Meet our 2022-23 EALAC Undergraduate Senior Thesis Writers!
Please join us in congratulating our undergraduate 2022-23 Senior Thesis writers for all of their hard work and efforts in the Senior Thesis Program! These students did an outstanding job and will receive the Oscar Lee Award for Senior Thesis Writers for their achievements.
Bio: Lucas Aramburu is a member of the Columbia College class of 2023 majoring in East Asian Studies with a concentration in Business Management. Lucas’ area of interest is Chinese politics, language, and culture, specifically relating to Chinese presence in Latin America. Outside of these interests Lucas also has a passion for psychology, literature, and distance running.
Abstract: Since 2015, the Colombian government has contracted Chinese State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) to construct a flurry of public works as part of a national push to modernize the country’s notoriously poor transportation infrastructure. In the background of this exponential increase in Chinese presence in Colombia, there remains a memory of political and environmental conflicts arising from Chinese SOE activity in Colombia’s rich oil industry, resulting in local opposition to Chinese investment in the country. The recent acceptance of Chinese investment in infrastructure, in contrast to poor political perceptions of Chinese SOEs in the country, raises questions surrounding the “learning curve” of Chinese firms abroad: namely, whether there are discernable patterns of Chinese behavior towards social opposition, regulatory hurdles, and political complexity in Colombia.
By examining the history of Chinese involvement in Colombia, this thesis argues that while complex relationships between political and industry conditions make it difficult to identify a uniquely “Chinese” way of doing business, these firms generally adhere to local industry practices. Initial Chinese investments in Colombia were molded by private motivations in the oil sector and met with a receptive Colombian environment that was beholden to poor regulations and social conflicts. In the transportation sector, a new set of challenges was also met with the adoption of industry norms, though a focus on building clientelistic political relationships in Colombia incentivized Chinese firms to be more responsive to social and political challenges.
Bio: Tasnim Azman (she/her) is a member of the Columbia College Class of 2023 majoring in East Asian Studies. Her main area of interest is Japanese history, focusing on Japanese imperialism in Southeast Asia during the Pacific War. She is currently writing her thesis, titled “Resisting the Rising Sun: A decolonized examination of Chinese-Malay Solidarity in the Malayan Communist Party under Japanese Occupation in World War II Malaya,” under the tutelage of Dr. Paul Kreitman. In it, she challenges the now-normative view of race relations during the period — that tensions between ethnic Malays and Chinese in World War II Malaya were indiscriminately rife — by examining the outward role and internal dynamics of the Malayan Communist Party.
Her academic interests include race and ethnicity, gender studies, and postcolonial theory. In her free time, she can be found playing board games with friends, arranging music, watching Survivor, or singing. After graduating, she intends on pursuing graduate studies in Education to receive teaching certification, hoping to move home to play a role in dismantling educational inequality in Malaysia.
Abstract: This thesis examines how the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) mobilized interethnic solidarity as a tool of resistance against the Imperial Japanese administration’s attempt to divide and rule Malaya during the Pacific War. I argue the aforementioned by analyzing Chinese-Malay relations within the MCP in particular. I do this by investigating the MCP’s motivations for fostering solidarity, the means through which that was achieved, and the significance of certain high-ranking Malay officials in the MCP. Central to this thesis is decolonization theory, which urges a reexamination of race relations in 1940s Malaya. The normative understanding of race relations in Japanese-occupied Malaya is that the local ethnic groups were strictly in opposition to one another. I argue that this interpretation of interethnic tension is informed by British colonialism and the villainization of Communism, and is a result of the political dominance of pro-British Malay elites at the time of independence. Such understanding is also continually perpetuated by both historical scholarship and the modern education system. To push against this colonialized view, I am informed primarily by interviews with prominent Malay leaders of the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army and their memoirs — using secondary sources by Malayan historians to supplement the information gathered.
Bio: Cole Gengos is a member of Columbia College’s Class of 2023, majoring in East Asian Languages and Cultures. He has a particular interest in language study and language pedagogy of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese languages. Additionally, he has a deep curiosity for East Asian visual and modern cultural studies with a specific focus on Japan. Outside of the classroom, Cole enjoys a variety of cultural exports including Japanese animation and South Korean pop music. After graduation, Cole will be working in Manhattan at a Japanese bank to continue engaging with Japanese culture and commerce.
Cole’s senior thesis, “False Happiness: Postmodern Crisis in Neon Genesis Evangelion and other Works of Japanese Animated Media of the 1990s,” written in consultation with Professor Takuya Tsunoda, explores the Japanese perspectives on postmodernism as viewed through the lens of various seminal animated projects of the 1990s.
Abstract: The topic of the ‘postmodern’ is a broad and amorphous discourse whose origins can roughly be traced to the first use of the terms “post-industrial” and “Post-Impressionism” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the context of the art world. These terms were among the first of the ‘posties’ which sprang up in literary, economic, sociological, and religious discourse most notably gaining widespread attention by the 1960s. By examining social criticism, identity, and various reflective Japanese animated works of the 1990s, this thesis aims to provide a critical analysis of concerns and viewpoints relevant to postmodernism in our present-day society. The writing focuses on the interplay between the rise of consumerism, technology, and the effects on identity, interpersonal experiences, and a broader process of detachment from traditional social structures which have been formative to the historical organization of people as individuals and members of a given society or culture. By examining the ways in which these phenomena shape our values and beliefs, we can gain a deeper understanding of their effects on our lives. This thesis explores how a rejection of fixed identity can lead to both liberation and disorientation. Moreover, it argues that consumer culture can reinforce a narrow and limiting view of identity, emphasizing the acquisition of and identification with merchandise and franchises over other historical means of personal growth and fulfillment. This thesis focuses on popular and culturally significant anime such as Anno Hideaki’s Neon Genesis Evangelion and Chiaki J. Konaka’s Serial Experiments Lain to explore these themes from primarily a Japanese perspective using European philosophy and Japanese social criticism to come to an understanding of the practical challenges and liberties this new worldview poses.
Bio: Emma Potts belongs to Columbia College’s Class of 2023, double majoring in East Asian languages & cultures and political science. She completed her senior thesis, “Militarized Modernity’s Enduring Scar: the Process of Remasculinization in the Anti-Feminist Movement of Contemporary South Korea,” under the tutelage of Professor Jungwon Kim and Professor Theodore Hughes. She will be interning with the American Foreign Policy Council’s Indo-Pacific Security Program during the summer months before studying abroad at Yonsei University for her final undergraduate semester. Believing herself as a part of an emerging cadre of young Americans preparing to make differences in cross-cultural understanding and eventually foreign policy making, she hopes to pursue a future career in international education, non-profit work or diplomacy.
Abstract: As exhibited through the recent March 2022 presidential election in which both major party candidates employed anti-feminist rhetoric as components of their political platforms, growing anti-feminist sentiment in South Korea is no transient trend among a segment of the younger generation of Korean men. Some may maintain that anti-feminism is merely a byproduct of dissatisfaction with the military conscription system and similarly increasing insecurities in economic prospects inherent to members of a modern capitalist society; however, this paper builds upon previous research and topical scholarship exploring this current issue to ultimately posit that present day anti-feminist sentiment is, in actuality, a manifestation of Korean men’s perceived ineptitude at achieving their derived concept of masculinity. A concept of masculinity that is viewed as historically implicated by an (ongoing) process of regaining agency and status on account of a colonial legacy of emasculinization at the hands of a Japanese colonial force.
This paper argues that South Korean President Park Chung Hee’s regime (1962-1979) characterized by nation-building efforts during the post-colonial epoch termed Militarized Modernity–a modernization project targeting Koreans and their disciplined, able bodies largely focusing on the universal military conscription system and the increase of (economic) productivity in a militaristic manner by the entire citizenry–defined what masculinity should be for Korean men and that achieving such a status would become an ongoing process. This altered version of (post) colonial modernity will be asserted to be the beginning of a “remasculinization” process undergone by Korean men for the purpose of re-establishing their economic and socio-political preeminence within society, and that a failure to complete this equivalent is being channeled into anti-feminism.
Bio: James Gasper is a Marine veteran and a member of the General Studies Columbia College Class of 2024. His main area of interest in the East Asian Studies major is China (specifically in the discipline of Chinese history, religion, and language), including interdisciplinary interests in Buddhism, philosophy, and meditation. James has studied abroad in Taiwan to improve his Chinese language skills and in India for a more well-rounded understanding of Buddhist/meditative practice. James is passionate about exploring and immersing himself within different cultures to dissolve cultural boundaries and foster raw human relationships experientially.
Abstract: This paper will analyze the relationship between non-dual meditative practices and psychedelic therapy. While the notion of non-dualism can be referenced to many religions, such as Christianity, Hinduism, and even Judaism, this paper will specifically examine the Buddhist notion of non-dualism. The analysis will begin by exploring the concept of non-dualism and how it relates to the Buddhist understanding of ‘emptiness.’ In a thorough examination of non-dualism and emptiness, there will be an organic arrival at the notion of non-attachment. In order to clearly comprehend non-attachment, this paper will discuss working definitions, non-attachment’s practical applicability, and how non-attachment leads one away from suffering – according to Buddhism. This discussion examines how the non-attached state of consciousness cultivates not only healing but also the implications of how this healing state guides an individual to an increase in well-being and adaptive functioning.
Upon creating a foundational basis for these Buddhist concepts, this paper will begin analyzing the latter half of the relationship, psychedelic therapy. The analysis will identify a common state of mind and consciousness shared in non-dual meditative practices and psychedelic therapy – a state of non-attachment. Though approaching this shared state of consciousness is significantly different in each practice, the intrinsic learning of non-attachment is experienced in both. To support the analysis of a shared state of mind and consciousness, this paper will first approach a neurological perspective to demonstrate how current mind-psychedelic theories signify a physical integration of non-attachment. This paper will then examine patient experiences to draw attention to two points of interest: experiences described by patients as an encounter with the ineffable and implicit learning lessons of the psychedelic journey. The purpose of highlighting these points of interest is to illustrate the similarities shared between Buddhist practices of non-dualism and the psychedelic experience. Following the categorical descriptions of Buddhist concepts and psychedelic therapy, this paper will return to the outlined understanding of non-attachment in order to analyze what one fosters psychologically by remaining in a conscious state of non-attachment. Ultimately, this research approaches an understanding of the non-attached state of consciousness shared between non-dual meditative practices and psychedelic therapy and investigates how this state of non-attachment optimizes the healthy individual’s emotional relationship with oneself and others.
Bio: Andrew Ramirez is a member of the Columbia College’s Class of 2023, majoring in east Asian Languages and Cultures. His main area of academic interest is modern Korean literature and history, with a focus on affect studies and the interplay between socio-political factors and the psychic state of the individual subject. His thesis investigates how the precarious politico-economic conditions of South Korea following the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 have had a profound affective consequence on the downwardly-mobile subjects who belong to the fading strata of the lower middle class; namely, the affective state that results in the psyche of the marginalized subject from this economic context is that of boredom. He conducts this investigation through an exploration of early-twenty-first-century works of South Korean literature. After graduation, he will be teaching English to middle and high school students in South Korea as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. He extends his sincerest appreciation and thanks to his family, friends, and professors at Columbia for all their encouragement and support across so many years, with special thanks to his thesis advisor, Professor Theodore Hughes.
Abstract: Resulting from the disadvantaged position of the middle class which came as a result of the neoliberal economic reforms instituted as part of the IMF’s bailout of the South Korean Economy in 1997, boredom has arisen as a significant affective mode of twenty-first-century South Korean literature featuring downwardly-mobile young subjects of the lower middle class. The literary presentations of bored subjects written in the context of late capitalist South Korea demonstrate the marginalized subject’s lack of access to meaningful economic, social, and aesthetic transcendence and, in doing so, comment on the frustrated manifestation of desire in the psyche of the young, middle-class subject. Boredom and its commentary on transcendence and desire implicate an accompanying aesthetic of banality. Banality as an aesthetic and narrative impulse takes as its focus the otherwise-unthought-of factors that constitute one’s everyday life. Presentations of the banal in these works of contemporary Korean fiction draw the reader’s attention, in particular, towards quotidian things (such as a refrigerator, a can of peaches, or cans of peaches). Such (un)aesthetic representations of banal things bring to light the subject’s preoccupation with these things and, in doing so, complicates the consumerist conception of the subject-object relationship by being driven by a muted desire rather than a libidinal one. Ultimately, I argue, boredom and banality in twenty-first-century South Korean literature together present a complicated portrait of the individual subject in South Korea’s late capitalist context, detailing a new view of the relationship between the society, the subject, and the ordinary object.
Bio: Alexander Aibel is a member of the Columbia College Class of 2023, majoring in East Asian Studies with a focus in Chinese. His thesis, “Examining ‘One Piece’ of Folklore: Eiichiro Oda’s Take on Momotaro and other Japanese Myths,” investigates the intersection between the famous manga and anime “One Piece,” and Japanese mythology. Alexander is writing his thesis under the supervision of Professor Takuya Tsunoda. He is passionate about the role manga plays in popular culture, and how manga is more than just a comic.
Alexander is also very interested in film, television, and international politics. After graduation, he plans to work for a think tank investigating the U.S.-China policy, and complete his Masters in East Asia: Regional Studies at Columbia University.
Abstract: For over 20 years, Eiichiro Oda has written One Piece nearly weekly. Oda has maintained an incredible level of readership, as One Piece has grown to be the highest-grossing manga of all time. This paper will examine Oda’s use of Japanese mythology in his manga, and this paper will seek to explain why Oda chooses to use so many mythological references and how these references better our understanding of the One Piece world. There has not been much previous scholarship comparing One Piece– or Wano Kuni, more specifically– to mythology. Much of the current discussion takes place on Reddit and Youtube, and I seek to detail the connections between myth and manga in this thesis in an academic fashion. Oda utilizes old pieces of culture to build upon modern culture and draw out the element of ‘old Japan’ in his Wano Kuni story arc.
Bio: Charlie Wallace is a member of the Columbia College Class of 2023 from Denver, Colorado, double majoring in East Asian languages and Culture and political science. At Columbia Charlie is the current Columbia College Student Body President, a four year tour guide for Undergraduate Admissions, and an editor for the Columbia Political Review. His EALAC thesis, advised by Professor Andrew Nathan, is on tracking the creation of Taiwanese, Chinese, or both identities through the lens of Taiwanese presidential inauguration speeches. Next year, Charlie will be heading to Tsinghua University in Beijing, China as a Schwarzman Scholar. After completing his masters in global affairs at Tsinghua he hopes to return to the US for law school.
Abstract: My thesis argues that the growth of an independent Taiwanese identity has not been a linear process through the primary lens of Taiwanese presidential inaugural speeches. My thesis looks at how Chiang Kai-shek, Yan Chia-kan, Chiang Ching-Kuo, Lee Teng-hui, Chen Shui-bian, Ma Ying-jeou, and Tsai Ing-wen have changed their descriptions and understanding of the Taiwan’s identity or not as a nation through their inaugural speeches. I contend that this process has not been linear because different presidents have inherited different global and domestic environments that have greatly impacted their autonomy to speak about Taiwan’s identity. This pressure primarily comes from the geo-politics of Washington and Beijing, as well as the domestic situation in Taiwan between the Kuomintang and Democratic Progressive Party.
I argue that Taiwan is adhering to a more traditional Chinese religious tradition and writing system than Mainland China itself. I provide evidence that this is likely a result of modern Taiwan being the place that the KMT was going to use as a staging point to eventually take back the mainland. Thus, Taiwan has held onto and preserved the Chinese culture of that era, rather than the culture that Mainland China has now. By holding onto more traditionally Chinese aspects than Mainland China Taiwan has been able to play up these differences to begin to build a distinct identity. However, while holding onto “traditionally Chinese culture,” Taiwanese presidents have been elevating Taiwanese indigenous history and language to try to simultaneously disconnect the national identity from the mainland.
Bio: Mercy Campbell is a member of Columbia College’s Class of 2023 majoring in East Asian Languages and Cultures with a focus on Korean studies. She wrote her senior thesis, “The Threat of Beauty: Bobbed Hair and the Creation of a Modern Femininity in Colonial Korea,” under the guidance of Professor Theodore Hughes. After graduation, Mercy will work for the summer at Breakthrough Cincinnati training high school and college students who aspire to become educators. Then, she is going to South Korea as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in elementary schools. Mercy intends to pursue a graduate degree in Korean studies and a career where she can continue to foster intercultural scholarship and community.
Abstract: This paper will analyze women’s bobbed hair in Korea’s colonial period (1910-1945) as a site of individual expression and public discourse that reveals changing societal attitudes towards gender, modernity, and national identity. While bobbed hair was strongly associated with the global phenomenon of the Modern Girl in the interwar years, this paper examines short hair’s specific meaning and development within the Korean colonial and Confucian contexts to explore how and why the Modern Girl appeared in this locality. Specifically, I focus on the creation of new roles and aesthetics of femininity. In order to do so, I trace short hair from Chosŏn dynasty mandates for men to cut their hair, to women’s free choice to cut their hair in the early 20th century, and especially to published written discourse and images of bobbed haired women circulated in the colonial period, focusing on how meaning is assigned and by whom. Although the Modern Girl in Korea is often dismissed as an eroticized, imagined figure compared to the real and radical New Woman, this research complicates that assumption, and I argue that the Modern Girl has roots in the lives of real Korean women and should be recognized as a radical and challenging role for women in her own right.