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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.


Disease, Morbidity, and the Dark Feminine

The author analyses the oeuvre of the German expressionist painter Gabriel von Max to trace 19th century imaging practices in European visual art. Von Max’s paintings operate on several registers, dealing with themes of venereal and tubercular contagion, spiritualism, and feminine containment. Deploying the foundational texts of Edmond Burke, Julia Kristeva, Mary Douglas, Elizabeth Bronfen, Lynda Nead, and others, the author constructs a new framework for viewing and understanding images that picture female occult practitioners. Using such art-historical and critical theory, along with comparisons with von Max’s contemporaries (artists such as Felicien Rops and Albert von Keller), the author examines how the feminine body was a locus of multivalent anxieties throughout the long nineteenth century, and suggests that the occult subject, as pictured by von Max, contains the potential to circumvent the traditional punitive function that visual art exercises against the non-normative female subject.

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Equity and Education: An Exploration of International Policymaking

Although many countries with high levels of economic inequality have used policymaking to pursue equity in education, inequities continue to exist. Such policies often perpetuate inequities by providing benefits to the most socioeconomically advantaged students and families, rather than groups historically disadvantaged or excluded from educational systems, due to race and/or socioeconomic status. I have investigated policymaking for equity in education by addressing three primary research questions. First, how has international policymaking for equity in education been pursued within localized contexts and global education trends in the United States, Brazil, and Chile? Second, within that context, what factors explain the failure of outcomes-based education curriculum reform in post-apartheid South Africa to result in holistic equity? Third, what are the commonalities that underpin the failures of these nations to achieve holistic equity? I found that the localized policy mechanisms used to pursue equity in education in the U.S., Brazil, and Chile have been in alignment with neoliberal global education trends such as increased privatization, school fees, and decentralization. I additionally found that the key factors that explain the failure of post-apartheid curriculum reform in South Africa to result in holistic equity are a complex policy subsystem, the formulation and implementation of symbolic policy, and the failure to properly evaluate substantive and procedural constraints. Furthermore, I have found the commonalities between researched nations to be high levels of economic inequality and poverty, de facto forms of segregation, and a failure to meet the holistic equity standard of equal education opportunity.

Tales from the Cinnamon Sea: Literary Appropriation and the Creation of Paradise in the works of Fan Chengda

This paper introduces the reader to China’s Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279), and specifically the diplomat, court official, and poet Fan Chengda (1127-1279). During his years in government bureaucracy Fan Chengda traveled widely throughout the Southern Song Empire. During his travels he wrote several travel diaries, encyclopedias, and geographical treatises, in addition to thousands of extant travel poems. This paper investigates two of his works in particular: the Canluan lu and the Guihai yuheng zhi (both circa 1171-1174), written during his travels to Guilin, in the far South of the empire. Canluan lu, or the Register of Mounting a Simurgh is a travel diary of his trip to Guilin, and Guihai yuheng zhi is a geographical encyclopedia of Guilin and its surroundings. Comparative analysis of the two texts shows that in an apparent attempt to validate his self-image as an ideal Song scholar-official, Fan Chengda appropriated historical descriptions of Guilin from past scholars. His in-text statements as well as his descriptive style suggest that Fan Chengda wished to identify and commune with scholars from other eras of Chinese dynastic history. This is significant because the cultural landscape he describes became officialized knowledge in the Song court: characterizations of Guilin in the sixteenth century, as well as a common Chinese phrase about Guilin being the most beautiful place on Earth, can be traced to Fan Chengda.