Projects Funded in 2009

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Degree Program
Location Project Title & Abstract
Helen Alesbury
B.S. Bio Anth & B.A. Arch
Washington, DC, New York City Age at Death Estimation Using the Frontonasal Suture in Human Skeletal Remains

Advisor: Robin Bernstein

This project investigates the utility of frontonasal suture fusion for determination of age at death in human skeletal remains. The main goal is to produce a usable scale, using known-age samples at varying degrees of fusion. To accomplish this, the research will make use of extensive collections housed at two institutions. The proposed research has important implications for practicing anthropologists, as it will contribute valuable data and enhance the accuracy of age estimation.

Amanda Eller
B.A. Intl Aff
Miami, FL Medical Pluralism in an Ethnic Enclave: The Coexistence of Traditional Haitian and Western Biomedical Healing Systems in Little Haiti, Miami

Advisors: Barbara Miller and Bryan Page

This research will examine the health care-seeking behaviors of Haitian immigrants in Little Haiti, Miami, and the relationship between the biomedical doctors and traditional healers who serve this community. Haitians in Miami have limited access to biomedical health care, but many go to the clinic at the Center for Haitian Studies, which offers culturally sensitive services and greater accessibility. Many Haitians in Miami and throughout the U.S. also visit traditional healers. Through participant observation at the Center and interviews with clients, I will learn about their choices for health care. Interviews with health care providers and Little Haiti's traditional healers will shed light on their views of medical pluralism among Haitians in Little Haiti.

Hermon Farahi
M.A. Anth
Morocco (Tangier) Sub-Saharan African Transit Migration: The Fragmented Path to Europe via Morocco

Advisors: Stephen Lubkemann and Barbara Miller

Morocco has become a point of departure for many Sub-Saharan Africans who seek to migrate to Europe. My goal is to identify the complex experiences and social relations involved in migrants' process of decision-making and negotiation of "risk" while undertaking the "journey." I seek to understand migrants' underlying motivations, social pressures/expectations, and their use of social networks or "social capital." My project will contribute to understandng the emerging concept of "transit" migration through fieldwork in Tangier, Morocco, using ethnographic research methods including participant observation and informal open-ended and semi-structured interviews.

Matthew LeDuc
M.A. Anth
Washington, DC & Flagstaff, AZ Hopi Perspectives on Identity, Traditional Culture, and the Preservation of Intangible Heritage

Advisor: Barbara Miller

The study will explore Hopi ideas about heritage, tradition, and identity through an examination of the Footprints of the Ancestors Project, a cultural heritage program jointly run by the Hopi Tribe and Northern Arizona University. By connecting Hopi youth with the traditional culture, the Footprints Project addresses concerns, expressed by many Hopis, of culture loss and language shift. This study will explore how Hopi elders and youth perceive the benefits of preserving intangible cultural heritage.

Rajiv Menon
B.A. Intl Aff & Eng
Seeta Menon
B.A. Poli Sci & Phil
Washington, DC American Thamizh Magan: Indian Tamil Cultural Identity in the Greater Washington Area

Advisors: Barbara Miller and Kannan Nambiar

This project focuses on Tamils in the Washington, DC, area and their identity as "Tamils" and "Indian Americans." We will carry out participant observation at key sites of Tamil culture and conduct interview with first- and second-generation members of the Indian Tamil diaspora in order to examine their sense of identity. Our study helps fill a large gap in the anthropology of South Asian migration, which has relatively neglected Tamil migrants.

Maureen Moodie
M.A. Anth
San Francisco, CA Progressive Self-Fashioning in the Era of Transnational Social Activism: Fair Trade Organizations in San Francisco

Advisors: David Gow and Eric Ross

This project will explore social activist identity and genealogies among fair trade organizations in San Francisco. Ethnographic research with Global Exchange will analyze how activists are drawn to fair trade, where they came from, what makes them feel like legitimate members of the fair trade movement, and how they understand their current place in the movement. I will examine how activists assess the alternative trade goals of fair trade and the culturally local ways they define "fair." This project contributes to U.S.-based anthropological studies of San Francisco and social activism in political anthropology.

Katherine E. Schroer
Ph.D. Hom Paleo 
Germany (Leipzig) Developmental Process of Molarization in Pliocene Hominins

Advisors: Brian Richmond and Matthew Skinner

The "molarization" of premolar teeth in robust australopithecines is an important anatomical character defining the genus Paranthropus. However, this character may be convergent among Paranthropus taxa. This project, conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, employs micro-computed tomography to image the internal structure of fossil hominin premolars and morphometric analyses to test the hypothesis that molarized premolars grow in the same way in all robust australopithecine species. Results will have implications for the monophyletic nature of Paranthropus and hominin phylogenetics.

Katherine Schuhmacher
B.S. Bio Anth
Brazil (Piauí) Influence of Efficient Tool-Use on Social Rank in Two Groups of Tufted Capuchins

Advisor: Peter Lucas

This project investigates the relationship between the efficiency of tool-use behaviors and individuals' social rank in two groups of wild, habituated tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus libidinosus) in Piauí, Brazil. Feeding behaviors will be recorded using group scan and focal animal continuous sampling methods. Results of this study will examine the influence of maternal dominance rank on offspring's tool-use efficiency and improve our understanding of tufted capuchin tool-use.

Mark Smith
B.A. Anth
New York City Human Asexual Marginality: Online Communities, Discourse, and the Shaping of Daily Life in America

Advisors: Barbara Miller and Patty Kelly

Human asexuality is a "sexual" orientation that is relatively unknown and understudied within American culture. Even people who feel asexual may not necessarily know how to describe their asexuality because a vocabulary to describe this orientation is lacking. This project will contribute to filling the gap in knowledge about asexuals and their identities. I will collect and analyze online "discovery narratives" written by asexuals to gain an understanding of how asexuals discover themselves and shape asexual discourse. I will also conduct participant observation in New York City in order to gain insights about "real life" asexual discourse and then compare asexual discourse online to the actual.

Sophie Thibodeau
M.A. Anth
Annapolis, MD Women's Perceptions of Prenatal Education Programs in a Medicalized and Multicultural Context in Maryland

Advisors: Barbara Miller and Eric Ross

This project will study women's perceptions of prenatal education services provided at a Maryland hospital. It will look at the authoritative knowledge claimed by the Western biomedical professionals of the hospital alongside the sources of knowledge that women access in infant care. This study will contribute to critical medical anthropology research on reproduction and birthing by providing a case study of authoritative biomedical knowledge as conveyed through classes for mothers-to-be and the women's perceptions of and reactions to the courses.

Kristina Zarenko
B.A. Intl Aff & Anth
Pittsburgh, PA, & Washington, DC "It Ain't What You Do, It's the Way that You Do It": Identity Politics in West Coast Swing Dancing and Lindy Hop

Advisors: Alexander Dent and Barbara Miller

This study will look at identity formation of Lindy Hop and West Coast Swing dancers in Pittsburgh, PA, and Washington, DC. The two dances had common roots in the United States in the 1930s but are now separated by conflicting attachments to either "traditional" or "mainstream" tendencies. Dancers create identities through self-imposed ways of distinguishing between the dances. Clothing choices and the use of jokes are some ways dancers police the difference between dances. My research will give a more detailed explanation of the way in which "tradition" and "innovation" are related to each other in the context of dance.