Past Prize Recipients

2021 Senior Thesis Prize Winners

Daniela Alvarez
Department of Spanish and Portuguese 
La Gran Cárcel: Two Militarized Borders, Two Failed Asylum Systems and a Mexico-Wide Prison

Alvarez’s extraordinary thesis explores how, due to the interplay of Mexican and American migration policies, Mexico itself in many ways became President Trump’s wall, an indefinite carceral holding cell for asylum seekers fleeing violence in Central America. She contends that Mexican complicity with Trump’s policies contributed to the de facto dismantling of the asylum system, trapping migrants in a series of bureaucratic loopholes subject to a choice of violence or imprisonment at every turn. Alvarez’s thesis never loses its critical eye while being written as clearly and accessibly as a non-fiction book, providing an illuminating look into the human values at stake in migration policy.

Malka Himelhoch
Department of Religion
Save This Woman from the Shackles of Aginut”:  A Case for the Decoupling of Marriage and Law in America

Himelhoch’s thesis uses a comparison of the different responses by Jewish communities in the United States and Eastern Europe to agunot, or women trapped in unwanted marriages, to shed light on the future of marriage in the United States. By skillfully incorporating historical, legal, and philosophical tools of analysis, Himelhoch highlights how the culturally dominant Christian view of marriage as “one flesh” led to framing the problem of agunot in the United States as seeking financial support from deserting husbands, rather than enlisting community assistance to get permission for divorce. Through this comparison, Himelhoch convincingly argues that American legal conceptions of marriage may in fact reflect an establishment of religion, and that marriage as a legal institution should therefore be abolished in the United States.

Simone Wallk
Department of English
Haunted Histories: Torture and Trauma in Muriel and The Battle of Algiers

Wallk’s exquisite thesis examines the relation between conflicting perspectives of historical events, the representation of those events in the memories of the people who experienced them, and the impossible feat of communicating traumatic experiences through art. She explores these interrelated concepts in the context of two films about the Algerian War: Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers, which largely conveys an Algerian perspective, and Resnais’ Muriel, which grapples with the French perspective, especially denial of torture committed by the French. By expertly juxtaposing the two films and, through them, the two cultural and historical perspectives they represent, Walk argues that artistic representations which fail to represent the true horror of historical events can perpetuate the very culture of silence and repression that gave rise to those events.

 2020 Senior Thesis Prize Winners

Avital Fried
Department of Philosophy
Executing Justice: An argument against capital punishment for the 9/11 defendants

Fried’s thesis is an excellent work in political philosophy, arguing that it is inappropriate to impose capital punishment on a group of 9/11 defendants, even if (ex. hypothesi) they are, and are found to be, guilty of terrorism. She contends that given that they have already been subjected to detention and torture, imposing the additional harm of capital punishment would be disproportionate to desert and so cannot be justified on retributivist grounds. Nor, given the peculiarities of the case, could it be expected to contribute to deterrence effectively enough to be justified on consequentialist grounds. The thesis is clearly and logically written, and powerfully illuminates the human values in such an ethically fraught context.

Grace Grady
Department of Psychology
Names, Accents, and Racial Linguistic Profiling: Linguistic and Racial Prejudice as Mechanisms of
Discrimination Against Speakers of African American Vernacular English

Grady's thesis is a rigorous study of how someone's dialect influences how that person is judged. Using recordings by speakers who are fluent in both dialects, Grady's finding support the idea that dialect is a source of bias. African American Vernacular English speakers are thought of as less trustworthy, competent and likeable than Standard American English speakers -- and this effect is much stronger than a previously-documented effect of stereotypically black names. Grady's thesis is a truly impressive set of studies combined with an important discussion about the features and implications of linguistic prejudice.

Sylvie Thode
Department of English
Up in Arms: Poetries of Resistance from the Northern Irish Troubles and the American AIDS Crisis

In this extraordinary thesis, Thode compares the ethical critiques of political action and inaction made in the poetry respectively engaging with the US AIDS crisis at its peak, and with the Northern Irish Troubles at theirs.  By exploring their varied deployments of metaphor and of mythology, she demonstrates how poetry can be used to reason about the fate of human values in situations of conflict and trauma. The thesis concludes with reflections on the COVID-19 crisis which are deeply informed by the sensitivity and eloquence that characterize it throughout. 

 

2019 Senior Thesis Prize Winners

Mariachiara Ficarelli
Department of Anthropology
Fuori Campo: Affect, Dwelling, and Transcience in Eritrean Rome

Katherine Fleming
Department of History
Borders, Bridges, And Burdens: Latinas Navigate our Bodies, Ourselves, 1969-Present

Madeleine Gilson
Department of Sociology
Fractured Families: A Qualitative Study of Deteriorating Kin Support Among Parents in the Child Welfare System
 

2018 Senior Thesis Prize Winners

Elly Brown
Department of Politics
Politics in the Cave: Worldliness and Plurality in Plato, Augustine, and Arendt

Elly Brown’s thesis is an extraordinarily rich work of political thinking. Bringing Arendt’s own complex critical engagements with both Plato and Augustine into her frame, Brown argues that elements of each thinker’s understanding both resist Arendt’s criticisms and offer her resources for her own project of a worldly, pluralistic politics.  The thesis is beautifully constructed, steeped in scholarship, and creative in its insights into the human values that lie at the heart of political life. 

Edric Huang
Department of Anthropology
Life's Good Ailleurs: The Labor of Hope Among Sudanese Refugees in Paris

Edric Huang’s thesis is an astonishingly sophisticated, thoughtful, and sensitive exploration of the lives and stories of men from Sudan who are refugees in an area located on the outskirts of Paris. He draws on ethnographic observations of time spent in a refugee camp, art constructed by refugees, his own poetry, and an analysis of the physical environment, such as fences and plastic cups, as well as a subtle engagement with anthropological literature on themes from migration to boredom to despair.  Huang beautifully captures what he names the “labor of hope” and reveals it as a fundamental source of human value.

Julia Case-Levine
Department of History
'Seeing to the Sympathies': A Critical Reexamination of Sentimental Fiction and the Works of E.D.E.N. Southworth

Julia Case-Levine’s thesis is a beautifully written and trenchant critique of the widespread critical dismissal of ‘sentimental’ fiction of the 19th century, focusing on one particular novelist, Southworth.  Against the tired trope according to which sentimental authors appealed to emotion rather than to reason, Case-Levine argues that Southworth (and others, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe) appealed to a well-conceived blend of emotion and reason together, designing their fiction to move readers to action about causes such as abolitionism, abolition of capital punishment, and others to which Southworth in particular was committed. The thesis offers an exemplary demonstration of how literature can relate to human values, and of how historical study of literature can recover the values of works too often set aside. 

2017 Senior Thesis Prize Winners

Joani Etskovits
Department of English
“Girls Growing Curiouser: From Charlotte Brontë's Bluebeard-Print through 'Alice's Adventures' ”

Joani Etskovitz’ thesis on the rehabilitation of girls’ curiosity in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Villette, and above all in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland—against traditional myths punishing curiosity in the form of Eve, Pandora, and Bluebeard’s wife —is beautifully written, perceptive, and powerful.   In tracing just how these works posited  the revolutionary case that ‘women feel just as men feel’, Etskovitz enriches our understanding of the intricate imaginative and literary strategies that were needed to make this case patent.  

Colleen O'Gorman
Department of Politics
“Lessons from Emily Doe: A Survivor-Centric Approach to Sexual Assault”

Colleen O’Gorman’s thesis makes distinctive and original contributions to our thinking about the difficult subject of sexual assault.  She offers a critique of the “tokenization of consent" as the crucial factor in differentiating mutually satisfying and reciprocal sexual activity from sexual assault and violence.  The thesis is impressively fair-minded and well-informed, drawing on a stunning range of literature including not only political theory but also the philosophy of action, feminist critical theory, legal scholarship, and criminology.  It concludes with an insightful account of the collective responsibilities that different actors have for sexual assault as perpetrators, facilitators, and contributors, and how the latter two groups could contribute to reducing the incidence of this grievous harm. 

Kevin Alexander Wong
Department of Philosophy
“Counting Animals: On Effective Altruism and the Prospect of Interspecies Commensurability”

Kevin Wong’s thesis is an extremely impressive work of moral philosophy.  It outlines a new method for comparing the welfare of non-human animals to the welfare of humans for purposes of consequentialist reasoning and cost-benefit analysis. Clearly, carefully, and logically written, with due attention to the limits of the argument so far, this thesis is unusually ambitious and original for the work of an undergraduate, and has significant implications for whether charities should donate to alleviate suffering for human beings or allocate their resources instead to animals. 
 

2016 Winners

Eu Nah Noh
Department of English
Imagination in Catastrophic Time: Crisis and the Ethics of Representing Trauma

Christine Smith
Department of Politics
A God By Any Other Name: Synthesizing Nondiscrimination and Substantive Liberty Interpretations of the Free Exercise Clause

Jonathan Sung An Terrance Wu
Woodrow Wilson
Following the Money: National Economic Self-Interest and Minority Human Rights Compliance in Eurasia

2015 Winners

Elena Di Rosa
Department of Philosophy
“A Contemporary Theory of Responsibility: What Aristotle Can Teach Us”

Cameron Langford
Department of Politics
“Epistemic Ecosystems: A Theory of Science Communications”

Annaliese Ionson
Department of Anthropology
“Competing Discourses: Diabetes and the Narrative of First Nations Identity”


2014 Winners

Seongcheol Kim

Department of German
“Theory, Organization, and Milieu in the West German Extra-Parliamentary Left, 1966-78”

Mary Schulman
Department of East Asian Studies
“The King's Speech: Language and Ritual in the 'Great Proclamation' of the Classic of Documents”


Naomi Zucker
Department of Anthropology
“Visions of Health and Care in São Paulo, Brazil”

Robert Stone III
Department of Politics
“Socrates Satisfied: John Stuart Mill, Plato, and the Athenian Political Ideal”

 

2013 Winners

Colleen Culbertson

Department of Anthropology
"Testing the Malaria Vaccine: Membership, Expertise, and the 'Adverse Effects' of Accountability"
Adviser: Rena Lederman, Anthropology

Victoria Lauren Cadiz
Department of Philosophy
"Aristotle's Virtue Ethics and Natural Law Theory"
Adviser: Benjamin Morison, Philosophy

Mariana Olaizola
Department of Politics
"A Push for Inclusion: Human Rights and the Implications for Democracy"
Adviser: Philip Pettit, Philosophy and University Center for Human Values

Alison Lo
Department of Psychology
"Morality and Culture: Differences in American and Chinese Moral Reasoning"
Adviser: Deborah Prentice, Psychology and Public Affairs

 

2012 Winners

Emily Rutherford

Department of History
"John Addington Symonds: Humanism, Love, and Sexual Identity in Victorian Britain"
Adviser: Anthony Grafton, History

Jonathan Sarnoff
Department of Philosophy
"A Theory of Moral Responsibility"
Adviser: Elizabeth Harman, Philosophy

Jane Abbottsmith
Department of Religion
"A Dwelling for the Abandoned: Love for God and Neighbor in St. Augustine's Homilies on the First Epistle of John"
Adviser: Eric Gregory, Religion
 

2011 Winners

Devin Blair Kennedy

Contested Body: Identity, Anatomy, Sign

Samantha Janaki Pergadia
Animal Tales: Anthropomorphism and the Management of Compassion

Amelia Jane Thomson-DeVeaux
Looking with Love: A Feminist Vision of Simone Weil
 

2010 Winners

Daniel Eric Rauch

The New Supermajority: Judician Review, Supermajority Voting Rules, and the United States Supreme Court

Praveen Giridhara Murthy
Lost in Translation: How Emerson and Thoreau Helped Gandhi to Reinvent the Bhagavad Gita

Benjamin Frankel Farkas
Consensus on Justice in Rawls and Aristotle
 

2009 Winners

Jo-Ann Tamila Karhson

Reciprocal Obligations: A Just Theory of Immigration and Assimilation

Wendy Liu
Justifying Revolution

Emily Anne Weigel
To See It Feelingly: Shakespeare and the Exercise of Early Modern Empathy
 

2008 Winner

Emily Seen

Challenging the Refugee Regime's Exilic Bias: The Relationship between Asylum and Intervention in Humanitarian Crises.
 

2007 Winner

Susannah Cramer-Greenbaum

The Promise of Architecture: Louis Kahn’s National Assembly Complex in Bangladesh
 

2006 Winners

Catherine Ambler

Per lo Raggio de L’Alta Luce: How Averroes’ Theory of Intellection Influences Dante’s ‘Divina Commedia

Amak Megwalu
Looking Back Moving Forward: The Gacaca Courts in Rwanda
 

2005 Winner

Xiuhui Lim

Reasons and Passions: Can Intrinsic Desires Be Rationally Criticized?
 

2004 Winner

Stephen Porter

Traditional Healers, Biological Citizens, and Culture-as-Such: HIV/AIDS and the Politics of Recognition in Post-Apartheid South Africa

2003 Winners

Katrina Anna Besch

Moral Luck: An Empirical Investigation

Jessica Rose Munitz
Ohev Shalom V’Rodef Shalom: A New Perspective on Peacemaking in Ancient Judais moving Forward: The Gacaca Courts in Rwanda
 

2002 Winners

Matthew Frazier

Beyond Charity: America’s Moral Obligation to the World’s Poor

Kathryn E. Grzenczyk
The Importance of How We Value: Moral Reasoning and Personal Integrity
 

2001 Winners

Kathleen Daffan

Defining and Defending Human Dignity: Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in the Inter-American System

Susan Schaefer
The Drama of Disappearance: ‘Antigona Furiosa’ and Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’
 

2000 Winners

Daniel Powell

The Gay Gene: An Ethical Analysis of Genetic Testing for Sexual Orientation

William Yandik
Voices of the Hudson: A Narrative on PCB Pollution
 

1999 Winner

Dale Ho

Nietzsche, Genealogy, Politics
 

1998 Winner

Antonia Stroeh

From the Hammer of the Witches to the Quiver of the Jews
 

1997 Winner

Brad Groatman

Conscience and Obligation
 

1996 Winners

Jennifer Kinsbruner

Women, Marginal Barrios, and Community Organization: A Case Study in Quito, Ecuador, 1970-199

Karen Laura Thornber
Toward Human Dignity: The Poetry and Poetics of Toge Sankichi with a new translation of the Gembaku shishi
 

1995 Winners

Rebecca Neill Taylor

At the Intersection of Chronos and Kairos: Time and the Primitive in the Writings of Virginia Woolf

Fredrick Vars
Attitudes towards Affirmative Action: Paradox or Paradigm?
 

1994 Winner

Rebecca Ryan

The Sex Right: A Legal History of the Marital Rape Exemption
 

1993 Winners

Raquel Ukeles
Beyond and Yet Within: Exploring the Legitimate Other in Islam and Judaism

Monica Youn
No Man’s Land: A Critical Approach to the Social, Medical, and Legal Status of Transsexuals