• Chicago Studies Research Colloquium



Join Chicago Studies, the Program on the Global Environment, the College, and the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation for the second annual Chicago Studies Research Colloquium! This event will showcase the year’s best Chicago-focused undergraduate research and allow presenters to share their work with an audience outside their program of study.

The College is also excited to announce the new Chicago Studies Undergraduate Research Prize for the outstanding BA thesis or independent research project from 2019 that takes the city or region of Chicago as its primary subject of inquiry.



Tuesday May 14, 2019
from 1:00 - 3:00 PM


Classics 110
1010 E 59th St, Chicago, IL 60637



In grappling with mass incarceration, many policymakers attempt to intervene during reentry, or the process of leaving jail or prison and “reentering” the community. Some of the more obvious reentry challenges include removal from welfare programs as a result of convictions, despite the fact that welfare programs can be beneficial for reentry. Because state and federal statutes create lifetime bans on welfare programs for people with convictions, policymakers focus on removing these bans. However, it is possible that barriers to public assistance exist regardless of having a conviction, evidenced by examining the pretrial population. These people leave jail without convictions, but are still often unequipped for what waits for them after hours, days, or months of being away from their lives due to pretrial detention. The pretrial population has been ignored in conversations about removal from or limited access to welfare programs during reentry. Because of that, I hope to highlight how pretrial detention affects this access through a case study on Cook County Jail.
This paper explores the classification of gangs as criminal actors and not as political actors. I propose that urban street gangs often resemble and reflect the actions of the Weberian state in their communities and that this makes them inherently political, even if they do not make explicitly political claims against the state. To test this, I develop a theoretical framework by which to compare gang characteristics to state characteristics. Through ethnographic case studies of three Chicagoan gangs in the latter half of the 20th century, I demonstrate the utility of my framework in analysis and evaluate the similarities between gangs and states.
In 2013, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) closed 50 schools, leaving 44 school buildings to be sold and repurposed for new uses across the city. This study investigates the process of repurposing school buildings in Chicago and the extent to which these 44 buildings are still serving their respective communities. Eighteen interviews were conducted with academics, journalists, CPS personnel, community members affected by closed schools, and buyers of school buildings. The findings of this study show that chief among the factors that influence the success of repurposing these school buildings are: (1) differences in the vested interests of stakeholders in the closings and repurposing process, (2) inadequate communication regarding the process of closing and repurposing, and (3) obstacles to successful sales and repurposing. This study concludes that the influence of these factors has prevented the majority of the 44 school buildings closed in 2013 from being successfully repurposed.
In this study, I leverage the sociological research on cultural health capital and social networks to elucidate the mechanisms impacting how individuals with diabetes deal with their illness and navigate access to additional diabetes care resources. Drawing from ethnographic data collected during fieldwork examining diabetes healthcare resources and interviews with individuals living with diabetes on the South Side of Chicago, I examine how access to quality healthcare interacts with the daily lives and illness experiences of individuals with diabetes. I argue that it is important to consider fundamental causes of health inequality beyond socioeconomic status, as I reveal how access to reliable and high-quality healthcare plays a fundamental role in health outcomes by impacting individuals’ ability to seek and access quality care and resources through multiple mechanisms.
Affordable housing is built using government tax credits in an open allocation system. But is an open-allocation system a fair one? Drawing on 25 interviews with a variety of stakeholders involved in financing, developing, and approving developments, I shed light on the imbalances in the current affordable housing market. In particular, I show how smaller community-based development organizations face challenges of legitimacy on both the resident and business level. The implications of these results call for a more holistic housing policy analysis and deeper consideration for the other activities an organization is engaged in.
This research project utilizes Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood as a case study for the ways in which the built environment can sustain conflicting and at times contested meanings that create distinctive patterns of community identity formation at the level of street block or building. Ultimately, the ways in which Chinatown’s community negotiates and finds balance in urban spaces that serve both performative and interpersonal ends proves to be an essential element of Chinese-American community and boundary maintenance across physical, generational, and cultural lines.

Last Year's Presenters

This paper explores the question “how effective was the Burge reparations package?” I define reparations and create a typology of reparations based on international and national case studies. I then use that, as well as interviews with torture survivors, the mothers of torture survivors, and the authors and implementors of the Burge reparations package, to judge the efficacy of the Burge reparations package and make recommendations about what work should still be done to improve the plight of torture survivors.
This paper offers a history of Mujeres Latinas en Acción, a women’s community organization in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. This thesis begins by describing the gender norms and views of ethnic identity in the neighborhood in the early 1970s, before turning to the organization’s founding and early programs serving young women. This paper argues that Mujeres used community activism to broaden practices associated with motherhood to include supporting the whole Latina/ocommunity. Mujeres members used this framing of motherhood to express values which resonated with traditional ideas of gender and ethnicity, while also engaging in sometimes radical practices within Pilsen.In their work outside of Pilsen, the organization strove to project a unified view of the Latina/o community, which de-emphasized disagreements within Pilsen and the Latina/o community about gender and ethnic identity.
For most of her life, Claudia Cassidy (1899–1996) was Chicago’s most prolific and widely read critic, and, as this paper argues, one of the most influentialarts critics of the twentieth century. She began her career at the ChicagoJournal of Commerce(1924–1941), moving from there to the Chicago Sun (1941–42) and then to the Chicago Tribune(1942–65), where she reached the height of her influence. After leaving the Tribune, Cassidy wrote for numerous local and national publications as a critic-at-large. In total, her career spanned five beats (music, theater, dance, books, and film), two continents (North America and Europe), and nearly seven decades, giving her a uniquely privileged vista of the twentieth century’s performing arts.Despite this, Cassidy has been largely neglected in academia and greater discourses about American arts criticism since her death.This paper launches the first analysis of the legacy and local impact of Cassidy’s music criticism, positing Cassidy’s ability to reach wide audiences at the Tribune, her colorful writing style, and advocacy for Chicago’s arts as primary factors in her rise.
US Army recruiters scout, process, and enlist tens of thousands of young people in every year. In Chicago, however, this work takes on a particular meaning as recruiters grapple with the sociopolitical landscape of the city. In this ethnographic exploration of US Army recruiting, I ask: what does it means for recruiters to operate under the logics and mechanisms of war alongside civilian institutions, populations, and inequalities? Recruiters labor to locate and make valuable to the state young, fit men of color. Along the way, recruiters make apparent the tensions and logics of a diffuse, heterogeneous state, composed of institutions and actors often at odds with one another. While most recruiters are reluctant to name the racial cleavages around attainment, military imperatives recognize and capitalize on social inequality to leverage more accessions. Race becomes a mechanism of identifying precarious subjects, as well as a tool for the wars of the future. Although recruiters might question these directives, they make meaning from their profession by weaving complex narratives of value and care around the youth they understand as disenfranchised. Recruiters illustrate complex dynamics of competing sovereignty, and power when the means for organized violence must contend with the racial state for meaning and bodies.
This paper examines the history of River City in the context of early planning and residential development in the South Loop, as an alternative vision for the shape of the new urban community. It considers relevant planning guidelines, newspaper articles, and correspondence related to River City’s planning process, in addition to drawings and diagrams of each proposal, in-person observations and conversations during visits to the building. Under this lens, River City’s alterations illustrate a debate about the form, program, and density of the new neighborhoods to be installed in the redeveloped land. Those debates relate to interrogations about architecture’s role in the city, and to recent and long-held conceptions about the relationship of architecture and behavior, density and quality of life.
This study focuses on the spatial claims that the Obama Foundation and South Side Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition make regarding the Obama Presidential Center, in the context of Jackson Park, the Woodlawn neighborhood, and the wider South Side. The study analyzes the public discourse of these two groups to investigate their geographical assertions, visions, and the ways in which they justify and legitimize their claims.