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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Welcome to the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal, a biannual publication dedicated to publishing exemplary undergraduate research in the humanities and social sciences.


The fin-de-siècle Marian Fetish: Women and French society within the work of Maurice Denis

The Nabis were a prominent group of avant-garde artists from the Académie Julien who pushed the boundaries of representational art in fin de siècle Paris. Among this group of men who valued esoteric spirituality and the developing symbolist painting and literature was the orthodox Catholic Maurice Denis. In his paper, McKee utilizes often overlooked works in Denis’s oeuvre and reinterprets those most cited to analyze the peculiar role of women within the work of this paradoxically (or is it?) orthodox Catholic and avant-garde artist. Utilizing the Positivist psychology of Charcot McKee demonstrates the problematic nature of female religious ecstasy within an increasingly secular culture. Moving onto the four versions of Mystère Catholique, McKee closely reads the modifications to the body of the Virgin in Denis’s four versions of the painting, interrogating their implications in the larger Crise Catholique in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Finally, considering the original viewing context of Mystère Catholique and Soir Trinitaire, McKee demonstrates Denis’s latent sexual anxiety towards the Virginal archetype expressed privately in his journal and laid bare in his religious painting.

The Individualist Court: Naked Public School, Clothed Public Square

The Naked Public Square (Neuhaus 1984) argued that in recent decades the Supreme Court has actively sought to remove religion from American public life. Over twenty-five years after the publication of this book, does Neuhaus’ theory still stand? I examine this question in the context of public schools, because attendance at public schools is mostly compulsory, and thus the way children and their beliefs are treated becomes a matter of serious cultural consequence, not merely academic discussion. The existing research on this topic focuses on two polemic understandings of Supreme Court activity, separationist and accommodationist, neither of which are precise enough to wholly describe the Court’s decisions over the past quarter century. Hence, I instead argue that the Court is best characterized as individualist – that is, Court decisions since the mid-1980s reflect a respect for the ability of the individual to practice religion unhindered in public schools, as well as a respect for the individual to resist coercive religious elements in public schools. Clothed or bare, the individual retains the right to choose or renounce religion in public schools.

Inverting Paradigms and Identifying Monstrosities in Juvenal's "Satire VI"

In this paper, I offer a reading of Juvenal’s “Satire VI” as an example of ancient Roman satirists’ use of inversion, one of many techniques meant to invite political criticism without attracting the wrong kinds of autocratic attention. I claim that Juvenal inverts the paradigmatic father-son[-wife] relationship with a wife-husband-child chain to suggestively critique Roman governmental authority. This examination includes the relationship between the autocracy and aristocracy in ancient Rome, the nuances of the Roman household in relation to patriarchal representation, Roman satire’s social function, aristocratic expectations of satire, and alternative forms of luxurious entertainment. Knowing that their writing would not create immediate change, satirists such as Juvenal convert an aristocratic audience’s stress into humor, and in doing so channel a kind of “soft power” that aims to gently influence rather than directly attack. I conclude by restating that shying away from the search for meaning due to offensive metaphor (in this case, misogyny) is an academic mistake because it focuses on textual façade over underlying meaning. In fact, it is as these times of feeling offended that we should be more aggressive in our pursuit of meaning.

Conflict or Cooperation? Arctic Geopolitics and Climate Change

This paper is an attempt to answer the question “could there be conflict – in particular, armed conflict – in the Arctic over disputed territory and claims of sovereignty?” In recent years, as climate change has thawed the ice in the northern regions, the prospect of new shipping lanes through once ice-locked corridors, as well as the prospect of access to new oil, gas, and mineral reserves, has led some scholars to believe that conflict could erupt as nations scramble to carve up one of Earth’s remaining ‘frontiers.’  While other scholars have debated the merits of these observations, few have undertaken a rigorous methodological approach that seeks to gauge the likelihood of conflict.  This paper is thus an attempt to forge ground in making predictive analysis regarding this question. Using both historical qualitative analysis and statistical methods, I reach two conclusions: first, despite some scholars’ forbidding portrayals of the ineluctable coming strife over the Arctic, my research demonstrates that the likelihood of conflict is rather low.  Cooperation, not conflict, is the most likely trend for Arctic diplomacy within the foreseeable future.  And second, contrary to popular perceptions in the West, it is Canada, not Russia, who has demonstrated the highest relative likelihood of promoting conflict in the future among the nation-states evaluated.

Edison Carneiro and Ruth Landes: Authority and Matriarchy in Candomblé Field Research, 1938-9

This essay focuses on the intricacies of the relationship between Brazilian Ethnologist Edison Carneiro and American Anthropologist Ruth Landes in late 1930’s Bahia. It details their experiences performing field research in Candomblé terreiros, their personal relationship as lovers and academics, as well as the implications of their work together. Many contemporary scholars link the current commodification of Candomblé and Baianas in Salvador as a result of Landes’ thesis of Candomblé as a matriarchal religion. The original evidence provided throughout this paper addresses the many criticisms and the attacks against Landes’ work, her methods and conclusions in City of Women (1947). It also sheds more light on Carneiro as an influential and dynamic academic participating in important dialogues of Afro-Brazilian studies in the 1930-1950’s.

S.J.RES30: The Equal Representation Act of 2011

We have reached a new age in gender equality. Our grandmothers recall times of discrimination and submission while their granddaughters have become world leaders in business, science and most importantly politics. But are the incredible achievements of women like Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, undermined by the lack of women coming up the political ranks?  As a nation, fiercely proud of their stand on human rights, America is lagging behind on political gender equality. Enfranchisement is more than a right to vote and with women making up only 17% of Congress, America is placed 69th in the world for percentage of women in the national legislature. Women offer vital perspectives and experiences that are crucial in law making and governance. Yet despite years of grassroots gender equality work, they continue to be underrepresented in decision making bodies. As the momentum of grassroots organizing arguable fades, our current law makers must take more responsibility for ensuring women’s political significance in the future. This paper proposes a legislative answer to the political gender divide. Positioned as a legislative to proposal to California Senator Barbara Boxer, this paper suggests political parties adopt a voluntary quota, to motivate, mentor and financially support potential female candidates in order to address the dismal representation of women in federal government. This paper looks at the political and social implications of this legislation, works from existing legislative structures both American and abroad and foresees the opposition and passage of legislation through the current Congress. The movement for gender equality needs a jump start, could that catalyst come from legislation itself?