Research and Collaboration

Graduate Research Conference

Unmasking Normativity and

Empowering Marginalized Communities 

A Cultural Studies Research Conference

Saturday, May 23, 2020
2:00 – 5:00 pm

Via Zoom: Registration required

2 pm Introduction 

  • Amoshaun Toft, Cultural Studies faculty
  • Naomi Macaladad Bragin, Cultural Studies faculty

2:15 pm Session 1

  • Douachee Vang, Hmong Feminism and Family Relations
  • Savita Krishnamoorthy, Storytelling as Disruption – Re/Calibrating the Yoni ki Baat narratives.
  • Janelle Paraiso, Culture of U.S. Soccer

3:15 pm Session 2

  • Kelly Ruhlig, Recognizing Value: Compensating Social Reproduction Labor
  • Kirby Stolzoff, Pamper the Oppression Away: The Reproduction of Individualism in Self Care Discourse
  • Berette S. Macaulay, Embodied Witness: Performing Memory for Black (re)cognition 
  • Abigail Altamirano, Poetic Activism, Poetic Scholarship, Poetic Resistance, Poetic Togetherness

Respondent/Moderator: Ron Krabill, Cultural Studies Co-director and faculty

4:30 pm Closing Remarks

  • Susan Harewood, Cultural Studies faculty

Post-Conference Cohort Celebration


 Presentation Abstracts


Douachee Vang: Hmong Feminism and Family Relations

Healthy family relationships are significant towards forming stronger communities, promoting healthy relationships within and beyond the family, and providing a foundation for individuals to have a better well-being and healthier coping mechanisms. In the Hmong community, we know that there is a myriad of healthy and unhealthy parent-child relationships. On Facebook, if you follow certain pages such as American Born Hmong, Hmong American Experience, or maivmai - to name a few - you might come across stories by Hmong-Americans about their parent-child relationships. In my work, I theorize how we can use Hmong feminism to help us better comprehend unhealthy parent-child relationships. Hmong feminism is attuned to the history and trauma that play into how we, in the Hmong community, get along with each other. Hmong feminism allows us to distinguish cultural-related gender and power dynamics, creating the opportunity for us to understand the space that we live in and the people in our lives. While there is no recognizable definition of what Hmong feminism is, my work aims to provide a sense of what Hmong feminism can be and how we can use it.

Portfolio Advisor: Bruce Burgett
Capstone Advisor: Susan Harewood


Savita Krishnamoorthy:  Storytelling as Disruption – Re/Calibrating the Yoni ki Baat narratives.

The focus of my capstone is investigating how orality and storytelling are vital methodological tools of disruption for social justice, resistance, community building, and social advocacy within the socio-cultural/political context of the South Asian community in Seattle.

Yoni ki Baat narratives are autobiographical testimonies performed by cis gender female, trans, and gender non-conforming South Asian women presented annually by Seattle nonprofit Tasveer. My study explores how Yoni ki Baat as a woman-centered political project addresses and challenges discourses on female sexuality, gender/sexual identities/fluidity, gendered violence, choice, and grief in the South Asian community in Seattle.

I position myself in the conversation in the role of an Insider-Outsider contributor; as a former Yoni ki Baat participant, and also as a cultural studies scholar. This dual role has allowed a self-reflectivity in drawing from the existing archives of one’s own lived experiences(s) to frame the research and steer the direction of the capstone.

Portfolio Advisor: Jed Murr
Capstone Advisor: Thea Quiray Tagle


Janelle Paraiso: Culture of U.S. Soccer

Soccer, one of the biggest sports around the world, has seen major popularity in almost every country. America is the exception, where sports like football and baseball have been labeled as Americans’ preferred pastimes. In a poll according to Gallup, the sport was 4th behind American football, basketball, and baseball. In the US context, soccer has been one of the less popular sports with American viewers. The sport has become a way for people to look and think about nationalism, identity, race, and citizenship. Following the US men’s World Cup roster in 2014, players like Abby Wambach and Landon Donovan have expressed their displeasure for dual nationals who made the roster. Fans in return expressed their disappointment and used this as a way to have a conversation about citizenship. Soccer fans also engage with the sport as a way to think about their identity and belonging. In a country that is made up of many immigrants, soccer becomes a site to study nationalism, belonging, and difference by looking through the lens of national teams and tournaments. 

Portfolio Advisor: Yolanda Padilla
Capstone Advisor: Ron Krabill


Kelly Ruhlig: Recognizing Value: Compensating Social Reproduction Labor

At this moment there are over 5 million women who perform unpaid eldercare in the U.S. Eldercare is a component of social reproduction labor consisting mainly of childcare, housework, and eldercare; all of which is exceedingly racialized, classed, and feminized. Caring labor is considered part of the private, or domestic sphere, allowing it to not be largely ignored and uncompensated. This lack of recognition and recompense allows it to reinforce the silent role of women in society. Requiring proper compensation will allow more elders to age at home while recognizing the value of caring labor and those who selflessly perform it.

Portfolio Advisor: Kari Lerum
Capstone Advisor: Dan Berger


Kirby Stolzoff: Pamper the Oppression Away: The Reproduction of Individualism in Self Care Discourse

In 1988, Audre Lorde coined the term “self-care” wherein the concept denoted a political dedication to survival in the face of extreme oppression. Since then, the phrase has become more aligned with pursuits of wellness and self-mastery.  While the term has entered into many spheres of discourse, those produced by online Influencers construct a particular and noteworthy self-care rhetoric in a manner in line with the individualism of lifestyle blogs themselves. The phrase “self-care” has become a popular catch-all for the numerous ways an individual person may attend to their physical, emotional, and social needs. By analyzing USA and UK lifestyle blog posts on self-care from the past five years, this study finds that this genre of writing obscures how economic and structural forces shape the daily lives of readers and how this impacts their ability to care for themselves. Through critical discourse analysis, the blog posts reveal how dominant understandings of self-care construct the practice as a series of rituals to be performed alone. In addition, the self-care discourse analyzed for this study reveals an underlying principle of responding to structural issues with individual solutions. By addressing the individualist mold being applied to self-care, a more intentional, communal self-care can begin to emerge.

Portfolio Advisor: S.Charusheela
Capstone Advisor: Amoshaun Toft


Berette S. Macaulay: Embodied Witness: Performing Memory for Black (re)cognition

Keywords: Collective Memory, Embodiments, Global Black Studies, Transcultural Survivance

This project is an exploration of nonverbal forms of communication within global Black spaces -- specifically the formerly colonized sites of Jamaica and Sierra Leone. Among the many consequences of colonialism is that imperialists have consistently sought to erase Black cultural memory. Resistance to this type of erasure is a fundamental part of Black life and Black art. Finding home in the body is a restorative work in (re)claiming memory. Through this project I seek new meaningful intersections between the pedestrian, the performance, and the aesthetic. Visual and performing artists within the African Diaspora often represent ordinary cultural resistance to erasure as an act of survival, and one of self-ownership.  This project explores creative political work as it exists in everyday speech and body language, by archiving vocabularies of sound, facial expressions, and stances as gestures of connection and resonance.    My work engages theoretically rich practices of Black artists as diverse as Seattle’s Northwest Tap Connection and Nigerian-American performer Okwui Okpokwasili, Jamaican writers Marlon James and Kei Miller, Trinidadian poet M. NourbeSe Phillip, and African American works by poet Danez Smith, and artist Martine Syms. In the time of COVID 19, research travel for this work has been halted, leading me to improvise a performative response to my original questions within this work.  I am making lyrical shelter-in-place inventions which still anchor the intuition of my community while confined on shared digital platforms.

Portfolio Advisor: Thea Quiray Tagle
Capstone Advisor: Anida Yoeu Ali
Second Readers: Susan Harewood and Lauren Berliner


Abigail Altamirano: Poetic Activism, Poetic Scholarship, Poetic Resistance, Poetic Togetherness

Poetry as a powerful creative production by and for people of color has been going on for many years. This project dives into the use of the spoken word and nuances that are illuminated in the process. The performance of spoken word poetry highlights key points of performance as resistance. Spoken word is crucial to cultivating communities of healing and meaning in every space. This work aims to navigate how these concepts are intertwined to create what I call joyful resistance, healing, community, scholarship, and activism through the community voice of marginalized people through spoken word. Interviews were conducted between poets out of practice, new creatives, performers who took a break from poetry, professionals who write for a living, activists who just performed on weekends, writers who refuse to perform, and artists who tour with poetry. Through this project, it has shown light on how poetry lives in the crevices of everyday lives and how the power of poetry has been cultivated and been sustained for and by people of color. The creative space of spoken word remains a constant even in times when the creativity of practitioners has felt stifled. 

Portfolio Advisor: Maryam Griffin
Capstone Advisor: Yolanda Padilla


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