Preliminary Drafts – Research Update #4

Over the course of the previous week, I have begun to construct a strong outline meant to help me as I attempt to create something tangible with the research I have conducted thus far. To be quite honest, the process has proved to be more frustrating than I originally expected. While writing in other circumstances usually involves a prompt of some sort, this project is my first experience curating theory from collected data. There is such a wide variety of important issues to discuss that relate directly to the patterns of language exposed by the Last Word submissions that are central to my project, so my next steps for this work is to better understand what my intentions are in regards to my finished publication. Several necessary components of the theory I hope to produce are already clear, including extrapolating how colonialism and neoliberal economics are intertwined in the modern era. Both of these systems are often discussed in terms of how they influence governments or economies, thus ignoring the ways they impact interpersonal relations and culture. Williamsburg (and surrounding James City County) is an especially interesting setting for studying this more closely, as its history is so deeply rooted in the United States colonial project. As the data I have collected seems to suggest, neoliberal coloniality (a term occasionally used to explain the historical overlap of the pair) has deeply altered the way humans value one another. In brief, neoliberalism’s requirement of individualistic, financially focused beings combined with colonialism’s long-established hierarchy of worth favoring the ruling class encourages the exclusion of certain bodies so that others may “succeed.” When framed by discourse surrounding potential affordable housing projects, individualized neoliberal coloniality manifests as language suggesting that only productive, marketable laborers are deserving of access to homes. Furthermore, the common vernacular regarding employment status raises the necessity of distinguishing between the problem of being reduced to one’s labor by others and the potentially liberating effect of self-identifying as a worker within a capitalist class system. Despite the challenges thus far, I am still hopeful that further navigating this line of thinking will lead to some meaningful results and provide the opportunity to learn many new things along the way.

Senegal Bound

I can’t believe that this is all finally beginning!  For the past six months I’ve been working on a completely different research project and now that it’s finished, I can begin to focus on this amazing journey towards the completion of my honors thesis.  My project is somewhat of a combination of my interests in both of my majors – International Relations and French, with a little Econ mixed in for good measure.  I will be focusing on France’s unique and ongoing relationship with Senegal, both as a colony and an independent nation.  Whenever we think about “imperialism” we tend to consider it to be a phenomenon of the past.  However, I believe that the strategic dispersal of development aid is just another tool France uses to maintain a sphere of influence– a “new imperialism.”  I chose to use Senegal as a case study through which to evaluate the impact of France on its former colonies because Senegal has always maintained a close and rather special relationship with its mother country.  I am beyond excited to travel to the African continent for the first time in order to get an idea of how French development aid functions on the ground and its effect on the Senegalese.