Projects Funded in 2016

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Degree Program

Location Project Title & Abstract
Emma Backe
M.A.. Anth
Washington, DC

Common Threads: Creative Therapeutic Modalities for Survivors of Sexual Violence

Advisors: Alexander Dent, Barbara Miller, Sarah Raskin

Survivors of sexual violence must often navigate routinized, complex systems to receive health care services (Baxi 2014, Mulla 2014). Therapeutic options for survivors are often limited, providing standardized approaches to recuperation and resilience that are not always effective for individualized experiences of trauma. This project will involve collaboration with the Common Threads program and the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) to explore and evaluate alternative art-based therapeutic approaches to healing within a community of sexual violence survivors.

Jorge Benavides-Rawson
Ph.D. Anth
Costa Rica (Sarapiqui)

Dengue through the Human Gaze: Constructions of Risk and Health Prevention in Costa Rican and Nicaraguan Migrant Workers in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

Advisor: Sarah Wagner

In this project I aim to engage with Costa Ricans and Nicaraguan migrant workers in rural Costa Rica regarding their experiences and understanding of dengue fever. Numerous Nicaraguans have migrated to rural areas like Sarapiqui. Since many are undocumented, they are forced to live in impoverished communities at the core of Sarapiqui’s dengue epidemic. My aim is to explore how experiences of dengue are constructed and to examine how living conditions constrain the way in which dengue is understood.

Jessica Chandras
Ph.D. Anth
India (Pune)

Languages of Aspiration: Middle Class Identity and Marathi as a Prestige Language in Pune, Maharashtra

Advisors: Joel Kuipers, Alexander Dent

This project analyzes the ways in which Marathi, a regional language in India, is used as a prestige language with social capital for middle class individuals in Pune, Maharashtra (Bourdieu 1991). I seek to understand intersections and the reproduction of class identity through language use and language ideologies, specifically focusing on educational and social spaces, using ethnographic methods such as participant observation, interviews, and sociograms and social mapping in Pune, the second largest city and cultural capital of Maharashtra..

Laurence Dumouchel
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
Switzerland (Zurich)

What the World Looked Like When We Started Walking Upright: The Environments of the Earliest Australopithecus

Advisors: Bernard Wood, René Bobe

The abundance of fossils attributed to Australopithecus anamensis throughout the Omo-Turkana Basin (Ethiopia and Kenya) is extremely variable and paleoecological evidence suggests that this difference may be related to the ecological preferences of this early bipedal species. I will use taxonomy, ecomorphology and mesowear to reconstruct the paleohabitat of Au anamensis. The results will shed light on the context of emergence of human bipedality, an adaptation that played a crucial role in our evolutionary success.

Lawrence Fatica
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
Belgium (Tervuren), Rwanda (Ruhengeri)

Ontogeny of Pelvic Variation in Gorilla

Advisors: Shannon McFarlin, Sergio Almécija

This project aims to detail functional morphological variation of the pelvis across Gorilla and identify the ontogenetic origins of this variation. I will produce 3D models and perform geometric morphometric analyses of pelves representing three subspecies of Gorilla from collections housed at the Karisoke Research Center in Ruhengeri, Rwanda, and the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. These results can serve as a model for how changes in ontogeny can produce divergent morphologies in closely related taxa.

Ferhan Guloglu
Ph.D. Anth
Turkey (Istanbul)

Governing Babies:  Reproductive Health, Islam and Gender in Turkey

Advisor: Attiya Ahmad

This project explores the social and ethical debate on reproductive healthcare practices in Turkey. By employing ethnographic and archival fieldwork in knowledge producing institutions, healthcare providing establishments, and the state offices, I aim to outline the heterogeneity in the religious and scientific opinion pertaining to reproductive healthcare and the modalities Muslim woman enacting throughout the frameworks of authority of the state as well as religious and scientific institutions. In understanding these modalities, this project focuses on historical and political specificities of Turkish secularization.

Shweta Krishnan
Ph.D. Anth
India (Delhi)

The Personal and Its Publics: An Analysis of a Network Society that Emerges around a Discourse on Sexuality in Modern India

Advisors: Attiya Ahmad, Alexander Dent, Richard Grinker

I examine Youth Ki Awaaz, a for-profit, crowd-sourced, English-language, digital magazine based in Delhi, and analyze the coming into being of a network society which uses personal narratives to create a public discourse on sexuality. Combining participant observation, interviews and archival research I explore an encounter between neoliberal capitalism, social justice and the State, and analyze its impact on both the ‘private’ narrative and its ‘publics.’ This contributes to anthropology of sexuality, neoliberalism, State and the media.

Sean Lee
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
D.R. Congo (LuiKotale)

Trade-offs between Social and Physical Development in Wild Bonobos (Pan paniscus)

Advisors: Shannon McFarlin, Carson Murray

An extended developmental period relative to other primates is a derived feature of apes, with humans reaching an extreme. However, the context in which this evolved is unclear. Comparisons with our closest ape relatives, who exhibit comparable durations of development, offer important insight. Therefore, I propose using focal animal sampling and photogrammetric methods to examine social and physical development in one of our closest living relatives, bonobos (Pan paniscus), in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to provide this insight.

Kate McGrath
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
U.K. (London), Germany (Tübingen), Switzerland (Zurich)

Understanding Stress-Related Enamel Defects in Wild Mountain Gorillas

Advisor: Shannon McFarlin

Enamel hypoplasia is understood to record developmental stress in primate dentitions, although opportunities to directly test underlying causes are rare. This project uses novel imaging and analytical methods to quantify enamel hypoplasia in wild mountain gorillas of known life history and provide the first data on hypoplastic defect etiology in gorillas. Data collection will take place at universities and institutions in London, England, Tubingen, Germany, and Zurich, Switzerland.

Beth Moretzsky
M.A. Anth
Washington, DC

Experiences of Cancer Survivorship in Washington, DC

Advisors: Richard Grinker, Sarah Raskin

This research will provide the DC Cancer Action Partnership’s Survivorship & Palliative Care Action Team with qualitative data on the lived experiences of cancer survivors in Washington, DC. Although many organizations in this area serve cancer survivors, no anthropological studies to date have focused exclusively on their experiences. This project will include semi-structured interviews and focus groups, training in oncology patient navigation, and participation in the Survivorship Action Team meetings and the GW Cancer Institute Patient Navigation Special Interest Group.

Kelly Ostrofsky
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park)

Characterizing Locomotion in Wild Mountain Gorillas: A Pilot Study at Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Advisors: Sergio Almécija, Shannon McFarlin

The goal of this project is to document in detail the positional behavior of mountain gorillas and quantitatively characterize vertical climbing, a locomotor behavior highly relevant to human evolution. A comprehensive understanding of locomotor development, kinematics, and variation in Gorilla may provide insight into how differences in locomotor strategies appear in the skeleton. This is essential for interpreting the hominin fossil record, especially given that recent evidence suggests different species of hominins exhibited different locomotor repertoires during the Plio-Pleistocene.

Jonathan Reeves
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
Kenya (Koobi Fora)

The Evolution of Hominin Land-Use: An Environmental Approach to the Origins of the Acheulean at Koobi Fora, Kenya

Advisor: David Braun

Human use of landscapes spans greater ecological and latitudinal variance than any other species. Understanding how humans use landscapes is a critical part of understanding the adaptations that are uniquely human. Here I propose a raw material provenance study to begin to characterize the hominin land-use patterns across the Oldowan to Acheulean transition. In doing so, this project attempts to explore the potential ecological mechanisms related to the origins of the Acheulean.

Lara Rodriguez-Delgado
Ph.D. Anth
Oklahoma (Tulsa, Stillwater)

Socio-Technical Controversies: Discourses on Causality, Risk, and Science in Earthquake-Prone Oklahoma

Advisors: Stephen Lubkemann, Hugh Gusterson

This ethnographic project explores the socio-technical construction, and effects, of an emergent “ecology of fear” (Davis 1998) in Oklahoma by analyzing the politics of discourses on causality and risk among “experts” and “lay people” in the context of the recent and unprecedented spike in earthquakes in the state—a region historically lacking seismic vulnerability. Through examining the intense debates surrounding this issue, which involves the alleged link between “fracking” and earthquakes, this work invites renewed reflections about the role of “Science” in democracy.

Scott Ross
Ph.D. Anth
Uganda, South Sudan (various localities)

Ephemerality in Conflict: Rumor and Radio in East-Central African Borderlands

This project examines the forms of communication civilians in central Africa use to comprehend and respond to the threat of violence in a context of low-level violent conflict. I focus, in  particular, on two radio interventions implemented by NGOs: programs which broadcast messages promoting demobilization and reconciliation, and a network of two-way radios that operate as an early warning system. The project also analyzes the circulation of rumors about armed groups, including soldiers and peacekeepers. These rumors can complement the radio programs or run counter to them, and together these processes produce a unique understanding of the conflict. I aim to study how rumors and radio programs interact, contributing to the broader literature on the ethnography of violence, the anthropology of intervention, and media studies.

Victor Salazar
Ph.D. Anth
Mexico (Oaxaca, Mexico City)

Negotiating and Redistributing Foodstuffs in Early Formative Etlatongo

Advisor: Jeffrrey Blomster

Following an agency approach, the proposed study examines how subsistence resources are negotiated and redistributed as part of strategies of social differentiation during the emergence of
complex societies in Ancient Mexico. During Mesoamerica’s Early Formative period (1500-900 BCE) social distinctions become evident in the archaeological record by the documentation of
differential access to goods and resources. It has been postulated that complex societies emerged on the basis of agriculture. However, this relationship has been generally assumed rather than demonstrated. The presented research will be carried out at the site of Etlatongo, one of the earliest villages with evidence of social complexity in the Mixteca Alta of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Cassandra Turcotte
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
New York (Stony Brook)

Comparative Primate Entheseal Morphology: Toward the Reconstruction of Locomotor Habit from Musculoskeletal Attachment Sites

Advisor: Shannon McFarlin

Anthropologists often use muscle attachment size to infer living behavior from skeletal material. Experimental evidence, however, demonstrates that microstructure may inform more on activity than the bone surface. This project (conducted at the George Washington University) employs microCT to resolve surface morphology and internal geometry across primates of distinct locomotor modes, testing the hypothesis that functional differences result in internal reorganization of bone under the attachment. Results have implications for the interpretation of attachment sites and behavioral reconstruction in fossils.

Meagan Vakiener
Ph.D. Hom Paleo
Rwanda (Kigali), Maryland (Suitland)

Establishing Weaning Age in Wild Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) Using Serial Fecal Stable Isotope Analysis

Advisor: Shannon McFarlin

Weaning age is a key developmental milestone that marks the transition to nutritional independence, a point at which maternal reproductive investment can be redirected towards future offspring. Our understanding of human life history evolution is informed by non-human primate comparative models, but juvenile dietary independence can be difficult to establish in wild primate populations. Fecal stable isotope analysis of mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda can address these limitations and yield high-resolution data concerning dietary transitions associated with weaning.