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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Aleph (pronounced “ah-lef”) is UCLA’s undergraduate research journal for the humanities, social sciences, and behavioral sciences. Aleph publishes one issue each year in both print and open access formats. The journal reflects the quality and breadth of undergraduate research at UCLA, and is sponsored by the UCLA Undergraduate Research Center for the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

Aleph 2019-2020

Issue cover

Letter from the Editor


Presidential Rhetoric and Congressional Support: A Case Study of the Impact of Presidential Rhetoric on Foreign Policy

This paper builds on the theory of The Rhetorical Presidency to examine how rhetoric has served as a vehicle for presidents to use their approval ratings and bipartisanship to win support from Congress. It contains a case study of the State of the Union Addresses of five presidents from 1960 to 2010 and looks specifically at their rhetoric on foreign affairs. Overall, although the findings support the literature that presidents can prime their approval ratings, they also suggest that the volume of rhetoric is not a key determinant of the success of such efforts. Additionally, the findings support the literature that bipartisan rhetoric is ineffective in promoting bipartisanship in the roll call votes by Congress and further suggests that it is equally ineffective in influencing other stages of the legislative process.

The Lived Experience of Community College Student-Parents

The number of student-parents in higher education is increasing substantially, yet their graduation rates continue to decline. I focus on the barriers and privileges that student-parents with different socioeconomic backgrounds experience through the theoretical framework of intersectionality. I examine the lived experiences of Rio Hondo and Santa Monica community college student-parents using detailed interviews that asked open-ended questions about their educational experiences. Their counterstories exposed their perceptions of both institutional barriers and privileges. This study illuminates how local forms of racial disparities have been the underlying reasons why student-parents in Los Angeles lack institutional resources. Such disadvantages, especially the lack of awareness about resources, hinders them in postsecondary pathways. Still, student-parents share motives to push through structural barriers and remain resilient during their educational trajectory. Policymakers, college administrators, and faculty could practice equity and inclusion for student-parents by offering services that specifically address their needs as parents and those that arise from racial inequality. I suggest this could be implemented by providing more available times for students to access tutoring, counseling, and childcare services.

Burning Greenhouses with Miles Davis: Class, Empathy, and Toxic Masculinity

This essay examines a scene from Lee Chang-dong’s film Burning (2018) as part of a larger discussion around class conflict. A Korean filmic adaptation of a short story originally by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, Burning tells the story of Jeong-su, a poor farmer who is caught in a love triangle with Hae-mi, an old classmate, and her new boyfriend, Ben, a mysterious, wealthy socialite. In a pivotal scene, Lee turns the camera on Hae-mi as she dances to a song by Miles Davis, creating a filmic parallel to Murakami’s liminal spaces and forcing the audience to question reality. Through a consideration of textual and paratextual material, I argue that the director Lee Chang-dong uses music and dance to critique toxic masculinity through subtle sound editing techniques and narrative and metaphorical signifiers of class and power. Ultimately, Lee breaks from the source material to simultaneously express and nullify Hae-mi’s agency and place her at the heart of the narrative.

Connecting the Pieces: John Altoon’s Ocean Park Series Fragments

In 1962, the artist John Altoon (1925-1969) produced a series of large-scale paintings named after his studio location—the Ocean Park neighborhood of Venice, California. The legendary Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles first exhibited the series later that year. Altoon had schizophrenia and, throughout his adult life, battled periods of extreme psychosis. In 1964, during a psychotic episode triggered by the disease, Altoon went into the Ferus gallery storeroom and slashed some of the eighteen Ocean Park Series canvases. After the artist’s death, fragments of the slashed paintings entered the commercial art market. The fact that they were pieces of larger compositions was either unknown or undisclosed. When considered with the seven extant autonomous Ocean Park Series paintings, the fragments are a case study for issues of artistic intent, institutional stewardship, and conservation of damaged artworks.

Forces that Propelled the Civil War in El Salvador: Peasant Mobilization, the Catholic Church, and United States Intervention

This paper explores the domestic and foreign conditions that exacerbated the social, political, and economic inequalities in El Salvador during the early twentieth century and in turn stimulated and advanced the Salvadoran Civil War. I make clear that two geographic regions, the “domestic” El Salvador and the “foreign” United States, actively shaped the trajectory of the Salvadoran Civil War. From the Salvadoran perspective, I argue that early practices of peasant mobilization in the 1930s and political education through religious institutions in the 1970s were two driving forces in the war. From a foreign perspective, I posit that United States intervention played a sinister role in the unfolding of the war in ways that scholars and historians have not analyzed critically enough. Furthermore, I challenge the use of popular dogmas, such as Marxist and structuralist theories, that have been used as frameworks to understand the factors that led to the emergence of the Salvadoran Civil War. As a counter-argument, I suggest that local actors had more agency than previously noted in popular discourse surrounding El Salvador.

Unseen and Unforgiving: Massage Brothels and the Sex Trafficking of Chinese Women

In recognition of the thousands of Asian women who are sexually trafficked from China into the United States each year, I decided to research the historical roots of sexual trafficking and the current conditions that the victims face. Historical and ongoing marginalization of communities of color into urban slums have created a foundation for illegal trafficking that is largely visible in the public eye, but the actual victims remain invisible. Current laws that are meant to help victims of sexual trafficking lack sensitivity in the intersectionality of culture, gender, and sexuality. To help victims of sexual trafficking is to put their narratives in the forefront of discussion and to give them the specialized attention that community grassroots organizations like the Garden of Hope have done.

A Poor Divorce: The Impact of Economic Class on Divorce Accessibility and Processes

The implications and effects of a divorce are largely determined by family dynamics and how the separation is processed. The three methods of settling divorces discussed in this paper—independent settlement, mediation, and litigation—are designed to best suit and alleviate a particular case’s ills and circumstances. Consequently, the accessibility of these procedures heavily impacts the health and well-being of divorcees and their families. Through qualitative inquiry and expert interviews with a financial analyst, a divorce attorney, a family therapist, and a mediator, this paper examines how economic class impacts the divorce process and––more specifically––how income level changes or influences the way divorces are settled. The results of this research indicate that independent settlement is only preferable for low-income classes, mediation is available to both upper and lower income classes, and attorney-represented litigation is only an affordable option for high-income couples. Further, across all income levels, the spouse with greater financial stability is advantaged in divorce proceedings due to their ability to control and outspend the other spouse in legal fees.

This Year's Staff

Author Biographies