Projects Funded in 2010

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Degree Program
Location Project Title & Abstract
Riaan Ahmed
B.S. Bio Anth
Saara Hafiz
B.A. Int Aff
Boston, MA Punk Islam: How Contemporary Muslim-American Youth Perform Music in the Creation of Alternative Identities

Advisors: Alexander Dent and Ilana Feldman

This project will investigate the social and cultural components of the punk Muslim subculture in Boston, MA. We will interview members of the Boston Punk Islam "scene" and attend performances to analyze how musical and social structures overlap in the formation of identity. This project is important because of the increasing American concern over Muslim identity. It is the first academic study of this subculture and will contribute to the growing anthropological literature on the relationship between sound and culture.

Danica Brister
B.S. Bio Anth 
Washington, DC All Roads Lead to Sakha: A Three-Pronged Analysis of Population Structure and Migration Among the Yakut of Siberia

Advisor: Moses Schanfield

This study aims to describe population structure of the Yakut of North-Eastern Siberia and assess how they have been affected by historic migrations in comparing three sets of haplotype data: mtDNA, NDY, and immunoglobin allotypes. This will show the level of integration of modern Yakut communities as well as evaluate cultural behavior types that have been associated with specific molecular genetic distributions. Immunoglobin allotype frequency of 11 Yakut communities will be determined from agglutination inhibition tests on GW's Mount Vernon Campus.

Habiba Chirchir
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
Washington, DC Pilot Study: Comparative Study on the Bone Architecture of Humans and Other Mammals Adapted for Speed versus Endurance

Advisor: Brian Richmond

Humans are remarkable at running at sustained speed over long distances because of various structural adaptations. This project, conducted at the Human Evolutionary Laboratory, in the Hominid Paleobiology Doctoral Program, GW, will employ micro-computed tomography to quantify trabecular bone of sprinters and long distance ranging (non-running) mammals in order to test the hypothesis that reduction in trabecular bone volume is an adaptation for locomotor efficiency. The results will have implications on understanding the origins of efficient locomotion among hominins.

Karen Clune
M.P.H. Global Health
Kenya (Rift Valley Province) Understanding the Challenges Faced by Pokot Women Recovering from Obstetric Fistula Surgery

Advisors: Barbara Miller and Elanah Uretsky

Obstetric fistula is a consequence of prolonged labor without emergency medical care. As a result of the physical impairments, women are shunned, rejected, and often blamed for their condition by their families and communities. Through participant observation and in-depth interviews, I will explore the lived experiences of Pokot fistula survivors, specifically the stigma-related challenges faced during reintegration. This study will contribute to ethnographic research on the intersection of reproduction and stigma.

Adriana Corá e Silva
M.A. Anth 
Brazil (Itanhaém) Dead Doctors and Living Patients: Interpretations of Illness at a Spiritual Healing Center in Itanhaém, Brazil

Advisor: Barbara Miller

This project will study perceptions of health and illness that inform choices of treatment of patients that attend a spiritual healing center in Brazil. This study will contribute to critical medical anthropology's understanding of how social circumstances may influence healing choices and how biomedical concepts are reinterpreted to fit cultural and religious beliefs. I will conduct research using methods such as participant observation and in-depth interviews at a Kardecist spiritual center in Itanhaém, a city located in the state of Säo Paulo, Brazil.

Hermon Farahi
M.A. Anth
Guam, Saipan The Indigenous (in) Empire: The Militarization of Guam and The Chamorro Resistance

Advisors: Ilana Feldman and David Gow

The Indigenous "Chamorro" people of Guam are facing the impacts of the largest military base expenditure in modern history (Lutz 2009). My goal is to identify how Chamorros are mobilizing in opposition to the military buildup, and what factors hinder solidarity to their cause. Using multi-sited methods of participant observation and semi-structured interviews with indigenous activists, organizations, and residents in Guam and Saipan, this project will contribute to the ethnographic literature on post-colonialism, militarization and indigenous social movements in Oceania.

Nicolaas Fourie
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
Washington, DC Do Hair Cortisol and Testosterone Levels Track Age-Related Changes in Endocrine Function?

Advisor: Robin Bernstein

This project will test whether hair cortisol and testosterone levels track age-related developmental patterns in a nonhuman primate model. Hair of wild and captive baboons, representing five age classes, has been obtained for analysis. Steroid levels will be extracted using refined published protocols and quantified using enzyme immunoassay techniques. This novel methodology provides a technique that can be applied to endocrinology-based studies in nonhuman primate or human populations where the collection of blood, saliva, urine, or feces may be problematic.

Kevin Hatala
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
Kenya (Ileret) Fossil Footprints and the Biomechanics of Footprint Formation: Implications for the Evolution of Human Gait

Advisor: Brian Richmond

While the evolution of bipedal human gait remains a central theme of research in human evolution, new data and methods are necessary to resolve debates over the interpretation of fossil evidence. This project will focus on the interpretation of fossil footprints, which can preserve direct evidence of the locomotor patterns of extinct human ancestors. Biomechanical analyses of footprint formation by the habitually unshod Dassenach peoples from Ileret, Kenya will provide a novel technique for interpreting gait patterns from fossil footprints.

Laura Meek
M.A. Women's Stud
India (Himachal Pradesh) Investigating the Integration of Traditional and Biomedical Health Promotion in a Women's Empowerment Project in Rural Himachal Pradesh, India

Advisor: Barbara Miller

This project analyzes the women's empowerment initiatives of Shakehands in rural areas around Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, northern India. Through participant observation and guided interviews with staff, I will explore projects related to education, such as conducting home visits when girls are habitually absent from school, organizing workshops for girls and women, and teaching English and computer skills to adult women.

Daniel Miller
M.A. Anth
Atlanta, GA CA2 and NG2 Distribution: Brain Connectivity and Myelin-Associated Proteins in Human Evolution

Advisors: Chet Sherwood and Todd Preuss

This project compares the distribution of the CA2 and NG2 proteins in the neocortex of humans and related primate taxa using immunofluorescence techniques at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. CA2 and NG2 are proteins involved in the generation, maturation, and maintenance of architecture vital to sustained, simultaneous multi-modal neural activity and plasticity, which ultimately results in versatile, complex behavior. My goal is to investigate the distribution, and thus potential role these proteins play in the cognitive specialization of Homo sapiens.

Huma Mohibullah
M.A. Anth
Vancouver, BC Female Identities in Flux: Negotiating Gender in Little India, Vancouver

Advisor: Barbara Miller

This project compares shifts in gender ideologies among three generations of women of Little India, Vancouver, BC. It will be conducted through ethnographic research, including participant observation and interviews with women — grandmothers, mothers, and daughters — from five families. Research questions will focus on issues of acculturation, assimilation, resistance to assimilation and identity construction in one of the oldest diasporas in North America. This project contributes to cultural anthropology in several areas: South Asian culture, identity formation, women's roles and diaspora.

Elizabeth Nistico
B.A. Int Aff
Samuel Schall
B.A. Int Aff
New York, NY Sugar Daddies: The Reality of Affluent Cross-Generational Relationships in New York City

Advisor: Barbara Miller

A Sugar Daddy bond is a cross-generational exchange relationship in which money and resources are exchanged for sex and/or companionship. In the United States, Sugar Daddy culture is taboo and is understudied by anthropologists. Our research will describe how members of the Sugar Daddy culture in New York City view their relationships in a wider cultural context and how they conceptualize love, sex, survival, and personal identity in the realm of the relationships. The study contributes to many areas of cultural anthropology and will provide a unique case study of Sugar Daddy culture in New York City.

Caitlin Nordehn
M.A. Anth
Sweden (Växjö) Catholic and Muslim Immigrants' Life Projects and Negotiations With Lutheranism in Växjö, Sweden

Advisors: Ilana Feldman and Robert Rinehart

This proposed project will explore how Catholic and Muslim immigrants in Växjö, Sweden, use their respective minority religious institutions and identities to create their own life projects in a state based on egalitarian Lutheran principles. I will examine how immigrants and native Swedes perceive this Lutheran-based "imagined sameness" (Gullestad 2002). Through participant observation, structured, and informal interviews this study seeks to understand immigrants' interactions with Swedish society's "imagined sameness" and religions' role in the formation of their own communities.

Tatyana Shpigel
B.A. Anth & Int Aff
Ukraine (Kiev, Mariupol) Ideologies, and Formal versus Informal Language Socialization: The Effects of Derussification on Youth Identity Negotiation in East Ukraine

Advisors: Alexander Dent and Joel Kuipers

This study will explore the change in linguistic practices of bilingual East Ukrainians as a result of derussification and new language ideologies in the post-Soviet period. Research will be conducted about language use in educational institutions in Kiev and about how language use varies in unofficial daily interactions. This study will examine how bilinguals view their identity based on both Ukrainian and Russian language use, how they are expressing a Ukrainian identity in Russian, and how identity perceptions differ between generations.