2016/2017 DISCO Travel Grant Awardees

Autumn 2016 Awardees


Jonathan Branfman (PhD candidate, Department of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies) is attending the American Jewish Studies conference as an observer in San Diego, California on December 18-20, 2016. Jon’s dissertation research analyzes gender, sexuality, and racialization among American Jews, linking the fields of Sexuality Studies, WGSS, and Jewish Studies. Additionally, Jon applies Sexuality Studies and WGSS frameworks to Jewish topics, but also places those frameworks in conversation with Jewish Studies approaches to gender, sexuality, and race.

Sara Rodríguez-Argüelles’ (PhD candidate, Department of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies) dissertation project is about Central American refugee families who come into the U.S. seeking asylum. Sara is interested in looking at the state’s practices that are enacted on these families once they enter the U.S. Despite the fact that these families are fleeing from violence –which the U.S. is greatly responsible for— once they enter the country they are treated like criminals and held up in temporary holding cells, and detention centers. The DISCO Graduate Travel Grant will help Sara with volunteer work she conducted with the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project in a family immigration detention center in Dilley, Texas, in February 2016, and another week in June 2016. Sara’s volunteering with CARA is mostly dedicated to coaching the women on how to pass their Credible Fear Interview, reviewing the Credible Fear determinations, preparing bond hearings, doing intakes before and after the interviews, helping the lawyers with administrative tasks, and other duties.

Jessica Somerville’s (PhD student, Department of Teaching & Learning, School of Education & Human Ecology) research examines the educational experiences of Latinx elementary children to explore children’s politicized funds of knowledge around immigration experiences. Jessica will present a classroom conversation between Latinx children, their African American peers, and their teacher related to their civic education curriculum. Examining this data can help uncover some of the politicized funds of knowledge, including understandings of rights and equity, that minoritized children bring to civic education, as well as how teachers can build on students’ politicized funds of knowledge to help them develop critical understandings of civic life and work with others toward change.

Andrew Sydlik (PhD candidate, Department of English) is traveling to the conference “American Literature and the Philosophical” in Paris, France. In “Revolution and Cure: Molyneux's Problem, Denis Diderot's Letter on the Blind, and Royall Tyler's The Algerine Captive,” the central question I ask is: what role does blindness play in the novel The Algerine Captive, and what does that role tell us about how Americans constructed blindness in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? Andrew’s paper contends that Tyler exemplifies an American tradition of representing blindness as an obstacle to moral enlightenment while simultaneously teaching sighted people to be more sympathetic. This tradition spread widely in the nineteenth century. I approach this question as a disability studies scholar interested in the history of disability and its intersections with literary, medical, and philosophical discourses. Andrew’s essay intervenes in American studies in that it reframes a well-known text in terms of how it responds to discourses of disability, and in disability studies, it traces the medical view of disability to an earlier period than we usually see it.

Joshua Truett (PhD student, Department of Theatre) will travel to Minneapolis for the 60th Anniversary Conference “Trans” presented by the American Society of Theatre Research (ASTR). Josh will present his paper, “Las Velas y Los Muxes: Festival Performance as Queer, De-Colonial Gesture.” Josh investigates the embodied cultural practices of the muxes, a queer subculture of the Isthmus Zapotec. The Zapotecs are the largest indigenous group in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. The muxes embody the “trans” theme of this year’s conference in multiple ways; they are transcultural, transnational, and transgendered. Josh’s dissertation research interests cohere around the process by which the velas claim and rework public spaces by utilizing indigenous, national and transnational (including indigenous nations) customs and “scenarios” in performantive events that emerge as uniquely Istmeño.

Spring 2017 Awardees


Krupal Amin (Ph.D. Candidate, English) presented a paper on the 2010 novel, One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni at the American Literature Association Conference that took place in Boston, MA, May 25-28, 2017. Krupal’s paper looks at how Divakaruni’s text interrogates knowledge production as a way to understand citizenship for multiracial bodies in American education systems. Krupal argues that the act of storytelling fosters transnational understanding across culture, gender, race, and class by becoming a commentary on education and the limits and advantages of knowledge production. This paper is part of Krupal’s ongoing dissertation research into how contemporary Asian American and African American literatures engage with the traditional literary canon, through form and content, to reveal an evolution in how we talk about nationalism, race, and citizenship.

David Bowers (Ph.D. Candidate, Human Development/Family Science, Couples and Family Therapy) presented a paper entitled “Helping through Memories and Family: Lived Experience of Transgender Crisis-Line Volunteers” at the 2017 Congress of International Family Therapy Association in Malaga, Spain from March 14-18, 2017. David’s research examines the experiences of transgender individuals who volunteer on a crisis line for members of the trans community. Through a series of interviews, this research uncovered consistent themes of the significance of family reactions to a transgender person’s on-going growth and adjustment. By incorporating this research into clinical practice, clinicians can bring a greater sensitivity to their work with transgender clients.

Megan Brown (Ph.D. Candidate, Teaching and Learning) presented a paper at the International Research Society for Children’s Literature Annual Congress in Toronto, Canada from July 28-August 3, 2017.  Megan’s presentation, “Judging by the First Look: Change Representation of Disability on Book Covers,” extends the work of Corinne Duyvis and Kaylay Whaley on the representation of disability on book covers for middle grade and YA novels. Megan’s research explores the ways that publishers manipulate images on the covers of books about disabilities and the potential impact on the child readers’ overall comprehension of the text. Megan focuses on YA novels that have been republished under more than one image.  

Joy Ellison (Ph.D. Student, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies) presented a paper entitled “When Were You Mine? Prince’s Legacy in the Context of Trans History” at Purple Reign: An Interdisciplinary Conference on the Life and Legacy of Prince at the University of Salford in Media City, United Kingdom. The conference was held from May 23-27, 2017.  Joy examines Prince’s fame and what it means to be a trans Prince fan, particularly in light of his later move toward greater heteronormativity. Joe argues that studying Prince’s evolving career, allows trans people to understand their own history and cultural impact, while questioning what constitutes trans visibility and what political purpose that visibility may serve. This paper is an extension of Joy’s ongoing research on transgender history in the Midwest during the 1970s and 1980s which focuses on transgender women of color organizing against prisons and policing and on transgender aesthetics as resistance praxis.

Nic Flores (Ph.D. Candidate, Comparative Studies) conducted research on the localized efforts and effects of Truvada at Equitas Health, an Ohio-based clinic and pharmacy service aimed at HIV/AIDs research. Nic presented his findings at the 2017 LGBTQ Scholars of Color Conference hosted by the Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies in New York City, NY on April 14-16, 2017. Truvada is a once-a-day regime aimed at reducing infection among HIV negative people. Nic argues that Truvada taken as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) illuminates the convergence between public health, racial politics, and science and technology in the United States. The objective of this project is to gain insight into how Truvada as PrEP comes to matter in new ways as it moves from pharmaceutical laboratories, then clinical sites, and, finally, into a broader public sphere surrounding HIV/AIDS discourses and practices. This research has the potential to enrich literature on HIV/AIDS in public health, cultural studies, and science studies.

Swati Vijaya (Ph.D. Candidate, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies) presented a paper entitled “Geographies of LBT Activism in Urban India: Hierarchical Subversions and Queer Subalterns” at the Feminist Geography Conference hosted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from May 17-20, 2017.  Swati’s paper presents findings from her ethnographic field research in India, re-centering analytical attention to queer women and transmasculine people into the geographic lexicon of Mumbai. Swati’s research identifies and analyzes the dialectical relationship between urban space and queer identity through examination of queer activism that focuses on gay men while marginalizing and systemically omitting lesbian women and transmasculine people. Her work offers a decolonial feminist intervention, enabling a substantive analysis of space, place, and queer identity in the South Asian context.