Women's Studies Theses and Dissertations

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    (2023) Peskin, Eva; Lothian, Alexis; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    MAINTENANCE ART FOR OTHER POSSIBLE WORLDS: Rehearsing a Pedagogy of Care brings together stories, moves and activations for approaching access and difference as preconditions for belonging. Both a text and an enactment, the project offers a framework for interdependent creative practice and care-oriented collaboration, doing multiple things at once: it demonstrates an ethic and technique of play-based learning, offers a story about maintenance as the work it takes to keep caring together, and embraces lunacy as a method for creative resistance. Drawing on Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ premise that attention to maintenance can pause the perpetual motion machine of capitalist consumption/production and Ruth Wilson Gilmore's insistence that freedom is a place we make together in the present, the dissertation stages a confrontation of the multiple trainings that have formed my ethical, aesthetic, and relational processes of learning – both within and beyond the academy, both amateurish and professional – in order to lean into the fissures and ruptures one might ignore that the other can see. This inquiry takes shape in a spiral geography of four repeating moves, a conceptual fractal which gives rise to the action of the work: Unsettling, Dwell, Meanwhile, Sensuousness. The project rehearses this repertoire of moves as a means to center consent, access, self-determination, deep listening, and joy – necessities for the creativity required to undo/step away from/dismantle the many intersecting projects of empire which conspire unendingly against life itself, and to collectively transform into a culture of care.
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    Like I'm Kin to Him: Black Trans Publics, Relational Bonds, and Collective Creation
    (2023) Lundy-Harris, Amira Naima; Lothian, Alexis; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Like I’m Kin to Him: Black Trans Publics, Relational Bonds, and Collective Creation traces a history of Black trans relationality in the United States since the 1970’s, investigating what possibilities these connections offer, examining what challenges they present, and exploring what they might mean for the making of the self. This dissertation utilizes a mixed-methods approach, bringing together archival readings, literary analysis, and interviews to theorize the creation and cultivation of Black trans kinship bonds. Taking up Black trans studies, digital studies, public spheres theory, and kinship studies across disparate yet interconnected media contexts, the project tracks how Black trans people meet each other (from support groups to parties to YouTube), how we come to see each other as family, and how these connections help shape who we understand ourselves to be. This dissertation looks to four different sites— a home built for trans youth, a memoir, a social media platform, and a contemporary movement—and explores what kind of shelter they may offer. To this end, the chapters of Like I'm Kin to Him weave together to elucidate a genealogy of Black trans community and life over the last 50 years.
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    (2023) Hagen, Damien; Lothian, Alexis; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Some of us are staring at the stars: Speculative Fiction, Fandom, and Trans Imagination takes up the multiple ways that trans and nonbinary people have used speculative fiction as a survival strategy and worldbuilding tool. Through engagement with trans and nonbinary fans and creators of imaginative works, Damien shows how speculative fiction has powerful material effects for trans lives. Primary attention is given to the possibilities contained in media that was not created to be explicitly “transgender,” but was experienced and read as such through a “trans imaginary.” Damien’s research methods are interdisciplinary, incorporating the use of autoethnography, focus groups, close readings, and thematic analysis. Chapters include an analysis of regeneration as trans possibility in the TV series Doctor Who, an inquiry into shared experiences among trans and nonbinary fans deriving from focus group interviews, an examination of the ways the genre of “body horror” in film and television has been used as a tool for processing and dealing with experiences of body dysphoria, and an analysis of the trans world building possibilities in Blue Delliquanti’s Oh Human Star and Gretchen Felker-Martin’s Manhunt.
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    Women's Studies Worldwide: Cartographies of Transnational Academic Feminism
    (2023) Montague, Clara; Tambe, Ashwini; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    This dissertation retells the history of women’s studies from a global perspective, challenging traditional U.S. and Eurocentric narratives about this emerging interdisciplinary field. Beginning with questions about why women’s, gender, and sexuality studies has incited backlash across a range of cultural and geographic locations, this study draws on transnational feminist theory and higher education research to argue for a more broadly situated understanding of academic feminism. Chapter One describes the creation of a digital map featuring more than nine hundred women’s studies degree programs and research centers in seventy countries. Using cartography software including ArcGIS and StoryMaps, this component offers a broader perspective on the field’s distribution than has previously been documented in the scholarly literature, revealing new insights about how women’s studies has grown and contracted as a result of shifting geopolitical trends. Chapter Two examines several examples of collaborative autobiographic writing to show how variously situated authors construct particular narratives about this field. Drawing on the concept of political grammar, this section demonstrates how edited collections about the founding of women’s studies and articles about cross-border collaborations use credentializing and contextualizing discourse in contrast with ideas of development and colleagueship. Chapter Three discusses three international institutes that grew from the University of Maryland’s Curriculum Transformation Project using archival research and oral histories. Involving academic feminist scholars from China, South Korea, the Caribbean, South Africa, Israel, and Hungary, this case study of international exchange demonstrates the complexity of enacting women’s studies across difference. The dissertation concludes with recommendations for how practitioners in the United States might better enact ethical collaborative relationships with colleagues and institutions situated in other national, cultural, and linguistic contexts. Rather than viewing U.S. women’s studies as a blueprint than can be exported and applied elsewhere, this study concludes by arguing for mutual accountability, centering connections across the Global South, and sharing resources as strategies for building effective coalitions that will nurture the field moving forward.
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    (2021) Hoagland, Tangere L; Rowley, Michelle V; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    The institutions of welfare and incarceration are central in poverty governance. My dissertation builds on the work of scholars who deem the relationship between these two systems to work in a coordinated effort through discourse, policy, and practice under a penal-welfare regime. My research considers the following questions: (1) What realities and vulnerabilities does a contemporary understanding of this regime produce for Black women (2) What kinds of violence do Black women become vulnerable to under this current landscape? (3) How are Black women navigating daily vulnerabilities that lead to or perpetuate their risk of state-sponsored entrapment? This research finds that the state uses the penal-welfare regime to script Black women for erasure by creating conditions of suffering and punishing those who attempt to survive. However, Black women create and locate resources that simultaneously aid in their survival and help them resist the ways the state renders them disposable. My project examines poverty governance to re-think state-sponsored violence against Black women—on both macro- and micro-levels. I explore oppressive systems, the barriers they create, and individual responses to them. My project begins at the macro level with a review of shifts in US welfare policies and prison reform—specifically the 1996 welfare-to-workfare shift and the skyrocketing rates of female incarceration—to understand the vulnerabilities these shifts created for Black working-class women. It then moves to legal case-study analyses of Black women accused of welfare fraud and arrests made in welfare offices to understand how the two distinct systems operate co-dependently. I conducted life-history interviews with twenty Black single mothers currently using welfare or formerly incarcerated. These participants, from Prince George’s County, Maryland, illuminate vulnerabilities experienced in the wealthiest African American county in the nation. Focusing on Black women in this county emphasizes the production of class fluidity within this terrain as participants with middle-class backgrounds—who believe themselves exceptional—found themselves unexpectedly navigating poverty. Overall, my research illuminates the disposability of U.S. Black women whose experiences can be described as a slow death once they are entrapped by the penal-welfare regime, but it also emphasizes their multifaceted tools of survival.
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    Transversal Media: Power, Peril, and Potential in the Ever-Expanding 3D Multiverse
    (2021) Bauer, DB; Lothian, Alexis; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Transversal media move. They move with ease across a variety of interfaces, communities of practice, and applications. With highly compatible file formats, they move across a multitude of 3D-friendly devices, like virtual reality, holograms, and augmented reality projections, and now with the 3D printer, can enter the physical world, more often than not, as plastic. Transversal technologies, like 3D scanning and computer-aided design (CAD), grant an unprecedented control and access, in both magnitude and kind, to the spatial, material, and physical world. Because of this, media illustrate the biopolitical complexity and nuance of the term capture—long used in media praxis—whose meaning can imply both a desire to do justice to a subject, often by means of representational accuracy, and also a desire to do violence to by means of seizing, possessing, or trapping. In turn, this project explores the many affective, epistemological, and aesthetic contours of meaning and impact when transversal media are read through the lens of capture. Organized by five major keywords—making, transversal, play, capture, and preservation—this project illustrates the far-reaching impact of this particular media type that does particular things in this particular moment. Specifically, this project coins the term, transversal media, to discuss this unique media ontology and concretize it through hands-on creative practice and the work of artists, designers, scholars, and activists by centering the methodological richness of hands-on making, creativity, and play. It also addresses the connections between technical affordance and theory, culture, and ethics, as media scholars have modeled with other emerging media formats of the past, like McLuhan on television, Deleuze on film, and Sontag on photography. This approach reveals how various interface affordances and applied practices converse with, and with varying implications, the people, places, and things they mediate. Overall, this project addresses how cultural ideologies are reflected in the design, practice, and rhetoric of 3D transversal media, and how this media genre pushes notions of materiality, embodiment, and power into new realms of thinking, doing, and being.
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    A Host of Memories: Mixed Race Subjection and Asian American Performances Against Disavowal
    (2020) Storti, Anna; Lothian, Alexis; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    This dissertation develops the concept of racial hosting to conceptualize mixed-raceness as an embodied palimpsest of past, present, and future. A Host of Memories: Mixed Race Subjection and Asian American Performances Against Disavowal argues for the importance of uncovering the disavowed, residual, and violent conditions of racial mixture. The project situates queer theories of temporality and feminist theories of situated knowledge in relation to Asian Americanist critiques of memory. I contend that the Asian/white subject is both an index to track the colonial condition across time, and a host that harbors the colonial desires we have come to name as hybridity, multiracialism, and post-racism. Each chapter builds towards a methodology of memory to, on the one hand, track the sensorial life of mixed-raceness, and on the other hand, document how the discourse of multiracialism obscures mass violence and the colonial ideology of racial purity. Chapter one advances the framework of white residue through an examination of the case of Daniel Holtzclaw, the Japanese/white police officer serving 263 years in prison for assaulting 13 Black women. I then narrate the life of Elliot Rodger, the Chinese/white mass shooter and involuntary celibate. Opening the study in this way dispels the notion that racial mixture renders racism’s past obsolete. I then shift to mixed race artists whose performances of desire, memory, and time include a fervent belief in queer and feminist possibility. Chapter two illuminates how a femme aesthetic of retribution surfaces as a response to racial fetish. This chapter spotlights performances by Chanel Matsunami Govreau and Maya Mackrandilal. Chapter three forwards the concept of muscle memory to study how the accumulation of history is deposited into the body and enacted through movement. Here, I contemplate the queer and trans dance of Zavé Martohardjono. Chapter four de-idealizes hybridity through the oeuvre of contemporary artist Saya Woolfalk. To end, I refer to the photography of Gina Osterloh to force a reckoning with the pressures to remember and claim ancestry. Mixed race subjection, I conclude, is an embodied phenomenon with reverberating implications for the structure of racial form writ large.
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    (2019) Snyder, Cara Knaub; Tambe, Ashwini; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Brazilians designate their country “O País de Futebol” (The Country of Football) with a singular vigor. But from its earliest years, the sport has been defined along masculine lines; women in Brazil were actually banned from playing soccer for four decades (1940 - 1979). The exclusion of women, gay men, and trans athletes has come under considerable challenge in the past two decades. This dissertation traces how marginalized groups have claimed access to soccer, and what it means for processes of visibility, assimilation, and ultimately, queering the game itself. Combining ethnographic, archival, and visual methods, the project unfolds over three case studies focused on women, trans, and gay players, respectively. The first chapter presents a history of Brazilian women’s soccer: using media sources and interviews, it tracks tensions between women athletes’ demands to be seen and the gendered forms of disciplining that have accompanied their increased visibility. Such disciplining has contributed to the whitening and feminization of women’s soccer, as seen in the case of the Paulistana tournament, and to the subsequent migration of Brazil’s top athletes. These migrant players have since used their transnational networks to jockey for recognition and a more equitable distribution of resources. My second chapter offers an ethnography of Brazil’s first trans men’s soccer team, the Brazilian Meninos Bons de Bola (MBB, or Soccer Star Boys), to explore futebol as a site for combating invisibility and violence, creating transness, and queer worldmaking. Using a combination of focus groups, ethnographic observations, and interviews, I explore how team members theorize oppression, survive transphobia, and thrive. My third chapter analyzes the challenges facing the Brazilian BeesCats, a cis gay men’s soccer team, as they form the first Brazilian contingent to participate in the international Gay Games. Drawing from ethnographic data from the 2018 Paris Gay Games, I examine the ethnosexual frontiers of this international LGBT sporting event. Ultimately, I argue, the athletes described in this dissertation make claims on their national sport as part of deeper struggles for belonging. In the context of a culturally rightward turn in Brazil, they are also queering futebol and subverting gender ordering.
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    (2019) Lee, Sina; Kim, Seung-Kyung; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Leaving “Home” in Search of the “Homeland”: Transnational Encounters among Adopted Korean Returnees, Adoptive Mothers, and Birth Mothers considers the relationships within adoption triads—returned adoptees, birth mothers, and adoptive mothers in South Korea and the U.S.—in order to expand the concept of, “the best interest of the child,” under which transnational adoptions of Korean children were carried out in the mid-twentieth century. The two primary research methods used in this study are participant observation and in-depth interviews. I conducted a pilot study by participating in formal Korean adoptees’ conferences as well as informal gatherings of adoptees held in the northeastern United States. I then returned to South Korea to conduct my field work in 2015. By working as a translator for two motherland tours, I was able to both observe the intense, emotional reunions between the returned adoptees and their birth mothers and interview some of the participants. I also interviewed adoptive mothers, birth fathers, siblings, and social workers. In addition, I volunteered for returned adoptees’ political organizations and participated in their birth family search program. By presenting birth mothers’ stories, this study sheds light on the sending country, which has so far been left out within the field of transnational adoption studies. The complex relationship between adoptees and their adoptive mothers provides a window to understand the construction of normative motherhood in the U.S. This study argues that a primary motivation for adoptees’ returning lies in how they conceptualize their relationships with their two mothers. Careful listening to the stories of adoptees, birth mothers, and adoptive mothers, I argue, is needed in order to expand the concept of “the best interest of the child.”
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    Stylin' BlaQueer Feminisms: The Politics of Queer Black Women's Fashion Activism
    (2018) Blake, Donnesha Alexandra; Bolles, Augusta L; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Stylin’ BlaQueer Feminisms contributes to conversations about the political function of fashion by exploring the ways that queer Black women define activism with fashion and how their practices advance Black feminism. In this study, I aim to define fashion activism, to examine how queer Black women engage in fashion activism in digital and physical spaces, and to outline core themes in their fashion activism. Scholars in the humanities and social sciences prove that fashion is political by using fashion, style, and dress as vehicles to study subject formation, nonverbal communication, and activism. While there are studies about the political nature of fashion that center Black women of various gender and sexual identities, few examine how contemporary Black lesbian and queer women leverage fashion in digital media and cultural institutions to engage in resistance and knowledge production; much less have those studies connected their fashion activism to core themes in Black feminism. I employ mix methods to investigate the practices and performances in six fashion activist projects produced by queer Black women. These methods include visual and discourse analyses of the style blogs; She’s A Gent, A Dapper Chick, and She Does Him Fashion, and season one of the YouTube web series The Androgynous Model; event analyses of two public LGBTQ+ fashion shows Rainbow Fashion Week (RFW) and dapperQ Presents: iD; and interviews with the creators of RFW and The Androgynous Model. In performing a comparative analysis of these projects, I found that intention aside, the practices and performances in these projects signal Black feminist politics such as the centering of marginal identities, self-definition, using the body to signal and subvert controlling images, and coalition building between freedom-making struggles. I call this praxis, BlaQueer Style. Through their articulations of BlaQueer Style, Black lesbian and queer women illustrate that fashion activism is not only the work they do to subvert rigid gender and sexual codes in the existing fashion industry, but it is the labor marginalized communities undertake to leverage fashion, style, or dress to affirm their intersecting identities, build community, and resist oppressive structures in society.
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    Cooking with Mama Kim: The Legacy of Korean Women (Re)Defining Cultural Authenticity
    (2018) Sprague, Justin; Bolles, Augusta L; Kim, Seung-kyung; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    What is considered “authentically Korean,” how those concepts are imagined, and in what ways authenticity is constructed through the vehicles of food and Korean motherhood is the core focus of this dissertation project. This study employs visual and discourse analysis, utilizing historical archives, vlog personalities, cookbooks, web portals, and various forms of food branding and packaging. Within the interdisciplinary field of Food Studies, the conversation regarding authenticity is a fundamental one, with varying work being performed to examine what and how it is employed, and who/what are the gatekeepers that determine the parameters for something as “authentic.” The intervention into this conversation is to explore the ways that authenticity as a theoretical model has intersectional, subjective, or adaptive, potential. This entails employing the term “plastic authenticity,” which is a model of authenticity that favors the positioning of non-normative bodies (i.e., multiracial and diasporic) as brokers of cultural authenticity. In the end, this dissertation contributes to scholarship in Women’s Studies, Food Studies, and Ethnic Studies by pushing the boundaries of how cultural/racial authenticity is constructed, and the ways that women and food have direct impacts as gatekeepers on this process. Analyses range from a historical timeline of Korean immigration to the U.S. with a focus on Korean women, an analysis of a popular YouTube chef, Maangchi, and her employments of the concept of authenticity, analysis of Korean food branding strategies and their claims of authentic Korean food in the U.S., and the website analysis of a mixed-race Korean community to explore the ways that authenticity is invoked by persons not traditionally deemed “authentically Korean.” This research is critical, as it expands the field of research in Korean Studies to not only focus on women and mixed-race Koreans as historical objects, but as active agents in cultural production, meaning-making, and history writing.
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    (2018) Haq, Sara; Tambe, Ashwini; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    My dissertation addresses the question: what does an exploration of sexual politics within Islam look like if the mandate of respectability is refused? It explores the possibilities of Sufi thought as an epistemological approach to thinking about sexuality studies and reframing the relationship between Islam and sex. Existing scholarship on Sufism, Islam, and feminism tends to overrely on legal framings of sexuality and heavily exegetical engagements with religion, and offers too many unstated concessions to respectability politics. I argue that by centering the poetic, the everyday, and the transgressive, Sufism can offer alternative understandings of counter-hegemonic Islamic traditions. I use an expansive range of texts such as Sufi qawwali (spiritual songs), Sufi poetry, Qur'anic exegeses, hagiographical texts, and oral storytelling to explore pivotal concepts in sexuality studies: heteronormativity, consent, and the divide between licit and illicit sex. In addition to textual analysis, I present interludes of experiential narratives that are drawn from semi-structured interviews with sexually marginalized Muslims as well as from autoethnographic reflections; they illustrate the complex relationships between religio-spirituality and sexual expression. Each analysis chapter is focused on distinct Sufi tropes, such as wisal/firaq (union/separation), niyyat (intentionality), ‘ubudiyya (servanthood), pain-and-pleasure, kanjri (whore), zaat (being), and izzat (honor). Together, these chapters challenge imperatives of marriage and sex, make the case for affective consent, reflect on unconventional sexual practices such as kink/BDSM, and reframe a conversation about sex work beyond the binary of licit versus illicit sex. I conclude by discussing the possibilities of future research on the contemporary resurgence of feminism and Sufism in South Asian popular culture, as well as my vision for a queer and interdisciplinary approach I call Sufiminism.
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    (2018) Patt, Yh; Stromquist, Nelly P.; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Working from the premise that we cannot understand how feminism can transform societies without examining it as a multi-leveled project, this dissertation explores how a group of Salvadoran feminists were introduced to feminist ideas, became feminists, and are transforming themselves, communities, and nation. The object of study is how feminists in organizations became protagonists transforming their worlds. Using a collective oral-history approach, the dissertation examines 40 oral-histories with a two-pronged theoretical framework. The first prong is a theory of empowering feminism—which draws from Stromquist’s theory of empowerment (2014, 2015), definition of feminism (2015), and description of Latin America feminist organizations (2007). The second prong is Bourdieu’s theory of capital (1977). With that framework, the study examines the factors, dynamics, and actions of Salvadoran feminists transforming their worlds. The study found the following in the feminists’ trajectories to becoming protagonists: (1) being introduced to feminist ideas by other feminists, who had experienced patriarchal oppression; (2) becoming a feminist often involved either learning gender theory or a collective gender consciousness-raising process; (3) transforming their homes and workplaces by participating in groups where they read their lives with a feminist lens; (4) developing their own capital—knowledge, skills, networks, and collective feminist experiences; (5) increasing their levels of formal education, from high-school to graduate; (6) learning and teaching feminist topics—such as, gender as a social construction, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive rights, and symbolic violence against women; (7) intervening to change culture with tools—like murals, stencils, festivals, popular theatre, street demonstrations, cyber-feminism, and media; and (8) lobbying governments and pressuring corporations. A key finding is that these oral-histories suggest an association between the feminists who had leftist social movement capital and those who were most successful in their feminist work. Thus, this dissertation found that the Salvadoran feminists in this study transforming themselves into protagonists changing their worlds through feminist praxis exercised in feminist organizations that involves individual and collective empowerment, and entails producing knowledge. Finally, the study highlights the contention that there is exponential potential for feminist social change in communities with a culture of leftist social movement capital.
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    “Baby Miles”: Reproductive Rights, Labor, and Ethics in the Transnational Korean Reproductive Technology Industry
    (2018) Kim, Sunhye; Kim, Seung-kyung; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    This dissertation examines the transnational circuits of the assisted reproductive technology (ART) industry in South Korea to demonstrate how the concepts of reproductive rights and labor have been contested, negotiated, and reconstructed by various actors—including infertile couples, gamete donors, gestational surrogates, state agents, and medical professionals—across national boundaries. This study envisions reproductive ethics as part of a transnational feminist agenda by examining the ethical issues raised by the complicated relationships between intended parents and gamete donors/surrogates. Although feminist scholars and bioethicists address issues of how intended parents practice their reproductive rights and how egg providers/surrogates’ bodies are commercialized and exploited as they navigate the transnational ART industry, very little exists in the way of an integrated framework that allows us to understand the interdependent relationships between intended parents and gamete providers/surrogates, even though both are “users” of ART technologies as well as “patients” of medical procedures. Furthermore, while current research successfully examines the ethical problems of the transnational ART industry, it unintentionally reinforces the binaries between Asian women as exploited objects and White Westerners as liberated subjects. In order to address these issues within the current literature, I position this project to dispute the unilateral understanding of ART by focusing on the complex relationships between Korean intended parents and non-Korean gamete providers and surrogates. In order to analyze the transnational circuits of the ART industry, I use the term “baby miles” to show the great distances people, capital, and technology travel as they interact in the baby-making process. Drawing on three years of multi-sited ethnographic research conducted in Seoul, Bangkok, Taipei, and Kiev, which included in-depth interviews with 60 people as well as participant observation, I argue that while the increased baby miles create unprecedented legal, social, and ethical issues, prohibiting commercial baby-making industries and returning to a “local baby” is not a solution as it reinforces both the ideology that motherhood is “natural” and the stratified reproduction system.
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    Phantom Futures: The Cultural Politics of Education-Related Debt
    (2017) Madden, Jaime; Tambe, Ashwini; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    My dissertation examines the cultural politics of education-related debt. In a time of spiraling higher education costs, I focus on students who face challenges repaying debts and participating productively in the market economy. Taking on debt in college orients students towards a supposedly “better future.” But what happens to those who are unable or unwilling to realize these better futures? This is the broad question that motivated my dissertation. The students I interviewed often complicated the familiar timeline of progress that posits education as leading to employment. I carried out field research in two sites: i) for-profit colleges; and ii) Gallaudet University, a historically deaf university. I also analyzed content in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which I treated as a key archive of contemporary narratives about debt. The for-profit education networks where I conducted research were Virginia College, where I had taught in the general education program for one year, and the recently defunct ITT Technical Institute. I visited campuses in Austin, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; Richmond, Virginia; Los Angeles, California; and Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin. This regional breadth across the southwest, mid-Atlantic, west coast, and Midwest allowed me to reach more general conclusions. My interviews, visual ethnography, auto-ethnography, and narrative analysis led me to focus closely on how students experience and invoke time. The for-profit colleges constantly asked students to imagine better and more secure futures in ways that distracted them from their present struggles. Such an orientation pushed students to incur further debt. At Gallaudet, the temporalities are different. The university’s ability to privilege deafness makes it a site of security and refuge; some students are therefore risking educational debt in order to access deaf culture. Yet, funding issued through Vocational Rehabilitation programs are conditional on a student’s ability to achieve future employment. This mandate influences how students think about their futures and creates deep tensions in their relationship to debt. In sum, by exploring how students imagine time, my dissertation presents a range of orientations to debt that can serve as alternatives to dominant cultural narratives.
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    Soft Circuitry: Methods for Queer and Trans Feminist Maker Movements
    (2017) Rogers, Melissa Susan; King, Katie; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Fiber craft practices such as knitting, crochet, quilting, embroidery, and weaving have been used as experimental, hands-on methods for queer and trans feminist knowledge production, especially since the 1970s and 80s when feminist art movements in the United States were thriving. “Soft Circuitry: Methods for Queer and Trans Feminist Maker Cultures” tracks do-it-yourself (DIY) knowledge through contemporary feminist art praxis and high-tech maker movements, demonstrating how overlapping communities of practice use the language and techniques of craft in order to make sense of their worlds. Queer and trans fiber artists use craft in order to create historiographical interventions in the mechanisms of canonization, thereby reimagining what artistic and educational institutions might look like. At the same time, the commercialized maker movement purportedly seeks to democratize technology while transforming education, manufacturing, and war through “making”: a hybrid of art, craft, and machine-assisted fabrication, encompassing a vast array of construction techniques. Combining feminized skills such as sewing with new digital technologies for physical computing, wearable electronic textiles, and soft circuitry, maker education seeks to attract girls and women to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields, incorporating them into the official narrative that the U.S. is a “Nation of Makers.” This nationalist narrative simultaneously excludes others from its narrow definitions of creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation. I argue that the theories, methods, and conceptual tools that have been prototyped and iterated by generations of queer and trans feminists can be used to refigure the maker movement, which has a longstanding, yet devalued, relationship with craft. By attending to intergenerational feminist dialogues about craft and identity, recent art activist projects that queer digital technologies in order to create safer worlds for trans people of color, and my own fiber craft practice, I demonstrate that present-day maker cultures are active sites of transformation and feminist intervention. Borrowed from maker movements, the language of soft circuitry suggests useful metaphors for doing speculative feminist materialism. Feminist craft praxis functions as a soft circuit: a technological pathway or schematic for feeling our way toward newly habitable worlds and ways of being.
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    (2017) Nourbakhsh, Safoura; MOSES, CLAIRE; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Contrary to many claims, Sufism is not a gender-neutral discourse and practice. Although women have been present since the inception of Sufism in the eighth century CE, like most androcentric knowledge, the foundational discourse of Sufism is defined by male interest and male privilege. Seeking to address the gender bias in Persian Sufism, this dissertation offers a feminist interdisciplinary examination of Persian Sufism through various forms of textual analysis—linguistic, psychoanalytic, formal—in different fields of study: religious studies, medieval historiography, literature, and ethnography. Through analysis and interpretation of some of the foundational texts of Persian Sufism written from the 10th to the 13th century CE—Hujwiri’s Kashf al-mahjub, Ibn Munavvar’s Asrar al-tawhid, Attar’s Tazkirat al-awliya and Illahi-nama, and Rumi’s Masnavi—my work offers a map of the construction of gender and women’s participation in the early discourse of Persian Sufism that continues to shape the understanding and practice of Sufism in contemporary times. Following medieval textual analysis, I provide an ethnography of women’s diverse experiences as members of the Nimatullahi Sufi order from an insider perspective. The analysis of early influential texts will reverberate through the ethnographic chapter, since many of the texts that I discuss are still central in Sufi ethos and practice. My aim throughout this dissertation is to address male privilege in Persian Sufism by deconstructing the myth of the exceptional woman in Sufism, highlighting women’s involvements in early Sufi communities, reinterpreting Sufi narratives to engage the gender question meaningfully, turning negative interpretations of women into empowering and inspiring tales of women’s spirituality, and finally, to record and preserve the contributions of contemporary women in Sufism for future generations.
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    Talk Amongst Yourselves: Conceptions of “Community” in Transgender Counterpublic Discourse Online, 1990-2014
    (2017) Dame, Avery; King, Katie; Farman, Jason; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Since the mid-1990s, digital technologies have played a key role in major political actions and social movement organizations in the US and elsewhere. Newly widespread public internet access mitigated issues related to geographic limitations or cost-prohibitive print media, allowing otherwise-disparate groups to more quickly and easily communicate and organize. Transgender individuals were particularly well-positioned to benefit from the growth in digital technologies, which supported an active and growing transgender social movement throughout the 1990s. Both recent scholarship and popular media have focused on digital technologies as key sites of visibility, social support, and political organizing for transgender individuals. However, few scholars have also focused on the specific technological infrastructures that underlie these discussions. This dissertation remedies this gap through an analysis of digital communications’ impact on transgender social movement organizing from 1990 to the contemporary moment. Using critical and multi-modal discourse analysis, I analyze how users past and present develop their understanding of what “transgender community” should be, and the ways different platform-specific affordances shape these understandings. My approach is grounded in platform studies: focused on the interrelationships between platforms, platform design, and the discourse produced on these platforms, while also paying close attention to the social and cultural factors that influenced a platform’s design. I take a case study approach, with each chapter focused on a different platform or dataset, from 1990s transgender periodicals, archival data from Usenet newsgroups, ethnographic interviews, informational websites, to social media platform Tumblr. Throughout each of these chapters, I draw attention to how platform affordances inform users’ emergent understanding of “transgender community” as a homogenous entity—obscuring key differences, disconnects, and inequalities amongst users and within the identity category itself. Ultimately, I find that the possibilities for online political organizing are constrained by the digital platform’s modes of circulation and its encoded social norms, as power is channeled away from those who need it most.
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    Barriers and Facilitators to Homeownership for African American Women with Physical Disabilities
    (2016) Miles, Angel Love; Thornton Dill, Bonnie; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    This dissertation fills an important gap in the literature by exploring the social, economic, and health characteristics and experiences of members of a social group that has been otherwise under-examined: African American women with physical disabilities. It raises questions about homeownership to facilitate a better understanding of the relational aspects of gender, race, class, and ability related inequalities, and the extent to which African American women with physical disabilities are, or are not, socially integrated into mainstream American society. It uses grounded theory and develops a Feminist Intersectional Disability analytical framework for this study of homeownership and African American women with physical disabilities. The study found that African American women with physical disabilities experience barriers to homeownership that are multiple, compounding and complex. It suggests a research and social policy agenda that considers the implications of their multiple minority status and its impact on their needs.
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    Life Uncharted: Parenting Transgender, Gender-Creative, and Gay Children
    (2016) Vooris, Jessica Ann; King, Katie; Women's Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Gender non-conformity is often seen as an indication of a future queer sexuality, but children are thought to be too young to actually be gay or trans. Life Uncharted: Parenting Transgender, Gender-creative, and Gay Children seeks to answer questions about what it means to be a "transgender," "gender-creative," or "gay" child, and examines the experiences of families who parent against the norm, raising children who break assumptions about the body, gender, identity and desire. Drawing from media analysis, ethnography of parent blogs and family gender conferences, along with interviews with 28 families, I argue that these parents engage in "anticipation work" as they manage anxiety and uncertainty about their children's behavior, attempt to predict and manage their children's futures, and explain their decisions to others. While television documentaries offer simple narratives that often reify binary expectations of gender, and explain that transgender children are "trapped in the wrong body," my ethnographic research and interviews shows that defining a transgender or gender-creative or gay child is more complex and it is not always clear how to separate gender expression, identity, and sexuality. As children socially transition at younger ages, when memory is just beginning to form, their relationships to the body and the notion of being "transgender" is in flux. Parents emphasize being comfortable with ambiguity, listening to children and LGBTQ adults, and accepting that it’s not always possible to know what the future brings. These children’s lives are unfolding and in process, changing our notions of childhood, queerness and transness.