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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.


Eradicating Hunger, Malnourishment, and Homelessness: The Movement for Student Basic Needs Security in Higher Education

The normalized “ramen diet” of college students has become of greater concern as calls to eradicate hunger and homelessness on campuses gained traction in recent years, but little information is available on how this social movement began. This thesis traces the trajectory of the college basic needs movement and examines the challenges faced in implementing intervention mechanisms. Using a mixed-methods research design, I interviewed key leaders and conducted content analysis of media coverage of this issue, in addition to drawing upon insights from over three years of field work at the UC Berkeley Basic Needs Committee.

I argue that the college basic needs movement gained traction due to the combined effects of the widespread economic downturn during the 2007-2009 Great Recession, escalating student debt and cost of college, published research studies that legitimized the student experiences, and grassroots efforts to institutionalize intervention mechanisms. These factors contributed to the shift from individual campus initiatives to a holistic, collective movement and allowed its leaders to acquire resources and influence policy changes to combat this crisis. While the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the movement trajectory, it has raised awareness towards the changed reality of the college student experience and uplifted the importance of the holistic framework integrated in the movement. Ultimately, the college experience was not built for basic needs insecure students, and social service programs were not built for college students--addressing this fundamental misalignment will be a continued focus for the movement to eradicate hunger, malnourishment, and homelessness in higher education.

Caught in the In-between: The Seen and Unseen Forms of Care Among Filipino/Filipino-American Immigrants Navigating Built and Imagined Spaces

Beyond the built space of a hospital, many forms of care often go unseen, unnoticed, and undervalued. This reimagining of care, through the exploration of its different forms beyond health institutions, aims to expand on the definition put forth by Joan Tronto, which defined care broadly through the agencies of bodies, the self, and built and natural environments. This paper advocates for an understanding of care beyond the hospital and the clinic through the lived experiences of Pre-Health UC Berkeley Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in built and imagined spaces. Built spaces are the spaces (i.e the hospital, clinic, medical mission site, and community health center) that are (1) designed by architects, (2) physically built, and (3) lived in. Imagined spaces (linguistic, cultural, memory, in-between, and home) are spaces that are unseen and unbuilt but are fundamentally produced and reproduced in, along with shaping the social relations within built spaces. The main findings suggest that architectural, built spaces of the hospital, community health center, homeland, and cultural center must not only render the unseen forms of care visible. Participants noted that the in-betweenness they experienced played a salient role in their immigrant experience and caring practices as they navigated built and imagined spaces. Through their lived experiences navigating both built and imagined spaces, this study aims to contribute towards forms of care that validate these multi-layered and multi-sited imagined spaces as valued spaces for underrepresented communities to feel seen, represented, and cared for within the “white spatial imaginary” (Lipsitz 2007, 13).

Leaders or Caretakers: Examining the Impact of Ideological Diversity on California's Legislative Leaders

This paper examines the impact of Democrats' ideological diversity on the strength of legislative leadership in the California state legislature since 2001. To measure ideological diversity, I use Shor-McCarty NPAT scores and adjusted California Chamber of Commerce SCores to measure overall ideological diversity and ideologically relating to business interests, respectively. To measure legislative leaders' strength and influence, I use a formal powers index and a media analysis of The Sacramento Bee to measure formal and perceived power, respectively. I supplement this quantitative data with interviews of former legislators. I find evidence of a weak relationship between overall ideological diversity among Democrats and leaders' perceived strength, as well as evidence of a weak-to-moderate relationship between ideological diversity on business interests among Democrats and leaders' perceived strength. I also find evidence to suggest that longevity and legislative leadership styles factor into leaders' strength, and that leaders in recent years have emphasized procedural fairness, possibly in response to increased ideological diversity among Democrats. This research has implications not just for California politics, but for the study of state legislatures nationwide and potentially for the study of the U.S. Congress.

Call and Response: The Narrative Politics of Precedent and Structure in Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates

As the oldest surviving film by an African American director, Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates (1920) has been the object of considerable curiosity as both a historical artifact and a formative work of Black art. Of particular interest is the densely intertextual nature of the film’s narrative, which takes substantial cues from many tropes common to race fiction of the early twentieth century. This is perhaps most clearly evidenced by the film’s opening hour, which plays out as a nearly exact specimen of the racial uplift stories that dominated the era’s Black literary scene, and by its final five minutes, which clearly replicate the marriage plots that defined contemporary women’s literature. Crucially, these allusions—and, more importantly, the optimistic racial and socioeconomic philosophies they entail—are complicated by the presence of a late flashback sequence whose traumatic contents, rife with brutal racial and sexual violence, seem diametrically at odds with the idealism that defines the rest of the film. This paper investigates this seemingly problematic tonal disjunction by seeking to examine the flashback in its proper narratological context, exploring its aesthetic roots in mediums as diverse as newsprint, novels, and lynch photography, in order to better understand the ways in which the flashback’s inclusion modifies—or even challenges—the film’s dramatic thesis. The argument is finally made that the flashback’s disruptive nature is in fact its greatest strength, generating a complex interrogation of the platitudinous narrative archetypes that define both the remainder of the film and the race literature of Micheaux’s time.

Idealizing the Bodies of Medieval Mermaids: Analyzing the Shifted Sexuality of Medieval Mermaids in the Presence of Medieval Mermen

In Medieval manuscript images from 1200 to 1400, mermaids appear as supernatural female archetypes performing a variety of acts like standing idle, playing musical instruments, embodying sirens to lure sailors, and using weaponry.  These early images show mermaids with short or partially concealed hair and sagging breasts.  Medieval manuscript images begin depicting mermen in the 1400s, with the mermen performing acts like wielding weaponry, playing musical instruments, and raising phallic objects over their heads.  These mermen appear primarily clothed in cloth garments or metal armor with head coverings and weaponry.  As images of mermen appear, mermaids embrace a more decorative role with depictions of them primarily combing their hair and looking into mirrors while neglecting most of their previous actions.  Medieval mermen act as heroic entities of the Medieval merfolk species, consequently forcing Medieval mermaids to forfeit their agency and serve as sexual entities of the Medieval merfolk species.