Highlighting Students in Berkshire’s Advanced Humanities Research Program

Megan Mokriski '21, Editor-in-Chief

This year, students in Berkshire’s Advanced Humanities Research Program are working with Dr. Sandy Perot to research and write papers. They spend the year diving into a topic that fascinates them, which can span from immigration to algorithms. In the first semester, they chose topics for their essays and analyzed works from a diverse group of authors, doing the bulk of the research. In the second semester, they began to work on their 25-page essays while submitting their abstracts to various conferences. Noah Helmke ’21, Maggie Shen ’22, and Samantha Bernstein ‘22 all had their paper accepted into conferences.  These students’ projects are highlighted here. 


Noah Helmke ’21

Accepted to the 3rd International Conference on Advanced Research in Social Sciences (ICARSS), which will be held in Oxford, UK, from March 11 – 14, 2021 as a virtual presentation.

Immigration has become a prominent topic in politics within the United States, especially with the events surrounding our presidential election. One thing we know is that the country we see today was built off immigrants and their vision of a better life for themselves and their families. It is not possible to write a paper about the impacts of all immigrants on our country because it spans over 400 years and many regions across the globe. I looked at the direct impact of immigrants on Brooklyn, a borough of New York City, in the late 1800’s into the early 1900’s. During this time, Brooklyn experienced an immense amount of immigration coming from Europe, fleeing the effects of World War I, famine, prejudice, and other factors. For them, America was a symbol of a better life and hope for their futures. However, their impact on Brooklyn and its culture was much more than simply finding a place to live freely. They were able to conduct cultural bubbles where they could express themselves and their homeland from the style of their churches, synagogues, shops, dress, and food. To this day, the effects of their culture can still be seen on the streets or hidden in a neighborhood’s character. Whether it be the architectural design on a building or the type of food from the deli, these aspects of immigrants’ lives leave us with something that cannot go forgotten.


Samantha Bernstein ‘22:  Using Feminist Theory to Understand the Implications  of Power Imbalances in Obstetrics and Gynecology 

Accepted to the International Conference on Medical Humanities, which will be held from March 13-14th, 2021 in London virtually. 

The history of Obstetrics and Gynecology is rooted in the oppressive nature of the patriarchy and slavery. Dr. Joseph Bolivar DeLee, the “father of modern obstetrics” and Dr. J. Marion Sims, the “father of modern gynecology” both pioneered each specialty in a time “characterized by excessive preoccupation with female modesty and delicacy.” Dr. Sims initiated and grew the speciality of obstetrics by capitalizing off of enslaved women who were forced to participate in and contribute to his research. While these womens’ contribution to the specialty of Obstetrics has been lost to history, the racism ingrained in the power dynamics of the birthing process of women in color remains in America. 

Although the societal significance of modesty began to change in the nineteenth century, the power dynamics at the crux of its actions persists. Looking to feminist theories on power dynamics and gender to understand women’s medicine should offer insight into the pervasiveness of these power imbalances. This study seeks to understand the historical implications of Obstetrics and Gynecology through a closer examination of feminist theories along with the connection between the origins of misogyny and slavery. These unequal power relationships often lead to the preference that 75% of women have for a female OBGYN and the overwhelming failure of these doctors to recognize and treat women’s pain. Furthermore, the ingrained nature that slavery had on Obstetrics and Gynecology manifests in implicit biases towards women of color, leading to an even more complicated conversation about power dynamic imbalances systemic in the United States today. 


Maggie Shen ‘22: The Danger of Algorithmic Technologies: Social Degradation and Distorted Perception of Identity

Accepted to ICGS 2021: International Conference on Globalization and Society. 

Surpassing 2.5 billion global downloads since its launch in 2016, TikTok is widely regarded as one of the most downloaded social media platforms in the world. Bytedance, the parent company of TikTok, however, identifies itself as an AI company instead of social-platform-creator and relies heavily on algorithms to curate and produce personalized content tailored to each of its users. Algorithms irreversibly pervade around the globe into almost every aspect of human life, bringing unprecedented convenience while posing underlying danger, such as polarization, discrimination, and legitimacy issues. This research seeks to unveil and analyze the potential social danger of algorithms concerning human identity. For instance, algorithmic recommendation systems used by social media platforms and algorithmic machine learning applied to face-recognition systems create self-doubt, disharmony, and social anxiety. In using a variety of social media sources, this paper argues that algorithmic technologies stimulate social degradation—including instability and stagnation—and negatively impact humans’ empathy and perception of identity, thereby reducing individual’s social and self worth.