convergence of American Protestantism and nationalism to bring Albanian women into the public sphere between 1891 to1933. I build a narrative around the first Protestant mission for Albanian speakers, in Ottoman Görice (Albanian Korca), and the girls’ school that Albanians, Americans, and others administered for 40 years. It chronologically tracks women’s activism–moving between the Ottoman Empire, the United States, and independent Albania– through a number of empirical articles: from participation in mission work and education, in part one, to branch out into broader fields like national politics, and publication, in the second half of the dissertation.

Rita C. Seabrook

Psychology and Women's Studies

"Greek Life and Gender Strife: The Relation between Fraternity Culture and Traditional Sexual Scripts, Sexual Violence, and Objectification of Women"

This project will examine college students' thoughts about gender roles and sexuality. Special attention will be paid to the ways in which traditional ideas about men and women (e.g. men are only interested in sex, all women want to be in a relationship) affect young people's satisfaction with their own romantic relationships.

Duygu Ula

Comparative Literature

“Ayse Loves Fatma” Representations of Lesbian (In) Visibility from Turkey

Looking at three representations (literary, artistic, cinematic) of lesbian identity and intimacy from Turkey, I interrogate the relationship between the lesbian subject and the public space, and analyze the ways in which these works of art subvert state-sanctioned narratives of gender and sexuality. In contrast to previous queer scholarship in Turkey that has predominantly focused on cultural productions by or about gay men, my project aims to draw attention to representations of lesbian identity and intimacy in order to contribute to the formation of an archive of lesbian works, and to theorize the particularities of lesbian (as opposed to gay male) representation, visibility and invisibility within the Turkish context.

Emily Jean Youatt

Health Behavior and Health Education/School of Public Health

Coming Out to Your Doctor: Interrogating Sexual Orientation Disclosure in Clinical Encounters

The medical community emphasizes sexual identity disclosure (“coming out”) to health-care providers as a key component to improving the health of sexual minority women. Calls for disclosure persist despite scant evidence about the health benefits of this practice. Beyond potentially exaggerating the health benefits of coming out to providers, calls for disclosure have yet to theoretically situate disclosure decisions in the broader context of the sexual minority women’s lives, fail to consider disclosure among multiply marginalized women, and do not make clear whether women should disclose their sexual identity, attraction, or same-sex behavior during clinical encounters. Focusing on these three shortcomings, my project critiques coming out to providers as a strategy for improving the health of sexual minority women.

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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