Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Syon Vasquez

With the support of the Wadsworth International Fellowship Syon Vasquez will continue his training in archeology at University of California, Los Angeles, under the supervision of Richard Lesure. Read the previous entry in the series here.

I initially became interested in archaeology when I participated in excavations at an ancient Maya site in my home country of Belize. Subsequently, I pursued the personal interest that this initial experience engendered by taking up further instruction in archaeology at the University of South Florida, where I completed my BA in anthropology. While at the University of South Florida I undertook fieldwork and research investigating geoglyphs and early state formation on the southern coast of Peru. Additionally, I received training in both paleoethnobotanical as well as geoarchaeological methods.

This diverse background in archaeological theory and methods has given rise to my interest in various questions about past human activity in Belize and its surrounding regions. As it pertains to the pre-Columbian period, I am interested in examining early state formation in Mesoamerica. In particular, I would like to look at whether the same correlation between the proliferation of ritual activity and the emergence of incipient social inequality that I observed in my research on the southern coast of Peru, also occurs at early Mesoamerican sites.

Another one of my interests has to do with the archaeology of the colonial period in Belize. This is a subject that I have had an opportunity to survey more closely during the past several months which I have spent back home in Belize due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent transition to online learning at UCLA. I have observed firstly, that the colonial period is severely understudied and secondly, that there is an abundance of colonial materials ripe for analysis employing archaeological methods. Thus, I am currently looking into the colonial architecture of the country’s largest city, Belize City and the mix of African, Indigenous and European architectural traditions that it preserves.

The fluidity of my research interests at this early stage in my scholarly career informed my decision to take up doctoral studies in the Interdepartmental Program in Archaeology at UCLA. My goal while at UCLA is to draw on the anthropology faculty’s wide array of interdisciplinary skillsets to enhance the holism of my training as an anthropologist, as well as to aid me in elaborating on my existing research interests.

 

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Thoiba Saeedh

With the support of the Wadsworth International Fellowship Thoiba Saeedh will continue her training in social anthropology at University of Munich, Munchen, Germany supervised by Frank Heidemann.

My scholarly interests are two-pronged; I am interested in modernity and the transformations of place through new technologies and infrastructures, and the bodily interactions with and around new landscapes of technology. It is by studying the spaces of intersection between infrastructures and bodily experiences that I aim to explore new understandings of the complex relationship between material and immaterial and things and bodies.

Drawing on the scholarly works on space/place, I study the lived experiences in these spaces of intersection, experiences that I observe are emotional, performative and contested and reveal notions of sociality, identity and meaning making processes. To achieve this, I focus my research on the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge or the Sinamale’ Bridge of Maldives, the largest infrastructure project in the small-island developing nation. I view the bridge as a key monument that provides a backdrop for inquiries into social spaces filled with ambiguity, tension and anxieties.

I am grateful to commence my PhD under the guidance of Prof. Frank Heidemann at the Ludwig Maximilian Universität München, at the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology. I had the pleasure to meet and accompany Prof. Heidemann on his study tour in Dhaalu Atoll of Maldives in 2020, the trip ending shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic re-shaped our lives in 2020 and beyond.

I have received my anthropology training in Australia and the United Kingdom. In 2018 I completed my Masters by Research in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh on a British Chevening Scholarship. In 2015 I received a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Sociology, at the University of Melbourne on an Australia Awards Scholarship. At present, I hold a Senate Board position at the Islamic University of Maldives, by appointment by the Minister of Higher Education, Maldives. I am a part of the research team on the inter-disciplinary research project BRINFAITH, of the University of Hong Kong.

I begin my PhD in challenging times, virtually connected to my supervisor and cohorts in Germany, in our different time zones. As a native anthropologist, I am excited to contribute to an anthropology of the Maldives and South Asia region, and contribute to the burgeoning field of infrastructural studies with a focus on space/place.

Meet Our Wadsworth African Fellows: Leyya Hoosen

This month the Foundation would like to introduce Leyya Hoosen, who thanks to the Wadsworth African Fellowship will continue her PhD training in social anthropology at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, under the supervision of Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon. Read the previous entry in this series here.

Islam in Johannesburg, South Africa, is shaped by multiple historical and contemporary migrations. While the Sunni sect of Islam predominates here, dynamic movements of Muslims into the city create fast growing populations of other sects of the religion, particularly Shia and Sufi influences. This brings great diversity to everyday practices of the religion. In addition, the advent of new forms of media and digital technologies reshapes everyday practices by making new connections and modifying gendered identities and spiritual ontologies. My research explores these re-shapings of narratives of Islamic practice in the context of the emergence of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) with a view to unearthing ways in which Islam is re-imagined through future narratives.

To address the changes that come with 4IR, particularly in the context of the Global South and in a climate of severe Islamophobia, we need to think beyond simply the commercial implications of 4IR in order to understand its implications for narratives of lived experience. I explore (re)interpretations of Islam through its changing and adaptive practices, through ways in which Islam is (re)thought in the present and for the future, and how these (re)imaginings prompt a series of adaptations to lived religious practices. I focus on the influence of media and digital technologies on how Muslims engage with each other and with their religion as they reshape it to fit their current context. My study is located in diverse sites of Johannesburg which are underrepresented in the literature on Islam in this city.

By pursuing a PhD, I wish to add to local and global academic discourse regarding different and changing practices of Islam in this digital age. In this time of widespread Islamophobia, I wish to offer narratives that expand our understandings of Islam and how it is practiced and lived. I want to illuminate diverse factors – ranging from theologist and feminist movements to the re-imagination of Islam – which affect the negotiations of identity within Islam. This will enable my role as both a public intellectual in the Islamic community and a critical scholar of the severely under-researched new forms of Islam in South Africa in the wider context of digital transformation.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Hone Mandefro Belaye

With the support of the Wadsworth International Fellowship Hone Mandefro Belaye will continue his training in sociocultural anthropology at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, supervised by Dr. Julie S. Archambault.

I have an interdisciplinary educational background with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology (Jimma University), a Master’s in Social Work (Addis Ababa University), and a Master of Arts in Development Studies with a Social Policy major (Erasmus University Rotterdam). Before moving to Montreal, Canada in 2017 as a Jeanne Sauvé Fellow at McGill University, I was a lecturer at the School of Sociology and Social Work and the Director of Community Services at the University of Gondar.

My research interests include urbanization in the Global South, politics of knowledge production, and community engagement in higher education. My research has been published in journals such as International Review of Sociology, Journal of Modern African Studies, Nokoko, and the Journal of Indigenous Social Development.

My PhD research examines the impact of changes in the built environment on social relationships among residents in Addis Ababa, a city experiencing rapid transformation in its physical landscape. Using a vernacular terminology of Gurbetena, roughly translated as neighbouring, my research looks at the impact of this transformation – which is moving people from single-story houses to flats in high-story condominiums – on the nature of relationships among neighbours. This research builds upon earlier projects including a European Union Erasmus and program-funded research on social capital in Ethiopian cities and CityInclusive, a social impact start-up I co-founded in 2017 to investigate smart city conversations through the lens of inclusion, engagement and social justice in Canadian cities.

I am passionate about bridging the divide between academia and practice. In 2016, I founded the Policy Issues in Ethiopia’s Development Trajectories (PROSPECT) seminar series at the University of Gondar. This series provided an opportunity for well-known Ethiopian academics to present their policy proposals to policy makers and others in the University of Gondar academic community. I have also leveraged my academic background over the past ten years to provide consulting support to several non-governmental organizations and write socio-political commentaries to, among others, Addis Standard and Ethiopia Insight.

I chose the interdisciplinary Social and Cultural Analysis program at Concordia University as it exposes me to a range of theories and methods while also grounding me within a broad ethnographic tradition. My supervisor’s (Dr. Julie Soleil Archambault) expertise on urban life and urbanization in Africa and ethnographic research is a perfect fit with my PhD research and played a role in my decision to join the program.

 

 

 

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Tuya Shagdar

Tuya Shagdar received her undergraduate degree from the University of the Humanities – Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, as well as a Master of Arts in Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a Master of Philosophy in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship she will continue her training with a PhD in social cultural anthropology at the University of Cambridge, supervised by Dr. David Sneath. Don’t miss out on the other entries in the series here.

I encountered anthropology in my thirties after I had done my MA in comparative literature. I was born in the former Soviet Union and my memories of childhood are entangled with both the relative stability of late state-socialism and the sudden fall of it. In the years that followed, wealth and fortune replaced old socialist tokens of success that were built around the notions of “yos surtahuuntai baih” (possessing high morals), “hudulmurch” (hard-working) and “soyoltoi seheeten” (cultured and being educated). Money had become an important pursuit in the age of the market as Soviet subsidies were cut off and new sources of income from development and foreign direct investment dictated a new set of pragmatist logic; privatization, liberalization of prices and cuts in state subsidies.

I recall my parents struggling to make ends meet as my mother’s research income was reduced and she was forced to take up a domestic caregiver job. I too worked three years as a live-in caregiver, thus delaying my graduation from university. The cuts in state subsidies had a devastating effect in Mongolia, which continues today. The 1993 privatization engineered by international banks left many women employed in state service and teaching positions vulnerable to the perils of the market economy. The privatization of large state enterprises benefited few and created the current state of wealth inequality. The experiences that I’ve lived have shaped my research interest in post-socialist wealth and how it is constituted by Mongolia’s transitioning from a traditional agrarian feudal society to modern state-socialism, and finally into a democracy with a neoliberal economy.

I am pursuing a PhD at Cambridge where my dissertation will focus on the notion of elite. In countries with advanced bureaucratic democracies with large-scale corporate economies elites are often classified in abstract terms like the “ruling class.” From the point of western democratic thought “elites” pose challenges to the egalitarian ideological framework. Being elite or showing elitist tendencies often have negative connotations in the west. However, in post-socialist countries like Mongolia, I observe how people look up to being elite as a positive character trait. This may have to do with the principle of meritocracy that the Stalinist regime advocated throughout socialist bloc countries following purges of the aristocracy and intelligentsia as a means to create a new “class” and promote them to positions of leadership. I seek to investigate how such positive views emerged and evolved, and assess whether the notion of elite carries the same connotation as in western liberal societies.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Etni Zoe Castell Roldan

With the support of the Wadsworth International Fellowship Etni Zoe Castell Roldan will continue her training in sociocultural anthropology at Dalhousie University, supervised by Dr.Elizabeth Fitting. Be sure to check out the earlier entries in the series.

I obtained my BA (2008-2015) in Social Anthropology from Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México (UAEMex) with a thesis that interrogated education, social inequality and class mobility in The Montaña zone of Guerrero, Mexico. Later, I earned a MA in Sociocultural Anthropology (2015-2017) in Benémerita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP) with an award winning thesis (Premio San Bernándino de Sahagún INAH 2018) regarding labor and precarity in Mexico’s City meat industry. From 2015 to the present, I have participated in the Power, Class and Culture Research Seminar (Seminario Poder, Clase y Cultura ICSyH-BUAP), where I have developed new interests and advanced my knowledge of themes like political economy in anthropology, commodity production processes and the relationship between class and culture.

My PhD research seeks to engage these critical themes. By analyzing The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) in Canada, I aim to explore the relationship between the migratory routes of Mexican workers to Canada and the suffering of laborers who harvest and package food commodities. I am interested in focusing on processes of domination and dispossession of vulnerable populations and how they can trigger substantial changes in the migration, diets and foodways in the Global South. I chose Dalhousie’s University PhD program in Social Anthropology because I know that I will receive the training I need to undertake this project by combining critical theory and ethically based fieldwork in a fulfilling, effective way.

After the completion of my degree, I expect to return to Mexico and work towards strengthening Anthropology undergraduate programs and continuing to analyze the political conditions of Latin American workers, in Mexico specifically.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Daniel Rodriguez Osorio

Daniel Rodriguez Osorio received his undergraduate degree at the Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia and thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a Ph.D. in archaeology at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul. We invite you to check out the earlier entries in this series here and here.

My research examines politics, ecology, and landscapes through an exploration of anthropogenic environments, place-making practices, and the constitution of subjectivities in Northern South America. Over the past eight years, I have conducted archaeological and ethnographic research in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a glaciated mountain located in northern Colombia that was inhabited in pre-Hispanic times by several indigenous communities known as the Tairona (200-1600 CE). My research explores the practices that shape human groups’ perceptions of “nature,” the political objectives that produce landscapes, and the ways that non-human actors and organisms (e.g., forests, cultivated plant species, soils) become objects of concern or value in human politics.

I draw on approaches that conceive of space as a political construct that people perceive in different ways depending on their social position. I also apply historical and political ecology to explore how diverse environmental contexts and non-human actors recursively shape distinct kinds of human experience. My interest in urbanism and intensive agriculture seeks to understand how discrete configurations of places and things constitute the structuration of specific landscapes and subjects and how physical conditions can also shape subjectivities and political life, leading to a variety of overlapping landscapes occupying the same space.

I am pursuing my Ph.D. to gain the theoretical and methodological training I need to understand the relationship between ecological and sociopolitical variables that contribute to the production of landscapes. Given the interdisciplinary structure of UMN, which allows graduate students to create their own program of study, I combine Anthropology, Geography, and Forest Resources. UMN faculty members specializing in ecology and cultural heritage also offer me an exceptional opportunity to consider issues of environmental, political, and archaeological stewardship and management in the SNSM. Moreover, UMN’s strong methodological focus on digital archaeology and environmental mapping provides me with the empirical tools I need to trace, document, and model land modification features in the Tairona area.

After completing my degree, I expect to return to Colombia and pursue an academic position that will allow me to train future generations of archaeologists and sociocultural anthropologists. I hope to use my interdisciplinary background to empower students to think about the materials and built spaces that constitute the present and past and the ways they mutually shape human experience.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Weldeyared Reda

The Foundation would like to introduce you to Weldeyared Reda, who recently received a Wadsworth International Fellowship to continue training in paleoanthropology at the University of Chicago, supervised by Dr. Callum Ross. Read the previous entry in this series here.

Growing up in Ethiopia, I was fascinated by the many world-renowned paleoanthropological discoveries made there. This motivated me to pursue a BA in archaeology at Aksum and MSc in Paleoanthropology and Paleoenvironment at Addis Ababa Universities, both in Ethiopia. During my study, I have gained a great deal of research and field experience in the Afar Rift, the Blue Nile highways field school, and the Koobi Fora Field School. These hands-on experiences coupled with coursework in human evolution were instrumental in further strengthening my interest in human origins. My training also included a 5 month research visit to the California Academy of Sciences which was a great opportunity. Subsequent to completing my masters, I worked as a lecturer at Aksum University for two years.

The PhD program I have enrolled in at the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago is ideal to further my knowledge and skills in human evolution. The department’s focus on an integrative approach including human evolution, and the professors’ diverse expertise and in-house research facilities are some of the best in our field. The diversity of the faculty and the possibility to train or take relevant courses in the Departments of anthropology, human genetics and geosciences is also a great attraction.

My research aim is to expand our understanding of morphological character polarity by investigating their developmental underpinnings and functional significance, with a special focus on fossil hominins and great apes. Specifically, I am interested in the link between morphology and function in fossil hominins and great apes and associated developmental processes underlying morphological changes with implications for craniofacial development and function. I will investigate craniofacial ontogeny and function in Australopithecus afarensis and contemporaneous hominins within the context of the great apes and modern humans. This will be accomplished using cutting-edge imaging techniques and statistical methods.

After the completion of my study, I expect to return to Ethiopia and work at Aksum University. I have a keen interest to work in a multi-disciplinary paleoanthropological project and open new research avenues while paving the way for the next generation of paleoanthropologists.

Meet Our Wadsworth African Fellows: Theogene Niwenshuti

In addition to highlighting our Wadsworth International Fellows the Foundation would also like to introduce one of our newest Wadsworth African Fellows, Theogene Niwenshuit. Funded through the Wadsworth African Fellowship Theogene Niwenshuti will continue his PhD training in social cultural anthropology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, supervised by Dr. Susan Levine.

I earned a BA (with distinction) from National University of Rwanda and a MA (cum laude) from Wits University School of Arts in Johannesburg before enrolling in the PhD program in at the University of Cape Town (UCT). I travel extensively facilitating, lecturing, performing and campaigning for peace, healing, human rights and the prevention of genocide, war and other violent conflicts and have been the recipient of several awards, prestigious scholarships, medals and honors for my community, artistic, leadership and academic contributions.

I was born and grew up in the hills of Kanombe and Ndera in Gasabo, Rwanda, the Great Lakes – East Afrikan Region. Like other children of my generation, my studies were disrupted by war and genocide. After missing a few years of study I managed to complete high school and earn an undergraduate degree at the National University of Rwanda (NUR). I have been pursuing my academic, artistic and community engagements in various post-conflict African regions and communities. My current research is concerned with contestation over the interpretation of memory and heritage of violence. While trying to identify mechanisms and strategies developed by individuals and institutions in response to the legacies of violence, my study also attempts to make sense of the impact of this violence on mental health and the general wellbeing of individuals and communities.

In my study of memory and trauma I am interested in the relationship between body, space and memory, and understanding how it helps inform healing and recovery in a post-conflict / post-genocide context. My approach consists of interrogating how the body intervenes in the process of mapping and translating private, difficult memories from an intimate space to a public one. I hope to build on past research and gather and make use of local stories, memories, interpretations, and individual and collective experiences to make a contribution in the fields of memory, (mental) health, art, culture, performance, heritage, academia, institutional practice, governance and violence.

Since October 2018, I have been facilitating a unique academic platform entitled “Contested Spaces” Seminar Series. Several scholars, artists, health, education, heritage and museum practitioners of local and global repute have attended and engaged in critical and creative conversations during these seminars.  With the support of local communities and institutions, artists, students and scholars, the 2nd series of “Contested Spaces” Seminar will be launched in the coming months.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Camille Louis

This month we return to our series spotlighting Wadsworth International Fellows as we introduce you to Camille Louis, who received a Wadsworth International Fellowship which has given him the opportunity to train in archaeology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, supervised by Dr. James Cameron Monroe.

I received my undergraduate degrees in Art History, Archaeology and psychology from the Université d’Etat d’Haïti.  Later I spent a year at the University of the West Indies (Mona Campus, Jamaica) where I received archaeological training organized by members of the Department of Archaeology at Monticello (Virginia, USA), one of the preeminent groups exploring the archaeology of slavery in the New World. I earned a Master’s Degree in Cultural Resources Management from Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan. Following my master’s degree, I received specialized training in underwater archaeology from UNESCO and the University of Leiden team in St-Eustatius.

The Haitian Revolution created a total cultural and social “rupture”. Slaves, free blacks, and some mulattoes united against and overthrew the colonial system. During the revolution, opposing armies of the French and the enslaved destroyed innumerable colonial settlements and plantations, the remnants of which can be studied archaeologically.  My academic interests are to study the nature of Maroon settlement and the organization of plantations in Dondon region Northern Haiti, and the cultural memory of such communities in the region today. This area was a hotbed of maroon settlement in the colonial period, and played a determinative role in sparking the Haitian Revolution in 1791. Rather than viewing Maroons as isolated and removed from the plantation world, I seek to explore how they were intensely entangled in colonial world-making processes, revealing the active role these “people without history” played in the making of the modern world. This research has the potential to provide new insights into the communication networks that fostered revolution in Saint-Domingue, and provide a valuable perspective on archaeologies of power and resistance more broadly. Finally it focuses on the relationship between Dondon’s community and heritage of the colonial period.

The University of California at Santa Cruz provides a unique professional development opportunity to acquire expertise in Historical Archaeology based in Haiti. Since 2015 Dr. Cameron Monroe of the Department of Anthropology at UC Santa Cruz has been carrying out research in Milot the Northern region of Haiti, which has afforded me the opportunity to pursue my PhD program at this University.