Meet our 2021-22 EALAC Undergraduate Senior Thesis Writers!
Please join us in congratulating our undergraduate 2021-22 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: Henry Golub is a member of the Columbia College Class of 2022 double majoring in East Asian Studies and Economics. His main area of interest in the East Asian Studies major is China (specifically in the disciplines of Chinese literature, history, religion, and language), but his academic interests span a wide variety of subjects, including political philosophy, Shakespeare, financial economics, and jazz. After graduation, Henry will be working at an investment bank based in New York City.
Henry’s senior thesis, “Speaking Bitterness in Two Eras of Chinese Justice: Land Reform and the Trial of the Gang of Four,” written under the tutelage of Professor Eugenia Lean, examines how the Chinese government under Deng Xiaoping attempted to establish the legitimacy of the Chinese judiciary in large part by drawing upon Maoist judicial practices.
Abstract: The death of Mao Zedong in 1976 brought about a critical juncture for the Chinese Communist Party. The chairman and his closest associates had for the past decade supported the Cultural Revolution, which in promoting rebellion among revolutionary youth groups and inflaming rivalries between violent factions, brought the People’s Republic of China to the brink of collapse. Whether the Cultural Revolution would continue depended upon who would fill the power vacuum left by Mao: reformers, led by Deng Xiaoping (and, to some extent, Hua Guofeng) or leftist radicals, led by the so-called Gang of Four. The former group, after proving victorious, immediately arrested the Gang of Four. Despite having ended the Cultural Revolution, however, the reformers now had to salvage the CCP’s much diminished legitimacy and restore the faith of the population in the Chinese state. They did this in large part by staging a show trial blaming the ten years of turmoil on the Gang of Four. That this trial, generally seen as a turning point for China’s legal system, resembled in key ways trials of the Mao era suggests that the CCP intended for the judicial proceedings to herald evolutionary—not revolutionary—changes for Chinese criminal justice.
This paper explains why the Trial of the Gang of Four signaled only moderate changes to the Chinese criminal justice system. Specifically, this paper demonstrates that the Trial, in its employment of legal expertise, careful approach to mass participation, and presentation of political accountability, bureaucratized the mass-led trials developed during the Land Reform period. Such Land Reform trials, referred to as “speaking bitterness” sessions or “People’s Tribunals,” shared many surface-level features with the Gang of Four’s. As presented by William Hinton in Fanshen, his account of Land Reform, speaking bitterness sessions mobilized peasants for revolution by holding elites—religious leaders, Japanese collaborators, and landlords—accountable for crimes ostensibly committed against the masses. These defendants, or so-called class enemies, were dragged by party cadres, trained in Maoist judicial techniques, in front of rural villagers, who had been taught to extract both physically and verbally confessions from defendants. The Trial of the Gang of Four placed similar emphasis on form, mass participation, and accountability, but in each respect, it muted the aspects that might incite its mass audience. These changes stemmed from and reveal much about the CCP’s aims for both trials. During Land Reform, the Party aimed to provoke class warfare; following the Cultural Revolution, it sought to turn the page on a tumultuous era; in both cases, however, the Party aimed to effect transitional justice—means for societies to reconcile with traumatic events. The Trial, then, may have promoted order, but it still drew extensively from the elements of speaking bitterness that facilitated transitional justice, meaning that it implied not a clean break, but instead a gradual transition away from Maoist mass justice.
Bio: Benjamin Guggenheim is a member of Columbia College’s Class of 2022, majoring in East Asian Languages and Cultures with a special concentration in Business Management. Beginning last fall, he has been researching Chinese state-society relations with guidance from Dr. Xiaobo Lü. The culmination of his work can be found in his thesis, From Lost Generation to Lying Flat — A History of CCP Youth Employment Policy and the Preservation of Party Legitimacy. Benjamin is currently the Asia Studies Intern at the Council on Foreign Relations and he looks forward to pursuing a career in both diplomacy and business.
Abstract: This research paper evaluates several theories for Chinese Communist Party (CCP) legitimacy, employing the youth employment landscape as one particular lens through which to distinguish between rhetoric and practice. Specifically, it investigates whether enacted youth employment policies align with the official “direction” for socio-economic development, which is itself an affirmation of the Party’s obligations to society. This study is particularly relevant to current affairs, as the CCP leadership is attempting to advance its new strategy for common prosperity and make society more equitable. Youth employment has also become increasingly consequential due to an unprecedentedly low labor market participation rate that compromises social and economic stability. All of this contributes to the Party’s image of success during the “new normal” — a period of sustained low, single-digit annual GDP growth.
In order to contextualize the current leadership’s coordination of direction and policy, this research paper will address the following questions: 1) How does this regime’s rationale and strategy for youth employment policy compare to that of the past (during the Mao era and reform and opening)? 2) What significance does youth employment have for the proposed development model and this regime’s long-term socio-economic objectives and political legitimacy? 3) What challenges, both structural (e.g., industry regulations, skills bottlenecks and age imbalance) and specific (e.g., education and work preferences), exist for the CCP to achieve its youth employment targets, and how can these issues best be overcome? An evaluation of previous regimes’ accomplishments and shortcomings will be especially helpful for answering this last question. Ultimately, this study demonstrates that the current leadership’s youth employment policies are largely consistent with the overall direction of common prosperity, though their impact is often overshadowed by, and occasionally reversed due to, economic concerns. Observing past regimes’ performance also reveals how strict direction-policy alignment can have unfortunate social, economic, environmental and, ironically, political outcomes, most notably when evolving circumstances necessitate an altered approach. With this in mind, a more nuanced map of the potential pitfalls that await the CCP as it pursues common prosperity, all the while navigating possible imminent economic downturn, is illuminated.
Bio: Qiqige Han is a Barnard College Class of 2022 East Asian Cultural Studies student, currently focusing on Japanese pop and media culture, in addition to gender studies. She completed her senior thesis, “Japanese Idols’ Labor Of Love: A Labor That Should Not Be Defined Entirely as Satisfying Heterosexual Needs,” under the guidance of her advisor, Professor Takuya Tsunoda,. She is passionate about exploring gender differences in Japanese pop culture, as well as, consumer psychology and marketing strategies. She chose to research the Japanese idol industry because she is not a fan of any idol group herself and she hopes to analyze the industry with a neutral perspective. After graduation, she hopes to continue her research on gender needs in Japanese pop culture in higher-level academic studies and use this knowledge in her business start-up.
Abstract: Idols are one of the representatives of Japan’s pop culture industry, and there are now more than 6,000 women in Japan who are engaged in the profession of idols. Japanese idols are mainly divided into aboveground idols and underground idols. Aboveground idols are mainstream idols that are active in the public eye with high visibility and a large fan base. In contrast, underground idols generally perform in small local venues and do not usually appear in the mainstream media. Even though the popularity of these idols is different, the nature of their labor of love, which is unique to their profession, is largely the same. The definition of love may seem to be a subjective and personal feeling, but in the Japanese idol industry, there are systematic ways and boundaries in which idols perform their labor of love for their fans.
Because idols themselves attract mainly heterosexual fans, many scholars have defined the labor of love in a way often linked to sex and consider it an implicit sexual transaction. However, in my research, I believe that this labor of love is more about the idol giving fans a sense of psychological satisfaction, recognition, and comfort. Moreover, this love is mutual; not only the fans are asking for psychological comfort from the idols, but the idols also need recognition from the fans. Therefore, this labor of love should not necessarily be defined as a sexual transaction. This paper will focus on how idols and fans are psychologically connected in the Japanese idol industry today and the definition of the labor of love. Moreover, how idols use the labor of love to maintain the relationship of supply and demand between themselves and their fans. I do not deny that there is a certain amount of sexual attraction and innuendo in the relationship between idols and fans, but my research shows that not all fans desire to receive sexual solace from idols; nor do all idols attract fans in a sexual way. Therefore, this paper presents a case study of the activities of mainstream and underground idols to support the idea that idols’ labor of love is diverse and not exclusively sexual labor.
Bio: Na Hye Kim (Laurel) is a member of Columbia College’s Class of 2022, majoring in East Asian Languages and Cultures with a Special Concentration in Business Management. She has dedicated her senior thesis to “The Invisibility of the East Asian Undocumented Experience: How the US legal system and East Asian culture frame the US immigrant journey” with the guidance of her advisor, Dr. Michael Sharpe. Her other academic interests include non-profit fraudulence, public interest law, and social entrepreneurship. She plans to attend law school and pursue her dream of becoming a public defender. She would like to thank her family, friends, and faculty members of Columbia for their never ending support for the past four years.
Abstract: Among the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US in 2019, people from Asia made up 15%, and this number is expected to increase greatly. Out of the almost 23 million people of Asian descent in U.S., over 1.7 million are undocumented. However, political rhetoric and media reports regarding undocumented immigration continue to neglect this presence and fail to address the unique issues faced by this community. For the purpose of this thesis, I will examine the invisibility of undocumented immigrants of North-east Asian descent, primarily from three countries: China, Japan, and Korea. I hope to investigate how the history of discriminatory legal precedents set by court decisions, US immigration policy, and distortions of public understanding of Confucian philosophy combined to perpetuate the Model Minority myth – an indirect but an unequivocal form of racism. I would like to further explore how these factors lead to decreased political engagement and a one-dimensional portrayal of North-east Asian Americans in society today. Key questions I hope to address are: how does racism manifest in policy and how do discriminatory policies reinforce these sentiments? How and why did a community that was once considered a threat to national security and the local economy become a Model Minority? What are the reasons why undocumented immigration is framed as a Latinx issue, and what are the repercussions of undocumented immigration being only considered in the context of one’s regional origin? How do key values in East Asian culture manifest among its immigrant community in the United States and how does this contribute to the development of certain characteristics and perceptions that both uplift and undermine sub-groups of the immigrant community?
Bio: Celia Bùi Lê is a member of the Columbia College’s Class of 2022, double majoring in Linguistics and East Asian Studies. She is interested in language justice, design, and community organizing. After graduation, she will be working as a Summer Organizer with APIENC (Asian/Pacific Islander Equality–Northern California) and will be working on a publication with The W.O.W. Project in Chinatown. Her senior thesis, “Drawing Modernity: A Case Study on Illustration in Early 20th Century Vietnam and the Women Periodical Phụ Nữ Tân Văn (Women’s News, 1929-1934),” under the guidance of Professor John Phan, explored the medium of illustration and the making of modernity in 20th-century Vietnamese press.
Abstract: As the romanized alphabet quốc ngữ becomes more widespread, the intelligentsia under French colonization become more robust, and the number of literate women continue to grow, women’s periodicals–such as the Phụ Nữ Tân Văn (Women’s News)–became a demand at the beginning of the 20th century in Vietnam. While there is a growing body of research on modern Vietnam and its literary/intellectual history, limited research exists on the connection between illustration & other visual arts and the making of modernity, especially in these periodicals. This analysis will reveal that illustration reflected and helped shape visions of modernity in not only Phụ Nữ Tân Văn, but also in other works by male intellectuals such as the Self-Strengthening Literary Group, Vũ Trọng Phụng, and in works by male French colonizers like the La Vie Indo-Chinoise.
Starting with the Self-Strengthening Literary Group’s sociological novel, illustration reflects and helps reinforce the transformative modernity of the group, in which women were invited into the modern consciousness but denied participation in politics, confined to their home life and “heavenly duties.” Aiding the reportage writings of Vũ Trọng Phụng, illustration underscored the role of colonized women as sex workers for mainly French settlers and helped portray the sexual anxiety of emasculated colonized Vietnamese men at the time. Then, illustration in the métropole dehumanized women sex workers (con gai) in Tonkin through La Vie Indo-Chinoise while legitimizing the colonial effort through postcards of Asian women, such as the Vietnamese con gai or the Japanese mousmé. Finally, Phụ Nữ Tân Văn’s conflicting modern woman–who advocates for the working class to fulfill her duties to the nation as an educated, literate woman, yet at the same time enjoys the benefits of being in the bourgeoisie and the colonial city–not only reflects its efforts to appeal to younger, more radical editors in line with the Vietnamese intelligentsia at the time, its bourgeois readership/sponsorship, & colonial censorship but also reflects Vietnam’s then-“cosmopolitan nationalism,” in which Vietnamese intellectuals simultaneously engage with global trends while envisioning postcolonial futures for Vietnam.
Bio: Alexis Rangell-Onwuegbuzia is a member of the Columbia College Class of 2022, majoring in East Asian Languages and Cultures with a focus on Japanese film and media studies. Their thesis primarily focuses on the issue Black representation in contemporary Japanese anime television, and their scholarship is an active effort to bridge the gaps between academic and fan analyses of contemporary anime productions. Also a practitioner, Alexis has worked in Hollywood production studios and they’re currently an intern at GKIDS, a distributor of international animated films. Alexis will return to Columbia in the fall to begin their doctoral studies, furthering research on representations of Otherness in Japanese anime.
Abstract: The themes with which contemporary anime are concerned have globalized meteorically, addressing issues extending both within and far beyond Japan’s borders, and cementing anime as a form of cross-cultural communication that occurs on an international scale. On the basis of this importance, this paper will examine representations of the Other in contemporary Japanese anime, with a primary focus on how Blackness specifically has been represented. Current literature that addresses Black representation in Japanese pop culture, while extremely crucial and enlightening, tends to focus on literary media including manga but rarely on anime. When they do focus on anime, analysis of foreign representations almost never take into account Black foreigners, instead focusing primarily on representations of white Europeans or Americans.
As this paper will demonstrate, fans of anime in the United States are far from a monolith, though they have consistently had a dramatic impact on the anime industry. It is therefore extremely important to fill in previous gaps of fan studies and anime studies in order to excavate the role that Blackness and Black fans have played in anime fandom, and to thus explore the production and reception of anime from a uniquely Black lens. By examining oral histories, interviews, and media representations of Blackness as well as Otherness in anime, this paper will demonstrate that Black interaction with anime is of immense influence, and more importantly that this influence takes hold in a bilateral direction. Furthermore, through close readings of anime productions featuring Black protagonists, Black supporting characters, and no Black characters at all, this paper will trace the ways in which difference has been received, morphed, and then disseminated through anime. Even in productions which do not feature explicitly Black characters, Blackness on the screen and that of the viewers will be the intellectual locus to which the paper will return in order to understand and rethink the role which Otherness plays in anime. Examining both direct and indirect representations of “Blackness” as interpreted by fans, I will thus elucidate the factors that allow Black fans to see themselves in anime and thus form a large portion of American anime fandom, even when Black representation is not explicitly visible, or when it might take on an offensive tone.