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Research Awards

2012 recipients of Turnage Fund grants

Douglas Kass (Communications)
Dissident Media and the Struggle for Freedom of the Press

This research project will analyze media systems in the Central American countries of Cuba and Nicaragua, and in the Southeast Asian countries of Cambodia and Burma/Myanmar, where the struggles for freedom of speech and press are at crucial junctures. This follows up on some of Kass’s documentary film work to address questions about the role of media in countries during political transition. Special focus will be on dissident media.


Byung Lee (Communications)
Tweets by Five Presidential Candidates and the Structure of Linkage Behavior of Twitter Followers in the 2012 Presidential Election

This project will examine how five politicians in the 2012 presidential election – Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and President Barack Obama –communicate in a new media environment.  The study will also examine how citizens receive information in the Twitter network.  Do they receive messages directly from the politicians or through opinion leaders? Do they subscribe to one politician, multiple politicians, even across party lines? Do they passively receive information from political elites or actively participate in a forum for political deliberation?


Tom Mould (Sociology & Anthropology); Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler (Psychology); Aunchalee Palmquist (Sociology & Anthropology); Ashley Burns (Political Science); Kathy Colville (Human Services); Ken Hassell (Art); Darris Means (Elon Academy Associate Director); Greg Honan (student – Political Science); Sara Dufour (student – Anthropology); Community partners from Department of Social Services (DSS), Burlington Housing Authority; United Way; Allied Churches, among others.
The Faces of Welfare: A Comparative Analysis of Narratives about Public Assistance and Their Impact on Public Perception and Policy

This research project will examine the stories people tell about public assistance, with the primary goal of understanding the varied opinions, views and lived experiences of people both intimately involved in the welfare system such as aid recipients and providers, and those involved less directly, from politicians to consumers of U.S. media.  Further, this research will explore how these narratives contribute to political discourse nationally and locally. Specific goals of this research project include:

  • Identifying the conceptions and misconceptions about public assistance and its recipients as encoded in the narratives shared by multiple constituencies.
  • Providing relevant data that can be used by policymakers addressing welfare reform.
  • Providing accessible data to the general public that can be used to develop media literacy in political discourse about public assistance
  • Giving voice to underrepresented groups involved in public assistance programs.

The Voices of Welfare blog
The Voices of Welfare E-net article


Safia Swimelar (Political Science)
The Political, Symbolic, and Strategic Uses of Media Images of Political Violence in Contemporary Narratives of American Foreign Policy

This research project will investigate the political, symbolic, and strategic uses of images of political violence in contemporary narratives of American foreign policy. Through a number of case studies – such as the images of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, the dead bodies (or lack of) of key “foreign enemies” such as Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and Gaddafi, and images of the corpses and coffins of dead American soldiers – the project will seek to answer a number of questions, including: How has the changing media and technology landscape of image dissemination (e.g. social media, mobile devices) affected the political use of images of political violence?