Actual Title: Imagining Hindus: India and Religion in Nineteenth Century America
Abstract: Swami Vivekananda, a Vedanta philosopher from Bengal, stood on stage in Chicago at the 1893 Worlds Parliament of Religion and addressed his “sisters and brothers in America” to a roaring ovation. Vivekananda’s speech is the beginning of the standard narrative of Hinduism in America. Yet, Americans had deep and important encounters with India and its religious cultures long before 1893. Merchants, writers, missionaries, metaphysicians, evangelicals, Unitarians, men, women, and children imagined Hindus and their religion prior to any Hindu landing on American soil. More importantly, when imagining Hindus and their religion, Americans also imagined what counted as “religion” and what it meant to be American. This dissertation contributes a new historical narrative to the field of American religious history by accounting for the long history of encounters between Indian and American religious cultures before 1893. Major events, institutions, and movements such as the rise of the American missionary movement, the Unitarian controversy, Transcendentalism, Theosophy, Harper’s Monthly Magazine, public schools, and the World’s Parliament of Religion connect in the story of Hinduism in the American cultural imagination.
In narrating this new history of Hinduism in America, I argue that Americans used representations of Hinduism to fight Protestant theological disputes, critique the Protestant establishment, and construct a white/Protestant/democratic/American identity. The dissertation also uses early American representations of Hinduism to argue that Americans constructed “religion” as a comparative category to give meaning to differences across racial, national, and religious lines. Joining historical narrative with theorizing about the category “religion,” this study intervenes in American religious history and religious studies to broaden the history of Asian religions in America, deepen understanding of how American Protestants imagined themselves and others, and complicate the history of comparative religion in America.
Original Title: “What Can Be Infinitely Destroyed Is What Can Infinitely Survive”: Literary and Filmic Representations of Political Torture from Algiers to Guantánamo
This thesis takes the post-9/11 Anglo-American torture debate as the territory for its analysis of the multiple and overlapping ways that cultural representations are implicated in political discourses regarding the practice of political torture by Western liberal democracies in the twenty-first century. Firstly, it makes the historical-political claim that the post-9/11 torture debate reveals the continuing existence and influence not only of colonial discourses and representations but of colonial political constellations and colonial forms of violence. Drawing on Giorgio Agamben’s work on the state of exception, I argue that despite claims of the newness of the post-Cold War geopolitical paradigm, political torture in the twenty-first century takes familiar concentrationary and disciplinary forms. Further, specific colonial discourses continue to frame contemporary debates about political torture; using the Algerian War of Independence as a lens, the thesis demonstrates this continuity through original readings of The Centurions (1960), The Battle of Algiers (1966), and The Little Soldier (1960/63).
The dominant way that torture has been discussed in the context of the post-9/11 Global War on Terrorism is in terms that justify or normalise it. This thesis reads the revitalisation of colonial discourses in the second series of 24 (2002-3) as evidence of this. Further, it argues that anti-torture human rights texts such as Rendition (2007) have provided inadequate resistance to justificatory discourse. Nonetheless, narratives that successfully oppose political torture are possible, and this thesis sketches the beginnings of a canon of them: drawing on the phenomenological ethics of Emmanuel Levinas to perform readings of representations of Abu Ghraib – Standard Operating Procedure (2008) – and Guantánamo Bay – The Road to Guantánamo (2006), Guantánamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom (2004) and Guantánamo (2004) – the project explores the ways that ethical address, testimony, and an activist focus on facts can produce meaningfully resistant anti-torture narratives.
Actual Title: The Construction of Financial Authority: Authoritative Practices in the OTC Derivatives Market before and after the Crisis
Abstract: How has the global financial crisis altered how the over-the-counter (OTC) credit derivatives industry operates legitimately in the global financial system? Prior to the crisis, derivatives trading was — unique among other forms of international exchange — simultaneously immune from public regulation and regarded as legitimate. We might expect the financial crisis to have been a legitimacy crisis for derivatives markets, but it is unclear to what extent this is the case. Even as derivatives regulation has shifted from private to public, mainly Anglo-American agencies, trading volumes remain high and many of the same actors are involved in setting standards. While most inquiries into financial politics attempt to explain regulatory outcomes, this project focuses instead on the practices through which financial authority is constituted, reproduced, contested, and changed. I identify risk modeling, credit rating, collateralization, and the determination of credit events as practices central to the OTC derivatives industry. While market supervision has been extended in important ways, many of the same practices underlie the functioning of the market and its supervision pre- and post-crisis. These findings challenge the dichotomy between the market as a would-be autonomous sphere, on the one hand, and external, political rules on the other.
Frontal cortical asymmetry and impulsive aggression: A reinforcement sensitivity study
Abstract: The current study compared impulsive aggressive individuals and nonaggressive controls using frontal cortical EEG activity. Impulsive aggression is a reactive or emotionally charged violent response characterized by a loss of behavioral control. Previous physiological studies have found impulsive aggressors (IAs) have sensory and informational processing deficits. Undergraduate male volunteers (n = 15 IAs, n = 15 controls) completed a resting EEG and two affective picture tasks intended to manipulate emotional state. IAs showed more right frontal cortical activity than controls at lateral frontal electrodes at rest [t(28) = 2.470, p = .020] and had similar asymmetry indices throughout the two emotional paradigms [t(14) = .890, ns]. Controls, however, were able to engage the Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS) during withdrawal-related stimuli [t(14) = 2.576, p = .022]. An interaction between group and picture task [F(2, 14) = 3.818, p = .028] reinforced this result. Results indicated that IAs have an overactive BIS and thus cannot appropriate the proper biological systems in response to emotional stimuli. Future directions are discussed.
Actual Title: Examining the Implications of Poverty from the Perspective of Mothers and Children Living in Urban, Suburban, and Rural Communities
Abstract: Poverty, specifically child poverty, has been an area of great concern impacting the United States for decades. This paper explores the differing views, experiences and perceptions of poverty through interviews with three impoverished families: one child and mother each located in an (1) urban (2) suburban and (3) rural community. By looking at children and parents living in impoverished homes in diverse neighborhoods I sought to investigate the societal, social, and emotional perceptions and experiences of children and parents living in urban, suburban, and rural poverty. Children between the ages of 6 and 7 years old were interviewed, as were their mothers, utilizing a qualitative, case study methodology. Research found parental themes of overall concern regarding child well-being due to past personal and peer experiences, a fear of the future, and the differences in variations of family, community, and financial support. Child themes included an awareness of the financial burdens of their families, knowledge of crime and violence and perceptions of wealth and home.
Actual title: Social Benefits and Costs of the National Flood Insurance Program
Abstract: This analysis retrospectively examines the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) using benefit-cost analysis (BCA). Congress created the NFIP in 1968 to provide flood insurance in part due to the absence of a private market for flood insurance. Since 1994, the NFIP has included a Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program to provide local communities with support for flood mitigation. Together, the NFIP and NFIP programs provide the national flood protection and response strategy.
This analysis estimates net social benefit of the NFIP for the years 1996 through 2010. An important element is the estimated consumer surplus for flood insurance using historical financial and survey data available from the NFIP. Using this estimate and other components of net social benefits, this analysis derives a sufficient statistic for the insurance component of the NFIP and is joined with other estimates of the benefits of the FMA to estimate the net social benefits of the combined program. A supplemental analysis is done using different income weighting scenarios in a distributionally weighted BCA. Finally, this study includes an analysis of the change in government revenue attributable to the NFIP and FMA programs. Sensitivity analysis is conducted on all results.
This study concludes by finding that the NFIP and FMA programs provided a net benefit to society the years 1996 through 2010. Additionally, the NFIP and FMA are regressive. Finally, this study finds that government revenue experiences a net increase due to the NFIP program.