Projects Funded in 2007

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Degree Program
Location Project Title & Abstract
Margaret Artz
B.A. Intl Aff
South Africa (Winterveldt) Assessment of Youth Theatre as a Force for Social Change in South Africa

Advisors: Barbara Miller and Alexander Dent

Since 2003, theatre has been used to create a dialogue about important social problems at the Bokomoso Youth Center in the rural town of Winterveldt, South Africa. By tapping into the rich cultural tradition of performance arts that characterizes this region, theatre provides a mechanism by which youth participants can better communicate about, cope with, and reduce social problems that they experience in everyday life. This proposed study will investigate the perceptions of participants in the theatre program about the value of the program to them. It is based on 4 1/2-6 weeks of participant observation and focused interviews in Winterveldt. The project will contribute to an emerging and important area in performance studies that focuses on social justice and activism.

Geoffrey Cain
B.A. Anth & Intl Aff
Cambodia (Stung Mean Chey) Poverty, Free Markets, and the Body as Community: Rumors of Transplant Tourism and Organ Stealing in a Phnom Penh Suburb

Advisors: Robert Shepherd and Barbara Miller

In recent years, the Phnom Penh suburb of Stung Mean Chey has experienced rapid economic growth as a result of neoliberal globalization and industrialization. At the same time, changing market realities have introduced a new level of poverty never before seen in the area. With economic hardship has come an identifiable spike in rumors of "transplant tourism," narratives about impoverished and desperate local people dangerously selling their organs to wealthy foreign patients. My research objectives are to identify, collect and understand these widespread rumors. I will seek to link the rumors with key socioeconomic forces behind them. Stung Mean Chey is a microcosm of globalization, and the proposed project will illustrate how it fits into the global network of transplant rumors, and how such rumors are localized according to the situations of impoverished Cambodians.

Jessica Calvanico
B.A. Anth
Rosedale, MS Sacred Space in American Music Culture: Robert Johnson's Crossroads

Advisor: Alexander Dent

My project will investigate two of the most significant "creation spaces" of American music culture: the Mississippi "crossroads" where blues musician Robert Johnson purportedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for guitar virtuosity, and Sun Studios in Memphis, "the birthplace of rock 'n' roll," where Elvis Presley made his first hits. At these sites, I am concerned to analyze the way in which participants fashion musical history, attempt to absorb expertise, and create American "traditions."

Janine Chalk
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
Brazil (Gilbues, Piauí) Mechanical Properties of Diet in Bearded Capuchin Monkeys (Cebus libidinosus) in Piauí, Brazil

Advisors: Peter Lucas and Barth Wright

The goal of this project is to collect data on the mechanical properties of plant foods consumed by wild bearded capuchins monkeys (Cebus libidinosus) near Gilbues, Piauí, Brazil (9 degrees S, 45 degrees W). A portable mechanical tester will be used to quantify toughness and stiffness values. Feeding behavior will be recorded using interval focal animal sampling and continuous sampling. Results of this study will contribute to our understanding of bearded capuchin dietary ecology. This research will aid in developing hypotheses about the role of fallback resources in shaping primate dietary strategies, which can inform models of the role of diet in human evolution.

John Curran
B.A. Anth
Boston, MA Ideological Diversity in the Language of Massachusetts Judges' Jury Instructions: An Ethnography of Legal Discourse

Advisors: Alexander Dent and Joel Kuipers

The purpose of this research is to examine the relationship between the language that Massachusetts judges used when administering jury instructions and the ideologies embodied, enacted, and reproduced through their discourse practices. This study will add to our understanding of how microlinguistic phenomena are linked with wider social processes.

Jaclyn Dagger
B.A. Anth
New York City & Washington, DC The Memorialization of the Last Generation of Holocaust Survivors

Advisor: Stephen Lubkemann

My interest lies in how the remaining Holocaust survivors feel their narratives should be passed on after they are gone. This message is extremely important to explore at this point in time because in the next ten to twenty years the population of survivors in the United States will be gone. I will conduct my research in a number of different communities that surround major Holocaust museums in the United States. My research will be composed mainly of interview-based research, but will include archival and observational research as well. The first-person narratives that the Holocaust survivors offer the world are the single most important component in the battle against antisemitism today. Without the first-hand accounts that their stories offer the world, people are susceptible to numerous forms of hatred propaganda.

Lauren Deal
B.A. Anth
Argentina (Buenos Aires) & Washington, DC "Doe, a Deer - A Female Deer:" Figurative Language and Vocal Pedagogy in the United States and Argentina

Advisor: Alexander Dent

In voice lessons, teachers and students rely on figurative language in order to translate sensation into practice, thus perpetuating a vocal lexicon and system of practice that reflect the language and culture of the participants. My proposed study investigates the training of vocal practice by comparing case studies in Washington, DC, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. This study will contribute to our understanding of the role of language in education and the arts, as well as the anthropology of translation. It will also address the international status of classical music pedagogy, a comparison of the role of cultural identity in "vocal practice" in the United States and Argentina, and the use of figurative language to fill semantic gaps in both English and Spanish.

Robin Freeman
M.A. Anth
Arlington, VA Language Interrupted: Augmentative Technologies and Cultural Constructions of "Normalcy"

Advisor: Alexander Dent

Whether due to trauma or illness, children's abilities to "output" intelligible speech can sometimes be interrupted, yet they still possess (relatively) normal brain functioning and cognitive processing. As a result, these children use augmentative or assistive technologies to communicate with others. Devices generally fall into three broad categories: no tech, low tech, and high tech. These technological aids enable individuals to communicate, thereby promoting and empowering societal participation. Yet simultaneously, their use indicates a position outside culturally constructed bounds of "normal" child-language acquisition trajectories. Through participant-observation, academic research and semi-structured interviews, this research examines the relationship between language, cognitive development and cultural perceptions.

Nicole Griffin
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
Belgium (Antwerp) Hominid Forefoot Kinematics, Kinetics, and Bone Architecture

Advisor: Brian Richmond

Paleoanthropologists disagree whether early human ancestors were habitual, upright bipeds as modern humans are or if the former also incorporated climbing into their daily regime. This study will quantify the three-dimensional spongy bone structure and measure toe joint angles and plantar pressures of living great apes in order to form a basis for resolving current debates about early hominin locomotion. The overarching goal of this research is to improve our understanding of the evolution of bipedalism in the human lineage.

Heather Hwalek
B.A. Intl Aff
Jordan (Amman) For the Love of Strangers: Food Habits and Hospitality in Jordan

Advisor: Barbara Miller

As every culture must consume food to survive, eating rituals have long been engrained into society and have evolved to mirror cultural values. Within the Middle East, the tradition of hospitality (in Greek philoxenia, or one who loves strangers) has been an important aspect of life since pre-Islamic times and remains salient even today. In daily life this tradition is manifested most clearly through communal meal practices. The research would focus on the food practices of a family in Jordan and seek to explore acceptable and taboo behaviors during mealtimes and the differences between "regular" meals and ones at which a guest is present. By taking a focused look at domestic eating patterns, the research would reveal insights about the traditional and changing belief systems within Jordanian culture.

Nadia Rahman
M.A. Anth
Bangladesh (Dhaka) Authoritative Knowledge and Local Women's Knowledge: A Focus on Reproductive Health Initiatives of ICDDR/B

Advisor: Barbara Miller

This project seeks to assess the role of Western biomedecine (WBM) as an authoritative system, in the context of reproductive health care in Bangladesh. As an intern at the pre-eminent WBM health care institution in Bangladesh, ICCDR/B, I will conduct ethnographic research to explore the views of ICDDR/B staff, in Dhaka and at least one rural location, regarding "best practices" concerning reproductive health and their view of rural women's reproductive health knowledge and practices. I will examine the interaction between ICDDR/B health-care providers and clients. I will assess the extent to which biomedical authoritative knowledge is being accepted and adapted into local practices. This project contributes to medical anthropology and the anthropology of reproductive practices and beliefs of women in Bangladesh.

Lia Schwartz
B.S. Bio Anth
South Africa (Phalaborwa) A Behavioral Comparison of Peer Interactions in Orphaned and Non-Orphaned Baboons

Advisors: Peter Lucas and Patrick Lorch

Living in large social groups with intricate friendships, animosities and kinship bonds, baboons are highly-visible terrestrial inhabitants of the African savanna. This project will study the Chacma baboon of South Africa. Considered a pest, they are frequently trapped, killed, or abused, leaving behind many orphans who are not taught the intricacies of social baboon behavior. This project will compare the peer interactions of orphaned and non-orphaned Chacma baboons at a rehabilitation center in South Africa with the goal of recognizing the behavioral implications of being raised in a social environment without parental guidance.

Claire Selsky
M.A. Latin Amer Studies
Washington, DC Life, Latinos and the Pursuit of Healthiness: Health Care Experiences of Latinos in Mount Pleasant, Washington, DC

Advisors: Barbara Miller and Mark Edberg

The research project is focused on the health care experiences of Latin American immigrants in Washington, DC. In an effort to understand how Latino individuals maneuver through the U.S. health care system, I will interview male and female adult Latinos in Mount Pleasant. I will also interview health care providers who work in Mount Pleasant. In order to provide a context for the interview data, I will conduct participant observation in the area. My research will provide descriptive and narrative information on the Washington, DC health care system as experienced by an important and understudied minority group.

Irina Shrayber
B.A. Intl Aff & Anth
Philadelphia, PA Language Ideologies of Transformation and Acquisition within the Russian Community of Philadelphia

Advisor: Alexander Dent

I propose to explore the ways in which first and second generation Russian-speaking immigrants in Philadelphia have both transformed and maintained their original language. The proposed study will evaluate linguistic patterns such as code-switching, diction, and hesitation in the context of a change in a minority language. In particular, I would like to find out how the children of the Philadelphia Russian community who are most sensitive to their English-speaking environment, are influenced by the adoptive language's structure and society. What are the effects of the ideologies of linguistic change on family structure, education, and relationships?