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Student Research

Student Research

Mary Turner Lane Award

In addition to the research students undertake in their courses, each year a Women’s & Gender Studies student is nominated for and receives the Mary Turner Lane Award for outstanding contribution through original scholarship and/or creative production on gender and feminist issues. Below are a few of the recent recipients and summaries of their award-winning research.

This paper aims to uncover the relationship between social networks and antioppression in Orange County violence prevention work. Antioppression—defined and analyzed in this paper
using theories of Cultural Competence, Intersectionality, and Critical Race Theory—refers to the work that practitioners do to account for and fight against the oppression of their clients,
both on an institutional and an individual level. Two participants each from Compass Center for Women and Families and Orange County Rape Crisis Center were interviewed to elicit their social networks and determine how these networks affect their work. Practitioners indicated that their networks were highly relevant to their antioppressive services and standpoints. Networks were described as a tool to increase organizational capacity, do outreach, and make their voices heard. However, for most, networks also proved to be a defining feature in how participants understand antioppression in the specific sociopolitical context of Orange County, NC.

Susannah’s essay addressed the topic of Female Workplace Bullying and Aggression. First, as she notes, female workplace bullying is a widespread phenomenon. It is also undertheorized in WGST and other academic disciplines. Not only does she document this experience for young professional women, she used an intersectional approach that extends the literature on this topic. She examines the very real world consequences when women of multiple marginalized backgrounds experience female aggression. Susannah’s paper digs deeply into these issues through strong research methods, researcher self-reflexivity and brings a robust and intersectional analysis to her qualitative themes.

Sarah’s paper comes from her Honor’s Thesis, “Conformity and Subversion: Noir and US Lesbian Pulp Fiction, 1950- 1965.” Sarah considers five texts from an important but relatively under-studied set of works known collectively as “lesbian pulp.” These mostly fictional books were produced for and distributed to a mass market in mid-twentieth century U.S. just prior to the emergence of the gay liberation and women’s movements. Sarah focused on how some of the authors of lesbian pulp challenged heterosexism by deploying aspects of “noir,” a genre usually associated with masculinist detective fiction. Sarah demonstrates how “[b]y including noir conventions in pulp novels, authors both conformed to publishers’ standards that demanded lesbian characters be punished for their sexual transgressions and made space for lesbian self-representation in a heavily censored and hetcrosexist society.” Sarah’s sophisticated analysis draws on archival material from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library of Duke University and connects the literary texts to Cold War politics. Sarah is interested in going on to graduate school eventually and is considering continuing with this research. As her Honors advisor, Professor Maria DeGuzman comments, Sarah’s thesis “is the culmination of her continual excellence in scholarship focused on women’s issues throughout her undergraduate career.”

Johnson’s paper, “It Just Wears: Gender Presentation Negotiation for Trans and Gender Non-conforming People” was her final for “Women’s Studies 695: Principles of Feminist Inquiry.”  Her paper engages with issues of safety, gender presentation, and comfort. Johnson highlights the gap in our knowledge in terms of daily gender presentation and uses trans theorist Julia Serano to challenge theorists like Judith Butler on the idea that gender is performative. Serano and other trans theorists argue that gender is innate and to code it as performative dismisses the transgender experience. Johnson argues a middle ground.  She finds “that gender is simply a categorization of external attributes, meaning that the personal experience of gender is about figuring out which set of attributes one wants to be associated with, and taking steps to associate themself with those attributes” (6-7) and that both Serano and Bulter have relevance among her interviewees.

Emmy Johnson uses a transgender standpoint epistemology and interviews to explore how non-binary trans people negotiate daily life in terms of clothing.  Her work addresses issues of passing, safety, and emotional duress.  Though her sample is small, just seven people (some of whom are friends), Johnson’s work illustrates how contradictory the process of gender presentation can be. Emmy Johnson’s engagement with sartorial expression illustrates the way cultural communication both supports and subverts social norms.

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