May 3, 2021 at 4:28 pm

Happy Beginnings | M.A. in Law, Justice & Culture Class of 2021

Graduation illustration with mortarboards flying

Center for Law, Justice & Culture faculty are very proud to celebrate the achievements of the spring & summer graduating classes of the Master of Arts in Law, Justice & Culture. 

Congratulations graduates and good luck with your bright futures!

2021 MA in Law, Justice & Culture Thesis

Abigail Mulligan
Naming as Survival: Law, Water and Settler Colonialism in Palestine
Thesis Supervisor: Haley Duschinski

Israel and Palestine have been the subject of debate and controversy for decades. Israel settlement activity has displaced, oppressed and killed Palestinians on their native land, resulting in settler colonialism and the denial of water resources. The deliberate and violent pattern of restricting water serves to demonstrate the settler colonial intent of Israel. Though there have been many pleas and negotiations for Israel to withdraw and end settlement activity, and restore access to water under international law, none have resulted in a resolution. Through textual analysis, I demonstrate how the international framework of occupation that the UN HRC has adopted, has perpetuated a routinized, ritualized maintenance of the status quo and entrenched Palestine in violent subjugation. Further, any attempt at a resolution between Israel and Palestine must involve a reckoning with uncommon goals of the two nations, as well as the various positionings of power and understanding of the settler colonial regime. I show how literature is a tool of resistance, survival and imagining for Palestinians by providing a platform for collective memory and perspective to be voiced. This project highlights the necessity of naming settler colonial violence for what it is, if Palestinian suffering is to cease.

2021 MA in Law, Justice & Culture Master’s Research Essays

Tristen Davis
Prisons As Wellness Producing Environments
This project focuses on the potential correctional facilities have to become and/or maintain wellness producing environments for offenders. the project also seeks to explain the benefits of promoting health and wellness in various capacities and how it can assist in the goal to reduce recidivism. This project is geographically limited and will compare the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, Ohio to the guidelines provided by the World Health Organization and scholars. Analyzing the impact of benefits from embracing promotional health initiatives within prisons allows room for proper evaluation of the prison environments nationwide. It also assists in the mission to reform the prison system. Correctional facilities that offer more rehabilitative programs create the opportunity to reduce recidivism rates. 

Lindsay Fetherolf
Race, Policing and Protest: Through the Lens of Police Dramas 
The social conflict between police officers and the communities they serve in has grown over the last couple of decades. Popular culture shows the social conflict through television shows. The portrayal of those conflicts offers insight into the dominant ideologies represented in popular media. This is a study of two episodes from the shows Chicago P.D. and Law and Order SVU. This research specifically focuses on how police brutality is portrayed in the episodes and what the display says about police power, the current social climate, and racial prejudice in the United States. For this research, I analyzed the television shows to see how popular culture portrays law enforcement. Specifically, I studied the dialogue between characters, the characters themselves, and the actions that take place in each episode. Through my analysis, I demonstrate what these representations reveal about the ideology being displayed and what ideology says about events of police brutality occurring in the United States. 

Kyle Geele
A New Legacy: The Conservative Legal Movement’s Re-imagining of Voting Rights in Shelby County V. Holder 
The conservative legal movement has seen the fruits of its labors over the last 50 years come to bear. With a strong grip over the judiciary, especially the commanding majority on the Supreme Court, the movement has reached a new juncture. instead of focusing its efforts on the rollback of liberal victories from the time of the New Deal and the civil rights era, conservatives have begun creating a new legacy of jurisprudence. In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, abandoned the traditional conservative principles that have largely guided the conservative legal movement thus far. Instead of saying “what the law is,” Roberts declared what the law should be in defiance of Congress’ prerogative and in doing so turned what began as a campaign to turn back the perceived excesses of the New Deal and civil rights era into its own ideological project aimed at remaking American law. 

Isabela Gibson
Campaigning For the Black Vote: Presidential Candidate Messaging On Race and the Black Electorate 
Over several presidential election cycles, the topic of race has become more recurrent among voters and candidates. As race has come to the forefront of the national stage via debates, speeches, and interviews, candidates have been forced to deliberate about the racial rhetoric they want to portray to the American people. This era of racialized political messaging is consumed by varying objectives on the best course of action to get the most favorable outcome. This research analyzes the campaign messages of recent winning presidential candidates in order to analyze the relationship between race rhetoric during presidential campaigns and the Black electorate from 2008 to 2016 while also seeking to understand the manner in which race is brought about. Through qualitative data analysis, I contribute to the scholarship by highlighting the impact that racial messaging, both implicit and explicit, can have on the Black voting population. 

Trent Hall
Racial Capitalism: The War on Drugs, the 1994 Crime Bill, and the Failures of Neoliberal Crime Reform
Contemporary evaluations of the U.S. criminal justice system by most democratic politicians often admit the existence of injustice and broken elements within that system. Most often, blame is placed on policy decisions and failed legislation of the past that was originally designed to cull these injustices. Rather than reevaluating the entire existing paradigm of criminal justice, politicians continue to pass legislation to amend the existing system’s shortcomings with little success. It is with this idea in mind that this paper argues the need for abolitionist approaches to criminal justice reform. in this essay, I argue that the continual use of crime reform policy based on the principles of neoliberalism fails to address the systemic problems within the United States prison industrial complex, and that the federal government needs to move away from the practice of crime punishment to the practice of crime prevention as evidenced by the late 20th century congressional budget on criminal justice, the War on Drugs, and the resulting 1994 Crime Bill. The first steps would be the immediate decriminalization of marijuana and immediate release of any person with a recorded marijuana charge. 

Essalona Keller 
Environmental Justice For All 
 Environmental justice advocates should consolidate efforts to achieve a broader voice. In this paper I evaluate factors that influenced the susceptibility of rural Meigs County, Ohio, to the environmental harms resulting from the Dupont C8 contamination. Through analysis of demographics and other contributing factors, I argue that any group of people can be susceptible. My findings demonstrate that although contributing factors may vary based on geographic location, class provides an acceptably broad starting point for study. Ultimately, this project advances the understanding of the classism as it relates to environmental justice. 

Kristin Kelley
A Maze of Law and Violence: The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 
Native Americans have been the victims of settler colonialism since Europeans arrived in the Americas. Europeans used tools of settler colonialism such as physical violence in general and sexual violence more specifically. In the late 18th century, settler colonial domination shifted from acts of genocide to legally sanctioned violence. As the American legal system developed so did the tribal court system. In 1885, the Major Crimes Act was passed, restricting the ability of tribal courts to prosecute crimes that happened on their land. There are now several laws passed by the U.S. Congress that have restricted tribal nation’s autonomy and have tightened the federal government’s settler colonial grip on Native Americans. In 2010, the Tribal Law and Order Act was passed as a historic piece of legislation that would give tribal nations and tribal courts back their autonomy, but this legislation does not do as much for tribal nations as its proponents suggest. This paper critically examines the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 through a law and society lens that utilizes scholarship from the field of settler colonial studies. 

Jacob Kennedy
Corners of Controversy: Contested Meanings in A Modern Museum 
Plurality of representation within spaces of public remembrance is of key interest to both the public as well as professional museum staff. The purpose of this study is to investigate the role that objects with contested meanings can play in facilitating plurality of representation. By conducting several interviews with professional museum staff, this study highlights how a small historical center utilizes objects and artifacts with contested meanings to achieve greater diversity within their exhibitions. The participants in this study demonstrated an overwhelmingly positive view of representing objects with contested meanings and a positive track record whenever they had displayed objects within this category in the past. This study illustrates the important role that objects with contested meanings can occupy in historical centers and museums. By providing opportunity for internal inquiry and communal dialogue, objects with contested meanings can play a central role in the next evolution in the museum field. 

Megan Kennedy
Legal Consciousness of Athens County Residents During a Global Pandemic
This essay explores the varying forms of legal consciousness that exist during the
COVID-19 pandemic. This will be done on a micro-level by examining data reflecting legal consciousness of the residents of Athens County, Ohio. Athens County is located in southeastern Ohio, and its population is around 60,000 people. For this project, I conducted  qualitative discourse analysis of letters written to the editors of local news outlets. The letters analyzed illustrate differing forms of legal consciousness. My analysis demonstrates emerging  patterns of local categories of meaning regarding the local government’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The local categories of meaning provide insight into legal consciousness in the context of Athens County residents. 

Lark Knutsen
Legal Mobilization in the Face Of Climate Crisis: How Extinction Rebellion Courted Public Opinion Online and in The Streets 
Extinction Rebellion (XR) are an environmental advocacy movement based in the UK. In 2019, they engaged in two periods of planned public civil disobedience and mass noncooperation. I first examine Extinction Rebellion’s extensive legal strategy, which resulted in thousands of voluntary arrests and imprisonments as well as several prominent court cases decided in their favor, and find that Extinction Rebellion successfully used legal mobilization to pursue their climate justice aims. I then turn to XR’s relationship with internal and external power structures and their attempts to court public opinion. I discover that the organization employed a decentralized, nonhierarchical approach that relied on affinity groups and that they attempted to create intersectional ties with other organizations and social movements. I find that, while XR successfully brought their cause to the forefront of public concern in the UK and forced governmental bodies to take action on climate change, the organization’s public image suffered due to their reliance on elite members and their lack of demonstrated understanding of 
intersectional issues. 

Akeem Mayle
Racism in the English Premier League: The Athlete Movement and How Athletes Spark Change 
This research examines player advocacy on racism in professional league sports through social media. As it compares two social media platforms, it takes into account the connotation of the comments left by fans to see if the player is generating positive or negative feedback. This research also considers whether the comments stay related to the conception of racism or if they are unrelated to the topic of the post. It is found that the overwhelming majority of fans who comment on these posts leave positive remarks that are most generally unrelated to the topic of racism. Over 70% of the comments have positive connotation, while just under 30% of comments are negative and/or are racist. Players have the power to generate positivity among the community; they just need to speak out on the issue to give a voice the groups that need it. 

Devan Murphy
The Pandemic and the Arts: How Politics Have Affected Pandemic Relief 
The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected many facets of American life, especially
the arts nonprofit sector. Public art museums have been an afterthought when crafting federal legislation to address pandemic relief funding such as the CARES Act and the subsequent Paycheck Protection Program; arts museums were seen as less important than the airline industry or any other large corporations. In turn, this has forced both public and private actors on the state and local levels to attempt to supplement the funding necessary to ensure that the museums stay afloat until the end of the pandemic. However, the state and local entities were largely unable to supplement the funding needed by these museums. Through analysis of pandemic-related relief efforts, this project reveals that contemporary congressional Republicans devalue the arts. 

Brea Muzykoski
Captive Capital: COVID-19’s Impact on Incarcerated Individuals in Ohio 
Research has shown that communication between incarcerated individuals and their loved 
ones, by way of visitation, reduces recidivism rates nationwide (Bales & Mears, 2008; Cochran, 2014; Duwe & Clark, 2013; McNeeley & Duwe, 2019; Mears et al., 2012). As for most things in day-to-day American life, in-person visitations came to a screeching halt at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020. As technology began to supplement school lessons, church services, and even medical visits; incarcerated individuals and their loved ones were left to the mercy of a rising market that profits from video visitations nationwide. This research unpacks this rise in captive capital and theorizes its relationship between state actors and private for-profit corporations. This body of research contributes to the understanding of American law and punishment profitability. 

Alexander Rolletta
Loaded Language: The Culture, Politics, and Powers that Defeated National Health Insurance in the U.S.
Unlike most of the world’s other relatively wealthy countries, the United States lacks universal health coverage for all of its citizens. This choice was solidified in the 1940s, when a coalition of conservative interests and the medical lobby claimed that attempts at national health insurance were a foreign takeover, communism, socialism, and altogether un-American. To this end, they exploited popular fears of the day: the U.S. had just emerged victorious from World War II, and Russia was emerging as the nation’s primary threat in the developing Cold War. A deep paranoia was ingrained in American society, fearing the spread of communism. Those alleged to have any communist sympathies became outcasts in the United States. Such accusations became a powerful political tool, regardless of whether they were true or false. This essay analyzes the messaging used in the political smearing of the first legislative attempts at universal health care in America and provides a textual analysis of the language used by opponents to national health insurance. 

Kimberlyn Seccuro
Stop the Steal: An Analysis of the Ellipse Rally 
The March to Save America Rally at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021, is just a small glimpse into the thoughts and rationale of those who support former President Donald J. Trump. The objective of this paper is to analyze the alt-right as a social movement. In doing so, three main themes and phrases were pulled from the speeches, (1) “stop the steal,” (2) “USA,” and (3) “This is just the beginning.” Using main concepts and understandings from scholarship on social movements, the themes and phrases will be analyzed in order to determine the type of social movement this part of the alt-right is and what stage the movement is in. Through this analysis, I argue that the alt-right is a revolutionary social movement, and that it is in the final stage of social movements: decline. 

Valerie Seese
The Interpretation of International Child Law by Non-Government Organizations in Yemen 
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child describes and establishes the rights children have in the international community. Activists work toward translating the Convention and incorporating its policies into communities where children’s rights are at risk of being violated or are actively being violated. Culture playing a role in how laws are interpreted is a conceptualized idea from Western states. This article focuses on how non-government organizations in Yemen interpret the convention. Through textual interpretation of Yemeni legal documents as well as reports written by non-government organizations (NGOs), I demonstrate differences in the the interpretation of child’s rights between the Yemeni government and Yemen-based NGOs based that advocate for children’s rights. 

Ju Leigh Serpa
Settler Colonialism and Surveillance of Uyghur Muslims in China 
The Uyghurs are an ethnic Muslim minority living in the Xinjiang Region of northwest China. They have faced and continue to face discrimination at the hands of the Chinese government because of their religion and alleged connections to Muslim-majority countries. Surveillance tactics such as cameras, police checkpoints, home visits and mosque targeting are various strategies used by the Chinese government to exercise control over the Uyghur population. Maintaining control over the Uyghurs’ lives contributes to the purpose of eradicating the Uyghurs from the land and establishing a homogenous Chinese culture. Through this control, China enacts settler colonialism practices against the Uyghurs rather than grant them autonomy in China. 

Ashley (Ali) Webb
Elements of Insurance and their Influence on Society 
Driven by three key elements, the insurance industry has become an integral aspect of everyday life. This paper focuses on legal, economic, and social factors of the insurance industry and the impact each factor has within society. Diving into the legal framework, actuarial practices, data collection, and social integrity of the insurance industry provides a better understanding of the industry’s influences. Each of these factors are significant and impact the insurance industry in its own way, and therefore each has a unique impact within society. The legal, economic, and social elements are influenced both singularly and collectively. 

Rachel West
Nationalist Populism and Freedom of the Press 
The 2008 financial crisis set the stage for a global rise in populist nationalism. Nationalism can give rise to restrictions of fundamental rights, like freedom of press. By defining and looking at the history of nationalist populism, I argue that this form of government has severely restricted freedom of speech in two countries: Turkey and India. How did Erdogan and Modi come to power and how have their regimes worked to oppress journalists and media outlets that refuse to cater to only their narrative? This paper analyzes two events: the failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016 and how the fallout from that event changed media in Turkey, and the recent Framer’s Rebellion in India and how Modi’s administration struggled to control the narrative surrounding it. What commonalities do these two countries share that might have led to them both electing such leaders? Through my analysis, I will argue that these administrations are not nationalist populists but rather more authoritarian regimes. 

Heather Wolf
90 Day Fiancé: How Television Portrays Immigrants Using the K1 Visa. 
This essay addresses how 90 Day Fiancé portrays immigrants utilizing the K1 visa to come to the United States. The research questions address representations of xenophobia in media, how dominant ideologies are communicated through media, and what the broader implications for how 90 Day Fiancé and other media portray immigrants. I explore these issues by focusing on the story arcs of the show in its fifth season. Drawing on conceptual frameworks from cultural studies scholars including Sarat, Mezey, and Kamir, I analyze the representations in 90 Day Fiancé. I argue that the rhetoric and agenda of the show reinforce negative views and opinions on immigrants. The results in my analysis elucidate the ways in which the show depicts users of the K1 visa in a negative light and depict scenes of xenophobia. Dominant ideologies are communicated through the cast in the show, and the broader implications for how this show is representing an aspect of immigration are that shows that portray immigrants in the way 90 Day Fiancé does can be harmful to people who rely on the K1 visa process because it can shift perceptions United States citizens have about immigrants. 90 Day Fiancé can generate political effects by portraying the K1 visa process and international people in this manner.

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