Graduate Research Conference


Graduate Research Conference

Friday, May 21, 2021
3:30-7:30 pm

Via Zoom

3:15  Gathering

Program to begin at 3:30 pm

3:30 pm Welcome, and Acknowledgements

  • Naomi Macaladad Bragin, Faculty
  • Susan Harewood, Faculty

Research Presentations


  • Ben Gardner, Faculty and Associate Dean of Faculty Development and Scholarship
  • Ron Krabill, Faculty and Co-Director, MA in Cultural Studies

3:45 pm Contemplating Representations

  • Drew Gamboa: “A Spirit of Common Life and Struggle”: The Chicano Communal Spirit
  • Mary Mobarak: Boundless: Reimagining Representation in Science Fiction
  • Sonia Rodriguez: Glitches: Experiments in Gaming and Player Preferences

4:35 pm     Defying Narratives

  • Julie Feng: Movement Art & Mobile Commoning against Border Imperialism
  • Amanda Kessler: Challenging Dominant Discourse: Pride in Settler Colonialism
  • Ray Lindquist: Narrative Based Interventions in Higher Education Pedagogy
  • Brian Crisanto Ramos:  Indigenous Embodiment: The Collaborative Weaving of Knowledge in Hip Hop Performance

5:35 pm     Embodying Praxis

  • Whitney Summers: Serving the Aging Homeless: A Social Worker’s Perspective
  • Courtney Clementson: Anti-Racist Praxis: Beyond Intention Towards Integrable Impact
  • Vildana Ramic: Conversations On and With Love: Wielding Power and Agency within Education
  • Sandra J.: 9 Breaths: Reflections and (Dis)Connections on the Transformative Justice Theory/Praxis Divide

6:35 pm      Telling Better Stories

  • Alia Mahdi: Storytelling and Al Zar as Coping Strategies for Sudanese Women
  • Kim Jones: Hidden Tastes: Identity Formation between Multiracial Korean American Sisters
  • Sabrene Odeh: Palestinian Women in the Diaspora

7:20 pm      Closing and Conclusion

  • Susan Harewood

Presentation Abstracts

Courtney Clementson: Anti-Racist Praxis: Beyond Intention Towards Integrable Impact

In response to the persistent and sanctioned violence against Black Communities across the United States, the nation has seen an increase in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, especially in more 'liberal' or 'progressive' regions like the Pacific Northwest (Barrie, 2020). While this embrace of DEI could be indicative of an increased concern for disparities experienced amongst various identity groups, analytical attention is required to ensure that such efforts are not simply superficial lip service and moreover, to consider the importance of somatic practices that can instill deeply impact pedagogical change. This research undertakes such an accountable analysis by exploring the DEI work that is being done across three different societal sectors which are embracing such initiatives: 501-c3 (Non-Profit) Organizations, Institutions of Higher Education, and K-12 Educational Districts. Through ethnographic observations of various DEI practitioners, this research explores what kinds of DEI work are being performed in these spaces, how such practices may or may not uphold or resist current hegemonic norms, and contemplate why some strategies may be more or less impactful than others.

Julie Feng: Movement Art and Mobile Commoning against Border Imperialism

For people in movement—as in migration, as in social action, and as in both—reframing narratives can be a powerful strategy. This project analyzes how cultural producers have disrupted status quo discourses of immigration through movement art that engages with radical politics against border imperialism. The rhetorics perpetuated by such work unsettle narratives that hold borders, nation-states, and immigration rights as “common sense” concepts. Furthermore, this project is an exploration of how the circulation of these reframed narratives is part of the mobile commons, a framework for sharing resources towards collective care, breaking out of enclosures, and seeding possibilities for migrating people. While this framework is crucial for resistance against racist, capitalist, and colonialist systems, the mobile commons is also world-building work that practices alternative ways of knowing and being.

Drew Gamboa: “A Spirit of Common Life and Struggle”: The Chicano Communal Spirit

How will the practice of gathering shift as society copes with the realities of disease, death, and wrongdoing? My thoughts around the practice of gathering can only be understood through the historical spaces that have continually been utilized in communion and accompaniment, as well as those spaces in which these concepts were held in competition. Premised around what José Andrade Olivares conceptualizes as the Chicano communal spirit, “a process of opposing oppressive conditions within the context of communal suffering through accompaniment…,” my presentation shares historical examples to gauge the abundance and limitations of communal spirit in the development of the Chicanx community within the Pacific Northwest. Moving between the lines of art, university, independent study, carceral networks, and the celebration of life, the presentation not only illuminates what deters or coalesces accompaniment within practice but also connects this practice in a way that decenters the institutionalization of cultural studies, following Handel Wright’s work in “Dare we de-centre Birmingham?”

Sandra J.: 9 Breaths: Reflections and (Dis)Connections on the Transformative Justice Theory/Praxis Divide

Notable cultural workers recognize transformative justice as a community-based approach for responding to violence, harm and abuse. To do this work is to center relationship-building as we facilitate community-based responses which do not reproduce carceral logics. How is theory embodied and practiced within the everyday work of transformative justice?  And ultimately, how can we be more survivor centered in our coalitional work?

This presentation aims to showcase my journey navigating the transformative justice theory/praxis divide, specifically through my experiences as a Cultural Studies graduate student, an Unhoused Survivor Advocate working with/for multiply-marginalized houseless survivors of violence, and a survivor myself. I will put my scholarly research on transformative justice in conversation with my embodied practice of facilitation, offering Qigong Healing workshops to unhoused survivors in Olympia. In doing so, I show how using survivor-centered approaches to ground relationship building results in an embodied form of community care. In turn, embodied community care centers the complex realities of survivors within a politic of relationality rather than a politic of exceptionalism.

Kim Jones: Hidden Tastes: Identity Formation between Multiracial Korean American Sisters

Food allows connection to and remaking of memory. From the smell to the taste or even the process of making it, food tells stories. This research presentation studies the ways food preparation impacts identity formation processes for multiracial Korean Americans. I develop a creative ethnographic method which combines personal interviews with the embodied creative process of cooking with my sister. Together we make Kimchi using “traditional” and “nontraditional” methods that parallel points of connection and difference in our lived experiences, becoming a representation of our own and shared identities. I will present excerpts of our interview and process for preparing kimchi. Through embodied evidence, I reflect on the connection between making food together and lived experiences of multiracial Korean American identity.

Amanda Kessler: Challenging Dominant Discourse: Pride in Settler Colonialism

In this project, I explore the question, “How are the memories and nostalgia of settler colonialism created, reproduced, and challenged through narratives in exhibit display at the National Nordic Museum, Burke Museum, and the Hibulb Cultural Center”? With this discursive phenomena and research question in mind, I have investigated how the museum field perpetuates and challenges the discourse of pride in settler colonialism. I have examined museum labels from the National Nordic Museum, Burke Museum, and Hibulb Cultural Center, to understand how the myth of pride in settler colonialism is both challenged and perpetuated from within these three different museum spaces to the public. The purpose of this work is to examine and bring analysis to discourses that need to be dismantled, specifically pride in settler colonialism and the lack of recognition that impacts indigenous communities in the United States.

Ray Lindquist: Narrative-Based Interventions in Higher Education Pedagogy

In response to the shift to online learning, COVID-19 pandemic, and resulting civil and economic unrest, my project advocates for a change in higher education pedagogy to incorporate a critical intersectional analysis. Using an interdisciplinary cultural studies approach, I have designed a prototype narrative-based text that combines the fictional narrative structure of a fantasy literary novel with a traditional research project, integrating fictional plot and character elements. My approach is designed to deconstruct complex subjects within the social sciences and present them in a manner that does not neglect the need for quantitative peer-reviewed research, the intersecting and problematic elements, or the qualitative elements of doing research involving human beings. My project also draws attention to how rational academic thought is sexist in its origins and seeks to remedy the gendered pseudoscience origins of the academic professionalization process. It is through the narrative’s plot in the prototype text that I analyze one of the more problematic forms of this gendered division of human qualities within white nationalist ideologies, groups and the demographics they target.

Alia Mahdi: Storytelling and Al Zar as Coping Strategies for Sudanese Women

Sudanese women have always been the cornerstone of the society, even under the political patriarchal regime. The regime was only a facade for the labor women had been doing behind the scenes, as they worked inside and outside their homes and raised generations. They sometimes helped in perpetuating social constraints on themselves by being the cultural heritage gatekeepers, but most of the time they resisted. Women’s resistance has been documented politically and socially. Their resistance has been all over the news. Yet when they are not protesting in the streets, they have other coping and resistance mechanisms. Storytelling and Al Zar are two examples of women’s performance in Sudan. Through storytelling women convey all their dreams to the new generations. They speak of their grandmothers who were heroines and queens. In Al Zar, there’s another secret life. It’s a performance where all that is forbidden is allowed, making Al Zar a safe space that women continue to hold, even after being an “illegal act.” They resisted the lawmakers and vented when needed. In this presentation I examine these two performances, considering how they help Sudanese women navigate the daily challenges of an oppressive patriarchal society.

Mary Mobarak: Boundless: Reimagining Representation in Science Fiction

Science Fiction is uniquely situated to imagine new worlds and characters free from socialized cultural constraints. Why then do we see the continual reproduction of harmful forms of representation? How might we develop creative practices that acknowledge that while our imaginations are boundless, the societies in which they have been conditioned are not? Through a constructionist approach to meaning, I draw from Stuart Hall’s extensive contributions to cultural studies on the subject in order to examine how we, as creators, “do” representation. Through that lens, I then argue for a reimagining of representation in Science Fiction with an emphasis on breaking down our binary understanding of concepts like good/bad and success/failure. Through the work of queer theorist Judith Halberstam, I then encourage the idea of getting lost while we are finding our way, considering ways of using these creative practices as a form of cultural resistance. As bell hooks tells us, popular culture is a site that is well suited to create change. When we embrace the intricacies of the shades of gray, we are able to utilize this to create complex and fully realized characters along with dynamic worlds that imagine what could be.

Sabrene Odeh: Palestinian Women in the Diaspora

How have Palestinian women in the Diaspora made a life for themselves and their children in ways that preserve connection to their homeland, while building new and lasting connections for generations to come? The story of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine is one that has been studied for decades, yet little scholarship has attended to the critical position of Palestinian women in the Diaspora. In this piece, I highlight voices of Palestinian women.  Palestine still exists because of Palestinian women’s resilience. Resistance takes up many forms when families have been forcibly removed from their homes to then build a new life in a foreign country as refugees of war. Resistance to illegal occupation of their homeland can look like women continuing to speak Palestinian dialects, cooking Palestinian food, wearing Palestinian clothing, telling the story of Palestine and sharing their stories with younger generations. Palestinian women’s resistance teaches new generations no matter where they were born, their blood is Palestinian and they will one day return to their homeland. My work celebrates Palestinian culture, specifically recognizing Palestinian women for their strength, resilience and their work to keep Palestine in our hearts and on the map.

Vildana Ramic: Conversations On and With Love: Wielding Power and Agency within Education

My third year of teaching, I found myself in my principal’s office sobbing and thinking maybe I should quit. She offered the advice, “Try to love more and care less.” Since then, I’ve been on a journey to figure out how teachers can move with love while entangled in an education system whose roots, goals, and “common sense” ingrained practices are antithetical to love. Using the method of autoethnography, I narrate how my pedagogy has been shaped through my identities as a White, female, middle class, able-bodied, heterosexual, bilingual, Muslim, college-educated daughter of refugees. Drawing on my experiences of power and privilege, both inside and outside the classroom, I engaged students in Photovoice projects to show how we can build a praxis of love that centers their lived experiences. Our students who are furthest from justice deserve a praxis of love--a praxis that honors and privileges their humanity. While engaging in a praxis of love will not suddenly fix oppressive systems, it does matter in movements for educational justice. White teachers can choose to use the power and privilege they do have to hold spaces of opportunity for healing in a world and education system that does the opposite.

Brian Crisanto Ramos: Indigenous Embodiment: The Collaborative Weaving of Knowledge in Hip Hop Performance

This presentation combines videographic essay and performance poetry to explore the ways in which Indigenous Hip Hop artists use visual aesthetics that draw on everyday ways of knowing through the body in relation to the environment. Indigenous embodiment is a collaborative and multi-sensory relation that interweaves body, plant nations, animal relatives, and cosmos. Drawing on Dene scholar Glen Sean Coulthard’s notion of “grounded normativity,” I place myself within Lenca and Pipil thought to assert that Indigenous embodiment centers and amplifies what my people call Manawara, or all of creation. I analyze three music videos created by Indigenous Hip Hop artists from North and South America, discussing their sensory embodied relations through elements of narrative, touch, sound, colors, light, and location. Ultimately, the intimate relationship of embodiment as a continuum of Manawara generates knowledge in a nonhierarchical, nonauthoritarian way that informs our Identity, becoming what Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar Leanne Betasamosake Simpson calls our fugitive escape from settler colonial violence.

Sonia Rodriguez: Glitches: Experiments in Gaming and Player Preferences

Video games have always had a significant impact on my life, helping me to build relationships with family and friends, supplementing my education, and even serving as a temporary safe space away from toxic living situations. As I pursue my career, I’m hoping to influence the growth of inclusive design, from workspaces to gameplay. My research focuses on understanding common interactive design processes, user experience research, and processes by which design decisions are made. How is meaning created in design spaces, thereby influencing culture, and how does culture shape design decisions? How can design practice be utilized to create video game interventions—games that work to inspire social justice and change? By using a range of methodologies, from autoethnography to critical analysis, my projects respond to these questions, while also inviting readers to do their own self-exploration and research.

Whitney Summers: Serving the Aging Homeless: A Social Worker’s Perspective

Gentrification of cities has always been intertwined with a narrative of change and progress. Critics have most often focused on the disruptive and unequivocal impact of gentrification on BIPOC populations. This project hones that focus by considering another population that is disproportionately affected by gentrification—that of the aging and those on a fixed income, across all demographics. Although impacted by similar trends, this population faces very specific challenges. For this presentation, while the basic background information and statistics come from the City of Everett and Snohomish County data, I am also bringing forward the point of view of the service providers. By focusing on their experiences, I argue we see that typical narratives of gentrification often fail to account for the vicarious traumas experienced by service providers.

Acknowledgements and Gratitude

Dakota Alcantara-Camacho, Christian Anderson, Miriam Bartha, Dan Berger, Lauren Berliner, Pamela Bond, Naomi Macaladad Bragin, Norma Cardenas, S. Charusheela (Charu), Ching-In Chen, Raissa DeSmet, Ben Gardner, David Goldstein, Wanda Gregory, Maryam Griffin, Susan Harewood , Kassahun Kebede, Ron Krabill, Kari Lerum, Nydia Martinez, Jed Murr, Eva Navarijo, Yolanda Padilla, Thea Quiray Tagle, Josepha Ramos, Georgia Roberts, Cooper Sealy, Mira Shimabukuro, Janelle Silva, Ayva Thomas, Amoshaun Toft, Jessica Trenkamp