Collaborative Community in an Isolated Pandemic

by Rachel Silver, 21C Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

My honors thesis takes a feminist security studies approach to analyze the historical exclusion and disfranchisement of Asian American women. I investigate how national security measures were employed to justify or conceal oppressive US domestic policies targeting Asian American women. Specifically, I focus on the Page Act of 1817, Cable Act of 1922, and Japanese American internment in the 1940s. Along with the existing feminist security studies scholarship, I introduce the reproduction of colonial dynamics as an analytical tool to expose the state’s active role in prescribing insecurity for vulnerable populations.

The Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry provided a scholarly, friendly community that I really needed this year. After months of social distancing and online learning, I often struggled to stay motivated writing my thesis. Yet, at the Fox Center, I was able to connect with accomplished peers from a wide variety of fields who reignited my passions. I became really excited to share my work with other students and learn more about their fascinating projects that were so different from mine. The Fox Center also provided several opportunities to interact with graduate scholars and professors, whose innovative work inspired me. I really enjoyed hearing about these experts’ projects and learning about their individual approaches to research, writing, and rewriting. I also developed more confidence sharing (virtual) space with more experienced academics and getting the chance to offer them my own feedback.

The end of the semester Fox Center Symposium further built my confidence, especially with public speaking and time management skills. The seminar courses leading up to the Symposium allowed me and the other fellows to progressively prepare for our presentations. After running out of time during my first practice in class, I was able to readjust and more succinctly present my honors thesis at the real Symposium. The final Symposium presentation ended up not being as nerve-wracking as I initially anticipated. The final presentation—at least after I finished— felt like a moment of relief. After a long year, I simply cherished how a gathering of scholarly minds celebrated new, insightful research. A special thank you to Dr. Walter Melion, Keith Anthony, Colette Barlow, and the other fellows at the Fox Center for all of your support this semester.

Rachel Silver is a senior majoring in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies with a minor in Economics. Her research critiques the national security narratives justifying Japanese American Internment after Pearl Harbor and Muslim American surveillence after 9/11. She analyzes how the Executive Order 9066 and the Special Registration project replicate traditional, neorealist frameworks of Security Studies. Ultimately, her goal is to integrate feminist theory with Security Studies to provide an alternative view of (in)security from the standpoint of disenfranchised groups.

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