OUR Featured Researcher: Cecelia Longo '20

Portrait of Cecelia Longo.
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones

Cecelia Longo (they/them) is an Oberlin College Research Fellow (OCRF) majoring in History and Politics. They do mentored research under Professor Pablo Mitchell. Their project is titled "Strategic Victims: Agency, Power, and Belonging in Seattle, Washington 1880-1910”.

Please describe your project: 

My work focuses on women of various social and ethnic backgrounds in Seattle, Washington from 1880-1910. The focus of my study explores what prostitution and the suffrage movement can reveal about racial interactions, norms, and customs of Seattle in the late nineteenth century. Seattle, isolated from the East, is exposed to increasing immigration from California and East Asian countries. Through an analysis of census data, print media, and government documents, I begin to unravel the connection of race, state, and gender to better understand social belonging and interethnic communities.

What does the process of doing your research look like?

Working on this project looks a little different, depending on where I am. When in Oberlin, I spend time reviewing primary sources, reading secondary literature, and combing through digitized archives. At archives, I sift through old documents, photographs, and court proceedings.

What knowledge has your research contributed to your field?

My work focuses on a new concept, strategic victimization. Women navigated space within public society through the intentional use of "damsel" rhetoric. By leveraging perceived weaknesses, women gained power within the feminine world, while gaining tangible benefits in broader society.

In what ways have you showcased your research?

My work was presented at Oberlin College's Celebration of Undergraduate Research, World Class Day, and the Conference of Undergraduate Research. This winter, my work will be presented at the American Historical Associations biannual conference.

How did you get involved in research? What drove you to want to seek out research experiences in college?

Beginning my second year, I applied to the Oberlin College Research Fellowship to investigate the relationship between sex workers. Throughout my research process, my project evolved to tackle issues related to race, social, and class relations. Overall, my work is driven by a desire to understand more about sexual impropriety.

What is your favorite part about engaging in this work?

My favorite part of this research is working learning from other people. Meeting in cross disciplinary groups to discuss topics and share ideas has helped me learn more about myself and my research. Also, working to formulate new ideas is very rewarding. It is always cool to be an expert in something.

How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project? How has it impacted you as a researcher?

Honestly, I do not know where I would be without my mentor. During my research, Pablo has allowed me the space to try and fail. His trust in my ability to continue on and learn from mistakes has allowed me to follow a path of discovery. Also, having a person who knows your work and you well is an amazing feeling.

What advice would you give to a younger student wanting to get involved in research in your field?

Ask for help. If I learned anything from research, its that no one person knows everything and we need others to succeed. Asking for help, trying, and failing are important lessons which teach you more about yourself and your research.

CeCe Longo presents their research at a conference.

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