History Senior Integrated Projects

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This collection includes Senior Integrated Projects (SIP's, formerly known as Senior Individualized Projects) completed in the History Department. Abstracts are generally available to the public, but PDF files are available only to current Kalamazoo College students, faculty, and staff.

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    Mathematical Understandings and Applications of Aztec and Incan Populations in Pre-Columbian Latin America
    (2023-07-07) Eguia, Jairo; Rojas, Rochelle E.
    In the year 1492, Christopher Columbus and other Europeans claimed that a “New World” had been discovered along with its vast riches in material wealth. However, they either downplayed, ignored, stole, or destroyed all the discoveries and advancements made by the native populations, one of the most fascinating being its use of mathematics. Societies today cannot function without mathematics, it is a part of every economic transaction, organizes armies, is encoded in our languages, and has infinite other roles that make up modern communities. While many advancements have been made from the late fifteenth century, the role of mathematics has not shifted, and the native american populations utilized the philosophical organization of numbers to fuel their empires. The Aztec and Inca, in particular, both showcased outstanding accomplishments driven by their vast geographic size and large populations. They achieved levels of organization that surpassed many of their European counterparts. Through their efforts, the Euro-centric narratives of sophistication and superiority among the West can be proven false, instead displaying the strengths of indigenous populations rather than their shortcomings. The goal of this project is not to completely grasp the intricacies or meaning of the remnants of mathematical concepts that survived the test of time against colonialism. Achieving this would be impossible, considering the destructive efforts by Europeans. Instead, the aim is to understand their purpose and importance. Religious practices, understanding of time, astrology, architecture, taxes, economy, labor systems, agriculture, and even the everyday lives of the Aztec and Inca populations were embedded in mathematical understandings. Through this analysis, one will not only see that the role mathematics has played in society within these respective empires is no different than the role mathematics plays in the 21st century, but also part of the lasting legacy that survives today.
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    Mockery, Fear, and Power : Kalamazoo College and Blackface Minstrelsy in the Mid-Twentieth Century
    (2024-03-01) Lemus, Alejandra D.; Boyer Lewis, Charlene M., 1965-
    Just seventy years ago, the Kalamazoo College community unapologetically embraced blackface minstrelsy as a form of entertainment for the student body. Beginning in the spring of 1949, the Century Forum Literary Society, a well-known and reputable student organization on campus, began its annual performance of the "rhythm rockin' Darktown Jamboree." This was an alleged "laugh-packed fabulous show" open to all students and faculty, as well as residents of the greater city of Kalamazoo. These performances did not go against the grain of student interest; on the contrary, they were widely popular among the campus community and continued yearly "in response to the tremendous and enthusiastic interest of the student body." The reality of Kalamazoo College's own use of blackface minstrelsy may be jarring or perhaps unexpected to those who live, work, or study on the campus today. Particularly when juxtaposed with the college's present-day mission of providing students with "enlightened leadership to a richly diverse and increasingly complex world," and a commitment to "intercultural understanding,"3 the reality of the institution's history with blackface minstrelsy feels like a laughable contradiction that dilutes more recent claims of the college's dedication to social and racial justice. How can we explain and understand this part of Kalamazoo College's past and come to terms with these students' unabashed perpetuation of a racist tradition? How might it inform the community's future?
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    Centering Restoration and Restoring Center : How Restoring the Central Surveillance Hub of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site Inc. Would Benefit Visitor's Interpretation.
    (2024-03-01) Harris, Nora; Boyer Lewis, Charlene M., 1965-
    In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Eastern State Penitentiary was once the world's most famous and expensive prison. Constructed on a radial plan in the 1820s and 30s by architect John Haviland, Eastern State Penitentiary promoted the Quaker penitentiary system, which utilized solitary confinement to inspire penitence in incarcerated people. 3 After abandonment in 1971, the building stands today in ruin, a world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells held nearly 85,000 people over its long history. As a historic site, Eastern State Penitentiary is crucial for its unique ability to use space and material culture objects to educate visitors about contemporary issues of mass incarceration through a historical lens, which encourages entrance into an ongoing conversation about criminal justice reform. This thesis aims to inform future conversations about interpreting and preserving all floors of Eastern State Penitentiary's Center Surveillance Hub. It proposes a restoration philosophy and considers its impact on the visitor experience at the site. While interned at Eastern State in the fall of 2022, I spent time researching Center to create a comprehensive database consisting of a short narrative of the space's history, a timeline, and a conditions assessment report. This thesis will be added to the database to further contribute to the ongoing curatorial discussion about Center.
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    Divided Lanes : a Social History of Swimming Pools in Two Midwestern Cities
    (2024-03-01) Kipfmueller, Rylie; Lewis, James E., 1964-
    The Midwest is the focus of my study in part for the self-perception held by many in the region: that this has always been a place of tolerance, acceptance, and civil equality. In reality, this is not the case, and states such as Michigan and Minnesota have hid behind this construction as a way to excuse systemic racism. I argue that, although not all black Americans in the Midwest experienced segregation in the same way as black Southerners, they were impacted and restricted in their activities. This was not always a matter of lawful segregation as in the Jim Crow South. Rather, de facto segregation, or segregation that occurred simply because it followed the conventions which were a part of societal norms, formed a larger basis for segregation in the cities for which I am completing case studies. A multi-pronged approach will reveal de facto segregation in these cities. Redlining, housing covenants, and racial makeup of different neighborhoods in each city were connected to segregated pools. In addition, I will look at when, where, and the number of public pools that were built in each city. I will consider public pools along with private, semi-private, and natural bodies of water to holistically understand options that Saint Paulites and Kalamazooans had when they wished to go swimming in their respective cities. I will also consider how easy it was to get to a non-neighborhood pool using public transportation in the instances where a neighborhood did not have a community pool. Additionally, I will examine instances of outright racial discrimination at pools in both Saint Paul and Kalamazoo, where residents were unable to enter a pool or swimming area specifically because of their race. After examining de facto segregation and discrimination in these places, I will consider what pools meant to the broader Civil Rights Movement, and the role pools played in relation to other recreational and leisure activities.
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    "A Feature of Her Establishment" : Finding Women in Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian Kitchens in Michigan
    (2024-03-01) Catallo-Werner, Clare Wren; Boyer Lewis, Charlene M., 1965-
    The years following World War II saw suburban expansion and a housing boom transform the United States. Mass-built houses enabled subdivisions to emerge around the country, prioritizing convenience and modem amenities over style and aesthetics. In another shift, most of the middle-class families making these moves did not have servants, with housewives instead expected to manage all cooking and cleaning duties. These household responsibilities confined women firmly in the kitchen of their homes, and this placement defined their positions in their families. By being bound to a closed off kitchen to perform her domestic labor, the housewife was cut off from her family and from guests. In this regard, Frank Lloyd Wright's use of open-concept kitchens in his midcentury Usonian homes presented the opportunity for the wife to be freed from her solitude. As the rapidly constructed cookie-cutter houses of the suburbs began popping up across the country, Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian homes provided middle-class families with a more original and individualized way of living. Prioritizing natural surroundings and open, flowing spaces, Usonian homes contrasted with the suburban standard. Their organic designs and open concepts enabled housewives to connect with the rest of the house as they worked in their kitchens, typically labeled a "work space" or "work room" on Wright's plans. While he designed these spaces with women in mind, in an attempt to lessen their seclusion and ease their labors with greater efficiency, this intention often did not function well in reality, for the women working in these kitchens often found themselves dealing with cramped, dark spaces that were created more for aesthetics than livable practicality. The term "Usonia" first appears in Wright's writings in 1925, in reference to the United States of North America. 1 Wright credited Samuel Butler with inventing the term, though no published evidence that he ever used the word exists. It is more likely that it originated with Scottish-born writer James Duff Law, who wrote in a 1903 letter: "We of the United States, in justice to Canadians and Mexicans, have no rights to use the title ' Americans' when referring to matters pertaining exclusively to ourselves" Wright himself used the word to describe his philosophy of creating affordable and practical homes for America's growing middle class. His "Usonia" would be a reformed American society where homes connect with nature and provide a simple and open space for families to reside in. While this Usonian society never manifested in full, the word became synonymous with Wright and a collection of about sixty middle-income family homes he designed, beginning in 1937 with the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House in Madison, Wisconsin. Typically "small, single-story dwellings without a garage or much storage," Usonians blended into their surrounding natural features, did not borrow from European architectural styles, and were "as thoughtfully designed as Wright's commissions for far wealthier clients."3 This study will examine a selection of Wright's Usonian homes in Michigan: Smith House in Bloomfield Hills (1949), the four Wright homes of Parkwyn Village in Kalamazoo (1948-1949), and the four Wright homes in The Acres in Galesburg (1949). This focus on Michigan comes from my own experiences as an intern for the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research, which maintains Smith House, and my time as a student in Kalamazoo. These boundaries also provide a narrow scope to examine houses built on opposite sides of the same state in a span of three years while acknowledging the personal needs and experiences of each family, and how these shaped the homes.
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