Jasmine Shirey, MALS Thesis Award

Jasmine Shirey, Master of Liberal Arts


Seattle, WA

Undergraduate Degree

Claremont McKenna College – Double Major in Literature and Neuroscience

Thesis Topic and Inspiration

When I was an undergraduate, I interned for the Forum for African Women Educationalists in Zimbabwe and, upon graduating, I lived in Harare for three years. During this time, I became fascinated both with the image of the 'American abroad' and with the way the U.S. has historically used 'development' work for imperialist aims.

In the broadest scope, my thesis asks: where did the trope of the 'ugly American' come from and why might its origin matter? To answer this, I return to the 1958 novel The Ugly American, considering how the memory of 'the ugly American' may unlock a key piece of the relationship between U.S. imperialism, imperial anxiety, and the self-representation of American identity.

Turning to these scenes of anxiety, this thesis argues that the bodies of the development workers in the novel emerge as sites of performative memory, where queer anxieties around the destabilization of identity deepen and problematize the self-representation of American Exceptionalism. 

Award Significance

I have known about this award since I started the MALS program, and it was something I aspired to throughout my time at Dartmouth. Receiving it is bittersweet. It marks both the end of a journey in which I have learned and grown a lot, and a validation of the work that I have chosen to pursue. 

Why Dartmouth

I chose Dartmouth for two reasons. First, for the cultural studies track in the Masters of Liberal Studies(MALS) program. There are very few MA programs in cultural studies, MALS not only has a cultural studies track but excellent cultural studies advisors and flexibility to direct one's plan of study. The second reason I chose Dartmouth was for the unprecedented number of teaching assistant(TA) opportunities. I knew I wanted teaching experience and during my time at Dartmouth I have been able to TA over ten courses and co-lecture one, receiving invaluable pedagogical mentorship in every case.

Post-Graduation Plans

I have been accepted into Duke University's Literature PhD program and will be beginning in the fall.

Favorite Aspect of Dartmouth

The people. Hands down.