Announcing the winner of the inaugural Pozen Center Prize for Best BA Thesis on Race and Human Rights

We are thrilled to congratulate the winner and two honorable mentions for our inaugural Pozen Center Prize for Best BA Thesis on Race and Human Rights! The prize, launched earlier this year, awards $1,000 to the best BA essay submitted on any topic at the intersection of race, structural racism, and human rights in the United States or globally.

In addition to this year’s winner, we are also awarding $500 each to two honorable mentions, in recognition of the oustanding quality of work among the many entries submitted.

Professors Chiara Cordelli, Adom Getachew, and Mark Philip Bradley served as the award committee for the prize. Their comments on each of our awardees, and links to all three of these excellent theses, are below. Congratulations, students!  

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

Faculty Advisor: Emily Webster
Preceptor: Lily Huang

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)
“‘We are only demanding our country’: The Legal History of Lakota Survivance and the Long War for the West”

Faculty Advisor: Matthew Kruer
Preceptor: Christopher Kindell

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)
“The Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act - Successful Decarceration Legislation Navigating an Adversarial Criminal Legal System”

Faculty Advisor: Sorcha Brophy
Preceptor: Kelsey Berryman

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.