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2012 - 2013 dissertation fellows


Mica Darley

Project Title: "Motherland"
This is the draft of a one-woman show written and acted in the cadre unit of the Metropolitan Detention Center Los Angeles by Strella Estéban, a seventeen-year-old migrant worker's daughter of keen intelligence and nostalgic hobbies, who awaits trial for killing a man while looting the half-demolished Beverly Hills home of George and Ira Gershwin.
Strella considers herself only part-thief-she's more an archaeologist on a dig for American legend, a girl collecting abandoned souvenirs. As she performs the story of the excavation that preceded her crime, the lines between her own life and those of the people she meets in the Gershwin house—both living and dead—blur. So do the Technicolor lines between the myth and reality. In the end, Hollywood's great magic, as well as its profound injustice, form a cause at the heart of Strella's crime, and speak to the power of America's broadcast arts to reflect, recast, and reshape American history.


Hannah Rule

Project Title: "Composing Assemblages: Towards a Theory of Material Embodied Process"
This is foremost a study of writers in action. It offers a new response to an old question in the field of composition studies: how is writing accomplished? Within my field, as in common parlance, writing is typically thought to be an abstract, intellectual exercise, involving brainstorming, prewriting, and revising. Perpetually unaddressed, however, is the fact that writing also happens somewhere-in a coffee shop, on a computer screen, in a library, on the bus. Through an ethnographic study of several graduate student writers, my research suggests how material objects, affect, ritual, and bodily movement contribute to the development of writing. How do writers interact with, move within, arrange and conceptualize the physical places where they write? What objects, places, feelings, movements, and rituals are central to the writing process? In arguing for the significance of physical forces in composing, Toward a Theory of Material Embodied Process makes a significant contribution to research on the writing process and to writing instruction.


Wes Jackson

Project Title: "Where do we go from here? Jewish Community Formation After World War I"
The topic of this dissertation focuses on the Eastern European travelogues by Alfred Döblin, Arnold Zweig, Sammy Gronemann, Joseph Roth, and Walter Benjamin after World War I. These travelogues reveal how German Jewish intellectuals and Jewish communities sought to respond to the pan-European, nationalistic identity crisis after the Great War. The travelogues not only present descriptions of the Central and Eastern European Jewish ghettos to a Western audience, they also act as post-War reassessments of the very nature of authentic human community and serve as descriptions of a community's necessary components.


Nicole Lyon

Project Title: "Changing Calendars, Changing Times: The Experience of Calendar Time in Early Modern Germany"


Dandan Li

Project Title: "Multiplicity Adjustment in Bayesian Variable Selection for Linear Model"
Multiplicity in statistics refers to the increased likelihood of incorrectly finding significance as the number of statistical tests carried out gets large. Therefore, a correction is needed to control the rate of finding falsely significant tests. Such a correction is commonly referred to as multiplicity adjustment. By appropriate choice of prior distributions, multiplicity adjustment will happen automatically in Bayesian approach. While recognized as important, there remain several issues: how to choose priors, how to measure the achieved multiplicity adjustment, how to interpret it and whether this adjustment has desirable properties under standard settings. The goal of this project is to propose a measure that can quantify the multiplicity adjustment induced by a prior distribution in Bayesian variable selection, and to study its properties and interpret its value. The proposed multiplicity adjustment measure allows calibration of prior distributions which users of Bayesian method can use to make a suitable choice of prior and achieve desired multiplicity adjustment.


Nadesan Ramaruban

Project Title: "Commutative Hyperalgebra"
This work will develop the notion of hyperrings as an extension of classical ring theory. Rings are sets that possess algebraic operations of addition and multiplication of elements in the set, encompassing examples such as the integers, rational numbers, etc. Hyperrings generalize rings further to allow multiple output values for the addition operation. In mathematics, introducing more abstract definitions often serves to clarify and consolidate phenomena that arise in a variety of settings. Hyperrings arise naturally in several settings in algebra, including quadratic form theory, spaces of orderings, and multiplicative subgroups of fields. We determine the extent to which the results of commutative ring theory can be generalized to the setting of hyperrings, which will in turn shed light on the specific realizations of these objects.


Nina Atanasova

Project Title: "Functions and Significance of Animal Models in Neurobiology"
Animal models are an important and commonly used tool in experimental biology, including neurobiology. However, their methodology and epistemology have been largely overlooked by philosophers of neuroscience who have failed to properly address the peculiarities of animal models as a type of model which is distinct from and equally important as theoretical, computational, and physical models. Even though neurobiologists have proposed procedures for the validation of the animal modelsthey use for experimentation, there still has been room for philosophical criticism of their epistemological validity. Thus, in my dissertation, I undertake the task of providing a philosophical articulation of the norms for neurobiological animal model research. In this way, I aim at filling a gap within the philosophy of science, philosophy of neuroscience in particular, as well as contributing to improving the methods for validating animal models in neurobiology


Iris Spoor

Project Title: "Aesthetics: The Real Deal"
It is clear, upon reflection, that aesthetic qualities are a pervasive aspect of our ordinary experience. A tall, flexible willow yielding to the breeze may strike us as “graceful" or, perhaps, we might find a painting featuring clashing colors “garish". But are these apparent properties real qualities of objects or are they purely mind dependent? Given their central role in our experience of the world, it is important to find an answer to this question. I contend that aesthetic properties like “elegance" are real properties of objects. They are ‘out there' to be experienced. I further argue that the dispositional analysis of aesthetic properties is the most appealing realist account, in part because it has the potential to be more empirically acceptable than other realist accounts. Dispositional views hold that aesthetic properties are dispositions, or powers, to cause experiences of a certain kind in relevant perceivers. I consider two forms of the dispositional account, one variety, represented chiefly by Peter Railton, holds that aesthetic properties are value properties, like moral properties. The second variety, represented by Jerrold Levinson, holds that aesthetic properties are fundamentally non-evaluative, like color properties. I side with Levinson in arguing that most aesthetic properties are non-evaluative, but I conclude that both accounts are flawed in large part because they are not empirically satisfying. My dissertation aims to correct this failing by establishing an empirically adequate account of aesthetic perception. Armed with a firm scientific notion of aesthetic perception, naturalistic aesthetic realism is not only viable, but more appealing than competing accounts of aesthetic properties and experience.


Michael Thornburg

Project Title: "New Work for a Theory of Emergence"
My dissertation outlines the options and constraints on a theory of emergence that would be useful to elucidate the notion of emergence as it is understood in complexity science. I take Lewis's argument in “New Work for a Theory of Universals" as a partial template for understanding the essential problems facing a theory of emergence. In order for emergence to do the theoretical work that complexity scientists think it can do, a theory of emergence must either endorse realism about emergence or formulate an “adequate nominalism" for emergent properties. Both realism and adequate nominalism about emergence would satisfy five desiderata that I argue a theory of emergence should satisfy. By satisfying these desiderata, a theory of emergence would solve what I call the “Goldilocks Problem". The Goldilocks Problem is solved by formulating a theory of emergence that discriminates between explanatorily relevant systemic properties and the vast number of such properties that are gerrymandered. I argue that emergent properties are those properties that systems have when describing or explaining the collective behavior of their components over a period of time requires introducing a novel order parameter. I show that realism about emergence is consistent with its use in complexity science by analyzing case studies in dynamical systems in biology and psychology where feedback mechanisms, system attractors, and bifurcation phenomena play an important role in describing and explaining system dynamics.


Ramin Ahmadov

Project Title: "Nationalism, Secularism, and Islam: Azeris in Azerbaijan and Iran"
The treaties of Gulistan (1813) and Turkmanchay (1828), between Tsarist Russia and Qajar Iran, divided Azerbaijan into two across the Aras River. As a result, the Northern part was taken under Russian control, and Southern Azerbaijan remained a part of the Iranian polity. This study aims to examine the implications of the separation with respect to the two communities' attitudes toward self-rule and independence. It is interesting that the two Azeri communities departed from being a part of the same social-political structure, but they followed two distinct patterns after the separation, especially in terms of political preferences and attitudes toward independence and self-rule. The political history of the North Azerbaijan witnessed the rise of Azerbaijani nationalism and the establishment of three independent nation-states. On the other hand, the Azerbaijanis in Iran have remained a part of Iran even at times of opportunity for secession. Describing the two cases as examples of “assertive" and “integral" nationalism, respectively, this study aims to explain the sources of differentiation and find out what actors, processes, and institutions caused this divergence.


Jacob Wilson

Project Title: "Military Modernization in China and India: Re-evaluating the Distribution of Power"
China and India are the fastest growing militaries in the world. Their recent success and advancements will place both nations in the center of international relations for many years to come. What explains the pace and scope of their military growth? I argue that the international distribution of power, related to and driven by preponderant U.S. capabilities, plays a larger role in explaining China's and India's military modernization than is previously understood. Three additional factors--economic capacity, military obsolescence, and the availability of foreign resources-also contribute to these states' military modernization. My research study examines China's and India's military modernization since 1980, constructs a database documenting the development of their respective weapon systems, and then tests the above alternative explanations for their military growth.


Étienne Achille

Project Title: "Jambé dlo… et après? Participation de la diaspora antillaise à l'écriture de la nation française"
This study is composed of a two-part literary analysis of five Francophone Caribbean writers' (Tony Delsham from Martinique, Maryse Condé and Gisèle Pineau from Guadeloupe, Louis-Philippe Dalembert and Dany Laferrière from Haiti) novels and is articulated around a postcolonial theoretical framework based primarily on the works of Édouard Glissant and on the Haitian thought.
The first part of this dissertation is dedicated to the study of the Francophone Caribbean diaspora's contribution to the writing of the French nation through its performative acts and discursive counter-practices. The objective is to re-include the Antilles to the past and present development of the French nation and French thought as well as to rethink the foundations on which are articulated the current personal and collective identity building processes in France.
The second part proposes a reflection on a possible form that the idea of nation might achieve in the near future: the “meta-nation". The argument developed explores the potentiality of constituting transnational and chosen communities based on hybrid cultural affinities, without discarding the importance of the inherited culture(s) as a relational platform.


Jennifer Carter

Project Title: "Women of the Gridiron: "Doing Gender" in Tackle Football"
In his ethnographic work, Body & Soul, Loïc Wacquant argued that we need "a sociology not only of the body, in the sense of object, but also from the body, that is, deploying the body as tool of inquiry and vector of knowledge". Following Wacquant's call, I completed more than 250 hours of participant observation with the Cincinnati Sizzle women's full-contact, tackle football team. Since little research has been completed on women on the football field, this study will develop conceptual understandings of the patterned relationships and social interactions of women who play tackle football, especially those pertaining to gender, sexual identity, and the body.

Mark Killian

Project Title: "Everything In Common: The Strength and Vitality of Christian Intentional Communities"
Although most contemporary religious organizations are experiencing decline in adherence and institutional vitality, one set of religious organizations experiences growth and vitality - Christian Intentional Communities (CICs), a set of Christian organizations in which participants live in close proximity so as to achieve communal religious values. Yet researchers have not examined why CICs are growing. Therefore, the aim of my dissertation research is to provide an in-depth exploration of the growth and vitality of CICs. To conduct this exploration I will employ a mixed methods approach utilizing a national survey of CICs, as well as participant observation and community member interviews in two CICs located in Cincinnati, Ohio. This research is significant because it offers practical information for the growth and vitality of religious organizations.


Amanda Staight

Project Title: "Growth and Change in Cincinnati's Westwood Neighborhood"
With the working title Growth and Change in Cincinnati's Westwood Neighborhood, my project explores the perceptions of the recent demographic and social changes in Westwood, Cincinnati's largest neighborhood. This work adds a needed update to the scholarly tradition of neighborhood ethnography. By using the methodological techniques of neighborhood ethnography in a mixed method approach, I bring the lived experience of the neighborhood together with the official facts and figures about the neighborhood in order to explicate the social processes occurring in this place. Bridging these perspectives will provide insights into the perception of neighborhoods generally and neighborhood change more specifically.

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