The BA Thesis Project

Congratulations to our 2016 Thesis Prize winners, Peter Smagacz and Kenny Wong!

"Aquacultured: Coral Communities & Collective Futures" by Peter Smagacz


Abstract: This project focuses on a species at the brink of ecological disaster as well as the communities that surround it. Within recent years, coral species across the globe have seen mass mortality and bleaching events due to increasing ocean acidification/pollution, rising sea temperatures, physical destruction for development, live-harvesting of specimens for transport to global markets, overfishing, etc. In the shadow of crisis we come face to face with the connections coral has forged throughout its time on this planet as well as how it continues to shape our world today. In response, a highly receptive collective forms where we can explore not only what is to be lost with the extinction of a species, but also how to prevent it by engaging and restoring, collaborating and communicating, navigating difference across various boundaries for the betterment of the entire Earth family.  

Read a short Q&A with Peter


“Innovating ‘Happiness’: The Law of Jante in Danish Design” by Kenny Wong

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Abstract: This thesis seeks to provide an account for Denmark’s renowned levels of ‘happiness’ through an understanding of two of the country’s most notable features: its societal Law of Jante and its functionalistic Danish Design. The immediate aim is to trace the genealogy of a negative, conformity-endorsing Law of Jante to a now positive one through the art historical lens of Danish Design. A closer analysis of Danish household objects and the Copenhagen cycling environment reveals the aesthetic and ethical forces at play that motivated the change in a uniquely Danish ethos, which, as this thesis argues, had in fact primed Denmark over the course of a century for its popular moniker as the ‘happiest place on Earth.’

Read a short Q&A with Kenny


Other Featured 2016 BAs

"Now Trending: The Politics of Fashion in Modern-Day Iran" by Hoda Katebi


Abstract: The Iranian government’s regulations and mandates on fashion and clothing—especially for women—serve as a very physical and intimate expression of attempts at rendering a national identity for Iranians domestically and for the state internationally. And yet, the lines between legality and illegality of dress codes and clothing production in Iran are constantly tested and blurred, and within the past five years a bourgeoning “underground” fashion scene in Iran has begun trending among young women in Tehran. While simultaneously de-romanticizing Western Orientalist perceptions of the recent underground fashion movement that young upper-class women have cultivated, this paper explores the significance and role of fashion and clothing for Iranian women as it relates to national identity and gender expression in public spaces. Building on an existing theoretical framework of gender expression, the nation, feminism, and fashion, I use interviews and field notes from two sites of fashion production in Tehran, Iran—the officially-recognized and government-regulated modeling agency (Behpooshi) and underground fashion expositions and designers—in order to explore how they relay and construct certain behaviors, gender expressions, citizenship, and conceptions of self for Iranian women.

Read a short Q&A with Hoda


"Massive Community on Twitch TV" by Noah Christians


Abstract: More people now than ever before interact online. Some of this interaction is based on real world relationships and some is truly rooted in the virtual. The recently popularized website is a striking showcase of the unique sociality that is created by virtual agents. By observing the massive communities of twitchtv I seek to provide a better understanding of virtual language and identity.

Read a short Q&A with Noah


"Climate Change and Global Inequality: Water and Labor in the Thar Desert" by Annabelle Rosser

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Abstract: This paper investigates the relationship between climate change, water insecurity and exploitative labor in the Thar desert region of India and uncovers the ways that structural inequalities prescribe local vulnerability to environmental instability. Ultimately, by exploring the region’s colonial history and contemporary labor practices, I found that capitalism has both produced a geological crisis that disrupts the lives of rural poor communities in the Thar desert as well as reinforced the structural inequalities—primarily the way that exploitative migratory labor schemes have rendered households socioeconomically immobile and indebted—that make these communities so vulnerable to that crisis. I hope this research can help demonstrate the complexities of the effects of climate change, especially as the global community begins to address these effects through international aid and climate adaptation projects.

Read a short Q&A with Annabelle