2022 Thesis Prize Winners

Farah Afify ’22
Winner | Radical and Muslim: Islamic Liberationist Thought in the Black Panther Party

Concentrator in Social Studies

Afify engages archival and biographical sources, along with firsthand oral histories and ethnography, to understand how Islamic thought, practice, and understandings of kinship infused East Coast Panthers’ political work in the late twentieth century. Afify demonstrates that Muslim identity and theology were inseparable from their revolutionary organizing in and against the carceral state. EMR readers lauded this “impeccably researched” thesis for its ethnographic sophistication and sensitivity and its “expertly” delivered contributions to Muslim American studies, Black studies, history, and political theory. 

"It was my greatest joy to have been able to conduct this project in conversation with the Muslim Black Panthers who kindly shared their life experiences with me and trusted me to relay them ethically and accurately. I give Brother Jihad Abdulmumit, Brother Masai Ehehosi, and Brother Jalil Muntaqim my sincerest gratitude for both their willingness to be interviewed and the immense care they showed me as a young Muslim who is growing and learning in her scholarship and her faith." - Farah Afify
 

Matteo Wong ’22
Winner | Up the Stairs to the Basement Workshop: Sustaining Art, Activism, and an Asian American Community in New York City, 1970-86

Concentrator in History and Literature

Wong documents the life of The Basement Workshop, a New York City Asian American arts and political organization, situating the Basement in wider views of Asian American history, theory, and activist coalition. This thesis depicts the Basement’s artistic initiatives and organizational experiments, along with the generative and contentious forms of relationality that pervaded its work. EMR readers commended Wong’s “creative and original” approach, calling it “a brilliantly written thesis” that is “easily graduate-level work.”

"I started researching the Basement Workshop out of a desire to study the Asian American movement; most histories of the period focus on the West Coast, and I wanted to study the movement in New York City, where I am from. I'm especially proud of all the oral history interviews I did for this project, and I tried to let my interviewees' voices shine in the written product. The understanding of Asian America as a label for a messy, potentially generative process that I develop is something that I imagine will inform my thinking for years to come." - Matteo Wong
 

Kelsey Chen ’22
Honorable Mention | Things Adrift: A Vital Materialist Account of Trinh Mai’s Bone of My Bone as Feminist Refuge-Making Craft

Concentrator in Social Studies; History of Art & Architecture

Chen engages Vietnamese American artist Trinh Mai’s driftwood project in a highly original theoretical mode that probes relations between human and non-human materiality. An EMR reader praised this thesis for opening “a new way to approach diasporic artists' practice. It shows how we may analyze and understand issues relating to displacement, trauma, migration, and belonging without taking a crudely reductive stance informed only by changing politics.” 

"Things Adrift: A Vital Materialist Account of Trinh Mai's Sculpture as Feminist Refuge-Making Craft, aims to take the philosophy of new materialisms and object-oriented ontology to develop an applied method for studying the auratic power of art objects outside of human interpretation and experience of them. This approach is an attempt to develop an empirical logic to explain how things are powerful and expressive for reasons beyond how they might become meaningful to human viewers, expanding upon current art historical understandings of “meaning as produced” by human-art encounter. I undertook this project because I was truly moved and overcome when witnessing Mai's work, Bone of My Bone, and because I found current scholarly tactics for discussing art and the power of art objects to be entirely insufficient to describe what I was feeling. hold an unspeakable gratitude towards this spectacular woman and her work." - Kelsey Chen
 

Courtney DeLong ’22
Honorable Mention | Nourishing Community: Culinary Traditions’ Role in Shaping Localized Black Identities in St. James Parish, Louisiana

Concentrator in History; Folklore & Mythology

DeLong gives a simultaneously deep and broad account of Black community foodways and food practices in St. James Parish, Louisiana from the 19th to 21st centuries. This thesis artfully narrates the trajectories that connect histories of colonization and enslavement to present-day environmental injustice. EMR readers celebrated DeLong’s empathy and criticality in equal measure and found that “elegant moves between systemic problems (colonialism; racial capitalism) and the deeply personal (resident’s family narratives and grassroots organizing) make this thesis a resounding success.” 

"I could not have written this thesis without the time, trust, and wisdom of Garry Winchester, Milton, Sharon Lavigne, and Stephanie Cooper. My collaborators' memories illustrated both the petrochemical industry's effects on and the deep meanings behind Black foodways in St. James Parish. Without their knowledge, this project would have simply been impossible." - Courtney DeLong
 

Noah Secondo ’22
Honorable Mention | Just Sojourners? Traveling Artists, Civil Rights Activism, and U.S. National Security

Concentrator in History; Romance Languages and Literatures

Secondo traces the transnational travels, creative cultural work, and political interventions of Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, and Lenny Bruce. EMR readers found that these actors’ commitments to engaging “anti-colonialism, international conflicts, and social taboos, always in solidarity with those who suffered injustices” have great relevance for the present as well as the times in which they lived. They commended the thesis for its “impressive and poetic assemblage of sources” which ultimately make “an original and urgent contribution to the study of transnational solidarities and the Long Civil Rights Movement.” 

"Too often, we underestimate the power of artists to effect political change. By following a poet, a singer, and a comedian around the world, this thesis shows how art of all kinds has influenced social movements and the governments that attempt to control them." - Noah Secondo