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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.


Talking Past Each Other: The Diverging Moral Foundations of the Contemporary Gun Debate

The debate over gun control has become an increasingly divisive political issue among Americans—so much so that both liberals and conservatives appear to be talking past each other. But what is causing this ideological rift? According to Moral Foundations Theory, such political schisms arise because liberals and conservatives hold different moral intuitions and respond to different forms of moral rhetoric. In line with this theory, I coded political speeches and op-eds in the New York Times and found that liberals and conservatives do in fact draw on different moral foundations in their arguments over gun control. Advocates of gun control rely heavily on the "care” foundation in their rhetoric, while advocates of gun rights rely on the “care”, “liberty”, “loyalty”, and “authority” foundations. In this way, both sides of the gun control debate talk past each other by using rhetoric that fails to resonate with the opposition’s moral intuitions. Furthermore, the gun rights side of the debate benefits from using a wider array of moral dimensions in their arguments, which likely appeals to a greater number of moral intuitions. In light of the high number of gun-related injuries and fatalities in the U.S., it is important to understand the role that moral intuitions and rhetoric play in obstructing any meaningful political (or scientific) consensus on gun control.

Cost and Efficacy of Collective Action Clauses

Recent developments in sovereign capital market, such as the debt crises in Eurozone, the massive restructuring by Greece, and the escalated tension between Argentina and its holdout creditors, have brought Collective Action Clauses (CACs) back to limelight. These clauses in sovereign bond contracts are claimed to address the coordination problem among creditors and thus enable a more orderly restructuring process, and previous researches have found little cost of carrying these “insurances” for debtor countries. In this research, I revisit the cost question through a replication method and new evidence made available by the Eurozone CACs mandate, and I examine the actual efficacy of CACs by surveying the 22 sovereign bond restructurings since 1970, on which there has been little empirical analysis as I am aware of. My analysis finds that Euro CACs with the aggregation feature are associated with little but positive addition to borrowing cost, and riskier investments with lower credit rating and longer maturity are subject to higher CACs premium. At the same time, CACs have not significantly affected the outcome of restructurings after controlling for other factors such as creditor structure, haircut, and government coerciveness. This cost-benefit analysis lead me to conclude that although CACs do not lead to substantially higher borrowing cost – even the “Super CACs” with the aggregation feature, including them does not necessarily guarantee a more orderly restructuring, and thus more dramatic reforms may be necessary if further improvement in the restructuring process is desired.

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A Reactive Engineer: Japanese History Textbooks and the Construction of National Identity (1900-1926)

There is a vast literature on the Japanese imperial state’s role in fomenting a national identity through manipulating history in the early twentieth century. The general conclusions tend to depict the state as the coherent manager of the message, the leader who finished designing Japan’s national identity by the later years of the Meiji period (1868-1912). This study uses history textbooks published between 1900 and 1926 to argue that this representation overlooks the passive and reactionary elements of the Japanese state. An analysis of the changing portrayals of historical events in three editions of state-issued textbooks (1903, 1909, and 1921) and several non-state-issued textbooks yields a complex image of the Japanese imperial state, one that is less aggressive than previously assumed. The incoherent messages of early state-issued textbooks and the nationalistic clarity in private textbooks point to a tug-of-war relationship between private textbooks and state-issued textbooks, suggesting that the Japanese state was not the sole engineer of the representation of a “Japanese national identity.” An eloquent discourse on Japan’s national identity was not achieved until the Taishō years (1912-1926), when the state was forced to react to a society disrupted by riots by allying itself with messages promoted in non-state-issued textbooks. This study is part of the growing literature that diverges from the traditional argument of an omnipotent Japanese state, enhancing our understanding of Japanese society as we approach World War II.

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Time, Loss, and the Death of the (M)other in Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida and Sally Mann’s Deep South

This paper inquires into the ethical potential of photography.  To what extent and how can photographs evoke an affective response in viewers?  It is this affective response, I argue, which, as the foundation of empathy, forms the basis for photography’s ethical potential.  I show that one’s particular emotional response to a photograph is the trace of a deeper, universal experience that is constitutive of being human: the separation from the (m)other at birth.  Photographs are particularly powerful at evoking an affective response that unconsciously recalls this primal experience because of certain qualities inherent to the photographic medium.  This paper investigates these universal qualities of photography through an examination of Sally Mann’s photographic series Deep South.  Mann’s series is a particularly useful object of study because of its prompting of questions concerning time, materiality of land, and the materiality of photographs themselves.  Inscribed in the land and in photographs, as well as in the human body, are traces of the past.  Photographs bring this past to the present by evoking an affective response that recalls the original separation from the (m)other, thereby reminding us of our constant striving—and failure—to reconnect with our mother and, through that, with others in our present.  It is this shared experience of the failure to share experience that can ultimately connect us with each other and form the basis for empathy.  In viewing photographs, we, together, are unconsciously reminded of our shared striving to return to the womb and reclaim shared experienced with an/other.

Investigation of Female Genital Alteration in the United States Within Nonimmigrant Communities.

This research paper seeks to investigate and understand the incidence of “Female Genital Mutilation” (“FGM”) in the United States within non-immigrant communities. Until now, “FGM” studies have only focused on Africa, a few bordering countries, and the migrant ethnic populations from these areas. The World Health Organization makes universalized statements of medical, psychological, and social consequences for a wide range of practices performed by diverse peoples. Type IV “FGM” includes any injury whatsoever to the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. What happens when the Western eye factors out the ethnic-other? What happens when we turn the gaze back to ourselves? This 58-page excerpt is from an 84-page UC Berkeley honors thesis. This ethnography of 12 women utilizes a structured interview method. I hope to enrich and add further dimension to conversations, which are often reductive.  The concepts and issues of female genital alteration are complex and how these are shaped through discursive battles over language—framing, naming, and claiming—reveal processes of power. I conclude with approaches of how we may embrace emotionally charged and mutually exclusive ideals, such as respecting diverse cultures and protecting vulnerable individuals.

Bombing the Tomb: Memorial Portraiture and Street Art in Revolutionary Cairo

Governments have long used public art and monuments to characterize and legitimize their regimes. The production of visual space has profound implications on the psychology of the nation state and the way its citizens relate to their histories. It is curious then, to ask what happens when citizens take control of the visual content of their environment, particularly as it relates to memorializing those who have been killed at the hands of political authority or hegemony. This paper will examine different visual forms of memorialization on Mohammed Mahmoud Street,1 with a particular focus on the memorial portraiture of Ammar Abo Bakr, El Zeft, and Ganzeer, and the pharaonic murals of Alaa Awad. It will then examine how such street memorials not only commemorate the martyrs2 of the revolution, but also criticize the state, take ownership of public space and the memorialization process, and contribute to the formation of a strong, pan-Egyptian identity. It will also show why, as much of this art has now been covered up by other art or whitewashed by the sate, this art remains relevant as the government begins to create its own memorials and utilize Egyptian frustrations with the ongoing violence to tarnish the collective memory of the revolution.

[1] Not intended to reflect the work of Mona Abaza in her article Mona Abaza, “Mourning, Narratives and Interactions with the Martyrs through Cairo’s Graffiti,” E-International Relations, October 7, 2013,

[2] “The word martyr [Shaheed] signifies a person who has died for a greater cause, either religious or political. In islamic thought, martyrdom (shahada is the highest honor and martyrs attain the greatest level in paradise, correlating to the Christian notion of sainthood.” (Basma Hamdy and Stone, Karl Don, Walls of Freedom: Street Art of the Egyptian Revolution. ([S.l.]: From Here To Fame, 2014). 56) “Martyr” is often the term used to describe those who have been killed by security forces and the military since January 25th and before. I am not making a judgement on the use of the term, but am adopting the term to reference those who have die over the course of the past three years, as well as to avoid confusion when people use the term martyrs to describe such people in their interviews.

Collective Memory of Trauma: The Otherization of Suffering in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the tragedies of the Holocaust and the Nakba (Ar. catastrophe) inform the respective foundational narratives of victimhood, nationalism, and rebirth. The death of over six million Jews in the Holocaust and the loss of homeland for Palestinian refugees in the 1948 Nakba, while not comparable in quantitative or qualitative scale, hold a similar position in the hearts and minds of Israelis and Palestinians. Both these events represent historical injustices that galvanize their modern national struggles. Despite the striking parallels, negating the other side’s narrative of suffering is a basic characteristic/strategy of the conflict. This thesis studies the function of collective memory of trauma in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, focusing specifically on how the Holocaust and the Nakba are mobilized to construct national identities predicated on the rejection of the Other’s victimhood. My inquiry is based on textual and visual analyses of materials created by official museums and institutions, K-12 history textbooks, and public writings and speeches devoted to memorializing trauma, so as to understand how collective memory is shaped and transmitted to future generations. I also analyze existing surveys of Israelis and Palestinians in order to gauge public opinion and understanding about one’s own and the Other’s historical trauma. I hope to add to the existing body of literature on cultures of victimhood in this conflict, demonstrating the link between the promotion of ultimate suffering and the minimization of the Other’s tragedy in creating exclusive national narratives.

Think "I" And You Work Alone: Mather Constructive Character Posters and the Advertising of Self-Mastery

During the widespread economic prosperity of the 1920s in the United States, employers faced a serious problem retaining workers. Labor had been weakened after losing massive strikes in 1919, but the memory of that turbulent period haunted employers. Immigration restrictions enacted in the middle of the decade curtailed employers’ ability to fire and replace workers as they saw fit, and an expanding economy put workers in demand. Employers needed a uniform message to sell their workers on company loyalty. It was in this context that Mather and Company produced hundreds of motivational workplace posters, selling them to companies across the country. These posters appear at first glance to be little more than a cacophony of banal exhortations to good work habits. Yet among the jumble of images and messages, a powerful, coherent ideology urged workers to have loyalty not merely to employers, but to each other. This paper argues that these posters and related materials fostered communalism through four distinct themes: warning against moving from job to job, condemning a reliance on luck, asserting strict guidelines for workplace speech, and exhorting workers to control their emotions, all underpinned with a powerful celebration of masculinity. This project is based on an analysis of nearly three hundred posters produced by Mather and Company, as well as related materials. This project complicates and deepens our current understanding of workplace dynamics during the 1920s, and offers new insight into the sophisticated workplace propaganda of the period.

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