Citizenship Lab Research Project: “Urban Green Space and Migrant Integration”

The Humanities Research Center’s Citizenship Lab proudly funds Maggio Laquidara’s research project.

Student: Maggio Laquidara

Mentor: Professor Renee Richer

The role of urban green space in moderating or exacerbating the integration of migrants into the local community is an issue of recent research interest. Urban green spaces can bring communities together in joint activities with shared resources or they can serve as a barrier acting to separate and isolate communities. 

Select countries in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region are the ideal system in which to study this question because the countries often have a large percentage of foreign-born residents, sometimes up to 85%.  The communities are often divided into an unofficial hierarchical framework based on nationality, race, and religion. Furthermore, the unique accommodation style (such as a compound or gated community) often serves as another integration barrier. 

Unprecedented development has taken place within the MENA region over the last 15 years, as fossil fuel-derived resources were funneled into infrastructural development to promote sustainability and knowledge-based economies. This infrastructure development saw the urban environment being re-shaped, which resulted in the loss of many open green spaces in migrant communities.  These open green spaces often formed the center of community activities. 

This project will ground truth satellite imagery and conduct focus group interviews in order to research green spaces in relationship with migrant community integration. Checking remotely sensed imagery accuracy via field observations is often referred to as ground truthing.

Citizenship Lab Research Project: “Lawmaking in China: Motivations and Strategies Behind Legislative Proposals”

The Humanities Research Center’s Citizenship Lab proudly funds Annemieke van den Dool’s research project.

Student: This project will be advertised in spring 2024

Mentor: Professor Annemieke van den Dool

This project deepens our understanding of policy and legislative processes in China through a combination of desk research and interviews aimed at unpacking the motivation and strategies of delegates to the National People’s Congress (NPC) to develop legislative proposals, especially in the areas of health and environment. This project aims to address the following research questions: (1) How often do delegates to the National People’s Congress put forward legislative proposals? (2) What motivates delegates to the National People’s Congress to put forward a proposal to draft or amend a law? (3) What strategies do delegates use to prepare proposals? To answer these questions, the project builds on desk research and qualitative content analysis aimed at collecting relevant information about legislative behavior by delegates through collection of news articles, social media posts, blog posts, books, memoirs, and legislative records. The second stage of the project aims to complement this desk research with interviews.   

Citizenship Lab Research Project: “Youth-Led Climate Action: An In-Depth Analysis of Youth Engagement in UNFCCC Processes – COP as an Example”

The Humanities Research Center’s Citizenship Lab proudly funds Manal Bidar’s Signature Work project.

Student: Manal Bidar

Mentor: Professor Coraline Goron, Ph.D.

In the face of a rapidly changing climate landscape, the role of youth-led climate action within global governance frameworks is more crucial than ever. This research project, titled “Youth-Led Climate Action: An In-Depth Analysis of Youth Engagement in UNFCCC Processes – COP as an Example,” endeavours to comprehensively explore the dynamics, challenges, and potentials of youth engagement in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) processes, with a primary focus on the Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings. With the principal aim of understanding the pivotal role of youth in shaping climate policy at the global level, this research embarks on a multifaceted journey. It delves into the lived experiences of young climate activists, investigating the hurdles they face and the innovative strategies they employ to influence and drive change. 

As an experienced climate activist with a seven-year journey spanning grassroots mobilization to influential roles within UN environmental processes, I was driven to undertake this research due to a conspicuous gap in comprehensive documentation and analysis of youth involvement in these critical forums. My advocacy and communication work as the official youth constituency of the UNFCCC has provided me unique insights, culminating in my attendance at COP27 in Egypt in 2022. Witnessing the intricate dynamics and challenges young climate activists face in engaging with UNFCCC processes has fueled my commitment to this research. The absence of comprehensive resources and research papers documenting the participation of non-state actors, specifically youth, within the intricate machinery of UN climate governance adds further urgency to this endeavor. This research seeks to address this critical gap by providing a nuanced understanding of youth engagement within UNFCCC processes, empowering young activists, and contributing to the global response to the climate crisis. 

Citizenship Lab Research Project: “A Queer Metamorphosis: Animal Narratives and Lesbian Love in Chinese Cultures”

The Humanities Research Center’s Citizenship Lab proudly funds Ruohan Wang’s Signature Work project.

Student: Ruohan Wang

Mentor: Professor Zairong Xiang

This project bridges animal studies and queer theory in the context of Chinese cultures, taking animality as a heuristic lens to examine the queer undercurrents in Chinese stories of animal-human metamorphosis. It primarily focuses on two works from contemporary Hong Kong: Tsu Hark’s 1993 film Green Snake and Dung Kai-Cheung’s 1996 novella Androgyny: The Evolutionary History of a Non-exist Species. These works, featuring imaginary metamorphoses between animals and women, appropriate traditional Chinese cosmologies or modern biological taxonomies to understand the female protagonists’ same-sex intimate relationships. This practice serves as a subversive tool to articulate ineffable queer desires from an animal-centric perspective, and to envision a queer reproduction beyond heteronormative procreation. 

This project aims to culminate in an analytical paper. In addition, it includes three public screenings of Green Snake (1993), The Legend of the White Snake, Beijing Opera (1980), and The White Snake Enchantress (1958) in Spring 2023. Each screening will be accompanied by discussions led by Ruohan and Professor Xiang. 

Citizenship Lab Research Project: “Gender, Health, and Catastrophe – Studying the Impact of the 2022 Superfloods on Women’s Health in Pakistan’s Most Affected Areas”

The Humanities Research Center’s Citizenship Lab proudly funds Arabela Urpi Iggesen Valenzuela’s Signature Work project.

Student: Arabela Urpi Iggesen Valenzuela

Mentor: Professor Umair Sajid 

During the summer of 2022, Pakistan experienced monsoon rains 3-5 times as heavy as the national average, and subsequently the worst-ever recorded floods in their history. This caused unprecedented damage across the country. Combined with pre-existing gender health inequalities, this catastrophe amplified the disease burden faced by women in the most affected areas. This project aims to study the impact of the 2022 “superfloods” on women’s health compared to men and identify patterns driving gender health inequality in times of disaster, through cross-sectional surveys and interviews conducted in the rural communities of southwestern Punjab province, Pakistan. The outcomes of this study will provide valuable insight into the nexus between natural disaster, public health, marginalization, and gender relations in Pakistani tribal communities, which can help future relief efforts address the needs of affected populations more efficiently.  


Citizenship Lab Research Project: “Unfinished Homes: Stalled Lives amid China’s Real Estate Crisis”

The Humanities Research Center’s Citizenship Lab proudly funds Yutong Shi’s  Signature Work project.

Student: Yutong Shi

Mentor: Professor Mengqi Wang

In China’s ongoing real estate crisis, a significant number of contractors have abandoned construction, leaving apartment buildings unfinished. On social media, images of unfinished homes, known as lanwei lou/烂尾楼, proliferate. Many apartments in these buildings were already sold to families who are making mortgage payments to this day. Developed from my previous research, this project will explore how these families visit, decorate, and/or move into these unfinished apartments to make a home out of the bare concrete. The project explores how these families’ inflexible pursuit of a home has left them suspended in between being housed and homelessness. It aims to conduct a multi-sited ethnography on unfinished homes, using research methods including participant observation, semi-structured interviews, digital mapping, and visual documentation. To date, the researchers have located unfinished homes in Nanjing, Zhenzhou, Kunshan, Shanghai, and Wuhu. The next step is to visit these unfinished homes and conduct long-term and semi-structured interviews with owners/occupants of these homes, as well as other personnel involved (developers, government officials, lawyers, etc.) in these projects. 

Citizenship Lab Research Project: “Navigating the Shadows: Examining the Impact of Censorship and Counter-Censorship”

The Humanities Research Center’s Citizenship Lab proudly funds Yueqi Dou’s  Signature Work project.

Student: Yueqi Dou

Mentor: Professor Robin Rodd

Censorship, the suppression or control of information and communication, is a multifaceted and complex phenomenon that has been an enduring aspect of current societies and the media landscape. It takes various forms, ranging from government-imposed restrictions on media content to self-censorship driven by societal norms and values. However, people have continually grappled with the challenges of censorship, coming up with tactics to avoid being censored. The censorship guidelines often are inexplicit and blurry, leaving people space to interpret and test the boundaries. To deliver messages and prevent content from being banned, people tend to internalize the censorship and regulate their own behaviors. Under the shadow of censorship, content and art work manage to thrive in the grey area. This research aims to examine activist movements and artistic practices under censorship in online and public spaces. Starting with a review of these practices and related literatures, I will explore and categorize the strategies people have used to escape censorship. Drawing on anthropological, sociological, and media theories and methods, I intend to go deep into these practices and their social impact. I will primarily focus on the landscape in China. Then I will make comparisons with cases in other cultures and countries, such as Korea and Russia. 

Citizenship Lab Research Project: “Observing Degrowth and Biocultural Activism in Colombia”

The Humanities Research Center’s Citizenship Lab proudly funds Lucas Chacko and Cody Schmidt’s Signature Work project

Students: Lucas Chacko and Cody Schmidt

Mentor: Professor Robin Rodd

From a broad perspective, our project will focus on degrowth and biocultural movements in Colombia. We have a shared interest in such alternative forms of sustainable economics, particularly in the Global South with the region’s history of colonialism, extractivism, and exploitation by the Global North. Degrowth specifically focuses on challenging traditional conceptions of a country’s wealth and success, posing critical questions regarding the environmental degradation and social stratification that traditional economic relations create.  

Related to this is the idea of bioculturalism, focusing specifically on the intersection between the environment and society, and their subsequent coexistence. Colombia in particular has been a home to a number of social and political movements led by citizens advocating for environmental justice. Moreover, recent political developments in Colombia have placed such arguments and initiatives at the center of political conversation. We will spend one month in Colombia observing the ways in which this conversation takes place, with Chacko focusing on citizen mobilization and coordination, and Schmidt focusing on how current environmental policies are experienced. 

Citizenship Lab Research Project: “Women’s Political Empowerment in East Asia: Challenges Faced by Female Policymakers in South Korea”

The Humanities Research Center’s Citizenship Lab proudly funds Enkhkhuslen Bat-Erdene’s Signature Work project

Student: Enkhkhuslen Bat-Erdene, Class of 2025, Institutions and Governance / Public Policy

Mentor: Professor Annemieke van den Dool, Ph.D. (Public Policy)

In East Asia, economic powerhouses like China, Japan, and South Korea are experiencing a decline in fertility rates due to historical gender discrimination. Despite the growing presence of feminist movements within these nations, gender disparity remains a deeply rooted issue. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Gender Gap Index, South Korea, China, and Japan rank 105th, 107th, and 125th, respectively, out of 146 countries, making them the East Asian countries with the most significant gender disparities. 

South Korea’s recent feminist movement, known as #MeToo, has brought about significant changes but also faced fierce opposition. The movement appears to have unintentionally exacerbated, rather than bridged, the gender gap in South Korean society. Consequently, this project seeks to explore the obstacles female leaders and policymakers face in South Korean politics and to uncover the underlying reasons for their exclusion from critical gender policy decisions. By shedding light on the persistence of gender disparities within the government, I aim to provide valuable insights into potential solutions to increase women’s involvement in policymaking. 

Citizenship Lab Research Project: “Relational Egalitarianism and Economic Liberty”

The Humanities Research Center’s Citizenship Lab proudly funds Jiyuan (Dmitry) Sun’s Signature Work project

Student: Jiyuan (Dmitry) Sun, Class of 2024, Ethics and Leadership/Philosophy

Mentor: Joseph Mazor, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics

This project centers on two concepts in contemporary political philosophy: relational egalitarianism and economic liberty. It will investigate the place of economic liberty within the theoretical framework of relational egalitarianism. By revealing the incompatibility between existing conceptions of economic liberty and relational egalitarianism, it strives to reconcile the two concepts by redefining economic liberty. It will ideally reach the conclusion that economic liberty is not only compatible with relational egalitarianism but an essential constituent of the latter. It takes a pragmatic concern with carving out an institutional design in which people are both economically free and equal in socio-political relations under democratic citizenship, and a further theoretical concern with the fluid interactions between freedom and equality.

This project is expected to start during summer 2023 and conclude during spring 2024. Its research process will involve (i) literature reviews of Elizabeth Anderson’s (1999) conception of relational egalitarianism, including Value in Ethics and Economics (1995) and “What is the Point of Equality?” (1999); (ii) comparative studies of multiple existing theories of economic liberty; (iii) independent argumentation on the relationship between relational egalitarianism and economic liberty; (iv) potential interviews with renowned scholars concerning relational egalitarianism and economic liberty; (v) peer-review seminars coordinated with the DKU Citizenship Lab.