What They Learned: Allison Hall ’21

The history and Spanish double major completed two theses, both focusing on South American identity and culture through the lenses of natural and built environments.

Completing one thesis is hard enough, but finishing two theses is quite a feat. Allison Hall ’21, however, was up for the challenge. The history and Spanish double major used both her theses to explore the connection between environment and identity in Chile and Argentina. “While my theses do not relate in any material or evidentiary way to one another, they do both deal with questions of identity and spatial understanding in South American environmental and cultural landscapes,” she said. 

Hall’s history thesis, “In Pursuit of Poetic Community: Alternative Imaginations of Architectural Politicality and Identity at the Open City, Chile,” examined the ways a Chilean architectural school challenged traditional curriculum in its engagement with the continent’s landscapes during the Augusto Pinochet regime. Her history topic derived from her interest in the dynamics of natural and built environments.

“When I started researching the Open City, I was amazed at how it linked so many themes which I have spent my four years at Haverford learning about, including Latin American identity, spatial politics, modern architecture, poetry, and the Spanish language,” she said. “This holistic tying together of my undergraduate career has rooted me throughout the process of writing my history thesis, and I do not believe I could have discovered a topic more fitting as a capstone for my undergraduate career.”

Her Spanish thesis, “Imaginaciones de una pampa alternativa: Multiplicidad y futuro en Distancia de rescate y Las aventuras de la China Iron,” focused on the Argentine pampas through the lens of two contemporary novels: Distancia de rescate by Samanta Schweblin and Las aventuras de la China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, both written by and about women. “My thesis argues for a reconceptualization of what the space can mean for an Argentine future based on ecological and queer decoloniality and pleasure,” Hall said. 

Her Spanish thesis was inspired by her study abroad experience in Buenos Aires, Argentina, during the fall of 2019. There, she engaged with Distancia de rescate and its impact on her remained through senior year. 

“I used that experience as a jumping off point in thinking about how to approach my work this year,” she said. “I feel so lucky to have had a full experience abroad prior to the pandemic and also one that I have been able to draw from for my thesis work.”

Professors James Krippner and Andrew Friedman helped guide her through idea development and revisions for her history thesis, while Associate Professor Graciela Micholetti aided the analysis in her Spanish thesis. 

“I am so grateful to my three advisors, as well as all of the other faculty members with whom I have consulted on both of my thesis projects,” said Hall. “Neither thesis would be the same without the constant care and support of both departments.”

What did you learn from working on your thesis? 
While I did succeed in learning so much about each of my topics and the academic circles into which they both fall, I am also amazed at how the process of writing my two theses has taught me about myself. It sounds clichéd, but I do think that one of the most valuable lessons I will take away from my senior year at Haverford is to be confident in my own ability to self-direct and to imagine, both intellectually and creatively. My projects (individually as well as taken together) have helped me become more confident in my ideas and interests, as well as my ability to accomplish sophisticated academic work.

What are your plans for the future?
While I do not yet have plans immediately following graduation, it is my long-term plan to pursue a Master’s of Library and Information Science and hopefully work in an academic setting. Given this, I do believe that the level of academic and archival research required for my theses has shaped my post-graduation plan and what I see myself doing in the future.

“What They Learned” is a blog series exploring the thesis work of recent graduates.