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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.

Issue cover
Cover Caption: Cover design by Laura Grombone

Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor


A Return to Psychedelic Funk: An Inquiry into Childish Gambino’s “Redbone”

Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” has incited many waves of impact across today’s pop culture media. His song uses features of the 1970s psychedelic funk movement, such as slap bass space feels and paranoia, to recall the Black Power Movement and illustrate the fear of Blackness in modern society while asking listeners to “stay woke” in political activism. This paper examines the origins of the Funkadelic movement along with its social implications within the Black Power Movement. It is then followed by a musical analysis of “Redbone” with a focus on the harmonic, melodic, and instrumental aspects of the piece and its direct relations to the 1970s movement while providing a novel variation. Cries to “stay woke” in the lyrics reemphasize the call to action, bringing wide reception and success to both the subsequent album and Glover as an artist.

The Rise of Party Control over Policy Stability: The Effects of 20th-Century Congressional Reforms on the House Ways and Means Committee

The House Ways and Means Committee, with a purview over matters concerning revenue and taxation, has been one of the most powerful committees in Congress since 1789. Under Chairman Wilbur Mills from 1958-1974, Democrats and Republicans compromised to successfully pass legislation; however, House reforms in the late 20th century revolutionized committee structure and member conduct. This paper examines how these reforms have changed the Ways and Means Committee by comparing the findings of Richard Fenno’s Congressmen in Committees to the actions of the Committee from 2007-2018. By analyzing member behavior, committee activity, and floor success, this paper finds that polarization of members within Ways and Means has increased and the Committee’s relative pass rate has decreased. An in-depth case study of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 reveals the effects of Committee partisanship on macroeconomic issues. This paper finds the influence of party control in the Committee to be all-encompassing, and generally emphasizes the need for policy stability across Congressional sessions in the Ways and Means Committee.

The Hens, the Cock, and the Operatic Fox: Vulpine “Voice” in Janáček’s Příhody lišky Bystroušky

Leoš Janáček’s 1924 opera Příhody liškyBystroušky (The Cunning Little Vixen) epitomizes the musical “animal play,” a dramatic form wherein the presence of nonhuman animals indexes non-seriousness, whimsicality, and childishness. Bystrouška situates its titular fox within a folkloric tradition, deriving stereotypes from Aesopian and Reynardian “animal fable.” I contend that such performances of foxiness are necessarily zoopolitical in that they characterize a group traditionally excluded from the “political community of humans” (Ludueña 2010). Like other problematic performances of “Others,” musical depictions of foxes rely on preexisting notions of species,and often exoticize, infantilize, and generalize their subjects. Following literary scholar Susan McHugh’s call to construct a proper “narrative ethology” to investigate how “forms of representation matter to the development oftheories of species life” (McHugh 2011), I argue for thes serious examination of how musical representation might harm those we presume to voice.

Ethno-Racial Boundary Making and Iranian-Identifying Americans

Iranian-identifying Americans have been described as an ethnic group that exists between racial boundaries. Some believe Iranian-identifying people should be classified as White but others disagree. To examine individual Iranian-American perspectives on their ethno-racial identity, I utilize semi-structured qualitative interviews conducted over the duration of 3-4 months from the greater Los Angeles area. I organized participants’ analyses of their identity categories recounted in these interviews into boundary-making strategies. Results entail boundary-making strategies that were classified in the following four categories: dis-identification with White, identification with Aryan, an emphasis on mixing, and reclassification. Responses suggest there may be identifiable patterns emerging in ethno-racial classification based on demographic information.

Reframing Masculinity through Independent Cinema: Portrayals of Asian American Masculinity in Spa Night, The Tiger Hunter, and Gook

This paper examines how the films Spa Night (2016), The Tiger Hunter (2016), and Gook (2017) showcase a burgeoning diversity of ways Asian Americans can express masculinity. More specifically, the paper will delve into the depictions of strength through marginalized masculinity in Spa Night, resistance against remasculinization narratives in The Tiger Hunter, and toughness through soft masculinity in Gook. The aforementioned films are placed in analytical conversation with academic theories within the disciplines of Asian American Studies, Gender Studies, and Film Studies to highlight how each film’s respective characters demonstrate the described forms of progressive masculinity. In doing so, the films expose how cinema has historically shaped the public’s understanding of Asian American masculinity and uncover how a recent group of independent films from the Asian American film movement has showcased the variety of ways in which masculinity can be conceptualized and represented by Asian Americans to challenge traditional conceptions of gender.

Secularism and Sanctity: The Body and the Body Politic Under Fascism

Under fascism in Nazi Germany, ideas of the self, the body, and the soul are completely restructured in opposition to Judeo-Christian ideas and Western thought. While the latter believed that the soul was something that existed outside of and was superior to the body, the former instead insisted that the soul was chained inside the body. While the latter promoted spiritual freedom and agency, the former took a fatalistic stance–the soul was powerless against the destiny prescribed to it by the body it was born into. This paper looks specifically at ideas of the self in Nazi Germany, specifically in World War II, and how ideas of nation and the self are deeply intertwined. Because of this conflation, I assert that Nazi propaganda both sought to degrade religiosity in its citizens and promote a secular society that valued blood and carnality above all else while also lifting the physical body and the body politic (the nation) to a quasi-religious level.

Youth-Led Social Identity and Movements: A Case Study of Youth Activism in Hong Kong

This paper explores the forces which spark youth activity in global social movements with a focus on Hong Kong youth as a case study. The three factors which propel youth activism–youth social identity, youth’s desire to be heard, and a rise in online activism–are present in historic and contemporary social movements globally. The same factors are also present in youth-led Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. In response to China’s authoritarian political agenda, Hong Kong youth have solidified their identity as Hong Kongers rather than Chinese. Through public displays of opposition, they have ensured that their voices are acknowledged by adults. Moreover, with social media, youth have mobilized each other exponentially furthering the movement’s efforts. The more that China attempts to exert their control over Hong Kong, the stronger the youth continue to resist.

Framing Chicana Agency in 1980s Los Angeles Punk: The Photography of Patssi Valdez

Patssi Valdez, a contemporary Chicana artist best recognized as a performance artist and painter, produced an extensive body of photographic artworks during the 1980s that documented her creativity and marked a crucial period of artistic development in her career. The multimedia approach and distinctive use of color in these artworks, a series of bold photographic portraits, strongly resonate with punk aesthetics. Five artworks were visually analyzed and contextualized by looking at the history of Los Angeles punk rock and design elements of early punk zines. This research project utilizes several digital sources that encapsulate Valdez’s reflections on her art practice. Valdez’s use of self-fashioning as an artistic praxis parallels punk’s Do-It-Yourself (DIY) and rasquache sensibilities, which visually indexes the convergence of punk and Chicano art. This research project sheds light on an understudied area of Valdez’s art practice, discusses the influence of Chicanas on early Los Angeles punk, and aims to provide an entry point for future research into Valdez’s photography.

Author Biographies