Pozen Center Prize for Best BA Thesis on Race and Human Rights


The Pozen Family Center for Human Rights is pleased to announce a new prize for excellence in BA essay projects about race and human rights in the United States or globally.

A prize of $1,000 will be awarded to the best BA essay submitted on any topic at the intersection of race, structural racism, and human rights. Submissions may be BA essays in any field in the Social Sciences or the Humanities.

Only students in the College who complete a BA essay on a topic touching on race and human rights in the year they submit it are eligible for this award.

2021 Essay Competition Winners

Winner: Cecilia Katzenstein, AB’21 (History; Philosophy; Social Studies of Science and Medicine; Human Rights)
Thesis title: “Removing the Scientific Self: Objectivity, Race, and Yellow Fever Immunity Theories in Nineteenth Century New Orleans”

Committee commendation: Cecilia’s thesis is a remarkable examination of the shifting discourses of yellow fever immunity during the course of the nineteenth century in New Orleans. She traces a transformation from an emphasis on Creole immunity, which suggested the possibility that gradual acclimation to tropical climates produced immunity, to an increasingly racialized account of disease susceptibility that marked out Black residents as uniquely immune to yellow fever. This shift was accompanied paradoxically by an increased emphasis on scientific objectivity that deployed statistics about racial differences and immunity in ways that reinforced and reified these differences, and that turned to anatomy to naturalize race. The essay stands out for its efforts to conceptualize the transformation of race and racial difference, treating these terms not as static variables, but as sites of contestation and resignfication. In the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is also a timely investigation, sounding a cautionary note about drawing connections between race and disease without adequate social and political contextualization.  

Honorable Mention: Helen Malley, AB’21 (History, Human Rights)
Thesis title: “‘We are only demanding our country’: The Legal History of Lakota Survivance and the Long War for the West”

Committee commendation: In her thoughtful and well-researched thesis, Helen explores the wars between the Lakota and the United States in ways that recapture Lakota perspectives from the late nineteenth to late twentieth centuries on the massacre of Wounded Knee in 1890. Helen draws on deft and sensitive readings of her legal and newspaper primary sources to detail the ways in which Lakota activists connected ongoing acts of war by the United States across centuries to assert their own continued survival and vitality as a sovereign people. Helen’s thesis is a remarkable accomplishment and an important intervention into Indigenous history.

Honorable Mention: Indira Rajkumar, AB’21 (Public Policy Studies)
Thesis title: “The Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act - Successful Decarceration Legislation Navigating an Adversarial Criminal Legal System”

Committee commendation: With admirable analytic clarity, and on the basis of a set of thoughtfully structured interviews, Indira illuminates the conditions under which US decarceration legislation can partly succeed, in spite of a criminal justice system that perversely incentivizes incarceration. Indira’s thesis makes a novel and much needed contribution to our understanding of the criminal legal system and offers helpful policy recommendations for its reform. It also shows how human agency can affirm itself even when constrained by the presence of adversarial structures.


The 2021 application period is now closed.

Applications will reopen in Winter 2022.


Please direct any questions to Faculty Director Mark Bradley.