University Writing & Research Conference
Thursday, October 14 & Friday, October 15
Online on Zoom
Fall 2021 Conference Schedule
The conference comprises 10 panels, with one session per time band. All panel sessions are 50 minutes in length. Please arrive on time and plan to stay for the entire session, including the Q&A, which is an important component of the panel discussion.
All sessions will be conducted via this Zoom link:
Check Out These Prizes Celebrating Undergraduate Writing at GW:
- Julian Clement Chase Prize for exceptional undergraduate research writing about Washington, D.C.
- The Eckles Prize for Freshman Research Excellence
Session T1, Thursday, October 14, 530PM
Nuclear Perceptions and Threats for Indigenous Pacific and South Asian Peoples: A Decolonial Analysis
Moderator: Alexander van der Horst, Deputy Chair in the Department of Physics, Associate Professor of Physics
Nuclear Colonialism and the Treadmill of Destruction: The Impact of Nuclear Testing on Indigenous Pacific Populations
Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted numerous nuclear tests on Bikini Atoll and Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands located in the South Pacific. The nuclear tests consisted of numerous detonations of nuclear weapons on the reefs, in the sea, in the air, and underwater in the two Marshall Island Atolls. The tests contributed to developments in nuclear science during the Cold War but had consequences for the Marshall Island atolls and their indigenous populations. By gathering research that exists on the long-term impacts of the U.S. nuclear tests on the island, it was discovered that the nuclear tests and the presence of radiation as a result of such tests impacted the natural environment of and around the island, resulted in sociocultural changes for indigenous populations and had implications on the health of indigenous peoples. This research identifies the consequences and long-term impacts of the Marshall Islands nuclear tests on the island itself, and its peoples while demonstrating the need for such programs and tests to account for such long-term effect.
Target and a Threat: How History Shapes Perceptions of South Asians
My research explores the conflicting duality of South Asian identity in Britain and beyond: Being viewed as both a target, and a threat. With rhetorical invocations of the White Man's Burden, as well as punitive judicial and employment systems, the British Empire gave credence to notions of Indian passivity throughout the colonial period. Following Indian immigration to Britain in the post-colonial era, terrorism, and Brexit, British public figures have also portrayed South Asians as dangerous, creating rifts within migrant communities and spikes in violent hate crimes. As South Asians continue to create their own narrative by enriching communities across the globe, they are simultaneously tasked with navigating a painful and often contradictory reality in being characterized as both a target, and a threat.
Session T2, Thursday, October 14, 700PM
Leave the Door Open: Agency, Consent, Choice and Love
Moderator: Kelly Grogg, Research Services Librarian, George Washington University Libraries and Academic Innovation
Blurring the Line Between Love and Manipulation: Crazy, Stupid, Love and the Male Gaze
I conducted several close readings of instances of the male gaze in the film Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011). Through these close readings of the film, I uncovered the particularly disturbing storyline of the teenage babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) in which she is obsessed with a man over twice her age and is simultaneously harassed by his tween son. This discovery led me to argue that the film's default to the male gaze in its treatment of the female characters is extremely problematic through the lens of Laura Mulvey’s renowned commentary on feminst theory in film “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” from the book Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures. I also incorporated Fredrickson and Roberts study “Objectification Theory: Toward Understanding Women’s Lived Experiences and Mental Health Risks,” which argues that sexual objectification (male gaze) has consequences across the lifespan of women.
Nonconsensual Pornography, Law, and Society
In 2016, one in 25 Americans reported that they were victims of threats or posts of nude or semi-nude images without their consent. Recent coverage from the Washington Post estimates that the number may have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonconsensual pornography, the nonconsensual distribution of sexually explicit or intimate images, is a growing concern in the crucible of privacy and free speech in the internet age. Victims of this new, yet rapidly growing internet abuse are derisively criticized. They are reviled for their lack of caution or over-promiscuity. But rarely, when the issue is broached as a social phenomenon, is the perpetrator recognized. More effort is directed towards shaming and blaming victims rather than considering fitting penalties for perpetrators of this abuse. Critical examination of the perceptions of the issue in the contexts of internet culture, image-based sexual abuse, sex, and gender politics can better inform legal avenues to address the issue. The purpose of my article is to discuss the standard methods of addressing incidents of nonconsensual pornography perpetrated against adult victims in societal and legal contexts. In analyzing these current modes and presumptions, this paper articulates the flaws of using these existing methods in advocating for victims.
Session T3, Thursday, October 14, 830PM
Body-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody-ody: Deconstructing the Erotic and Comedy in Romance Genres
Moderator: Christopher Brick, Research Scientist, The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers
Warm Bodies: Decomposing the Zom-Rom-Com
The Twilight Saga, Suicide Squad, and Fifty Shades of Grey. Three independent films contingent on a shockingly shared ideal: toxic, hypermasculine male characters and their woefully submissive female counterparts. Though this is not the first instance in popular media in which such demeanors are portrayed. Shakespeare's famous play, Romeo & Juliet, has perpetuated this pattern for centuries, only to be frequently remastered today, including the popular Baz Luhrmann interpretation and more recently, Johnathan Levine's Warm Bodies (2013). Set in a post-apocalyptic society, the film follows mildly sentient zombie R (Nicholas Hoult), as he navigates his undead family ties alongside an initially unwilling and living companion, Julie (Teresa Palmer). As a human, Julie too is familiar with a stubborn community that refuses to communicate with their brain-eating parallels. Throughout, Levine explores the beautiful dynamic that unfolds between the protagonists, but this journey is not one without flaws. Warm Bodies: Decomposing the Zom-Rom-Com analyzes the 2013 romantic comedy, noting how it challenges healthy male communication practices through the polar characterization of R, who perpetrates the ideal that men should maintain stoic, yet simultaneously aggressive personality traits in order to obtain the relationship they desire.
“Lovers and Latex”: How erotic Harlequin romance novels portray contraceptive use between 2009 and 2021
According to sexual script theory, every informative source or portrayal of sexual acitivity serves as educational material and thus influences how people have sex. It can then be drawn that the #MeToo movement - which sparked an increase in public discourse about safe sexual relationships - should influence the way in which sexual activity is portrayed. The purpose of this study was to examine the way Harlequin Blaze and Dare romance novels portray contraceptive use between 2009 and 2021. Each novel (n=10) was coded for the first depiction of intercourse, defined as sexual relations between the heroine and hero that includes penial penetration. The chapter(s) with this scene were then analyzed for sexual health and risk content, contraceptive use, responsibility, and relationship dynamics (including setting, consent, and emotions). Data from 2009 Harlequin Blaze romance novels (n=5) were compared against data from 2021 Harlequin Dare romance novels (n = 5). No change was found in contraceptive use between the two sets and the original hypothesis of an increase in contraceptive use could not be confirmed. There was a slight increase in mentions of sexual health and risk. It is positive that contraceptives are being widely used to promote safe sexual interactions.
Session F4, Friday, October 15, 830AM
Cultivating Authenticity, Addressing Intersectionality and Creating Community in Movement Work
Moderator: Morgan Stoddard, Director of Reseach Services, George Washington University Libraries and Academic Innovation
"C*ntleen Kennedy and her Feminazi Agenda": An Analysis of Reactionary Misogyny in the Star Wars Fandom.
This paper discusses the role sexism has played in Star Wars fandom’s rejection of the sequel trilogy and its female leads. It examines the underlying fear of a misandrist agenda and demonization of women in positions of power through the lens of the men’s rights movement and monster theory. Past analyses of sexism in the gendered Star Wars fandom substantiate the existence of an environment that seeks to establish dominance over women. This paper explores how fans justify their behavior and addresses their cognitive dissonances with regard to women. Ethnographic research in the context of Disney and Lucasfilm’s interactions with fans strongly suggests that fans overly critical of the sequel trilogy are often motivated by their fear of gender equality and ambition to subjugate women.
Intersectionality in the #MeToo Movement
In order to achieve equal rights and equality for all women, it is essential that we continue to question the effectiveness and inclusivity of historical social justice movements such as the Civil Rights and Women's Rights Movements. This research paper explores why the failure to address the role of women of color in historical movements, particularly the #MeToo movement is having negative implications on inclusivity and intersectionality. Through the exploration of organizational structure, leadership, and internal cohesiveness, social movements can uncover the true reason women of color are excluded from the narrative of equality. The failure to acknowledge the role of women of color in historical movements and address the root causes of exclusion have only perpetuated a cycle of discrimination. This paper suggests why the #MeToo movement must rethink its allyship, leadership, and structure to become more inclusive of all women at a time in our country when the broader conversation of racial equality is at the forefront of social justice issues in the United States.
True Community Engagement Through Art During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a conversation to take place in service-learning about what true community engagement means during this time. How can we serve those most disproportionately affected by the pandemic, which consist mainly of people of color? How can we effectively achieve the same impact we sought to develop in the youth of these communities before the pandemic – now that those efforts are limited in accordance to COVID-19 guidelines? How can we enter into service with these communities without solely identifying the youth by the racial issues they face, while collaboratively addressing their needs and aspirations as they define them? By analyzing K. Morton’s concept of community service, in conjunction with scholarly material on the benefits of artful expression and creativity during the pandemic, this paper explores these questions and examines how true community engagement is carried out through the remote arts-involved approaches within local organizations, Life Pieces to Masterpieces (LPTM) and the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC). This study demonstrates that impactful community engagement can take place with Black and Latinx youth in a virtual environment through artistic expression that cultivates their self-identity, thus revealing that true community engagement empowers those involved, regardless of any limitations.
Session F5, Friday, October 15, 1000AM
Behind the Photographs: A Cross-Cultural Analysis on COVID-19 Photographs in the US and China
Moderator: Peter Cohn, Director of Reseach Services, George Washington University Libraries and Academic Innovation
Behind the Photographs: A Cross-Cultural Analysis on COVID-19 Photographs in the US and China
Jiayi (Jenny) Cheng
This study analyzes photographs from American and Chinese media during the COVID-19 crisis. With the attempt to contrast news photographs in both countries, this study research pictures published in The New York Times’s news reports and the posts on People’s Daily’s Weibo. Through the lens of images, it questions how two media present the pandemic differently and influence the public’s understanding of situations and how cultural differences determine the implications that countries choose.
Using visual framing theory and agenda setting theory, photographs are measured in a denotative system, including analyzing the subject, environment, emotions, metaphor of the pictures. To further explain the results of the research, the author used the Hofstede’s Six Cultural Dimensions to measure the political, economic, and cultural differences between two countries that cause the difference in photographs selections.
Session F6, Friday, October 15, 1130AM
Positioning the Margin in the Center: Examination of Intersectionality and the Erasure of the Marginalized
Moderator: Tony Lopez, Associate Professor of English
Stepping Into the Limelight: Overlooked Female Artists of the Dutch 17th Century
Many Dutch artists of the 17th century such as Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt van Rijn are applauded as some of history’s greatest artists, yet there is little discussion of their female contemporaries. Even the leading art museum of Dutch history and culture, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, showcased no female talent in its permanent collection until International Women’s Day in the spring of 2021. In order to properly regard female artists of the time, cultural norms and the roles of women during the Dutch Golden Age must be examined. Class and socioeconomic level also dictated female success in the field. Young women of affluence or those born into artistic families had greater access to resources, time, and training. Women of lower status were placed at greater disadvantages, forced to seek out mentors or become entirely self-taught. Despite these hindrances, many women fought to establish themselves in the Dutch art sphere. While unable to study human anatomy, artist Rachel Ruysch achieved tremendous success in the genre of still-lives. In order to align themselves with their male counterparts, many artists, such as Clara Peeters, Gesina ter Borch, and Anna Maria van Schurman, practiced the art of self-fashioning to combat female stereotypes perpetuated by male artists. Others offered unique artistic perspectives on the lives and roles of working women, such as Geertruydt Roghman. These artists’ contributions significantly impacted Dutch art as a whole as well as the future of female artists. The women behind these crucial achievements have been hidden in the shadows throughout most of history, and it is about time they get their due.
"The Implications of Black Queer Marginalization in Popular Culture and Public Policy"
While cultural visibility is integral, it does not necessarily get reflected in public policy—and not all representation is objectively good. This research paper intends to examine the ways in which appropriation and erasure of the Black queer community occur, intersect, and disassociate in American popular culture and, subsequently, public policy.
Session F7, Friday, October 15, 100PM
Traversing Womanhood in Patriarchy from Virgins to Working Women
Moderator: Elizabeth Chacko, Associate Provost for Special Programs & the Mount Vernon Academic Experience, Professor of Geography & International Affairs
“It Feels Like The First Time”: A Content Analysis of Virginity in Harlequin Presents, 2010 - 2020
The purpose of this study was to examine how popular contemporary romance novels portrayed the virginity of the heroine, as well as discovering the importance of the heroine’s virginity to both herself and the hero character. The first set of novels sampled (n = 5) were from 2005 while the second set of novels sampled (n = 5) were from 2020, taken from the same publishing company and series. Both sets were studied to find the total number of references per novel to the heroine’s virginity, additionally examining whether or not the heroine’s virginity status was affected by sexual assault and how the hero character perceived the heroine’s virginity. No statistically significant differences were found in terms of explicit references to the heroine’s virginity, but there were statistically significant differences in indirect references to the heroine’s virginity. In the second set of novels sampled from 2020, many heroines described themselves or were described by the hero as “untouched”, “unexperienced”, or any other variation before the explicit reveal of the heroine’s virginity. Overall, the study suggested that in contemporary romance novels, the heroine’s virginity was mentioned frequently and was often portrayed as a characteristic that the heroine considered to be important. Furthermore, in some novels, the heroine’s virginity was viewed as an asset or a turn-on by the hero character. However, this study could not confirm that virginity is a frequent standard in all romance novels due to a small sample size.
“Still, There are Women of the Town at Theatres:” Shakespearean Actresses and the Origin of the Madonna-Whore Dichotomy on Stage
Recent productions of Shakespeare's work like Glenda Jackson’s King Lear in 2019 indicate significant cracks in the glass ceiling that hangs over the world of theatre and film. New interpretations of Shakespeare's classic male figures are changing the way audiences interpret gender, femininity, and power on stage. However, the #MeToo movement has made it clear that similar changes have not been made behind the scenes. Modesty and benevolence are expected of the actress’ public image yet it is a given that powerful men will continue to use sex as means of creating a dangerous power dynamic behind closed doors.
What demands to be examined in depth is the role of the actress as defined by the Madonna-Whore Dichotomy. In doing so, we must go even further than Hollywood’s Silver Scene era and turn to the first Shakespearean actresses of Restoration Era London. Through the use of primary source documents drawn from three centuries of London's theatre scene, this paper works to provide a possible explanation for the emergence of the Madonna-Whore Dichotomy as well as provide important historical context for the contemporary #MeToo movement. Immersing oneself in the culture of London's Covent Garden neighborhood reveals a world of sex work, politics, and of course, the women who originated Shakespeare's most iconic women.
Session F8, Friday, October 15, 230PM
It's Not That Simple: Deep Dives into Constructions of Race, Mental Health, and Self Actualization
Moderator: Shira Eller, Art and Design Librarian, George Washington University Libraries and Academic Innovation
Racial Ambiguity and Identity
Race can be defined as “a concept that signifies and symbolizes sociopolitical conflicts and interests in reference to different types of human bodies” (Winant, 2000, p. 172). Although race engages with phenotypic characteristics, specific traits were purposefully selected for racial representation. In order to create obvious similarities within identities, and differences between identities, a social hierarchy was placed upon certain characteristics, creating a division among defined races. By introducing individuals who don’t possess characteristics that categorize them into a specific racial group, discomfort is encountered by those who rely heavily on this segregating act. Multiracial individuals experience inquiry necessary to label them, discouraging embracement of multiple identities or cultures. This demand to solidify the identity of someone is damaging to multiracial individual’s well-being and overall racial identity due to miscategorization, internal and external pressure from one’s self and community. There is a lack of research that aids in conceptualizing the developmental and social influence interactions and interrogations can have on the well-being and development of multiracial individuals identity. As a result, ‘what are you?’ should be eradicated and replaced with inquisition and a want to understand ‘how racial ambiguity and racial miscategorization affects the identity and welfare of multiracial individuals.’
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Adolescent Students in America: Evaluating the Effects of Gender and Culture
The purpose of our research was to explore the roles of gender and cultural norms in the lives of adolescents with OCD. Many adolescent students across America live with obsessive-compulsive disorder and have to navigate their academic, cultural, and social spheres. Our qualitative research method included virtual interviews with three middle-upper class, college-aged students of varying gender and ethnicity living in the United States. The goal is to share their stories through narratives while ensuring the agency and voice of the participants. We found that our participants struggled to manage the time they spent on rituals and compulsions with the time they spent on assignments and commuting to school; the result was frequent tardiness and grades that did not reflect their capabilities. When our participants reached out for help, cultural and gender norms influenced their experiences. In particular, for our two male participants, toxic- masculinity negatively affected their experiences, and for our female, Vietnamese-American participant, the cultural stigma surrounding mental health negatively affected her experience. We concluded that adolescent students with OCD of differing genders experience an overwhelming need for control along with other compulsions while navigating an academic environment; their struggles are compounded by difficulties validating their experiences due to cultural and gender-based stigmas. Our findings emphasize the importance of destigmatizing mental illness. We hope our narratives give insight into OCD, uplift those who struggle in silence and encourage individuals to change how they view individuals with OCD.
Session F9, Friday, October 15, 400PM
Presidents, Identity, and Culture Shaping, Oh, My: Observing the Impact and Implications of Presidential Presence in the Public Eye
Moderator: Rachel Riedner, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Professor of Writing and of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
“The Joke is On Us”: Neoliberal Ideology and SNL’s Failed Satire of Donald Trump
From 2016 to 2020, Alec Baldwin’s portrayals of then President Donald Trump on the comedy program Saturday Night Live served as both a popular cultural touchstone and catharsis for Americans opposed to his administration’s agenda. The show’s frequent depictions of Trump as an orange buffoon made national news coverage and provoked responses from the president himself via Twitter. But did SNL really offer a satirical critique of Trump? By imitating the president’s personality and mannerisms over examining his policy, SNL and Baldwin became stuck in repeat performances of ineffectual parody rather than scathing satire. SNL was not alone in struggling to meaningfully critique Trump, whose language disarmed comedy as a means of critique; however, Baldwin’s impersonations improved the public’s perception of Trump. Despite its ability to influence the agenda of American political discourse, SNL’s treatment of Trump demonstrates an abandonment of this function in favor of inoffensive, commercially viable entertainment television. Neoliberal capitalism’s ideological hold on SNL and American media production as demonstrated by Adorno and Horkheimer’s work describing the “culture industry” explains this uncritical (or “failed”) satire: Saturday Night Live serves to uphold the status quo of American politics and distract its audience from the possibility of political change.
Memorializing FDR: How the Wheelchair Controversy Becomes a Social Justice Issue and Questions American Ideals
The accurate representation of disability forms a minority among historical sites, as it often is biased and stereotypical. That issue also caused debates regarding the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington DC. The initial grand memorial contains a sculpture of President Roosevelt hiding his disability from polio and thus shows how he appeared to the public. Roosevelt's reliance on a wheelchair was never publicized as there was a social and political stigma of weakness associated with any disability. After historians and disability-rights advocates protested to show FDR's "source of strength," an additional bronze statue was placed at the memorial's entrance, finally displaying Roosevelt in a wheelchair. This controversy opens a space to discuss the role of polio in FDR's political identity and also symbolizes the lack of voice for disabled people. Public representation structures rather than reflects reality and shapes the way we imagine disability through images and portrayals. The narrative of American history is all about independence, autonomy, and power. When disability becomes equated with dependency, it gets stigmatized as contrasting the American ideals. Raising awareness about disability and its representation will also question national ideals in balance with the actual American community.
Session F10, Friday, October 15, 510PM
Building the Yellow Brick Road: Considerations of Mentorship, Guidance, and Independent Inquiry in Academic Exploration
Moderator: Frank Stearns, Visiting Assistant Professor, University Honors Program
How Soon Should Students Specialize?: An International Analysis
My project is a comparative analysis of the education systems of three countries: The United States, The United Kingdom, and The Netherlands. The education system encompasses ages from nursery/kindergarten all the way until right before undergraduate studies. The objective of the essay is to find an alternative comprehensive education system for the United States that allows students to specialize in their desired courses of study at a younger age, similar to the system in the other two aforementioned countries. Earlier specialization and focus in the desired field of study would benefit American students by giving them foundational knowledge prior to their entry to undergraduate studies. However, contrary to the European nations, the United States would employ a more flexible specialization track, giving students flexibility to change their course if they are unsatisfied with their initial choice. This comparative analysis contains the accounts of three students, one from each country, and their thoughts on their respective education systems.
Reciprocity Within Virtual Mentorships
Upon entering my freshman year at George Washington University, I knew that I wanted to continue my involvement in community service. However, Covid-19 proved to make this goal more challenging than anticipated. Through my University Writing course, I was granted the opportunity to virtually tutor students through a program called For Love of Children. I have had previous experience working as a tutor and was excited to participate in this program. Difficulties due to a virtual environment made themselves apparent following my first session and I came to the realization that I could not approach virtual mentorships in the same manner as I had with my previous in person experiences. In an attempt to better my understanding on how to build a reciprocal relationship with the mentees I was working with given our environment, I decided to pose a research question and utilize my experiences with the knowledge I had on reciprocity to find a possible solution: what does a conceptual framework that will allow its users to effectively generate reciprocity within mentorships that take place in a virtual setting look like.