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In the Department of International & Transcultural Studies

Recent Publications & Awards

Recent Student Publications

This paper examines how a transnational orientation shapes Dominican mothers’ contradictory attitudes towards education in New York City. Through this ethnographic study, which draws on 36 interviews, community walkabouts, and participant observations in community-led adult education classes, we show how Dominican mothers struggle with conflicting values; on the one hand, they embrace the idea of schooling for individual advancement, integration in the US, and critical thinking, while on the other hand, they regret the diminution of a collective, family orientation and respect for parents. Overall, this study shows that contradictions are not a sign of confusion or denial, but rather a struggle to transform cultural practices that satisfy multiple worlds. A deeper understanding of these contradictions could help educators and educational institutions consider how these transnational tensions motivate parent engagement and their hopes for their children’s education.

Read "Negotiating contradictions: educación among Dominican transnational mothers in New York City" by Aldo Anzures Tapia, Rodrigo Mayorga (current PhD student), Gabrielle Oliveira, Lesley Bartlett, Chelsea Kallery, Cynthia N. Carvajal, and Victoria Martínez-Martínez.

Audrey Le explores how people negotiate commitments to engaging in joint activity while at the same time anticipating and managing the inherent risks of collaboration.

Read "'There's no rules. It's hackathon.': Negotiating Commitment in a Context of Volatile Sociality" by Graham M. Jones, Beth Semel, and Audrey Le, current TC PhD student.



Jones, G. M., Semel, B. and Le, A. (2015), “There's no rules. It's hackathon.”: Negotiating Commitment in a Context of Volatile Sociality. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 25: 322–345. doi:10.1111/jola.12104

Bruce Burnside's work, centered on a youth center in Berlin, draws on the anthropology of performance and the concept of "friction" to argue for an understanding of performances of belonging, where migrant girls stage acts of inclusion through creative encounters with the forces of integration to negotiate social effects.

Read "When the Girls Still Wore Headscarves: Integration and Belonging in an After-School Center in Berlin” by Bruce Burnside, current PhD student.



Burnside, Bruce S. (2015), When the Girls Still Wore Headscarves: Integration and Belonging in an After-School Center in Berlin. Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education, 9: 140-154. doi: 10.1080/15595692.2015.1013530

Prashanth Kuganathan locates the system of caste in transition in the Jaffna Peninsula in Sri Lanka by reviewing recent literature written after the commencement of the war.

Read "Social Stratification in Jaffna: A Survey of Recent Research on Caste" by Prashanth Kuganathan, current PhD student.



Kuganathan, P. (2014), Social Stratification in Jaffna: A Survey of Recent Research on Caste. Sociology Compass, 8: 78–88. doi: 10.1111/soc4.12101

Recent Awards

Andrew Wortham awarded Cowin Research Fellowship

Andrew Wortham has joined the Cowin Financial Literacy Project as an Associate Project Manager and Doctoral Research Fellow.  He will be working with Joyce Cowin, Anand Mandi, Maureen Grolnick and Rob Shand on their work to develop and teach a course on financial literacy that high school teachers can teach in their classrooms.  The project emerged from the 2008 financial crises when Joyce Cowin felt that many Americans had been misled due to a lack of understanding about their financial situation and options.  This course seeks to move beyond simply lecturing students about financial terms and use case studies to teach students how to critically evaluate situations and make better financial decisions.  It also hopes to empower lower-income students to understand the financial systems, and advocate and work for broader structural changes.  Andrew will be helping to write the curriculum and launch the new online classes that begin in January 2017.

Amelia Herbert awarded 2016 Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship

Amelia Herbert has been awarded a 2016 Predoctoral Fellowship by the Ford Foundation and National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. These awards are made to individuals who have demonstrated superior academic achievement, are committed to a career in teaching and research at the college or university level, show promise of future achievement as scholars and teachers, and are well prepared to use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students.
Amelia's research focuses on the ways that the transition from high school to university transforms the subjectivities of black youth from townships in Cape Town, South Africa. She also seeks to understand the social production of university spaces and the experiences of black youth on the campuses of selective universities. This focus relates to her broader interest in how educational attainment affects the ways people see and situate themselves in relation to power, privilege, and authority, especially in contexts of marked disparity in access to resources, including South Africa and the United States. In the context of current calls to decolonize and diversify universities, Amelia seeks to illuminate the quotidian experiences of the students driving this movement and to supplement institutional notions of diversity (often articulated in terms of enrollment data, policies, and programming) with a focus on the lived realities of students who are navigating the cultural dimensions of the university from a marginal positioning.

Shana Colburn receives a V.K. Wellington Koo Fellowship for the 2016-2017 Academic Year, awarded through the Weatherhead East Asian Institute

With the support of the V.K. Wellington Koo Fellowship, Shana will complete the writing of her dissertation. Her study is a person-centered ethnography based on 8 months of fieldwork conducted in China's first Internet radio station. Through the medium of the station, the study probes the construct of the Chinese state at the intersections of youth, technology and the market. Within the analysis, Shana grapples with the role of the individual in narrating and creating meaning to how the party-state is presently recognized and understood. Thus she situates the individual as not only a unit of analysis within the larger framework of the project, but also as a phenomenon under study within Chinese society at large (Yan 2009). By doing the work of ethnography, the project sheds light on the lived realities of a Chinese media organization operating in a time of heightened market competition, declining state support, and within an urban environment that is increasingly open to, as well as at the whims of the logics of neoliberal policies and practices.


Anthropology students Andrew Wortham and Michelle Zhang awarded Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships for the 2016-2017 Academic Year

Andrew Wortham is currently a first-year Masters student. After two years of teaching in a small village in Yunnan, China, he witnessed a complex social process of students positioning and being positioned as successes and failures. This was derived partially through specific school interactions but also reflected social practices of youth culture amongst adolescents. For his FLAS research he will be studying Chinese so that he can return to this village and study the creation of rural youth culture, especially amongst students whose parents reside in other parts of the country for work and thus have increased social emphasis on friends and cohorts over traditional family structures. 

As a third-year doctoral student, Michelle will be using her FLAS award to begin preparing to undertake fieldwork in the Fall of 2017. She hopes to use the additional language training to improve her academic proficiency in reading Chinese, a necessary skill to engage deeply and critically with the wealth of Chinese-language resources available. Michelle’s research focuses on discursive categories in practice; at the moment, she is particularly interested in strategies of locality production in relation to government-imposed hukou policies. Her participants in Beijing are often labeled “non-local” or “migrant” - she hopes that an emphasis on practice and the everyday work of locality can uncover the processes by which such commonsensical labels are produced.

Sarah Brennan receives the Society for the Anthropology of Europe and the Council for European Studies Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowship for 2016

Sarah French Brennan's dissertation research examines how the processes of claiming asylum as a sexual minority produces rather than simply represents a specific type of subject, with a specific focus on Muslim asylum seekers. In the context of the largest influx of refugees in Europe since the Second World War, as well as resurgent xenophobic nationalism in the Netherlands and across Europe, Islamophobia has become a real political force, and the supposed exceptional homophobia of Muslim communities in particular has ignited a moral panic over "tolerating intolerance." Muslims who apply for asylum as sexual minorities thus inhabit a unique space. A successful asylum claim involves the telling of a narrative credible to the asylum system, using the ideological idioms of sexuality, experience, and culture that are intelligible and recognizable to Dutch officials. What is the role played by formalized social networks and small non-governmental organizations in producing and constituting communities of Muslim “LBGT asylum seekers” and refugees? What are the contexts in which strategies, stories, and social lives are shared between asylum seekers?

The Council for European Studies has supported this research with the 2015 Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowship, helping to fund initial stages of fieldwork, offering the opportunity to publish in the journal, Perspectives on Europe, and providing professional development activities, including participation in the annual CES Conference.

Dr. Oliveira named finalist for Outstanding Dissertation Award

Dr. Gabrielle Marcelletti Rocha de Oliveira (2015) is a finalist of the Outstanding Dissertation Award given every year by the Council on Anthropology and Education to recognize the author of an outstanding dissertation recently completed in the field of anthropology and education. 

Dissertation Title: Transnational Care Constellations: Mexican Immigrant Mothers and their Children in Mexico and in New York City.

Abstract: The feminization of Mexican migration to the United States is increasing, and more mothers who migrate leave their children behind for long periods to be cared for by grandparents or relatives in Mexico. We know little about how transnational familial ties across the U.S. -Mexico border influence the educational aspirations and social trajectories of this group of children. This study asks how Mexican maternal migration has influenced the education, migration aspirations, and social opportunities of the children in Mexico, comparing these to their siblings who were brought over to America or who were born in the United States. These families, or what refer to “transnational care constellations” include the following types of members: New York based undocumented mothers; the children they brought to the U.S. (also undocumented); their U.S. born offspring (U.S. citizens); children they have left behind in Mexico; and children’s caregivers in Mexico. Drawing on ethnographic method as well as surveys I examine transnational caregiving practices among women with mixed-status children in New York and Mexico. The ethnographic core of my dissertation work tracked twenty transnational families who are split between Mexico and the U.S over a period of 18 months. My scholarship contributes new perspectives to studies of transnational migration and the intersections between sociology of migration, and anthropology of gender and education. The field of migration and education is fundamentally interdisciplinary, thus I use anthropological methods and theory to address questions that are usually addressed by sociologists and economists.

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