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EDGS Funded Graduate Student Research in Progress

The following Northwestern graduate students were awarded funding by EDGS in March 2014 for their summer research projects. Below is a description of their research in progress.

Gabriel Douglas
PhD student, Art History

Project Title: “Collectivity and the Vestiges of Comintern Aesthetics in North Korean Visual Culture”

Funding from EDGS allowed me to travel to North Korea in order to research DPRK visual culture. In Pyongyang, as well as several cities outside the capital, such as Pyongsong, Wonsan, and Hamhung, I was able to view public monuments, murals, mosaics, propaganda images, and the collections of several art museums and galleries. I was also able to procure texts on North Korean art that are unavailable outside of the country.

Traveling to North Korea was essential for my research because it allowed me to experience firsthand the performative function North Korean objects have in the realm of everyday life. Experiencing North Korean art in situ is particularly important to understanding the ways in which it differs from Soviet models of socialist realism. My research this summer will be invaluable as I begin my doctoral dissertation project on communist aesthetics in North and South Korea during the final years of the Cold War.

Joseph Guisti
PhD student, Department of Sociology

Project Title: “Transforming institutions in Latin America: Drug treatment in the age of la Guerra Del Narco”

EDGS funds supported airfare to Mexico City, taxi service for me and my baggage to and from airports, rent in Mexico, cell phone service, and living expenses. My summer in Mexico was quite productive: I accessed the National Institute of Psychiatry library, conducted interviews with branches of a separate government Institute I observe and that I had yet to make contact with, began following a female-focused extension of a governmental working group I have been observing since this time last year, attended training sessions provided by the Institute and conducted interviews with key stakeholders.

Xinran Guo
PhD student, Department of Art History

Project Title: “Cai Guoqiang’s Maksimov Collection and Reinterpretation of Socialist Realism”

My research trip was divided into two parts. I took an archival research trip to contemporary artist Cai Guoqiang’s studio in New York in late May, where I accessed documents related to Cai’s collection of Maksimov’s paintings, as well as records of the exhibition of this collection in 2002 at Shanghai Art Museum.

These two trips help me gather essential primary sources for my research, which focused on how artists and viewers came to terms with the notion of contemporary art when the Chinese public had just, under official approval, gained warranted access to contemporary art exhibition. By studying Cai’s collection of Maksimov’s works, I argue that socialist realist art, for its close relationship with the public and official institutions, served as a necessary yet contentious reference point in artist’s justification of contemporary art’s status. Crucial to my analysis are the spatial setting of Cai’s exhibition of his collection and the symposium organized in conjunction with the exhibition. Existing secondary studies or photographs online provide little information of these aspects of Cai’s work. Thanks to the support of EDGS Summer Research Grant, I studied the exhibition site in Shanghai, videos and high resolution photographs of the exhibition and symposium, as well as Cai’s ink sketches during my research trips. I am currently writing a paper on Cai’s collection of Maksimov’s paintings, which is also going to be the first chapter of my dissertation.

Elena Rodina
PhD student, Department of Media, Technology, and Society, School of Communication

Project Title: “The Dynamics of Self-Censorship in Chechen Media: How Press is Regulated in the Absence of Formal State Censoring Apparatuses”

In the summer of 2015, I spent a total of 52 days in Russia (from June 30 to August 20), of which I spent 25 days in the republic of Chechnya, where I continued the fieldwork that I started during the summer of 2014.

During this time, I conducted 35 formal and over 25 informal interviews with the local editors and journalists who work for both the state- and independently- funded print and TV outlets, as well as with local bloggers, human rights activists, current and former employees of the Ministry of Press, and journalism students. In addition to that, I conducted participant observations in the pressroom of a state-owned youth-oriented newspaper, “Molodezhnaya Smena.” Using the materials I obtained during my fieldwork in Chechnya, I am currently working on completing a paper on the use of social networks by authoritarian leaders, under the guidance of my advisor, Professor James Schwoch. With a paper based on the materials that I gathered in the summers of 2014 and 2015, I have presented at a conference “Publishing Differently: Independent Journalists, Bloggers, and Small Publishers in Russia” in Paris, France (October 1-2, 2015). I am as well participating, as a presenter, at a conference organized by ASEEES (Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies) in Philadelphia, PA (November 19-22, 2015). I have as well put together a panel, “Digital media in authoritarian states,” with which I am applying to this year’s ICA (International Communications Association) Conference in Fukuoka, Japan (9-13 June 2016).

Blake Smith
PhD student, Department of History

Project Title: “European engagement with Asian economies in the eighteenth-century could give rise to the Orientalist myth of Asian economic stasis.”

The EDGS Graduate Student Summer Research Grant allowed me to pursue research in India. My work focused on the National Arcives of India’s Record Centre in Pondicherry (Puducherry). During this period I conducted archival research, as well making contacts at the Insitut Français de Pondichéry and the Ecole Française de l’Extrême Orient with French and Indian scholars familiar with my research topic (the cultural and intellectual impacts of economic exchange between France and South Asia in the late eighteenth-century).

My research in Pondicherry was the capstone to the past year of archival research in France and Britain, and has allowed me to examine a collection of documents relating to France’s presence in India that were not transferred to European archives at the end of the colonial period. This has addressed some important gaps in my previous source base, which was drawn for archival research in France and Great Britain over the previous academic year. My time in Pondicherry has given me a clear sense of what materials on my topic survive in South Asia, so that I can know how to plan future research trips to the region. I am enterring the fifth year of my PhD, and have begun writing my dissertation based on my earlier research; with the data from Pondicherry, I will be able to make significant progress in writing over the coming year, in order to be able to apply for jobs in the fall of 2016.