Master of Arts in Cultural Studies

Featured Project Archive

Araçuaí, Brazil Documentary Film 

Angelica and Pedro

Cultural Studies student Angelica Macklin began production on a collaborative documentary film in Brazil as part of her final capstone research project. The film investigates how certain members of the community of Araçuaí have historically organized citizens toward civic engagement and how their work laid the foundation for the social and political change between 1960 and 2009. The project seeks to understand how and where education, artisan production, and civic engagement intersect, and the role that every-day people play in cultural production, consciousness building, and identity changing politics. This documentary will highlight the early liberation work of Frei Xico, who was appointed by the Catholic Church as cleric of the town between 1969 and 1989, Maria Lira, an artist, researcher and founder of the Araçuaí Workers Party in 1983, and Geralda Soares, an activist who works primarily with indigenous movements around Araçuaí concerning issues of land rights and sustainability. The film will follow their roles and actions in the 1980s and 1990s that led to the election of Worker Party Mayor Caca-Maria do Carmo Ferreira da Silva in 1997. She was the first female mayor and first Black mayor of the town and played a significant role in policy reform. She was also instrumental in bringing in Tiao Rocha, director of the Center for Popular Culture and Development, who has spent the past few years developing the town’s public education system, agricultural projects, and economic growth.  

Imagine Children's Museum 


Cultural Studies student Faith Simonelli began volunteering at Imagine Children's Museum in October 2008.  Located in Everett, WA, Imagine Children's Museum features a playful learning environment through a variety of exhibits and activities for children and families.

In Summer 2009, Faith was invited to evaluate the museum’s summer enrichment program for Hispanic/Latino children.  Called “Imaginate,” the program targets bilingual children with the goal of increasing their sense of belonging to the community as well as their English language retention over the summer. 

Through the Cultural Studies program, Faith received training in various research methodologies.  She immersed herself in the three-week day camp program, and her activities involved participatory observation and surveying “campers,” their parents, and elementary school educators.  Faith is in the process of analyzing the data and hopes her findings will broaden dialogue around the needs of bi-lingual children while enhancing the museum’s cultural programming.   The experience confirmed Faith’s commitment to elevating the needs of minority communities and solidified her desire to pursue a career addressing local diversity issues.  In addition to her work with Imagine, Faith serves as a member of Everett’s Cultural Arts Commission.

Seattle Human Rights Film Festival 


Five cultural studies students worked with faculty member Ben Gardner to develop a course that designed post-film audience engagement activities.  Partnering with Amnesty International's annual Seattle Human Rights Film Festival, the students facilitated two post-film activities to promote dialogue and social action around human rights issues. 

The selected films included "To See If I'm Smiling," which features the stories of six female Israeli soldiers formerly stationed in Gaza, and "Journey Through Hell," which documents the perilous journey of Somali and Ethiopian migrants risking their lives to cross the Gulf of Aden in search of a better future.  Both post-film activities evoked difficult questions and thoughtful dialogue, and audience members were encouraged to visit a wiki website developed by the students to foster more discussion and resource sharing. 

The Wing Luke Asian Museum 

WLAM Ballot Party

In October 2008, Cultural Studies students participated in the first-ever Ballot Party held at The Wing Luke Asian Museum (WLAM) in Seattle's International District. In conjunction with the museum's exhibit "Our Voices...Our Democracy: Civic Engagement in the Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) Community," the Ballot Party was co-hosted by a number of community-based organizations, including: WLAM, Asian Pacific American Labor Association, APIAvote WA '08, ROAR, and OneAmerica.

The Ballot Party featured a presentation on the importance of elections, interpretive services, assistance with voting, and ballot collection. Cultural Studies students participated in a variety of ways: helping staff the Ballot Party, documenting the event, and meeting with community organizers to discuss how civic engagement operates within our local APIA communities.





“This experience has been an exciting step in learning how to use film as a powerful tool toward building alliances that promote meaningful social change. I am grateful to partner with fellow collaborators: Professor Jonathan Warren, UW Latin American Studies Program Chair; Maria Lira, Araçuaí resident, artist, activist, and cultural researcher; and Geralda Chaves Soares, Araçuaí resident, leading community member, and political organizer.”

--Angelica Macklin,
Cultural Studies Student




Each summer, we see dramatic changes in the children over the course of the three-week Imaginate program. This year, we are excited to have the opportunity to work with Faith and have her follow up with the children throughout the school year, measuring the long-term benefits to both the children and their families."

--Lori Eaton,
Education Manager
Imagine Children's Museum



"What I appreciated most about the film curriculum project was that it gave us space to practice activism and community-building within an established Seattle festival.  The insights gained about festival organization alone made the project worth the effort.  Combined with the team's preparation and the multitude of activist-connections, this project was among the most rewarding I've had."

--Nikki Neuen,
Cultural Studies Student



"Personally, the most interesting and meaningful part of this site visit was when the organizers shared their personal experiences and understandings of the historic and contemporary civic engagement within and by the APIA community. Their stories from the past, their hopes for the future, and their current actions to link the two made the theoretical aspects of civic engagement and democracy more tangible." 

--Joy MacTavish-Unten, Cultural Studies Student