This summer, I had the pleasure of working as a research assistant under Dr. Ponce de León, whose all-encompassing work primarily centers around how political and social movements in the Western Hemisphere serve as a major inspiration for experimental art. What perhaps fascinated me most about Dr. Ponce de León’s project is the interdisciplinary approach it offered. Despite being categorized in the English Department, my research also borrowed ideas from the social sciences and closely examined the role the arts can play in the shaping of a society. As I currently intend on double majoring in English and Sociology and have an immense passion for theater and film, this project pinpointed my interests.
When I began assisting Dr. Ponce de León, I was immediately immersed into work that opened my eyes to a completely different and enlightening perspective. From listening to and taking notes on talks by rapper, film director, and activist Boots Riley, I started to look at “new capitalism” from a more critical perspective - one that required acknowledgement of a racially stratified social class system while simultaneously observing the power of an organized workforce. After being exposed to how the government curtails free thinking, I composed annotated bibliographies on the Red Scare and anticommunism in the United States. I then continued my work in the realm of art by drafting annotated bibliographies on critical cartography, which focuses on the power complexes behind mapping practices that further emphasize the dominance of certain groups.
A very topical issue formed the bulk of my research: undocumented immigration. Studying this “hot topic” proved crucial as the national debate on this subject becomes increasingly heated. As the widespread circulation of “fake news” has made it difficult to trust information from certain media outlets, I appreciated the opportunity to consult academic sources in order to discover 1) why Latin American and Caribbean nations have high rates of emigration 2) how policies regarding immigration disproportionately impact Latinx and Caribbean populations. These two objectives were the driving forces behind my research and ultimately shed light on the role big business plays in encouraging illegal immigration, creating a disposable immigrant workforce, and detaining and deporting both hopeful and long-settled migrants. By analyzing legislation bills and cross-examining them with detention and deportation statistics, it has also become apparent that immigration is not a partisan issue as both Republicans and Democrats are to blame for the present-day situation.
Overall, this research experience has instilled within me numerous lessons and skills that I will forever carry with me. Not only has it taught me techniques that are fundamental to the research process, but it has also shaped my current outlook on national affairs. I have learned to not simply absorb information presented before me, but instead conduct independent investigations in order to successfully seek out the truth. This way, I can form solid opinions that form the basis of strong arguments. I am grateful to leave this program not only as a confident scholar, but also as a confident individual.