Our 2017-2018 CES Fellows


The Center for Engaged Scholarship, a project of Community Initiatives, is pleased to announce our 2017-2018 fellows. These five winners will receive $25,000 to support the writing of their Ph.D. dissertations.

To review the list of this year's reviewers, click here.

Below are the list of this year's winners, along with a short description of their submitted projects:

Yasmeen Mekawy (Department of Political Science, University of Chicago)

My dissertation examines how emotion works to either mobilize people to participate in high-risk protest, or conversely, keep people in their homes.

I contend that attention to local events and patterns of emotional habitus can help explain why groups mobilize when they do, what form their collective action takes, and why attempts to mobilize at other times fail. Through an in-depth examination of the 2011 uprising in Egypt, this project traces the construction of mobilizing events through social media, comparing these events to negative cases of mobilization in order to identify the conditions under which social media helps facilitate collective action. For example, I compare several cases of police brutality in which images went viral to pinpoint why one case led to mobilization and others did not.

To undertake a micro-level study of how emotions affect mobilization processes, this project employs discourse and textual analysis of online content and interviews. My methodology is based on an understanding of discourse as both reflective and productive of emotional habitus, which shapes attitudes towards grievances and political action. Drawing on insights from psychological and sociological scholarship on moral judgment, a discourse analysis of social media content shows how affectively valenced intuitions are triggered and over time become associated with certain political problems and solutions. In addition to online materials, I use interviews and oral histories to reconstruct the discursive templates and their associated affective valences, through which protesting came to make sense as a possible and desirable course of action for a critical mass of Egyptians.

Brian Callaci (Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

My dissertation examines the relationship between bargaining power and the distribution of risk and revenues between firms in supply chains characterized by strategies of vertical separation, such as outsourcing, temping and franchising.

In particular, I focus on ways in which vertical separation can take advantage of ambiguities in the legal definitions of firm boundaries relative to economic boundaries. I focus specifically on franchising. Franchising, in which legally independent “franchisees” carry out minutely detailed instructions from corporate headquarters, allows corporations to maintain the tight control over production processes of vertical integration without many of the corresponding risks. This franchising strategy may, in turn, have impacts on workers and other participants in the franchise relationship who 1) may be the final bearers of offloaded risk, and 2) are often precluded by the legal structure of franchising from seeking legal recourse against the core corporation, the franchisor.

Using litigation case files as well as a unique, original data set that I am hand-collecting from 530 boilerplate franchise contracts, I examine the relationships between bargaining power and risk within franchise relationships. My variables include outlet failure rates, franchisor revenue shares, measures of bargaining power, instances of one-sided contract terms, and measures of franchisor control over franchisee operations. Research questions include: what is the relationship between bargaining power and risk? Do measures of bargaining power predict one-sided contract terms, higher franchisor share of revenues, or more minute control of franchise operations? My litigation files research questions pertain to how franchisors, franchisees, and workers have attempted to define and redefine the risks and determine the allocation of rewards from production.

Michael D. Aguirre (Department of History, University of Washington, Seattle)

My dissertation examines class formations, labor activisms, and forms of citizenship during the shift of the global political economy from Keynesianism to the development of neoliberalism from 1964 through 1979.

Centered in the eastern California borderlands of Imperial County, California, and Mexicali, Baja California Norte, Mexico, I explore how the termination of the guest worker Bracero Program in 1964 prompted policymakers and businesspeople in the United States and Mexico to invest in unregulated agricultural and industrial regimes, respectively.

By focusing on Imperial County farmworkers and Mexicali industrial workers, I reveal the degree to which workers’ identities were in flux and how organized labor on both sides of the border struggled to negotiate an inclusive transborder politics that mirrored and challenged the international growth and power of capitalism. Utilizing archival research from Mexico, the United States, and oral histories with borderlands residents, I demonstrate how the historical formation of working classes facilitated both the transition toward a borderless capitalist landscape and the simultaneous entrenchment of racial and national borders that were felt, resisted, and coopted for different needs

Adam Mertz (Department of History, University of Illinois, Chicago)

After the Great Recession of 2008, public sector workers—and teachers in particular—became the targets of austerity policies. Opponents claimed that public sector workers represented a privileged class, enjoying greater rights and benefits than the general public. Nearly all commentators identified a growing geo-political divide between rural and urban areas. Yet just how and when such a divide developed remains largely unexplored.

My dissertation seeks to better understand this split by examining the rise of Wisconsin teacher unions in relation to the state’s farmers, businesses, private sector unions, and politicians during the 1970s. In 1970, Wisconsin’s reconstituted farm-labor coalition united rural and urban interests to oppose the spread of large corporate farms throughout Wisconsin, electing a strong Democratic governor who served from 1971-1979.

By decade’s end, the increased power and political activism of Wisconsin’s teacher unions, along with rampant inflation and the pressures of suburban sprawl, including highway construction, significantly increased property taxes and compelled farmers to sell their land. These changes strained and eventually dissolved Wisconsin’s farm-labor coalition because members of the farmer organizations believed that private sector unions, their previous coalition partners, sided with the same public sector unions that contributed to the loss of farmlands.

My dissertation demonstrates that rural and small-town residents do not inherently oppose unions or other social democratic institutions and policies. Rather, historical forces and past choices constructed those particular positions, an understanding that provides hope for the future rebuilding of a progressive rural-urban alliance.

Daanika Gordon (Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Madison)

This project explores the constitutive relationships between racial residential segregation and policing practices.

It does so through the case of an urban Midwestern police department’s redistricting reform.  The redistricting linked the structural realities of segregation to the institutional priorities of the police agency and, finally, to the on-the-ground activities of police officers.

I describe the motivations for and consequences of the redistricting through a multi-method approach that includes in-depth interviews with police executives, elected officials, and representatives of business and community-based agencies; one year of ethnographic observation of police work in two districts; and longitudinal analysis of crime, arrest, and calls for service data.  Through this investigation, I identify the processes by which different places – and thus people – come to experience different styles of policing.  This project provides an account of how police work reacts to and reconstitutes segregated spaces, with the capacity to produce racial outcomes even in the absence of racial intent.


Trish Kahle (Department of History, University of Chicago)

As we contend with the dual threats of economic crisis and climate disruption, historians have begun to ask new questions of the past—in particular, how and why the United States became a high-energy society. By considering the related question—how is high-energy capitalism contested and renegotiated—this project offers a new perspective on the decline of working-class power and the transformation of the American energy regime in the mid-twentieth century. Miners suggested that an energy regime in crisis was in need of a stronger contract with the workers who produced the nation’s power. This contract, they believed, would not be forged in the voting booth or at the diplomatic table, but in the workplace.

This dissertation illuminates a new understanding of the energy crisis that so profoundly shaped miners’ workplace activism since the early 1960s, when the growing discrepancy between apparently peaking energy production and skyrocketing energy consumption became a central concern for both industry and government. By conceptualizing energy politics as extending beyond the realm of politics and into the sphere of work, this dissertation reframes both the problem of decline in the power of the American workers on the job, and the meaning of the energy crisis, which extended far beyond the problems of consumption, culture, and international politics. Indeed, the energy crisis cut to the heart of the American social contract. The crisis and transformation of the American energy regime is essential in explaining the emergence of a series of upheavals in mining workplaces across the Appalachian coalfields over health and safety, environmental degradation, and union democracy.

Energy regime transformation undermined traditional social relations between miners, operators, and the state, on which the UMW had built its power. Across the long 1970s, workers, the new energy companies, and the state renegotiated the bounds of workplace action, democratic politics, and environmental exploitation in the face of an uncertain energy future.

Mary Elizabeth Schmid (Department of Anthropology, University of Kentucky)

Over the last four decades, farming families throughout North America have suffered from volatile crop prices and increasing input costs. The number of family farms drastically decreased in the U.S. during this period. However, the number of [email protected] farms in the U.S. significantly rose, in western and southern states.

This dissertation explores the context in which one Mexican-U.S. family group contributes to this unprecedented change. Members of this kin group contribute to multiple agri-food systems in North America as producers of basic grains in the Mexican Bajío and fresh-market produce in southern Appalachia. Through multi-sited ethnographic research, this dissertation brings together diverse voices and examples of strategic uses of time and collaborative agro-food enterprise practices used by structurally marginalized women and men in working families.

The findings lay at the intersections of political debates concerning im/migration, agri-food system policy, rural development, food security and perishable crop agriculture. The dissertation argues that with political economic support cooperative enterprises can strengthen rural economies and democratize globalized agro-food systems.

Katrina Quisumbing King (Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Madison)

In 1901, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that its colonies would be classified as “foreign in a domestic sense,” institutionalizing a legal ambiguity.

Contrary to prevailing work that locates state control in legitimacy, I analyze how ambiguity shaped U.S. relations with the Philippines between 1901 and 1947. I focus on three key moments: (1) the simultaneous classification of Filipinos as citizens, nationals, and aliens under U.S. law; (2) the revocation of military benefits from Filipinos who served on behalf of the U.S. in WWII; and (3) the almost immediate cession of Philippine sovereignty to the U.S. after formal independence. In each of these moments, because of the polysemy of U.S.’s relationship to the Philippines and Filipinos, U.S. elites were able to secure a neocolonial relationship that continued to exploit Filipino labor and resources whilst erasing colonization and responsibilities to colonial subjects from national memory. In each case, the United States made and then revoked promises of juridical citizenship, social welfare benefits and sovereignty.  

My study reveals the political consequences of ambiguity, namely that it allows states to skirt political obligations and preserve global supremacy in ever-shifting political climates. By making promises of incorporation, the U.S. could control the terms of inclusion and ultimate exclusion. While the Philippine case is a critical part of U.S. political history, it also demonstrates the broader significance of studying ambiguity as a function of statecraft.

For a list of our 2016-2017 inaugural fellows, click here.

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