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Contamination and Containment: Spring 2021 Undergraduate Symposium

February 16, 2021 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

**REGISTRATION REQUIRED TO ATTEND. Register by filling out the form at the bottom of this page**


“Disappointed But Not Surprised: Advocacy Efforts for Latinx Workers in North Carolina During the COVID-19 Pandemic”

Kevin Gomez-Gonzalez

Despite preliminary research findings indicating that part of the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 seen among some ethnic minority groups is likely related to occupational risk, mandatory safety and health standards for COVID-19 have not been implemented by the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) and are, instead, presented to employers as guidelines and recommendations. This project details the experience of Latinx workers in agriculture and meat and poultry processing plants through interviews with advocates and activists in North Carolina. An analysis of these interviews, along with documents sourced from regulatory officials and employers’ organizations, reveals a tension between workers and regulatory officials stemming from the consultative and educational approach NCDOL has employed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Interviewees describe that this approach has contributed to perceptions that government officials have prioritized the maintenance of positive relationships with employers over the health and safety of workers and their communities and that the voices of workers have been predictably ignored, despite being simultaneously categorized as essential workers. The story of Latinx workers during the COVID-19 pandemic adds to our understanding of essential labor in practice and provides important considerations for future regulatory action and advocacy efforts.

“Religion and Revolution in Julia Alvarez’s 1994 Novel In the Time of the Butterflies; Making the Case for Recognizing and Validating Religion in (Dominican) Politics.”

X. Ramos-Lara

No matter one’s political ideology, theists must recognize the importance religious devotion has on their thought processes and subsequent actions and praxis. People in Latin American countries, especially, have the potential to use their religion(s) to influence entire political agendas and even incite revolutions, as is evident in Julia Alvarez’s 1994 novel In the Time of the Butterflies. Using this novel as my main source of evidence, I will claim that religion, in particular Roman Catholicism, can liberate oppressed populations who disidentify with colonial modes of power. I will also argue that the condition in which General Trujillo treated vulnerable classes of his Dominican Republic is comparable to Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his mistreatment of the working class’ health, labor, and general safety. Specifically, I will examine the impact of right-wing, religious-based authoritarianism on already vulnerable Latinx communities in the US and NC.

“Navegando COVID-19: Examining the Impact of COVID-19 on Rural NC ESL Teachers”

Sophia Rekeibe-Tomé

COVID-19 has changed every aspect of our social sphere. From work to social gatherings, everyone has drastically changed their routine. Education is not different in that regard. Many public schools were forced to grapple with COVID-19 and shift to virtual classes in March of 2020. Underserved communities in the North Carolina undoubtedly face exacerbated inequalities due COVID-19 and English Language Learners (ELLs) are no exception to that. North Carolina becomes a unique space for investigation as previous research would describe it as a “new destination” state for immigrants. I will be specifically examining ESL teachers and their roles as interpreters (figuratively and literally) between North Carolina public education and their immigrant Latino students (and their families). My research questions are (1) how is COVID-19 affecting opportunities of learning among ESL students, and (2) how are ESL teachers seeking to respond to COVID-19 effects on their students? I will collecting my data by conducting qualitative interviews of ESL and classroom teachers in a rural North Carolina school district. While the interviews have not started, I will be discussing my hypothesizes and boarder issues this project hopes to tackle.

“From Mystery Fiction Detectives to Migrant Farm Workers: Female Power and LatinX Identity in Moments of Crisis”

Aayush Mehra

My work examines the Latinx author Daniel José Older’s mystery narrative “Date Night” and its relevance to the broader discourse on breaking away from the rigid female tropes, heteronormative story arcs, and heterosexual character portrayals that are often seen in contemporary works of mystery, detective, noir and hardboiled narratives. Through my article, I will explore how Daniel José Older purposefully deviates from the archetypical portrayal of females as ‘damsels in distress’ by understating the cultural and sexual identities of his female protagonists and emphasizing their strength and use of violent weaponry, as they save themselves from a common monster. I will juxtapose this exploration by highlighting the role of how strength and resilience is performed by Hispanic women of industrial parts of Northern California who serve as essential agricultural workers and truck drivers in areas ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presenter Biographies:

Kevin Gomez-Gonzalez is a second-year undergraduate student at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media pursuing a degree in reporting. His stories primarily cover workers’ rights advocacy efforts, particularly in industries with predominately Latino workforces, and focuses on the intersections of labor and issues of class, race, and gender.

X. Ramos-Lara is a sophomore majoring in what they like to call Social Justice and Literature. Their academic interests center around the examination of post-colonial texts, specifically novels, through an intersectional Marxist feminist lens, the liberation of BIPOC queer and trans people, and the histories and writings of revolution[s/aries]. In their spare time, X. enjoys screaming about queer and classic literature, writing raunchy poetry, and being a wannabe vulgar fashion icon.
Sophia Rekeibe-Tomé is a queer Arab-Latine student raised in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. They are an undergraduate double majoring in Music and Sociology with a minor in Latina/o Studies. Sophia participated this past summer in Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (MURAP) under the mentorship of Michael Figueroa where their work examined how Mona Haydar, an Arab-American rapper, is responding to contemporary Orientalism and global patriarchy through her imagery and musical content. They were accepted to the 2020 State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium and presented their MURAP paperThis academic year they are working on a sociology honors thesis entitled “Navegando COVID-19: Examining the Impact of COVID-19 on Rural NC ESL Teachers”. Sophia will be graduating May of 2021 and will pursue a PhD in American or Ethnic Studies after completing a gap year.

Aayush Mehra is a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill, double majoring in Communication-Studies and Statistics-Analytics. He is interested in humane technology design, social and community enrichment and ethical commerce.



February 16, 2021
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm



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