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Archives For November 2012

Remember the post about Mimi Kavalerchik’s research with Dr. Heath Hoffmann?  Well, Liana McNallan is also being mentored from the assistant professor of sociology and department chair whose research interests include crime and deviance.  Liana’s bachelor’s essay compares the psychological well-being of rape survivors who do and do not report the crime to police.

Abstract: According to the National Survey of Adolescents found that about 1 in 12 children ages 12 to 17 have been victims of at least one incident of forcible sexual assault.  However the National Women’s Study reported that 84% of women did not report the crime to the police.  While these studies show the likelihood of being a victim and also the unlikely of reporting the crime, little research has been done to demonstrate the consequences of reporting.  The present study analyzed data from the National Survey of Adolescents that included data collected from 3600 12 to 17 year-olds.  Data of children who had experienced at least one incident of sexual assault were analyzed based upon whether the incident was reported to an authority figure, such as a parent or teacher, or to the police, or to neither.  Based upon these criteria, occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive episodes were analyzed.  It is expected that those who reported the incident experienced a decreased relative risk of poor mental health outcomes.

Liana explains her interest in the topic:

“I am interested in the topic because [sexual assault is] a problem that effects one in four college women and there is still so much more that can be learned and done to prevent sexual assault and to help those who have been affected by it.   Victims of rape are stigmatized so heavily and it’s truly unfair.  There are a lot of misconceptions about rape victims and many of them are blamed and labeled.  While there has been a lot of progress in the social and judicial systems (i.e. rape shield laws) it is still difficult to prosecute rapes and many victims don’t report because of the stigmatization and lack of judicial success.  Additionally, all of the cases that we hear about in the news about schools or other organizations not doing enough about sexual assaults inflate the issue even more.”

In related news, please check out a Charleston City Paper article about sexual assault written by Women’s and Gender Studies Director Alison Piepmeier’s here.

Although Miriam Kavalerchik is a political science major, she is working with Dr. Heath Hoffmann in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology to get a better understanding on the politics of incarceration in the United States.  This independent study layers the foundation for her bachelor’s essay titled “Placement of the Mentally Ill in our State Prison Systems: A Comparative Case Study of New York and South Carolina’s State Prisons,” which is supervised in the Department of Political Science.  The project will be looking at regional differences in how mentally ill offenders are treated in the criminal justice system.

Independent Study Title: Incarceration Nation: Culture and Politics of Incarceration in the United States

Abstract: This study looks at how the political nature and culture in the United States’ current society has created an atmosphere for the incarceration numbers in the United States to significantly increase in the past several decades. By studying the primary targeted groups of citizens for incarceration, the history behind why these groups are targeted, and the stigma associated with these isolated groups, clear patterns can be detected. The elements that comprise our criminal justice system, from the police officers to the judges and justices serving in our many courts, all play significant roles in allowing the culture of increased incarceration to thrive in the United States. I am working to connect the dots from the sources of power in our criminal justice system to those most affected: the incarcerated persons in the United States and their families.

Miriam explains:

“Interested in pursuing a career in law, I am working towards finding out why disparities exist in different regions of the United States as far as the treatment and imprisonment rates of state prisoners. It is disheartening to know that the United States imprisons more people each year than any other country in the world, and I am determined, through both my independent study and bachelor’s essay work, to figure out how our political ideologies may cause this phenomenon. My interest in focusing on the mentally ill population’s stigma and treatment in state prisons stems from my interest in both public policy and our criminal justice system, sparked from my three internships I have had in different fields of this larger system.”

SURF Title: Standing Straight in a Crooked Room: Black Female Desire in Popular Media

Mentor: Dr. Conseula Francis, Department of English

Abstract: The central questions this study addressed are: what stories do popular texts tell us about black female desire, pleasure, and vulnerability? How does the “politics of respectability” frame and mask black female desire? What role does black female fantasy play in depictions of black female desire? This study ultimately argues that black popular romance and erotica-written by, for, and about black women-offers powerful counter narratives to popular depictions of black female desire. They animate black female fantasies of love, sex, and relationships, and offer alternatives to stories of black female pathology, deviance, and victimization.

Last summer, Dr. Francis and Brittany “mapped” the narratives that make contemporary American society a “crooked room” for black women. Their work consisted of locating, documenting, and coding narratives of recognition and nonrecognition in popular narratives of love and relationship aimed at and/or concerning black women. At their core, narrative of love and relationships are stories about what humans desire, about what we find pleasurable, and about what happens in the space we leave open when we allow ourselves to become vulnerable. As such, they are an excellent source for place to go when trying to find out what kinds of stories we tell about and for black women. 

Dr. Francis notes:

We found that, while some narratives aimed specifically at black women attempted to address the limits of the politics of respectability, ultimately what black women are allowed and encouraged to desire is incredibly limited.  This project was a small part of my larger project on contemporary African American romance and erotica, which I argue provides a counter narrative to these limiting narratives.


SURF Title: How Does Discrepancy between People’s Actual and Ideal Selves Influence Their Attitudes about Moral Exemplars and Deviants?

Mentor: Dr. Jen Wright, Department of Psychology

Abstract:  People’s evaluations of others are influenced by a variety of factors, including their perceived physical similarity, their shared or different cultural beliefs systems, and their perceived social proximity. But to what degree do our perceptions of ourselves influence our perception of others? This is the question our study will be exploring. We will be asking people to evaluate themselves both as they actually are now and as the ideally would like to be on a list of traits. We will then ask them to evaluate other famous people – both moral exemplars and deviants – on a list of the same traits. We hypothesize that the greater the discrepancy between people’s actual and ideal self-traits, the more they will focus on these traits in the famous people they evaluated. They could do this in one of two ways: they could either over or under attribute to others the traits that they don’t ideally have. We suspect that people will over attribute to deviants those traits they have but don’t want ideally to have (i.e., negative traits) and under attribute to them those traits that they don’t have but ideally want to have (i.e., positive traits). On the other hand, they will under attribute to exemplars those traits they have but don’t want ideally to have (i.e., negative traits) and over attribute to them those traits that they don’t have but ideally want to have (i.e., positive traits).

Evan explains:

I am interested in how people’s self-discrepancies influence how they act toward other people. In other words, how do differences in people’s ideas of who they should be and who they are influence how they treat other people. I have always been interested in why people treat other’s the way they do. This project allowed me the chance to see what individual factors influenced the participant’s willingness to engage in certain activities with fictional moral exemplars and deviants. Our finding suggest that individual’s who have a higher self-discrepancy viewed themselves as farther from the moral exemplars and closer to the deviants. However, I am mainly interested in helping people better themselves. This research, along with further studies, could be used to create a type of tolerance training for individuals who are more close-minded that focuses on closing the discrepancy between how the person thinks they should be and how the person thinks they are.

Did you know that there is a rich history of Jews in the South, specifically the Lowcountry?  If not, neither did Seth Clare, a senior majoring in history.  After a course he took that explored southern Jewish plantation owners, Seth decided to explore the topic further.  “The irony of Jews holding slaves (Egypt? Hello!) was not lost on me and since that first class, I have always been interested in understanding how Jewish identity meshed with the landscape of the American South.”

Seth Clare reading pages of Marx E. Cohen’s plantation journal.

Dr. Dale Rosengarten, a curator in Special Collections in Addlestone Library,  helped Seth discover his bachelor’s essay topic after telling him about the Cohen plantation journal. “Dale told me that she knew of a journal kept by a Jewish Lowcountry plantation owner named Marx E. Cohen. The journal spans from the years 1840- 1868 and was being kept at the university of South Carolina’s manuscript collection. Most importantly of all, to both Dale’s and my own knowledge, this journal has never been used in any sort of scholarly study, dissertation, or paper.”

Surprisingly, after getting in touch with folks in the manuscript department at the University of South Carolina (USC), Seth found out they were beginning to digitize the journal so that it could be read online and easy to access for scholars everywhere.  So, Seth is not only doing research for his own project, “Portrait of a Jewish Plantation Owner,” but also helping to make sure the journal can be used for others’ research on the topic.

“Together with [Dr. Rosengarten] and the USC manuscript department, I have arranged to help write the meta data for the
journal being put online. What this means is that people will be able to  see each page (which are actually quite difficult to read) alongside my own notes and notations so that they can understand what they are looking at. Most of what I do now involves microfilm. I go through each individual page and try and figure out what is going on to add information to the meta data. Cohen was an erratic  and disorganized guy and its hard work.”

So, what has Seth found after reading the pages of Cohen’s journal?  Unlike a personal sort of diary that many of us think of today as a journal, Seth discovered that Cohen used the journal for business purposes only; personal relationships and mentions about important happenings, such as the Civil War, are very rarely mentioned.

“…so far the journal indicates that they also made lots of bricks and sold wood as well. Cohen kept many slaves and their records are also in the journal. He comments on the weather, how much work his slaves have done in a day, how much of a given product he sells, births, deaths, etc.  …Cohen also kept track of many of the people he sold to in Charleston. Amazingly, some of these names are well known to the folks in Special Collections, and we actually know more about some of his customers than we do about Cohen himself.”

A closer look of a page from the journal.

Keep an eye out for this year’s issue of Chrestomathy, where Seth’s essay “General Grant’s Order 11: Causes and Context” will be published.  According to Seth, the essay “examines one of the most dramatic examples of anti-semitism in American history and took place in the South during the Civil War.”

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