Undergraduate Research in History

The History Department offers students many opportunities to undertake fascinating research projects, either in conjunction with or under the mentorship of a faculty member. Below are recent history projects that students completed as funded Summer Undergraduate Research Projects.

Navigating Race & Place in the Pacific: Understanding the Guam Land Use Plan and its Impact Decades Later

Gabby Lupola ’21; Advisor: Aimee Bahng

Guåhan, also known as Guam, is the southernmost island of the Marianas, an island chain located within Micronesia. Along with Australasia, Melanesia, and Polynesia, these Pacific islands comprise the vast, interconnected geography of Oceania. As for Guam, its unique history of colonialism, religiosity, war, and militarism bears a heavy influence on the livelihood of all inhabitants (human or otherwise) and their island environment. Chamorros, those native to Guam, have a long and arduous history of land dispossession, the most impactful being military land grabs during WWII and the lack of transparency or intent to return said land as evidenced by the faulty military-devised Guam Land Use Plan (GLUP). As indigenous peoples of the Pacific, Chamorros have an inherent connection and responsibility to the land of their ancestors. However, the modern Chamorro is a conglomeration of ancient roots, Spanish influence, and American patriotism. Military and tourism industries play a vital role on island and take up space, with the U.S. military occupying a third of the island, so conflicting ideals of gratitude and obligation arise. In order to understand the complexities of land usage on Guam, I conducted archival research and oral interviews. Ultimately, whether to reclaim formerly privately-owned properties or to protect sacred sites (#SavePågat and #PrutehiLitekyan), the issue of land is still alive and well in the minds of modern Chamorros on island.

Education as an Instrument of Power: Japanese Textbooks in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945

Hyun Wook (Jacob) Noh ’21; Advisor: Samuel H. Yamashita

This research project examines Korean language and ethics textbooks during the Japanese colonial period with the specific intention of understanding how and why the Japanese government used education to exercise power over their Korean subjects. It offers an analysis of the themes, morals, and stories in three elementary school textbooks issued by the governor general of Korea from 1915 to 1935. To evaluate the potential impact of colonial education on children, it uses Michel Foucault’s theory of “How to Exercise Power” as a framework. This theory explains how states direct the behavior of people through lines of communication, the shaping of capacity, and the exercise of power relations. Thus, it reveals the ways in which governments expected to achieve their goals. A Foucauldian reading of these textbooks allows one to ask and answer several questions: What concepts do colonial textbooks teach Koreans students? Do they have any significance? Are there any noticeable changes in the conceptual language or discourse as time passes? And how does the Japanese government influence the actions of their subjects in the classroom?

After reading the sources, one can conclude that the Japanese government used education to communicate certain actions to its readers. They include: attend normal schools, study diligently, respect teachers, work hard for the state, and show loyalty to the Japanese Empire. These actions intended to convert Korean children into loyal Japanese subjects.

Endless Bondage: Slavery in Old Age

Adam Taslitz ’21; Advisor: Kenneth Wolf

The research I conducted will contribute to Professor Dan Livesay’s (CMC) forthcoming publication on American and Jamaican slavery. Professor Livesay’s work explores how elderly slaves existed within a system that understood slaves through their ability to perform physical labor. I contributed to his project by identifying elderly slaves and finding law codes and articles that dealt with elderly slaves.

I used Antebellum Virginia census records, Jamaican law codes, and the official publication of the American Colonization Society to find information about elderly slaves. By running keyword searches for words like “old” and “infirm” I was able to target areas within each database that were of use for my project. The Virginia census records turned up twenty slaves with the moniker “Old” before their first name. Though law codes did not make mention of infirm slaves often, the provisions that dealt with the elderly also frequently dealt with infants and children. The publication from the American Colonization Society revealed how purportedly progressive slaveholders manumitted old slaves in hopes of sending them to Liberia. Furthermore, various caricatures of elderly slaves throughout the publication are used to create paternalistic defenses of slavery. Though slaveholders used elderly slaves to defend the system of slavery, records show that slaveholders ultimately saw elderly slaves as burdens.