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2015 Prize Winners - Charlene Conrad Liebau Library Prize for Undergraduate Research

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Lower Division

Upper Division

Michelaina Johnson
“The River of Revenge”: The Tension Between Farmers and the Federal Government in the Tula Valley, Mexico, 1992-2014
History 8B,
Professor Pablo Palomino

The paper analyzes wastewater management in the Tula Valley, an agricultural region that receives wastewater for irrigation from Mexico City and ships its produce to the metropolis. Using the lens of environmental history, the paper identifies the conflicting priorities and interests of different actors, primarily the Mexican federal government and the Tula Valley farmers, with regard to health safety, financial stability, and environmental sustainability in the Tula Valley.

Ross Mattheis
Efficiency in Minoan and Mycenaean Trade Networks in the Late Bronze Age
Classics 10A
Professor Yasmin Syed

Questions surrounding Late Bronze Age trade in the Aegean have concerned the identification of trading partners, the content, scale, and motivation of trade, and the effects of intercultural interaction. The principal challenge in addressing these questions is the establishment of evidentiary “proof” when archaeological data is often scant or fragmentary. This paper attempts a computational reconstruction of trade networks for the Minoan and Mycenaean Periods using a Monte Carlo process to fit networks to observed distributions of artifacts. The process developed in this paper is an attempt to reach confident conclusions while permitting evidentiary gaps. The principal finding was a robust difference in the efficiency in the networks, with the generated Mycenaean period networks consistently less efficient than the Minoan Counterpart. Such a differential in the efficiency could have contributed to the Mycenaean decline  around 1200 BCE.

Amy Clark
More Than Meets the Eye: Cultural Color Resonances in Old English Literature
English 195B
Professor Emily Thornbury

As a manifestation of both language and cognition – what is seen, and what is named – color represents an important point of access into the human psyche. Color words express more than visual signals; they operate within complex, culturally constructed systems of meaning in most human societies, conveying both denotative and connotative information. As such, they are of particular value in the study of Anglo-Saxon England, where cultural insight must be gleaned from linguistic and literary contexts. As such, we cannot assume that the Anglo-Saxon understanding of color mirrored our own – and we cannot read Old English texts as though they operated in accord with a modern cultural and visual aesthetic. Yet because previous studies of Old English color terminology have focused primarily on questions of denotative significance, many of our questions about the Anglo-Saxon conceptualization of color remain unanswered. In light of this, this paper offers a refocusing of the study of Old English color semantics. The  research examines the connotative literary associations operating within three Old English color terms, each the subject of some denotative debate in recent years: sweart (black), read (red) and fealo (fallow).1 Through a conscientious application of both quantitative and qualitative analysis, the paper shows that the connotative resonances of these terms can account for at least some of their denotative ambiguity; that they “look like,” in fact, more than what we can objectively see. In orienting this study towards what the Anglo-Saxons thought about color, rather than what they saw, the paper attempts  to re-establish a nexus of color-referent relationships and resonances that will allow for fuller engagement with the aesthetic discourses operating in Anglo-Saxon texts.

Samuel Diener
Modes of Fictionality in the Works of Daniel Defoe and Captain Charles Johnson
English H195
Professor Janet Sorensen

This paper highlights an often overlooked or dismissed early moment in the emergence of a fictional poetics in the early 1720’s in a succession of the prefaces of Daniel Defoe’s novels, arguing that the transition to what scholars today identify as novelistic fictionality could already be seen in motion at this early date. Then, by comparing Defoe’s first two novels to the contemporaneous General History of the Pyrates, it highlights another, older form of fictionality that was alive and well in the period: the tradition of utopian narrative. This paper shows the ways in which Defoe’s new fictionality diverges from this established form of narrative, embracing a new and more individualistic bent and a kind of imaginative speculation that aims at very different social ends. This case study will provide insight into the development of the kind of fictionality that the novel employed over the course of the century and in many cases still employs today; a verisimilar narrative with an individual protagonist through whom the reader vicariously experiences the events of the story. Such an experience, critics have shown, provided a space for “imaginative play”: a thought-experiment that had the capacity to create new knowledge.

Katherine Gray
Johanna Jachmann-Wagner’s Lohengrin: Vocal Philology at the Jean Gray Hargrove Library
Music 179
Professor James Q. Davies

“Johanna Jachmann-Wagner’s Lohengrin: Vocal Philology at the Jean Gray Hargrove Library” is an analysis of notes penciled in an 1851 edition of Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin during a singing lesson that took place in 1884. The instructor of the lesson was none other than Richard Wagner’s niece, Johanna Jachmann-Wagner, a highly acclaimed singer and actress. This essay extrapolates from the score’s annotations that Jachmann-Wagner was also one of the greatest inspirations for Wagner’s preeminent compositions that post-date Lohengrin. This vocal/piano reduction of Lohengrin belonged to Mary Burrell, a scholar devoted to an exhaustive biography of Richard Wagner that was never completed. The essay in question interprets the score’s annotations as proof that vocal technique and interpretation were major players in the development of Wagner's means of motivic composition. The essay covers a wide array of issues, from the heated debate over "authentic" Wagnerian performance practices to the uses of Greek metric schema in the construction of Wagner’s idealistic reformation of the opera into “music drama.”

Andrea Ikeda
Cowboys, Indians, and Aliens: White Supremacy in the Klamath Basin, 1826-1946
Gender & Women’s Studies H195, Juana Maria Rodriguez
Ethnic Studies 196A/B
Professor Keith Feldman

During the mid-1870s, the United States waged a brutal war of extermination against the Modoc Indians of the Klamath Basin. Amidst the virulent racism of World War II seven decades later, the federal government incarcerated nearly twenty thousand people of Japanese ancestry on the same land. This paper identifies relationalities between and slippages across the structures of settler colonialism and the discourses of Yellow Peril/Orientalism by examining the parallels and tensions between the two periods. It explores how the fundamental logics of settler colonialism underwrote the intertwined projects of genocide against indigenous peoples and racialized exclusion of non-native people of color. It first examines how federally sponsored incursions into Modoc land routed the indigenous presence and consolidated white land ownership within the region, subsequently solidifying a sense of community predicated on exclusionary racial homogeneity. It then considers the roles incarcerated Japanese and Japanese Americans played in reinforcing iterations of settler colonialism by inhabiting the subjectivities of both the settler and the Native simultaneously. It closes with a discussion of the lasting legacies and implications of these historical traumas—as well as footholds for resistance—in a moment in which settler colonial and racial violence remain as relevant as ever.

Andrew Woo
Caught in the Crossfire: Explanations of Insurgency Use of Indiscriminate Violence
Political Science H190B,
Professor Amy Gurowitz

Under what conditions are insurgencies more likely to employ indiscriminate forms of violence against civilians? Whereas some scholars have attributed indiscriminate violence to those insurgencies being simply incarnates of “decentralized criminality,” others have focused on alternative theories such as resource endowment and foreign support as key conditions. This thesis seeks to fill the current gap in the literature by testing competing explanations for insurgent-led indiscriminate violence and arguing that  insurgencies are less likely to commit indiscriminate violence when these organizations establish robust vertical linkages with their pre-war social base through political wings and strategies. Data from the regression analysis show rebel political wings to be statistically significant, as well as other potential explanatory variables such as the level of foreign support and strength of control over constituent groups by the central command. Furthermore, process tracing in insurgencies in El Salvador and Uganda outline the mechanisms whereby political wings and activities reduce an insurgency’s use of indiscriminate violence. The implications of the research are that conventional theories that solely focus on resource endowment and foreign actor support are inadequate, and need to account for these political aspects of insurgent warfare. Moreover, counterinsurgents should respond with increased civilian protections when the conditions are conducive for indiscriminate killings.