Projects Funded in 2015

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Degree Program

Location Project Title & Abstract
Görkem Aydemir
Ph.D. Anth
Rep. of Georgia (Zugdidi)

IDP, Returnee, or Both? Legality and Bureaucracy in the De-Facto Georgia-Abkhazia Borderland

Advisor: Sarah Wagner

The displaced community in the de facto Georgia-Abkhazia borderland live in a zone of ambivalence where multiple and antithetical forms of sovereignties, statuses, and places fuse into each other. Through a grounded ethnographic examination of the social world in the Gali-Zugdidi borderland, this project will examine how the displaced community in the region experiences this ambiguous and contested space, and how they navigate an ambivalent legal and bureaucratic domain between/within a "legal" state and an "illegal" state. Pursuing these questions, I aim to contribute to the anthropological literature that investigates the notions of displacement, state, sovereignty, and law.

Dana Burton
M.A. Anth
Guatemala (Lake Atitlán area)

Joining the Dance: Memory and Contestation in Traditional Dance-Drama in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Advisor: Joel Kuipers

The project will investigate traditional religious ceremonial "dance-dramas" in the Lake Atitlán region of Guatemala. What does the teaching, practice and performance of these dances reveal about the importance of these dances and their enactment within local communities? What can the enactment of these dances divulge about memory, agency and contestation? The methods utilized will be qualitative, a composite of observation and interviews. This project is relevant to anthropology because it furthers arguments addressed by previous ethnographies of dance and expounds upon the place dance has in memory (re)creation and social change. Understanding how and why the respondents at the intended research site perceive and pass on their knowledge of dance can greatly contribute to the importance of studying dance as a gateway to understanding culture and society. Moreover, it can help us understand the emergence of new forms of dance that may be evidence of a break away from traditional dance-dramas.

Timothy Enright
M.A. Anth
Israel (Tel Kabri), Massachusetts (Boston)

Applying Novel Residue Analysis Methods to the Canaanite Wine Cellar at Tel Kabri

Advisors: Jeffrey Blomster, Eric Cline

This project will use new methods of residue analysis to wine casks excavated from a Canaanite palace in Northern Israel in order to evaluate the ecological implications of the wine trade in the ancient Levant. An improved understanding of this production and exchange network and the resources it employed will allow us to better understand how the performance of elite status may have affected the economy and even the landscape of the Levant during the Bronze Age.

Celia Greene
B.A. Intl Affairs & Anth
Switzerland (Zurich)

The Science of Spirits: Spiritist Religious Practices among Brazilian Transnational Migrants

Advisors: Alexander Dent, Scott Freeman, Natacha Stevanovic-Fenn

I will create an ethnography of a Brazilian Spiritist center in Rockville, Maryland. I will question understandings of spiritism as a doctrine and thought. I will apply discourse analysis and seek to understand individual theories of spiritism to probe the role that spiritism plays in structuring the daily practices and realities of my Brazilian migrant interlocutors. I will engage critically with and contribute to the anthropology of religion and transnationality.

Ferhan Guloglu
Ph.D. Anth
Turkey (Istanbul)

Monitoring Babies: Governance and Contention around Reproductive Healthcare Policy in Turkey

Advisors: Alexander Dent, Ilana Feldman, Attiya Ahmad

By analyzing seemingly contradictory positions among Muslim women in terms of reproductive healthcare choices, this research project addresses the issue of neoliberal governmentality with special attention to the policies of Turkey’s long-time ruling party, JDP. In my study, I will look at the experiences of Muslim women who seek reproductive healthcare services at a public university hospital and outside the government-controlled realm. I will explore how these religious sensibilities are embedded into and productive of a secular-scientific medical argumentation.

Deanna Johnson
B.A. Anth & Intl Affairs
Washington, DC

The Truth behind Blackness

Advisor: Robert Shepherd

This research project will take an anthropological look at the presence of a single black identity in the United States. It will primarily look at first generation Americans of West African descent, first generation Americans of West Indian (Caribbean) descent, and African Americans who have been born and raised in the United States and whose parents have been born and raised in the U.S. as well. Data will be collected through personal interviews and participant observation.

Kate McGrath
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
Germany (Tübingen)

Investigating Stress-Related Enamel Defect Expression and Etiology in Wild Virunga Mountain Gorillas of Documented Life History

Advisor: Shannon McFarlin

Enamel defect expression is used as an indicator of developmental stress in fossil and living primates despite our poor understanding of the factors that lead to their formation. My goal is to objectively assess enamel defect expression in wild mountain gorillas using confocal microscopy with Dr. El Zaatari at the University of Tuebingen. Once defects are identified, the timing and cause of defects will be determined to provide the first data on defect etiology in wild great apes.

Kelly Ostrofsky
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
Tanzania (Gombe)

Juvenile Positional Behavior in Wild Chimpanzees: A Pilot Study at Gombe National Park, Tanzania

Advisors: Brian Richmond, Carson Murray

The goal of this project is to record in detail the positional behavior of wild chimpanzees at Gombe National Park, Tanzania, focusing on infant and juvenile chimpanzees. A more comprehensive perspective of locomotor development and diversity in Pan may provide insight into how perhaps subtle differences in locomotor strategies appear in the skeleton. This is pertinent to the hominin fossil record, particularly with respect to recent evidence suggesting more than one hominin bipedal locomotor repertoire was present in the Plio-Pleistocene.

Sarah L. Richardson
Ph.D. Anth
Colombia (Soacha, Bogotá), Washington, DC

“A Battleground Unto Itself”: The Politics and Multiple Meanings of Memory in Colombia

Advisors: Sarah Wagner and Alexander Dent

This project collects narratives and observes the memory practices and activism of the Mothers of Soacha, a group of Colombian women whose sons were victims of state crime. By doing so, I will analyze how a single concept, memory, is invoked for multiple and often competing purposes in “pre post-conflict” Colombia and how victims and their families negotiate the country’s proliferation of initiatives. My data analysis will elucidate both meanings and effects of the production of memory in Bogotá.

Lara Rodriguez-Delgado
Ph.D. Anth
Ecuador (Urcuqui), New York, NY

Anti-Neoliberalism and Ethical Development: Interpreting Urban Utopian Futures in Andean Ecuador

Advisor: Sarah Wagner

This work explores the politics of ethical development ascribed to the first planned city in Ecuador to illuminate the textures of the anti-neoliberal state in practice and how specific subjectivities and power reconfigurations are constituted. Through ethnographic engagement, I examine how municipal governmental entities interpret their new relationship with the state and how they manage both civil society’s apprehensions and hopes surrounding the state’s long-term planning scheme. This research aims to stimulate the anthropology of development-oriented urban planning projects.

Victor Salazar
Ph.D. Anth
Mexico (Oaxaca)

Formative Etlatongo Project: Feeding Social Complexity

Advisor: Jeffrey Blomster

This research studies diet, activity areas, and domestic space for the understanding of the emergence of ranked societies and means of social differentiation. The widely accepted association of year-round established villages with full-time agriculture has been recently debated by scholars, creating new problematics on the development of social complexity. This study is intended to be carried out in the archaeological site of Etlatongo, one of the earliest villages in the Mixteca Alta of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Cassandra Turcotte
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
Washington, DC

Behavioral Reconstruction in Anthropology: A Multilevel Analysis of the Effects of Habitual Activity in Musculoskeletal Attachment Sites

Advisors: Shannon McFarlin, Brian Richmond

Bioarchaeologists frequently infer living behavior from muscle attachment size following the premise that muscle use results in localized bone accumulation. Experimental evidence, however, demonstrates that bone surfaces don’t respond dynamically to loading. This project (conducted at the George Washington University) employs histology and microCT to resolve internal features, testing the hypothesis that functional adaptation occurs on a micro- rather than macroscopic scale. Results have implications for the interpretation of attachment site morphology and the future of behavioral reconstruction in anthropology.

Meagan Vakiener
Ph.D. Hom Paleo

Weaning in Mountain Gorillas: A Methodological Test of Barium Distributions in Enamel

Advisor: Shannon McFarlin

Early weaning age is a feature of modern human life history, which distinguishes us from great apes. However, understanding the evolutionary origin of this trait is limited by our inability to extract fine-scale dietary information from the fossil record. Time-series micro-spatial sampling of trace elements in tooth enamel offers a promising methodology. I propose validating this method by analyzing enamel barium concentrations in wild Virunga mountain gorillas from Rwanda with known weaning and dietary histories.