History Majors Take Home the Top Prizes at the Third-Annual USC Libraries Research Award

Posted by Tyson Gaskill

From left to right: USC Libraries Research Award winners Diana Kruzman, Mahima Verma, Alexander Finkelstein, Sasha Pearce, Emily Hodgkins and Sareen Palassian.

Papers on post-World War II Beat music in Germany, the pivotal years in the early development of Los Angeles, and Life magazine’s coverage of the 1946 Calcutta riots were among the papers that won prizes at this year’s third annual USC Libraries Research Award.

A reception honoring the student winners took place in the Feuchtwanger Memorial Library, on the second floor of Doheny Memorial Library, on Thursday, April 14, 2016. This year’s Research Award recognized exceptional student papers completed at USC in a for-credit class or through independent study during the 2015 calendar year. Submitters may use either primary source materials held by the university’s Special Collections or the reference and research resources of the USC Libraries.

Tying for first prize in the honors thesis category were history majors Emily Hodgkins and Alexander Finkelstein.

Hodgkins’ paper, “Beat Music and the Politics of Youth Identity in the German Democratic Republic, 1949–1965” examines how the Communist East German government first restricted Western pop music then tried to coopt it to maintain a kind of legitimacy with their youth. Hodgkins praised the USC Libraries Interlibrary Loan service with being able to secure all of the German-language books she required for researching her paper, especially ones from foreign libraries.

While writing “Los Angeles Transformation: 1863–1876,” Finkelstein plumbed the depths of the USC Libraries Regional History Collection, along with ten other archives throughout California. The result is an in-depth look at a key period in the city’s development, between the devastating drought of 1863–64 and the arrival of the Southern Pacific railroad thirteen years later.

In the undergraduate papers category, first prize went to history major Mahima Verma for “Unpackaging Life magazine’s photographic essay of the 1946 Calcutta Riots.” The American press generally reported a sanitized version of the extraordinary unrest that followed Britain’s post-World War II partition of India, but Life photographer Margaret Bourke-White compared the devastation to what she encountered the previous year at the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany.

Tying for second prize in the category were Sareen Palassian, who used the USC Libraries’ ONE Archives to research “The Femme Fatale in LGBT Science Fiction” and Diana Kruzman, who utilized a combination of books and online resources for “Uncontacted No Longer: Globalization’s Impact on Kinship, Conflict and Ritual Cannibalism Among the Korowai of Papua.”

Sasha Pearce earned an honorable mention for “Mary Stuart in Letters,” in which she used digital databases the USC Libraries subscribe to in order to decode three previously undeciphered letters from Mary Stuart, popularly known as Mary, Queen of Scots.

The award judges were: Elizabeth Galoozis and Carolyn Caffrey Gardner of the USC Libraries; Thornton School Assistant Professor of Practice, Musicology, and Early Music Rotem Gilbert; and the previous year’s winners, Natalia Dame and Jack Merritt. The awards, which began as a Dean’s Challenge Grant, are now funded courtesy ProQuest and Adam Matthew Primary Sources for Teaching and Research.