Shared Scholarship During the Pandemic

by Cameron Katz, 21C History and English Creative Writing
Fox Center Undergraduate Humanities Honors Fellow

Being an undergraduate humanities fellow at the Fox Center has enhanced my experience in the Emory’s honors program. In the fall semester, I felt isolated from other honors students due to the pandemic. While in normal times, I might have run into other students on campus where we could discuss our projects, such encounters were not possible in the era of coronavirus. The spring semester at the Fox Center, however, allowed me to connect with other honors students, not just in the history department, but in other disciplines as well. I loved hearing about my peers’ research, especially in fields that I knew little about. Although we only met once a month, connecting with other undergraduate fellows as well as other members of the Fox Center helped me to feel like I was part of a larger scholarly community even though my entire thesis was written inside my apartment.

The opportunity to present my research to a group of scholars was also very beneficial. My history honors thesis examines the racial implications of Florida’s felony disenfranchisement law – the rule which revokes a person’s right to vote on account of a felony conviction – which was on the books from 1838 to 2018. Because my temporal framework is so large, working to condense it to a short presentation for an audience less familiar with the history really helped me to streamline my main argument, which I think is one of the most challenging aspects of large projects. Hearing feedback about my presentation allowed me to narrow my presentation even further so that I could convey my work in an accessible and informative manner. Later this month, I will be presenting my research at the Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Symposium so the additional practice at the Fox Center has helped me to prepare. 

I am grateful to the Fox Center for the opportunities it provided to engage with scholarship beyond my discipline, hone my work, and sharpen my presentation skills. As I begin to consider graduate school, I feel lucky to have had a glimpse into the world of the humanistic scholarly inquiry and its community. Thank you very much to Dr. Walter Melion, Keith Anthony, Colette Barlow, and all of the fellows at the Fox Center for their invaluable insight, enthusiasm, and support throughout my fellowship experience.

Cameron Katz is a senior double majoring in History and English Creative Writing. She is currently working on an honors thesis about the history of felony disenfranchisement in Florida, a provision that has prevented incarcerated individuals from exercising their right to vote since 1868. While the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement eventually dismantled other Reconstruction-era voter suppression tactics targeting Black political power, felony disenfranchisement remained. Today, it continues to influence Florida’s electoral process. Cameron’s thesis argues that the reason for this provision’s persistence is its link to criminality, which allowed legislators to adjust their justifications of felony disenfranchisement to fit the racial climate and national crime discourse of the time.

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