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Recent Publications & Awards
Recent Student Publications
How Teachers Can Use Anthropology in Classrooms
From my experience as a teacher in Jordan, my home country, I have come to see how education can bring out the strength that young people have within them. As a teacher in a small Jordanian town and later in the capital, Amman, I taught students from a variety of backgrounds—among them rural and town-settled Bedouin, Syrians, Palestinians and Iraqis. I came to see the need for education to make students feel confident and capable, whatever their background.
To achieve this, ideas taken from the social sciences in general, and from anthropology in particular, can be useful. I believe that these ideas can be adapted and put into practice to meet the educational needs of youth in the Arab region....
Read the entire article, "How Teachers Can Use Anthropology in Classrooms" by Afaf A. Koshman, current PhD student.
When kind of citizen? Temporally displaced citizenship education in a Chilean private school
In Chile, some elite private schools have developed a particular approach towards citizenship education, acknowledging the privileged social position their students occupy, while inviting them to disrupt the same social structure that has produced this privilege. However, the enduring salience of Chilean society's inequalities begs the question of how effective this approach truly is. This paper attempts to answer this, examining a Chilean private school and a particular service-learning activity. Through ethnographic methods and an analysis rooted in cultural production theory, the paper argues that, although many of its components are still quite problematic, service-learning activities like this one do provide opportunities for promoting participatory and social justice citizenship education, through the students' engagement in “collective deliberations.” However, these opportunities are neutralized when framed within a particular cultural fact – here called the Discourse of the Leaders – which displaces the enactment of students' citizenship into a future that still does not exist. The article provides a more nuanced understanding of the different ways inequitable social structures of privilege are dealt with in elite educational institutions that explicitly purport to challenge them. It also offers new avenues for educators to contribute to citizenship education practices that can more effectively promote social change.
Caste in a Tamil Family: On Purity and Pollution in Post-war Jaffna
Written using the voice of Zehra Hashmi, an ethnographic narrative examines caste in transition in Jaffna, centred around a Vel.l.āl.ar family that lived in the peninsula throughout the duration of the Sri Lankan Civil War, which came to an end in May 2009. Based on field research and interviews conducted between 2011 and 2013, the authors find that interlocutors struggle to make meaning of post-war changes.
Read "Caste in a Tamil Family: On Purity and Pollution in Post-war Jaffna" by Zehra Hashmi and Prashanth Kuganathan (current PhD student).
‘What can one do against democracy?’ The co-construction and destruction of ‘Student Democracy’ in a Chilean public high school (Mayorga, 2017)
This article examines how the actors of a Chilean public high school navigated the political scenario produced when its students decided to occupy their school to protest a national Educational Reform. Using ethnographic data and interviews with high school students, it proposes to understand this process in the context of a figured world directly linked with youth activism and student contentious politics: that of ‘Student Democracy’. The article argues that this figured world is constantly being produced by students, teachers and parents engaging in contentious local practices and that, in doing so, they create new opportunities for political action and citizenship education within school settings. It also argues that, by engaging with this figured world, students are participating in both ‘Student Democracy’ and the broader societal democracy, learning to be citizens in the present, and to deal with the possibilities, risks, and responsibilities that democratic participation always entails.
Read ‘What can one do against democracy?’ The co-construction and destruction of ‘Student Democracy’ in a Chilean public high school by Rodrigo Mayorga, current PhD student.
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.
Sarah French Brennan explores the many tribulations minority asylum seekers face, and the narrow patterns and behaviors they must conform to in order to be granted safety.
Read "Specter of the Fraud: Muslim Sexual Minorities and Asylum in the Netherlands" by Sarah French Brennan, current PhD student.
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
Rodrigo Mayorga receives EPSA's Policy Dissertation Research Fellowship
Description of Fellowship: The Education Policy Dissertation Research Fellowship is open to matriculated TC doctoral students, in ALLTC departments and programs, whose dissertation research has the potential to inform societal efforts to improve educational opportunity, achievement, or equity. This research should be focused on an important policy issue at any level of government, reflect potential for policy utility, and show a strong likelihood of being accepted in the most well-respected journals. Our view of policy relevance is a broad one, encompassing research that affects policy indirectly by shifting public understanding of societal challenges and opportunities for effective intervention.
Rodrigo's project is his dissertation reserach about citizenship in Chile. He is the first Anthropology student to receive this fellowship.
A. Kayum Ahmed awarded the National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship
Rodrigo Mayorga was named a 2018 Graduate Fellow of the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity at the Earth Institute, Columbia University
Rodrigo Mayorga was named a 2018 Graduate Fellow of the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity at the Earth Institute, Columbia University. This program provides its fellows with the possibility of conducting research projects linked with social change, conflict resolution, development, and sustainable peace, all around the world.
Rodrigo's research explores how high school students have become relevant actors in the Chilean political scene during the the last decade, demanding the eradication of the neoliberal pillars sustaining the educational system since the 1980s, more inclusive schools and non-sexist education. It also examines how this context of student protests has affected the traditional citizenship education provided by the State, and produced several new informal citizenship education practices, both inside and outside the space of the school. This project hopes to understand the ways in which citizenship education within and outside the school come together in an assemblage that informs the experience of being a student and a citizen in contexts of social violence, protest and turmoil, like that of contemporary Chile, and how, in the process of engaging with this assemblage of practices, students can strive for social change. With his research, Rodrigo also expects to illuminate how educators and researchers can recognize the different citizenship education practices students engage with when trying to build a more peaceful and democratic society and, more important, how they can engage productively with these youths as transformative social actors.
The Programs in Anthropology would like to congratulate Rodrigo on this achievement!
Corinne Kentor named a 2018 Graduate Research Fellow by the National Science Foundation
Amelia Simone Herbert has been awarded a 2017 Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Abroad Fellowship by the US Department of Education for her project “A Ticket to Life?: Schooling, Mobility, and Transformation in a No-Fee Independent Township High School”. The Fulbright-Hays DDRA Fellowship provides grants to colleges and universities to fund individual doctoral students who conduct research abroad in modern foreign languages and area studies. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
As a Fulbright-Hays Fellow, Amelia will conduct 12-months of ethnographic research at a peri-urban high school in Cape Town, South Africa. Through participant observation, interviewing, and focus groups she seeks to understand how students, families, alumni, and school staff perceive the role of schooling in achieving individual mobility and social transformation in the “new” South Africa. In South Africa, education is cited as both driver and potential solution for disparities consistently ranked among the starkest in the world. Post-apartheid reforms have birthed a controversial sector of nonstate and public-private schooling providers that serve low-income families and claim to interrupt entrenched “cycles of poverty” by producing upwardly mobile subjects who will act as change agents in their communities. Through in-depth ethnography, Amelia will explore how participants take up these claims in a no-fee independent high school that serves Cape Town’s oldest township community.
Gaps in higher education access in South Africa have received international attention due to ongoing protests, but Amelia’s study aims to investigate important dynamics of secondary education that help produce this widely publicized asymmetry. By focusing on the experiences of youth and families that navigate uneven schooling landscapes in a post-apartheid city, she hopes to foreground important perspectives that are often missing from academic literature.
Michelle Zhang awarded 3 Fellowships for fieldwork in China this Fall
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.