Skip to main content
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.


Constitutional History in Context: Mexican Federation and Spanish Liberal Influence

Spain adopted the Constitution of Cádiz in 1812 as a response to the regime of Joseph Bonaparte, which deposed King Ferdinand VII and inspired dissent throughout Spain. Fondly known as La Pepa, the new Spanish constitution would prove short lived—but long influence the course of history and political theory. Indeed, the Constitution of Cádiz was the first truly liberal European document of the kind—drawing on Rousseau, Locke, and Voltaire, it enumerated universal male suffrage, a constitutional monarchy and democratic parliamentary body, and certain social rights previously restricted in largely closed European states. Though the Constitution of Cádiz would crumble by 1814, the immediate influence of this document was felt by New Spain, which would draft its own document and declare the Mexican Federation in 1824. This paper explores the causal link between these two events, applying theory from Rawls, Polanyi, Mill, and The Federalist Papers to determine how each document differs, where parallels emerge, why each failed to last, and how the lessons from Spain and colonial dissent encouraged Mexico to federate. By offering a textual comparison of each document and weaving in anecdotes from history, this paper provides a robust assessment of two quintessential documents for modern political theory and liberal thought in both Europe and Latin America.

"In Sondry Forms": Dreams and Truth in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde

The desire to understand a literary text often translates into a desire to neatly categorize meaning; and by consequence, to flatten the complexity of the work through oversimplification. This is true for both casual readers and literary critics—and, as demonstrated in this paper, for interpreters of dream visions. Yet some elusive texts slip out of reach, instead mystifying and elevating the literary genre. Geoffrey Chaucer's work Troilus and Criseyde, an exquisite retelling of the Troy myth, subverts the formal employment of dream visions common to medieval writing. This paper attempts to illuminate the genius of the two major dream scenes in this work through the analytic frameworks of Stephen Kruger and Valerie Ross. To offer a more comprehensive picture of Chaucer’s career, this paper also explores how he incorporates dreams in other key works. By way of this investigation, I find that the natural obscurities surrounding unconscious dreamspace allows Chaucer to access—and challenge—readers' conceptions of narrative epistemology, thereby achieving both authorial agency and critical liberation. Understanding Chaucer's stylistic legacy within his oeuvre and the larger English canon grants unique insight to even a contemporary reader’s personal relationship to liminality.

Disposing of Racial Injustice: An Analysis of Kettleman City’s Hazardous Waste Facility

This paper will identify current health concerns inflicting Kettleman City and its corollary between race and hazardous waste, a comparison that has shown to disproportionately affect low-income communities of color. California reigns as the state with the nation’s highest concentration of minorities living near hazardous waste facilities, a correlation that generates concern in the public over racial targeting, particularly in Kettleman City, home of the largest hazardous waste plant west of the Mississippi. Kettleman City has been under scrutiny for hazardous waste violations, sparking conversations amidst the public regarding birth defects, infant mortality, increased cancer risk, and environmental racism, as the community comprises of primarily low-income farming families. Residents have actively mobilized since the 1990s, accompanying the establishment of the Kettleman Hill Hazardous Waste landfill within three miles of the City’s residential district, and have meaningfully publicized increased occurrence of cleft palate and infant mortality. Through implementation of quantitative analysis, this paper will provide an overview on the intersectionality between waste, race, and class, addressing alleged health effects, as well as identifying sociopolitical impacts affecting frontline communities of hazardous waste operations.

  • 1 supplemental file