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The Identity Lever

In a host of countries, race and religion remain cultural weapons for enslavement. Perceived differences form a dividing line between slave and free. Beyond the popular idea that contemporary slavery is colour-blind—unlike trans-Atlantic chattel slavery—is the reality that economic and social marginalisation along lines of race, ethnicity or religion makes people vulnerable to slave traders. Yet to date, no one has explored this slavery lever in any depth.We are therefore completing an extensive examination of the relationship between contemporary slavery and social identities. We uncover how intersecting identities are appropriated to construct, legitimise, and perpetuate enslavement, but also how the same identities are mobilised to contest and resist. We aim to understand when marginalisation along identity lines is creating social exclusions and economic vulnerabilities; when it is shaping ritual slavery as part of deeply embedded cultural practise; and when it is simply a convenient weapon for slaveholders who are adept at applying ideologies. With this understanding, we can then understand how religious practice and racial identity can better play a role in the liberation and rehabilitation of enslaved persons.

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Scott Weightman

The growing potency of the black Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the decline in support for racial theories and the increasing nationalisation of American life, represented a salient threat to the culture of white supremacy in the southern states. In this transformative context, how did segregationists seek to reignite support for segregation and appeal to a broader national audience? What strategies did they pursue, and what impact did they have?

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Ibtisam Ahmed

Political utopianism looks at the engagement with contemporary socio-political debates in order to come up with solutions and changes in the pursuit of a new way of life. The British Empire, with its ideological focus of the “good life” and the “civilising project”, can arguably be called a conscious attempt at utopia. In this thesis, I examine the ways in which the British Raj influenced language, culture, wealth, technology, gender and sexuality, and religion using critical utopian theory, queer theory, and postcolonialism in attempt to rethink the mainstream narratives of Empire and its legacies.

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Timo Schrader

My thesis offers the first in-depth urban cultural analysis of the network of Puerto Rican community activism in Loisaida (part of the Lower East Side) from the 1960s to the 1990s. This community organized itself to fight against postwar urban deindustrialization, housing disinvestment, and gentrification, which negatively affected low-income areas. By recreating the urban history of sustainable activism in Loisaida and focusing on the initiatives and projects of key community organizations, I demonstrate how they sought ultimately to claim specific spaces: from housing and public spaces to educational and cultural centers. The adjective 'sustainable' does not simply connote 'environmental' but rather highlights the role of the environment in a broader sense-built environment, educational environment, cultural environment-in shaping the quality of life of an urban neighborhood. Moreover, the methodologies and rhetoric of these groups frame their activism in distinctly human rights rhetoric: the right to education, the right to housing, the right to the city.