American Studies

Dewi Zarni - Race, Migration, and Criminalization in the U.S.

Dewi currently works at the Prison Law Office, a nonprofit, public interest law firm, which fights to uphold the rights and humanity of incarcerated people in California prisons and jails through class action lawsuits and other impact litigation.

Area of Concentration Courses

Eth Std 190AC: Inside and Beyond Walls: Migra, Masses, and Mass Incarceration
Africam 136: Criminal Justice and Surveillance in America
Eth Std 180L Engineered Inequality: Race, Criminality, and Technology
Asamst 125: Contemporary Issues of Southeast Asian Refugees in the U.S.
Sociol C146M: Membership and Migration: Empirical and Normative Perspectives
Legalst 132AC Immigration and Citizenship


A Wave of Racial Violence: A Case Study on The Role of Crime Narratives in Oakland Chinatown

Dewi’s honors thesis investigates the dominant narratives regarding rising violence in Oakland Chinatown during the COVID pandemic, which politicians, news coverage, and law enforcement overwhelmingly attributed to anti-Asian sentiment and individual hate crimes. Analyzing local media coverage, crime data, and statements from police, elected officials, and community organizers, the thesis demonstrates how a focus on individual actors obscured systemic factors driving poverty and violence, and calls into question the evidence of rising crime. Situating these events in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, the growing calls to defund the Oakland Police Department, and the department’s long history of abuse and misconduct, the thesis also examines how the rhetoric around hate crimes serves to rehabilitate police image, justify expanded funding, and reposition the state as the adversaries, rather than the enactors, of racial violence.

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