2012 Social Justice Research Paper Awards Winners

Congratulations to 2012 Social Justice Research Paper Awards winners Megan Helton, Elizabeth Tatum-Barnes, Brice Nordquist.

2012 First Place: Megan Helton (Justice Administration) “Those Aggravating Aggravators: A Study of Thirty-Five Death Penalty Jurisdictions.”

After the Supreme Court declared the nation’s capital sentencing schemes to be unconstitutional in 1972, legislatures across the country began revising capital sentencing statutes in an attempt to remove the possibility of death sentences being handed out in the ”arbitrary and capricious” manner the Court condemned. In response, Georgia enacted a sentencing scheme that included the use of bifurcated capital trials, aggravating and mitigating circumstances, and the automatic review of death sentences by the Georgia Supreme Court, which was later deemed constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. Thirty-four states and the federal government now employ similar capital sentencing schemes, resulting in the use of 178 different aggravating circumstances among the thirty-five jurisdictions. This paper explores the wide use of those aggravating circumstances, the implications of jurisdictions utilizing so many aggravators, and suggests that the U.S. Supreme Court adopt a reduced list of the most common aggravating factors, requiring jurisdictions to do away with all others. Should the Supreme Court take this step, it will enable capital sentencing schemes to be uniform across the nation and will reduce the possibility of ‘overinclusion’ that is the result of a large number of aggravating circumstances which make almost every murder a capital crime.

First Place: Elizabeth Tatum-Barnes (Anthropology), “Food Justice: WIC and SNAP in Louisville Farmers’ Markets”

Honorable Mention: Brice Nordquist (English), “English Only Through Disavowal: Linguistic Violence in Politics and Pedagogy.”

This essay considers the ways in which ideologies that work through political discourse to solidify an imaginary core of U.S. society by conflating nation, culture, identity and language operate in educational contexts. Drawing upon Joseph Roach’s concept of surrogate doubling, the author seeks to demonstrate the ways in which strategies of disavowal work to disguise linguistic heterogeneity in language politics and literacy pedagogy. In manners similar to both proponents and critics of the official English movement, writing pedagogies, texts and teachers often function as agents of linguistic and social normalization to preserve the imaginary core of U.S. society and its mythically monolithic standard of communication. Through ritual invocations in which language difference is seen as constituted by distance and separation rather than by ongoing contact and structured relations in emergent and translingual environments, political and pedagogical agents perpetuate a myth of linguistic unity and fixity for the preservation of Anglo-American authority.