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Politics

Nepal’s Constitutional Crisis

Ryan Wingate (2013); Mentor(s): Pierre Englebert

Abstract: The objective of my research was to examine the democratization process within Nepali civil society, specifically answering the question of whether democratic principles and functioning institutions are consistent and sustainable with Nepalese traditions of caste, ethnicity and regional politics. I conducted my research at the climax of a constitutional crisis, and therefore was able to compare attitudes before and after the Nepali government failed to draft the essential document. My methods for research included personal interviews with individuals from across Nepali society, formal interviews with scholars, and an analysis of literature on Nepali politics, civil society and democratization. I observed that Nepalis simultaneously viewed the now defunct constitution as a possible solution to the failures of the state as well as a sort of alien document that was not originating from the will of the people.
Funding Provided by: Faucett Catalyst Fund

Is the Church Relevant Today?

Adi Salinas (2015); Mentor(s): Lorn Foster

Abstract: Social institutions change through the years and so do their importance. Commonly questioned is the relevance of the church in our modern world. To answer this question, I researched what needs and roles the church fulfilled in the 20th century and whether they are still addressed today. Through examining the archives of Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles, I narrowed those needs and roles down to spiritual fulfillment, a source of humanitarian aid, a place to create a family, and a source for community engagement. By analyzing minute books, letters, articles and reports, I found that while many substitutes have risen, the church still fulfills these needs, sometimes better than the substitutes. In the How Couples Meet and Stay Together survey, it showed that the instances in which couples meet over the internet have dramatically increased. It also showed that couples that meet in the church stay together longer and have happier marriages. In terms of humanitarian aid, the LDS alone has given over $1 billion in aid to 167 countries since 1985. Finally, Second Baptist Church also serves as a case study for a comparison of the church back then and now.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP

Greece 2012, Creation, Crisis: A Documentary Film

Jacob Moe (2013); Mentor(s): Jonathan Hall

Abstract: This research project manifests itself as a documentary film. Shot in the months of June and July 2012, the film documents different spaces in Athens during a pivotal moment in national and European history. Following three months with no formal government, the elections of June 17th gave Greece a recognized albeit weak government headed by Antonis Samaras of the "New Dimokratia" Party. This film examines various flashpoints in this process: a political rally the day before elections, the winner declaring victory. It also engages lesser known faces and corners of the city: a man dissatisfied with political progress, the graffiti surrounding the University of Fine Arts. Its main intention is to present a view of Greece at this particular juncture that is rarely seen; a view that steers clear of the formulaic news so often seen in the international media's coverage of the Greek crisis. It draws audio from various sources: an interview with a professor of political theory, a conference on education, sounds of the ambient Athens. This film strives above all to be a testament to the politics of aesthetics; to the idea that film can (and should) engage and expose contested contemporary political and social space in Greece.
Funding Provided by: Faucett Catalyst Fund

The Federalist Society: An Epistemic Community Shaping Law in Multiple Doctrinal Areas

Thomas Conkling (2014); Mentor(s): Amanda Hollis-Brusky

Abstract: Professor Hollis-Brusky's 2010 dissertation details how the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy, functioning as an epistemic community, has shaped American constitutional law in matters of federalism and the separation of powers. As a Summer Undergraduate Research Assistant to Professor Hollis-Brusky, I helped to expand on her original research as well as extend it into the doctrinal areas of Campaign Finance, Affirmative Action, and the Second Amendment. Examining 28 years of conference transcripts, publications, and newsletters, I collected hundreds of documents relating to these doctrinal areas, put them into a qualitative analysis program, and coded them for certain characteristics. I later read these documents, identified multiple types of legal arguments, and discovered what sources were most called upon to further these arguments. Additionally, I examined major Supreme Court decisions in these doctrinal areas and identified Federalist Society members providing opinions, oral arguments, counsel briefs, and amicus briefs. The products of my Summer Undergraduate Research Assistantship will be used by Professor Hollis-Brusky in her forthcoming book to note how the Federalist Society has shaped law through the Academy, Lower Courts, and the Supreme Court. I will continue my research in the upcoming school year.
Funding Provided by: Aubrey H. and Eileen J. Seed Student Research Fund

I'm Black, I'm a Felon, Now What?: Racial Inequality and African American Justice

Zachary Williams (2014); Mentor(s): Sidney Lemelle

Abstract: This project explores the significant societal effects of both being an African American ex-felon in the United States. Focusing primarily on the economic impact and considerable social disadvantages of being a stigmatized African American ex-felon, I found vast amounts of evidence that suggest that not only does there exist a high degree of difficulty in obtaining necessities such as: employment, education, public assistance, and the ability to vote, but there also exists a disproportionate effect placed upon African American and Latino men compared to their Caucasian counterparts. The philosophical shift away from a rehabilitative criminal justice system towards a punitive criminal justice system has led to what many social scholars are referring to as mass incarceration. Dramatic increases in sentencing probabilities and sentence lengths (especially drug-related offenses) has accounted for the increase and explosion in both the incarcerated and ex-offender populations in contrary to the fact that crime rates have continued to fall significantly since the late 1970s. It is currently estimated that the ex-felon population ranges anywhere between 12-14 million people of working age and the ex-prisoner population ranging around 5.5 million people. These staggering statistics play fundamental roles in the economic productivity, social welfare, and civil liberties of ex-felons, disproportionately affecting African American men as they face other social disadvantages daily.
Funding Provided by: Aubrey H. and Eileen J. Seed Student Research Fund

Blinded by the Sun: A Film About Los Angeles

Dylan Howell (2013); Additional Collaborator(s): Travis Wilkerson; Mentor(s): Susan McWilliams

Abstract: The intent of my summer work was to examine the political moment of Los Angeles through the medium film. Although I initially intended to document Occupy Los Angeles, my focus turned to the obverse side of contemporary politics: inertia and apathy in the face of profound alienation and widespread systemic violence. Taking a cue from Tomas Gutierez Alea’s film Memories of Underdevelopment (1968), the film seeks to situate a young man’s narrative amidst his historical and political surroundings, and uses narrative, documentary and essayistic components to do so. To inform the critical position of the film, I drew primarily on Mike Davis’s geographic study of Los Angeles, Jean- Paul Sartre’s writings on existentialism, and Guy Debord’s theory of spectacle capitalism. Although the film’s development is ongoing, the finished piece will relate the refusal of individual ethical choice to the experience of passive alienation in today’s Los Angeles.
Funding Provided by: Aubrey H. and Eileen J. Seed Student Research Fund

We Have Meddled with the Primal Forces of Nature: Bringing Corporations into American Government Pedagogy

Jeffrey Zalesin (2014); Student Collaborator(s): Charles Herman (2014); Chad Powell (2014); Mentor(s): David Menefee-Libey

Abstract: Corporations play a significant role in society, yet many people do not understand what corporations are or how they developed. This project had two tasks. First, we examined 20 popular high school government textbooks to determine what a student would learn about corporations by reading one. We found that many textbooks explain the basic features of corporations as business firms, but few say much about the distinctive relationship between corporations and governments. Second, we developed a curriculum to help high school and college students understand the history and features of corporations. We prepared for this task by performing a wide-ranging literature review. After identifying the most important information and explanations about corporate history and the role of corporations in contemporary American politics, we designed lesson plans for teachers who want to communicate this material to their students.
Funding Provided by: Pomona Alumni SURP Fund (JZ); Aubrey H. and Eileen J. Seed Student Research Fund (CH, CP)

Derek Ha (2014); Mentor(s): Philip Streich

Warlord Rule in China

Abstract: For most of the early 20th century, central authority in China was weak, and real power belonged to warlords. They are best remembered for their greed and brutality. This image, though accurate in many respects, overlooks that warlords still needed to govern. This project looks at how China’s warlords grappled with the same issues as anyone else hoping to maintain or expand political power. After examining the scholarly literature on this era, especially biographies of several prominent warlords, a more nuanced picture of the warlords emerges – one which highlights the parallels between warlord rule and regular civilian governance. Some warlords broke the pattern of violent exploitation to bolster their political legitimacy. They strove for economic development and enacted social policies that were progressive by the standards of that time. Warlords also extracted revenue from their territory, as rulers of states inevitably need to. The project’s goal is to demonstrate that China’s warlords were not purely militaristic creatures. In many cases, they took on certain characteristics of state-builders and political leaders. This study can contribute to a better understanding of warlord rule in general. It is part of a larger study on warlord behavior that also includes case studies from 16th century Japan and pre-Taliban Afghanistan.
Funding Provided by: Aubrey H. and Eileen J. Seed Student Research Fund

The Materiality of Occupy Wall Street

Quinn Lester (2013); Mentor(s): Heather Williams

Abstract: In order to understand Occupy Wall Street (OWS) as a unique political event I researched the objects that have been collected from the two month occupation of Zuccotti Park, such as signs, flyers, and tents, along with video and pictures of the occupation. My research shows that OWS is best understood as a political action rooted in the material realities of New York City, such as mass homelessness and the decline of public space. As a material action OWS attempted to build an alternate political community based around forms of mutual aid and horizontal democracy, and thus also addressed issues of hunger, mental health, and basic healthcare. This need to respond to local conditions in Zuccotti Park then refutes the idea of OWS as a movement based primarily in social media or ideology. The future of OWS, as a now decentralized movement of activists, lies in organizing around issues, such as debt and home foreclosure, that highlight the material struggles of communities dealing with a lack of access to political/economic power and representation.
Funding Provided by: Faucett Catalyst Fund

Research at Pomona