Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research

Social Justice Research Awards for Students

2016 Social Justice Research Awards flyer (opens as pdf)

The University of Louisville’s Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research is sponsoring its 9th annual Social Justice Research Paper Awards. Students from any discipline are encouraged to apply.

Deadline to submit papers: Thursday, April 28 at 4:00 p.m. to Ekstrom Library, Room 258

Winning papers announced: Tuesday, May 10 2016



• Engage one or more social justice topics. Preference given to papers engaging race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, peace/conflict, environmentalism, disability, and/or age. Papers do NOT have to be about Anne Braden.
• Undergraduates must use at least 1 source from Braden Institute reading room and/or the Braden Papers in University Archives.
• Graduate students should use books and paper collection if relevant to research topic.
• Paper must be 8-25 pages in length, not including reference pages.

Previous Award Winners


Graduate winner: Leah Gravius (Law), “Evening the Score: An Argument for the Criminalization of Revenge Porn as a Sex Offense”
Abstract: Although many ambiguities surround revenge porn, the dissemination of intimate materials has significant psychological, emotional, social, and financial impacts on its victims that current laws do not sufficiently address. This paper features a review of current state and federal statutes that are pertinent to the development of appropriate and feasible penalties.

The judges chose this paper “because of its depth of research, its potential social impact, as well as its provision of a platform for legal advocacy for victims of revenge porn.” A copy of Leah’s winning paper, as well as those of previous years’ winners, is available here in the Anne Braden Institute (258 Ekstrom Library) as a resource for faculty and students to further their own scholarship on social justice topics.


Graduate winner: Aletia Robey, Women & Gender Studies
“The Bricks in Action: Louisville Women’s War on Poverty in Public Housing Communities”

By the time President Johnson’s War on Poverty programs were implemented in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1964, local neighborhood organizations had already established a solid political presence for their communities in City Hall. This paper examines how local women-led public housing neighborhood groups like the Southwick Improvement Club and the Beecher Terrace Improvement Club worked collectively among local residents and with their middle-class allies prior to and after the implementation of the Community Action Program in Louisville. With the assistance of community organizers paid through the City-County Action Commission, after 1964 groups such as the Beecher Terrace Improvement Club, the Taylor Progressives Club, and the City-Wide Resident Council were formed, they expanded upon the organizing efforts of the existing neighborhood clubs. This development increased people power and also boosted resident involvement in the development of bureaucratic policy making. The Southwick Improvement Club and its sister organizations made drastic changes in their neighborhoods, but they also witnessed a dissolution of trust among community members. This paper illustrates the emergence of the Beecher Terrace Improvement Club and other councils and suggests that the City-County Action Commission both promoted the cause of neighborhood women’s organizations, and, as in the case of the Southwick Improvement Club, somewhat divided these activist women in resident clubs from their middle-class allies. The story of the these clubs and their involvement with the War on Poverty and the City-County Action Commission illustrates the impact of federal community action funds and the effects of cross-class coalition building.

Undergraduate winner: Elisabeth Virgo
“Water Privatization: An Environmental Justice Concern”

This paper addresses inequalities in the global practice of water privatization. Water privatization refers to methods of water management in which private companies extract water from the environment and sell it to water users. Although these companies claim the ability to deliver potable water to people throughout the world, they often damage the environment, and charge too much for many people to afford their services. Water privatization favors the wealthy and actually deepens poverty and health disparities for people who have already been economically marginalized; these are often people of color, women, and the children of each of these groups.


First Place: Emily Maiden, “Inventing a New Peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Learning from the Failures of the 1999 Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement”
This paper critiques the potential success of the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Region—signed on February 24, 2013—against the backdrop of the 1999 Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, which failed to end the Second Congo War. The 1999 Agreement failed because its overall design, coupled with the socio-political climate in the region at the time, resulted in a ‘no war, no peace’ scenario. These failures were furthered by the overall inability of the international peacebuilding community to design and implement a peace strategy in the DRC that aligned with the needs of the Congolese people. If the 2013 Framework is to succeed, what is required is a transformation of the peace process, which will incorporate the Congolese civil society, avoid restrictive timelines, and focus on securing realistic commitments. By critically analyzing both the 1999 Agreement and the broader conflict-resolution and peacebuilding processes, international peace practitioners can learn from the situation in the DRC and use the revised peace model this paper outlines to promote true and lasting peace in regional conflicts across the developing world.

First Place: Jacob Eleazer, “I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade: Ethical Considerations for Psychologists Working with Trans* US Military Service Members  After the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Honorable Mention: Gregory Justis, “Defining Union: The Defense of Marriage Act, Tribal Sovereignty and Same-Sex Marriage”
Native American tribes in the United States enjoy an unusual “quasi-sovereign” legal status.  As a result, native tribes possess an inherent authority to regulate tribal domestic relations, and thus to define marriage as they choose – even when such marriages fail to conform to the legal definition proferred by the state.  While recent legislation such as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) have emerged as potential hurdles for state recognition of otherwise valid tribal unions, both history and federal jurisprudence suggest that marriages recognized as valid under customary tribal law should be (and indeed must be) additionally recognized by the states in which such tribes reside.  As a result, although it appears that states may choose to refuse recognition pursuant to DOMA, it appears equally plausible (if not equally probable) that states may choose to recognize tribal same-sex marriages as valid, a potential breakthrough for gender equality in the United States.  This paper explores the potential impact of DOMA and related legislation on the recent trend towards tribal recognition of same-sex unions throughout the United States, as well as the likely impact of legal recognition on state, federal and tribal law.


First Place: Megan Helton (Justice Administration) “Those Aggravating Aggravators: A Study of Thirty-Five Death Penalty Jurisdictions.”
After the Supreme Court declared the nation’s capital sentencing schemes to be unconstitutional in 1972, legislatures across the country began revising capital sentencing statutes in an attempt to remove the possibility of death sentences being handed out in the ”arbitrary and capricious” manner the Court condemned. In response, Georgia enacted a sentencing scheme that included the use of bifurcated capital trials, aggravating and mitigating circumstances, and the automatic review of death sentences by the Georgia Supreme Court, which was later deemed constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. Thirty-four states and the federal government now employ similar capital sentencing schemes, resulting in the use of 178 different aggravating circumstances among the thirty-five jurisdictions. This paper explores the wide use of those aggravating circumstances, the implications of jurisdictions utilizing so many aggravators, and suggests that the U.S. Supreme Court adopt a reduced list of the most common aggravating factors, requiring jurisdictions to do away with all others. Should the Supreme Court take this step, it will enable capital sentencing schemes to be uniform across the nation and will reduce the possibility of ‘overinclusion’ that is the result of a large number of aggravating circumstances which make almost every murder a capital crime.

First Place: Elizabeth Tatum-Barnes (Anthropology), “Food Justice: WIC and SNAP in Louisville Farmers’ Markets”

Honorable Mention: Brice Nordquist (English), “English Only Through Disavowal: Linguistic Violence in Politics and Pedagogy.”
This essay considers the ways in which ideologies that work through political discourse to solidify an imaginary core of U.S. society by conflating nation, culture, identity and language operate in educational contexts. Drawing upon Joseph Roach’s concept of surrogate doubling, the author seeks to demonstrate the ways in which strategies of disavowal work to disguise linguistic heterogeneity in language politics and literacy pedagogy. In manners similar to both proponents and critics of the official English movement, writing pedagogies, texts and teachers often function as agents of linguistic and social normalization to preserve the imaginary core of U.S. society and its mythically monolithic standard of communication. Through ritual invocations in which language difference is seen as constituted by distance and separation rather than by ongoing contact and structured relations in emergent and translingual environments, political and pedagogical agents perpetuate a myth of linguistic unity and fixity for the preservation of Anglo-American authority.


First Place: Allison Lutes (Anthropology), “More than Just a Slave Girl:  Representing Harriet Jacobs in Children’s Education”
In 1992 Mary E. Lyons published the historical children’s novel, Letters from a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs, was well-received by teachers and reviewers and continues to be taught to middle school students today. This article argues that Lyons’s novel misrepresents the historical person Harriet Jacobs by distorting her language, trivializing her experiences of abuse, and minimizing the North’s participation in the U.S. slave system. Middle school educators should no longer teach this text because the inaccurate portrayal of Jacobs and antebellum America sets students up for future misreadings of history. Instead teachers should consider using Jacobs’s autobiography Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Jacobs’s text provides students with the historical and cultural perspective of the first female slave to write her own narrative. Her primary text elucidates the motivation for publishing her story and gives students a fuller, more accurate account of mid-nineteenth-century America.

Undergraduate winner: Tyler Donovan (WGS/ASL), “Ms. Garrison’s Controversial New Gender Identity:  Trans* Representation in “South Park”
Abstract: “Ms./Mr. Garrison’s Controversial New Gender Identity” discusses the role of trans* identified character Ms./Mr. Garrison on the adult cartoon series “South Park.” The paper acknowledges and critiques the use of satire in regards to trans* identities by South Park’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.


First Place: John Vance (Rhetoric and Composition), “From Meshing to Inventing: Toward a Pedagogy of Discursive (Re) Constructiva”
Abstract: This paper analyzes “code-meshing,” a strategy in which first-year composition students blend “Standard English” and “non-standard” vernaculars in their academic writing in an effort to contest the arbitrary political privileging of the former over the latter. After arguing that code-meshing, for all its good intentions, relies on racializing (and ultimately racist) social/linguistic categories, it suggests that students should confront these unjust hierarchies by “inventing” their own, individually empowering categories.

Undergraduate Winner: Joelle Robinson (Biology), “If You Don’t Sit, You’ll Stand For Anything”
Abstract: The paper is a comprehensive analysis of the sit in movement of the 1960s, classifying the roles of its activists, hecklers and supporters.

Posted on Monday, June 21st, 2010 at 12:24 pm



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