Past Master's Projects

The variety of master's projects produced by our students testifies to the interdisciplinary nature of the Duke GLS program.  Some take the form of a traditional master's thesis, but explore issues from a perspective that requires stepping back from disciplinary boundaries or combining the methods of different disciplines.  Others combine traditional academic analysis with other modes and genres -- whether creative, documentary or practical.   Each of them represents the culminating efforts of a student in achieving the MALS degree.  

Each year, a few projects that are especially noteworthy are given the designation of "Exemplary Master's Project," and are marked as such in these records.  Search for the word "exemplary" to find them.  Exemplary projects make particularly good models for students who are contemplating master's projects of their own.  

Intersection of Love and War: An Experimental Photographic Memoir
Spring 2018
Author:
Courtney Hissong
Supervisor:

Intersection of Love and War is a combination of my words and images into a body of work that reflects my experience as a woman challenging traditional military expectations, regulations and salutations. I explore whether a civilian spouse can maintain a separate, productive identity while supporting a life partner and Soldier dedicated to the United States military, its order and traditions. I question this third party’s constant presence within my marriage and I examine how these hurdles, boundaries and ramifications effect our relationship. As the self-proclaimed family historian, I use my own documented material, photographs, videos, emails and letters, to illustrate my changing lifestyle as I struggle to understand the dynamics of military relationships. I have captured our achievements and missteps, solo trips and vacations with the kids, our charitable work and each reassignment. I have analyzed and scrutinized the decisions I make, while witnessing how other couples cope with a constant third party, “Army mistress”, within the marriage. This is my story of an accidental meeting and intentional marriage, the intersection of two contrasting ways of life. This photographic memoir is the culmination of my thoughts, feelings, experiences, and how I have handled or resisted the transitions along the way. Through my perspective, introspection and observation I share my journey, the roads I have taken, in my transition from unattached civilian to military spouse.

Gentrification and the Ethics of Home
Spring 2018
Supervisor:

*Designated as an exemplary master's project for 2017-2018*

Gentrification is the subject of a recent wave of books and scholarship, continuing debates regarding the responsibilities of the “gentrifiers” and the impact of gentrifying landscapes on marginalized communities. This project looks in a different direction, using a multi-media approach to investigate the ethics of home in relation to aesthetics, architecture, capitalism and the culture industry. Strongly informed by the critical thought of Theodor Adorno, five essays bring multiple disciplines and theories together: Marxist geography (David Harvey, Neil Smith), architecture (Sarah Goldhagen, Lester Walker), philosophy and history (Walter Benjamin, Adorno), African American literature (Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, Pauli Murray), and decolonial literature and thought (Ousmane Sembène, Franz Fanon, Aimé Césaire). Incorporating citations and literary passages, as well as the author’s own photography and linocut prints, the project images the contradictions inherent in the idea of home and emphasizes the impossibility of living an ethical life under capitalism.

The Hunt for the Battle of Anghiari: Can You Value One Artist Over Another?
Spring 2018
Supervisor:

In 1503, Florentine art master Leonardo da Vinci received the commission from Gonfaloniere Piero Soderini to depict the Florentine victory at Anghiari. The Battle of Anghiari gave Florence control over central Italy during the Lombardy Wars. The marquee battle became a staple point for Florentine defense and the perfect battle to depict inside the Grand Council Chamber of the Palazzo Vecchio. However, Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari was never finished and the wall was assigned to Giorgio Vasari fifty years later. Instead of painting over Leonardo’s work, Vasari created another wall for his Battle of Marciano, thus hiding Leonardo’s work. Little progress was made in finding Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari, but the mystery began to unravel in 2007 with Maurizio Seracini’s search. This search caused an uproar from the art community when Seracini drilled into Vasari’s mural. A resistance to Seracini began, calling his project unethical and unconstitutional because it infringes on the cultural rights of Italy and the rights of Vasari. The opposition also deemed it unethical because it destroys the originality of Vasari’s mural. Seracini’s search was officially disbanded by the Florentine government due to the opposition it created. This project argues that Seracini’s search should be allowed to continue due to the benefits Florence would receive from finding the Battle of Anghiari. The dilemma Florence faces on whether to restart the project or leave Vasari’s mural as is can be answered by comparing the value of da Vinci and Vasari. The fame and wealth associated with Leonardo da Vinci is vastly greater than Vasari’s. Therefore, Florence should allow Seracini to finally uncover the Battle of Anghiari. The financial benefits of finding a lost Leonardo outweigh the risks of harming Vasari’s mural.

West African Cotton and Global Value Chains: From Production to Textiles
Spring 2018
Author:
Beletchei Ebia
Supervisor:

*Designated as an exemplary master's project for 2017-2018*

Many West African countries, especially Francophone ones, have been involved in the production of cotton since the colonial era. Most of this production is exclusively for export, meaning that there is little local transformation of the cotton into finished products (textiles). At the same time, West Africans are the unique and voracious consumers of African Wax Print Textiles, which are manufactured mostly in Asia and Europe (Holland). As a result, West African countries intervene in the value chain only at the beginning (production of cotton) and end (consumption). They realize relatively little profit from production, while spending large amounts on consumption – a phenomenon which perpetuates their position at the bottom of today’s global economy. My thesis will use value chain analysis to ask whether there might be ways to insert these countries into the chain of value between these two end-points.

Four Cities: Fluothia, Awuli, Willa, and Calisandra
Spring 2018
Author:
Alta Zhuyun Zhang
Supervisor:

This project is composed of an experimental film and an artist statement that aims to discuss the nature and perception of city based on the film. The experimental film is a combination of creative writing inspired by Italo Calvino’s book Invisible Cities (1972), cinematic language, animated presentation, and authentic soundtrack. The making of this film starts with the creation, decontextualization, and reconstruction of travel footage and hand-drawn animations. Following the visual is the composition of acoustic expression, which features the diversity of sound effect and ambient mood, as well as solo and duet narrations. The film translates the creative writing about the description of fictional cities into visual representation by a variety of cinematographic methods – such as camera movement, animation transition, and ambiance creation. Being an open-ended creative project, it seeks to provide an immersive environment for the viewer to rethink the perception of cities.

Flip the Script
Spring 2018
Author:
Shy Taylor
Supervisor:

This project illustrates how one storytelling medium can be altered to tell a story using a different medium. The project consists of three parts. The first part is a fictional short story. The second part is a screenplay that was further developed from the short story. The final part is a reflection on storytelling as well as my creative process while crafting these two fictional pieces. While exercising both narrative and screen writing, this project demonstrates what techniques a short story and a screenplay share and how those techniques may be used to transform the short story into the screenplay. After developing the short story, I examined how the story and writing style changed as I moved to the next medium. Within my own world of multimedia and storytelling, I have learned that some tools are often expected while others need to be re-imagined. Therefore, during my creative process, each of these tools, methods and mediums have taught me that there is no one way to tell a story and many components of crafting the story can be shared as well as transformed. While working on diverse range of projects, I have learned how language is used differently, discovered things about characters and continue to notice how the creative process adjusts along the way.

The Effects of Disaggregated Longitudinal Volunteering Patterns on Self-Rated Health
Spring 2018
Author:
Caoyifu Zhao
Supervisor:

*Designated as an exemplary master's project for 2017-2018*

Building on an increasing body of evidence that volunteering is beneficial to volunteers’ health, the present study aims to further explore the relationship between volunteering and health from the life course perspective. Using the two waves of data from the Americans’ Changing Lives Study, I examine the effects of disaggregated longitudinal volunteering patterns on self-rated health by combining consistency (levels of volunteering over time) with both intensity (how many hours spent in volunteering) and diversity (the number of types of organizations), which has not been done in previous studies. Results show that volunteering does benefit volunteers’ prospective self-rated health and changes in self-rated health, but the effects differ by different volunteering patterns. These findings indicate the importance of considering the heterogeneity across volunteers, dynamics of volunteering and human agency when studying the relationship between volunteering and health, which should be explored more in future studies with longer periods of panel data. Apart from academic implications, practical meanings are also worth noting: In a so called era of decline in social capital, when more knowledge about the beneficial effects of volunteering is obtained, volunteering as a great form of social integration to connect people may be more easily accepted by the public because this engagement benefits both others and volunteers themselves. Hence, the knowledge from my study further answers the question about how to resolve the paradox between individualism and altruism.

Where Have All the Youth Gone: Cruel Youth and Juvenile Crimes in 21st Century “Cruelty of Youth” Films from Japan and the United States
Spring 2018
Author:
Yuqiao Cao
Supervisor:

*Designated as an exemplary master's project for 2017-18*

In recent years, the phrase “cruelty of youth” has gained popularity in describing an understudied subgenre of youth films. Films in this subgenre portray young people’s tragic experiences and the unfolding real problems they face. My project examines and compares four “cruelty of youth” films from the 21st century: All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001) and The Blue Light (2003) from Japan, and Elephant (2003) and Mean Creek (2004) from the United States. This project examines the need for “cruelty of youth” films, in particular their importance in raising public awareness of and understanding about youth problems in the real world. In other words, films within this genre are not dystopic, speculative fiction, but realist in their depictions of extreme situations facing young people. The term itself, “cruelty of youth,” represents the duality of meaning in both “youth that are cruel” and “the cruelty experienced by youth.” My project explores the characteristics of “youth that are cruel.” These characteristics serve as a key to help adult viewers understand the connection between teenagers’ psychological states and their cruel deeds. In the last section, I will include a close reading to discuss the depictions of murder scenes from these selected films that involve youth. To help the viewers understand youth experiences and the cruelty teenagers inflict on one another, I also investigate these murder cases from the perspectives of the juvenile murderers, the young victims, and the teenage witnesses. I suggest that “cruelty of youth” films may be beneficial for young viewers in that they teach the fragility of life and may encourage young people to engage in discussions about youth cruelty with peers and with their elders.

From Sunningdale to Good Friday: The Challenge of the Relationship Between Politics and Paramilitaries for Achieving Peace in Northern Ireland During The Troubles
Spring 2018
Author:
Cynthia Rudd McKaughan
Supervisor:

The British government made three official attempts to end the conflict in Northern Ireland, known as The Troubles: the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973, the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, and the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Drawing on media coverage and the actual text of each agreement, as well as the considerable body of scholarly research on each individual process, this project identifies the issues confronting the British government in all three instances: which organizations in Northern Ireland to include at the negotiating table, what role the British government would play in Northern Ireland in the treaty’s aftermath, what security measures to take to stop the violence while ensuring human rights, how to address the political challenges posed by paramilitary organizations, and whether or not to include other nations in negotiating the peace, as well as in Northern Ireland’s affairs once the Troubles ended. The Good Friday Agreement succeeded where its predecessors failed primarily because of the decision to include representatives of paramilitary groups despite their history of complicity in violence. All sides finally agreed to participate in a political power-sharing arrangement that militants on both sides long viewed as a betrayal to the cause for which they willingly killed and died. The Good Friday Agreement’s utilization of the Republic of Ireland and international authorities strengthened the commitment to new political structures. Finally, the British removal of Direct Rule and military occupation, as well as reforms to Northern Ireland’s policing and justice, signaled the end of The Troubles. This project concludes by discussing recent events since the end of The Troubles that potentially affect the maintenance of peace in Northern Ireland.

The Search for Stability and the Inevitability of Change in the Writings and Life of Hermann Hesse
Fall 2017
Author:
Victoria Desimoni
Supervisor:

How can human beings, whose main characteristic is to change constantly, find stability or internal stillness? This is a question that concerned Hermann Hesse his whole life. His answer to this question of stability itself changed over time. Hesse started with the belief that stability was acquired by dwelling on a farm, and ended with the conviction that stability as “stillness” is something human beings can never achieve. Hesse’s final answer is that we are wanderers, constantly incomplete, always in process of more. In this project, I look closely at Hesse’s progress of thought from his first answer to his final answer. Hesse asks this question in his first novel Peter Camenzind (1904) and provides a final answer in one of his last novels, Narcissus and Goldmund (1930). I conduct my analysis through the close reading of these two novels, together with a study of Hesse’s historical background from his childhood to his mid-fifties. His historical background is necessary to understand the metamorphosis of his thought. As a way of elucidating Hesse’s ideas, I compare them to Martin Heidegger’s and Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophical theories. Hesse’s first answer is surprisingly similar to Heidegger’s belief that the way in which we, human beings, are in the world is by “dwelling.” Dwelling is our essence. His second answer leaves Heidegger aside, and mirrors instead Sartre’s theory that a person is what she makes of herself through her actions; there is no one specific essence that corresponds to the human being, and we are, in Sartre’s words, condemned to invent ourselves constantly.

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