Student Spotlight: Summer Research Fellowships Awarded to Cultural Studies students

Congratulations to Liz AndrewsBasak Durgun, Tai Neilson, and Christine Rosenfeld for receiving summer research fellowships and awards through GMU. Esma Celebioglu asked them about their research, their fellowships, and how they plan to use their grants. Check out their answers below to learn more about their projects.



Liz Andrews: Office of the Provost Summer 2016 Research Fellowship.

The object of my examination in this dissertation is The Making of Barack Obama into an American icon. In November of 2008, a black man was elected President of the United States of America. This was a remarkable accomplishment considering the strong history of racial classification, domination, and institutional violence that has characterized the U.S. throughout its history. In order for citizens of the nation to believe that a black man was suited to serve in the highest office in the land, something different from previous presidential campaigns had to occur. Visual images were instrumental in making Obama's election possible through the construction of a public image. This project asks questions about the multiple institutions, individuals, technologies, and images that contributed to the construction of the iconic figure of Obama. In examining images created and circulated during the campaign, this project will trace the process by which presidential candidate Obama became an icon in U.S. politics and culture. 

The fellowship will enable me to carry out two aspects of my research agenda in Washington, D.C. from June to September. Firstly, I will conduct archival research at two institutions: the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American History. Additionally, I will collect interviews with people who worked on the '08 Obama campaign, people who covered it in the media, and street vendors in black neighborhoods who sold Obama paraphernalia in 2008. Interviews are the most urgent aspect of my research because D.C. is the current home to key people to the 2008 election, however people are beginning move out of DC in anticipation of the coming election and change of administration at the close of the Obama presidency.


Basak Durgun: Office of the Provost Summer 2016 Research Fellowship & CHSS Interdisciplinary Curriculum Collaborative Award.

My dissertation research examines competing conceptions and multi-faceted processes of the production and reinvention of parks and gardens in Istanbul in the context of unfolding ecological challenges and intensification of uneven development. Beyond simply aesthetic, recreational and ecological landscapes, urban public parks reorganize neighborhoods, concentrate state political power and public consent, constitute modernity and globality and provide a site for citizen action. Committed to interdisciplinary qualitative methods and grounded in fieldwork, I aim to unpack the complexities of these intersections, and aim to determine why the state, capitalist developers and residents invest in public urban parks, how these social actors struggle over public green spaces, the institutional mechanisms they employ and how their discourses may have changed over time.

I will be using both of these awards to conduct the first phase of fieldwork for my dissertation project titled The Reinvention of Urban Parks and Gardens in Istanbul.


Tai Neilson: Office of the Provost Summer 2016 Research Fellowship & CHSS Interdisciplinary Curriculum Collaborative award.

The working title of my dissertation is The Labor of Digital Journalism in the US and New Zealand. The conditions facing the news industry, including redundancies, bankruptcies and the absence of sustainable online business models, are collectively dubbed “the crisis of journalism” (McChesney and Pickard, 2011). My research investigates how these conditions and new uses of digital technologies are experienced by journalists. As an interdisciplinary scholar, I incorporate approaches from journalism studies, the political economy of communication and critiques of digital labor. My method includes interviews with journalists and union representatives and the analyses of industry data. Thus far, an important theme in my interview data indicates ways in which technological and organizational changes extend and intensify journalists’ work. Journalists in newsrooms that are often already understaffed and under-resourced are expected to take on tasks beyond traditional journalistic roles and outside of official work hours. My research contributes to the tradition of politically engaged cultural studies scholarship that focuses on emergent media and cultural production.

I am nearing the completion of my interview research and the Interdisciplinary Curriculum Collaborative Scholarship and Summer Research Fellowship will help me complete my interview sample and analysis of the data over the summer of 2016. The financial support provided by these awards is extremely important to sustain PhD candidates’ research during the crucial later stages of their dissertation research.


Christine Rosenfeld: Office of the Provost Summer 2016 Presidential Scholar Fellowship.

My proposed dissertation will examine the spatial practices of various user-groups in the Saddle Region of Hawai`i Island.  The Saddle is a zone of conflict on the island of Hawai`i in part due to disagreement among stakeholders over the use of the space.  There is an astronomical science reserve, a military training base, a cattle ranch, and a series of roads in the Saddle and each of these spaces are fought over among stakeholders. My project aims to determine how conflict in the Saddle region is spatially negotiated by various groups. 

The fellowship I received this summer will go to funding my initial summer research trip to Hawai`i Island.  While there, I will begin completing interviews with residents and stakeholders of the Saddle in addition to visiting a few archives on the Big Island and on O`ahu, including special collections held at the University of Hawai`i Manoa and Hilo.