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Ruben Caginalp '22

Ruben Caginalp

Major: Comparative Literature

Bio: Ruben Çağınalp is a scholar-activist whose work encompasses community organizing and social justice research at the intersection of LGBTQ+ and disability justice. A prospective May 2022 graduate Ruben is the founding chair of the Disabled Students Collective, which will celebrate disabled identities and center the needs of disabled students by housing a student accessibility policy council, coordinating cultural programming, and integrating disability services across the University. 

Title of Research: Ritual, Reliquary, and the Mediation of the Imaginary in Long Island Catholic Anti-Abortion-Rights Discourses
Mentor: Dr. Rebecca Sanchez
Abstract: Anti-abortion-rights literature, ritual, and material culture function by making interventions in the psyche that figure the imaginary as objective, making salient, visceral, and tangible the subjectivities that contemporary anti-abortion-rights arguments are premised on. Responding to the sociopolitical effects of the women’s movement, activists against abortion rights turned to fetal rights discourse to make a case against abortion rights by figuring fetuses as self-evidently human beings. In this study, I investigated the efficacy of this rhetoric, seeking to understand if and how fetal rights discourse structures the political imaginations of those who interface with it. Over the course of research, I conducted a literature review of anti-abortion-rights creative writing and digital media as well as reproductive rights history and feminist rhetorical theory, and used my findings to inform the 8 ethnographic interviews I conducted with alumni of Long Island Catholic high schools, culminating in the production of 10+ hours of interview data. I found that the ritual and material culture of anti-abortion-rights thinking stage interventions in the imaginations of those targeted for politicization, mitigating the vagueness of the notion of “the human” on which their arguments are predicated, causing participants in discourse to interface with the fetus-as-human figure as an objective entity and thereby collapsing the distance between the self and the envisioned. Moreover, the data indicates that the tactic tightly circumscribes the political imagination of those who interface with it, rendering a moral pro-abortion-rights stance outside the realm of their thinkable thought, a finding that gestures towards the paradigmatic challenges facing activists who support abortion rights.

Title of Research: Assessing the Accessibility, Intersectionality, and Trauma-Informed Care Capacities of Campus Mental Health Services
Mentor: Vanessa Rotondo
Abstract: Universities are a long way from making mental health care accessible, intersectional, and trauma-informed. Even when institutions invest in counseling and psychological services for students, there are numerous barriers to comprehensive mental health care that inhibit students from accessing and benefiting from available resources. These barriers are complex and situational, depending on each student. To start, undocumented and/or uninsured students may be ineligible for care altogether. Further, stigmas around mental illness, the possibility of police involvement, or potential breaches of confidentiality can also prevent students from trusting in mental health services altogether. Finally, for students that do access psychological services on campus, the care that they receive often fails to properly address the complexity of students’ issues and the diverse backgrounds that they come from. Care seems to be structured to provide for students mainly from white, middle-class, stable households and often is predicated on the assumption that those accessing such resources are confronting short-term problems, such as a breakup, which is evidenced by the quota placed on the number of free counseling sessions by universities and by the very structure of such sessions. Over the course of research, we plan to gather 10+ hours of interview data through conversations with , which we will analyze in concert with the results of a Google Form survey posted on our study Instagram page in order to better understand the obstacles that students face with accessing and fully benefiting from mental health resources on campus, and to generate actionable insights as to how universities can create comprehensive and intersectional trauma-informed counseling and psychological services for all students.