Projects Funded in 2011

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Degree Program
Location Project Title & Abstract
Tanvi Avasthi
B.A./M.A. Anth
India (Bangalore) Identity Politics among Progressive Indian Clinicians

Advisor: Barbara Miller

The purpose of this study is to identify clinicians' beliefs and attitudes toward medical pluralism and rationality in the biomedical context of Narayana Hrudayalaya in Bangalore, India. The construction of the healthcare practitioner's identity relies on community membership as well as professional legitimacy. At the forefront of technological innovation, clinicians face the difficulty of balancing scientific 'rationality' and traditional medicine's national identity. By engaging in interviews and participant observation, I will provide in-depth case study of Indian identity politics in the biomedical health system.

Carrie Benjamin
M.A. Anth
Senegal (Saint-Louis) Talibés and Marabouts: Children's Rights, Development, and Local Perspectives in Saint-Louis, Senegal

Advisors: David Gow and Ilana Feldman

In order to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the government of Senegal has recently classified religious schools as providers of primary education. The goal of the project is to investigate the perceptions of the Koranic education system in Senegal from the standpoint of NGO staff, international volunteers, and Koranic instructors. Through extensive interviews, participant observation, and reviews of the existing literature, the project will contribute to the discourse on children's rights and education relating to the anthropology of development.

Heather Dingwall
B.S. Bio Anth and B.A. Arch
Kenya (Ileret) Analysis of Homo erectus Fossil Footprints from Ileret, Kenya, in the Context of Unshod Daasanach Experimental Prints

Advisor: Brian Richmond

Fossil footprints provide the only direct physical evidence of bipedal gait exhibited by extinct hominins. However, the paucity of information regarding the relationship between pedal anatomy, gait, speed, and footprint morphology limits the inferences paleoanthropologists can make from such evidence. This project aims to clarify this relationship through experiments with habitually unshod subjects in Ileret, Kenya. The ultimate goal of this research is to use the modern experimental data to better understand fossil footprints and the evolution of human gait.

Justin Greco
B.S. Bio Sci and B.A. Arch
Belize (Say Kah) Determining Site-Status via Analysis of Maya Ceramics from Say Kah, Belize

Advisors: Jeffrey Blomster and Linda Brown

Say Kah, a secondary Classic Maya site in northwestern Belize, is located 3.7 km southwest of La Milpa, a contemporaneous major urban center. Previous investigations at the site revealed a number of elite markers, challenging taken-for-granted notions about the status and sociopolitical roles of residents occupying secondary centers in the Maya lowlands. To better evaluate the roles of secondary sites in political organization and regional integration, I will conduct analysis of ceramics using the type:variety method.

Cheyenne Lewis
B.S. Bio Anth and B.A. Arch
Washington, DC Use of Dorsal Parturition Pits as a Female Characteristic on the Human Pelvis

Advisor: Douglas Ubelaker

The goal of this research is to examine the possible use of dorsal parturition pits as a female sex characteristic on the human pelvis. The project will use the Terry Collection to test a large number of female and male pelves for these pits while also taking age into consideration. The results of this research will have applications in both forensic and archaeological settings in which they could help positively determine sex of an individual, especially with fragmentary remains.

Kate Markham
B.S. Bio Anth
Indonesia (Borneo) Monitoring Nitrogen and Energy Balance in Wild Bornean Orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) in a Peat Swamp

Advisor: Erin Vogel

This project will add to the small amount of knowledge about protein deficiency and protein regulation in wild primates. Protein cycling may occur during periods of low fruit availability when protein balance is negative. I will examine the protein balance of orangutans during periods of fruit scarcity. Urine samples will be collected from wild Bornean orangutans at Tuanan Research Station in Indonesia. From the samples, urea concentration and nitrogen isotope ratios will be measured to determine protein cycling.

Alicia O'Brien
B.A. Int Aff
Westminster, MD Describing the Gap: The Impact of Identity and Culture for Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities after Transitioning from School

Advisors: Frances Norwood and Barbara Miller

This research will explore individuals with cognitive disabilities in Westminster, MD, and how they negotiate transitioning from school to adult life. Parents, post-secondary and vocation educational instructors will be interviewed in an effort to understand how, and in what environment, individuals navigate this process. Participant observation in the classroom and during vocational training will provide contextualized interview data. My research will impart information on understudied impacts of identity and culture on the lives of the cognitively disabled transitioning to adult life.

Danielle Pelaez
B.A. Int Aff 
Spain (multiple localities) 21st Century Pilgrims: Exploring the Transmutation from the Religious Pilgrim to the Secular Adventurer

Advisor: Catherine Allen

El Camino de Santiago is a 1200-year-old, month long, Christian pilgrimage from the foothills of the Pyrenees to the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela. While in 1985 the Camino saw 400 travelers a year, today's attendance has surged to 400 per day (Registro de la Oficina de Acogida de Peregrinos). Through participant observation, I will investigate the causes for this surge. Is it attributable to Catholic religiosity, or do most pilgrims have other motivations (e.g., a more generalized spiritual journey or even touristic adventure)?

Claire Ragozzino
B.A. Intl Aff
India (Mysore) West Meets East: The Effects of Western Commodification of Yoga on Indian Yogic Identity and Practice

Advisors: Barbara Miller and Frances Norwood

Over the last decade, the transnational yoga industry has boomed to new commercial heights. Thousands of Westerners make pilgrimages to India each year seeking to authenticate their experience. However, a cultural exchange is occurring on both ends. Through an intensive case study in Mysore, India, this research will analyze how yoga tourism is reshaping the way Indians identify with modern yoga and how the popular K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute is influencing the community.

Rebecca Remis
B.A. Intl Aff
China (Beijing area) The Chinese Experience in the Organic Movement: A Case Study of Little Donkey Farm

Advisors: Barbara Miller and Robert Shepherd

This project will explore the origins of the Chinese experience in the grassroots organic movement. I will conduct ethnographic research with Little Donkey Farm, located outside Beijing, in order to discern the various actors in this emerging movement. Using participant observation, interviews, and surveys, I will focus on their Community Supported Agriculture model to study members' involvements, motivations, and hopes for the movement's future. This project will contribute to the growing body of research on sustainable movements within China.

Tatiana Reyes
B.A. Intl Aff
Nicaragua (San Juan del Sur) Working Women: An Ethnography of Tourism and Its Impact on the Women of San Juan del Sur

Advisors: Catherine Timura, Robert Shepherd, Barbara Miller

This study is an ethnography of tourism as a form of development in San Juan del Sur — Nicaragua's tourist port since the 1850s. I will explore the impact of tourism on low-wage women employed in the industry, focusing on their opinions of its growth and how they perceive it affects their social and economic opportunities. Using participant observation and semi-structured interviews, my work will contribute to the literature of development and the anthropology of tourism in small developing countries.

Kristina Short
M.A. Anth
Mexico (Etlatongo, Oaxaca) Materializing Social identity: Ceramic Figurines at Middle and Late Formative Etlatongo

Advisor: Jeffrey Blomster

The study aims to understand changes in the production and use of ceramic figurines as they relate to social identity during the later Formative Period (850-200 BCE) at Etlatongo, Nochixtlán Valley, Oaxaca, Mexico. Changes in figurne frequency will be compated to the documented decline in Valley of Oaxaca figurines (ca. 500 BCE) that coincides with political and ideological shifts at Monte Albán. Figurine frequency will be used to infer how individuals at Etlatongo resisted or embraced ideological changes associated with state-like political organizations.