Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Ireri Ceja Cardenas

Ireri Ceja Cardenas received her undergraduate degree at the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente, ITESO, México, and a Master’s in Visual Anthropology and Anthropological Documentary at Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, FLACSO Ecuador. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship she will continue her training with a PhD in anthropology at Federal U. of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, supervised by Dr. Adrianna de Resende Barreto Vianna. Read the previous two entries in the series. 

I am a Mexican researcher in my first year of a PhD program in Social Anthropology at the National Museum (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). In spite of huge budget cuts to education, science and culture, the museum’s anthropology program has maintained its ranking as one of the most prestigious in the region. But on September 2, 2018, the year of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the National Museum and the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Postgraduate Program in Social Anthropology, the museum (housed in San Cristóbal Palace) was consumed by fire. Nearly all of the installations and the historical, artistic, bibliographical and scientific collections perished, and the Social Anthropology Program and its ongoing research activities, teaching and social commitments have been greatly compromised.

By choosing a doctoral program in Brazil my goal is to help create alliances and collaborations between disparate academic traditions in Mexico, Ecuador and Brazil and unite scholars, who despite shared experiences and common histories, rarely have the opportunity to engage in conversation with one another.

After completing my degree in Communication Sciences at the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (ITESO, Guadalajara, Mexico), I earned my master’s degree in Visual Anthropology and Anthropological Documentary at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO, Quito, Ecuador), an institution I later joined as a researcher and collaborator.

For the past seven years I have been conducting research on migration and forced displacement. I have worked on identity and belonging of Haitian populations on the move following the 2010 earthquake throughout the Andean region, and studied their use of subversion strategies to overcome discrimination and exclusion. I have also studied displaced populations of Colombians residing in Ecuador and access to rights through their Mercosur visas. As an anthropologist I have developed the tools to explore heterogeneities and struggles within disparate categories such as refugee, multilateralism, regional and local integration. I have also applied a critical perspective to issues of violence, borders and smuggling of migrants, along with violations of human rights in the context of security policies and the closing of borders.

My research interests continue to focus on migration and displacement as consequences of “the crisis of civilization” and the Anthropocene and how these trends function in opposition to the control of natural resources and territories in Mexico and Latin America. I believe that anthropology allows us to question dichotomies such as nature / culture, universalism / particularism, agency / structure and to construct theoretical and practical alternatives to problems that emerge from capitalism and development.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Bania Sinai Garcia Sanchez

Bania Sinai Garcia Sanchez received her undergraduate degree at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico and an MA in Amerindian Studies and Bilingual Education at the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, Mexico. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship she will continue her training with a PhD in anthropology at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, supervised by Dr. Mark Sicoli. Read the previous entry in the series. 

My name is Bania Sinaí García Sánchez and I come from a Zapotec indigenous community located in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca. I completed my undergraduate degree in Linguistics and Hispanic Literature at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla. During my undergraduate years I wrote a research thesis entitled, “Towards an interpretation of the figure of the Zapotec mother in a portrait of my mother by Andrés Henestrosa”. I received my master’s degree in Amerindian Studies and Bilingual Education from the Autonomous University of Querétaro and  wrote my Master’s thesis entitled, “Wedding Advice among the Zapotec Women of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec: A Discourse Genre.”

I have made it a priority to learn to speak my heritage language, to keep it, protect it, and preserve it. I have studied Zapotec as a second language for two years at the Language School of the Autonomous University of Oaxaca. I have also conducted fieldwork in my community and  have collected legends and myths from oral traditions, interviewed women on ritual practice, made video recordings and taken photographs of the traditions of the people in the community, our festivals, and our rites. I have also investigated the discourse, pragmatics, semantics, and the use of verbs in advice given by women, and other speech genres. I  hosted a literary workshop of Zapotec indigenous literature in the Faculty of Languages in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec of the Autonomous University of Oaxaca, where I taught two semesters of Zapotec oral traditions.

I applied  to the Ph.D. program in Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Virginia because I believe studying there will provide me with the necessary skills to analyze, document, and share my indigenous language of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which will strengthen the vitality of my culture. The University of Virginia is unique for its linguistic anthropology faculty who specialize in language and cognition and documenting language as culture, and for its faculty across the subfields who are dedicated to participatory and community-based research methods. I believe it is the ideal environment for me to pursue my goals of understanding the Zapotec language as lived experience in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Dilmurad Yusupov

Dilmurad Yusupov received his undergraduate degree from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), Russia and an MA in Economics at the Graduate School of Economics, Waseda University, Japan. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in anthropology at the University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom, supervised by Dr. Magnus Marsden.

My research project deals with disability in Uzbekistan, where it is conflated with physical dysfunction caused by various impairments and state efforts are directed towards returning disabled people to ‘normal’ condition through medical rehabilitation. Current practices have been largely influenced by Soviet disability policies based on institutionalization and segregation. The purpose of my study is to explore the potential that community-based approaches hold for promoting inclusive development as an alternative to placing disabled people into specialized care institutions.

Through an approach based on participatory action research with adults with physical, sensory and learning impairments and critical ethnography, my goal is to understand how Soviet disability policies and practices, Islamic culture in post-Soviet Uzbekistan and related cultural stereotypes about disabled people  shape current understandings of disability. I am also deeply interested in learning how existing formal/ informal community networks in Uzbekistan promote or prevent social inclusion of disabled people.

As an economist by training, I used to practice quantitative research and hold  a positivist worldview. But after working with disabled people at grassroots levels on various projects implemented by Japanese international organizations in Uzbekistan, I gained an understanding of how  economics, with its numerous assumptions about human lives and focus  on numbers, can produce a distorted reality. This prompted me to undertake a PhD at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex where I could receive postgraduate training in anthropology and participatory research methods.

Drawing on social and medical anthropology, my research project adopts a constructivist paradigm. After completing a comprehensive literature review on relevant research approaches and methods, I have embraced critical ethnography and  view disability not as a medical but as a culturally and socially constructed concept. In Uzbekistan, anthropological education and research is heavily underrepresented and its potential is underestimated. Therefore, through this research and world-class training in anthropology, I aim to contribute to national academia and advance applied anthropology as a means to promote social development in Uzbekistan.

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Catalina Tesar

In 2007 Catalina Tesar received a Wadsworth International Fellowship to aid training in social anthropology at University College London, supervised by Michael Sinclair Stewart. After completing her Wadsworth Fellowship Dr. Tesar received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filmmaking on “O Taxtaj: The Chalice”. We are proud to present the following trailer and blog post.

TAXTAJ TEASER from Ciprian Cimpoi on Vimeo.

O Taxtaj: The Chalice

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

Romanian Cortorari Gypsies from Transylvania convey a strong commitment to the possession of specific putative objects, namely chalices (sg. taxtaj, pl. taxtaja) which were bequeathed to them by their ancestors and passed on from father to son. Though chalices are permanently tucked away in the granaries and houses of neighboring Romanian peasants, and thus invisible in everyday life, they are in fact an ubiquitous topic, stirring up passionate talks and feelings. Like the hereditary regalia of medieval European nobility, chalices are symbols of the prestige of a family, instigating machinations, theft, fights among brothers and matrimonial strategies to keep them inside the family. Chalices are central to the arrangement of marriages which is the Cortorari’s chief preoccupation at all times: parents of girls seek to marry their daughters off to grooms who own a valuable chalice, while parents of boys demand big cash dowries from the bride’s family to offset the value placed on their chalice. In reality, people are continuously challenging the hierarchy of chalices which, far from being objective, depends on their owners’ ability to boast their value. On the occasion of a marriage arrangement, the groom’s chalice is pledged to the bride’s family and will remain entrusted to them until the young couple beget a son — the ultimate guarantee of the endurance of a marriage. Therefore, there is a yearning among young couples to bring forth a baby boy to weld them together.

My PhD research — which was funded by a Wadsworth International Fellowship — resulted in a thesis titled ‘Women Married off to Chalices’: Gender, Kinship and Wealth among Romanian Cortorari Gypsies that I defended at University College London in 2013. Focusing on the articulation of gender relations with the flow of chalices in the process of marriage, the thesis adopted the stance of the generation who arranges the marriages of their children or grand-children. At the time of my PhD fieldwork, namely between 2008 and 2010, I was in my early 30s, an age at which a Cortorari woman is in the prime of her motherhood, if not already a grandmother. I was thus embraced by women of my age, which pointed my research in the direction of their understandings and representations of gender issues in relation to ceremonial wealth.

The documentary I have made as a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship recipient gives voice to the generation that had been almost entirely left out of my PhD dissertation, namely the newly wed and especially the women in this life stage. Upon marriage, women go to live with their husbands’ families. As young daughters-in-law (bori), most of the chores in the household become their responsibility. Moreover, until they give birth to a son, newly wed women live under the continuous threat of being forsaken by their husbands and their families. They live in a limbo and often seek refuge from the harshness of their marital family into their parental family. Daughters are not desired because they bring for their parents and grandparents the prospects of paying big cash dowries to marry them off. The young couple who have already brought forth a daughter live under the pressure to bring forth a son. It is a pressure which is laid on the couple by the older generations in the extended family and equally internalized as a longing by the young couple. The son is seen as the essence of the family; he ensures both the succession of generations within the household and the passing on of the chalice to future generations. If they have a daughter and a son, parents can arrange a marriage by exchange (of daughters), and this kind of marriage ideally results in the writing off of the dowry. In case a female baby comes after a first-born daughter —and they use ultrasounds to find out the sex of the foetus — the couple resort to pregnancy termination.

The documentary follows the couple Peli and Nina, both in their mid-20s, parents to a five-year old daughter, as they strive to bring forth a son to redeem the chalice belonging to Peli’s family from the trust of Nina’s parental family. The viewer is taken along on the rough journey that the couple and their families must make as they negotiate the twists and turns of  Cortorari marriage making and breaking and engage in passionate arguments over the chalices.

In making this documentary, I took on at least three challenges: 1) I wanted it to reach beyond an anthropological audience; 2) I wanted to avoid the use of authoritative voice-over and allow the characters to speak for themselves instead; and 3) I wanted the film to help clarify and offset preconceived notions or prejudices about the Roma, so I used an inside perspective to convey the broader picture of how they live. The result is a documentary deeply grounded in anthropology yet creative. The film opens and ends with scenes featuring ceremonial events, involving big gatherings of people, a wedding and a discussion about chalices respectively. Both of these scenes stage Cortorari central cultural tropes, namely  marriages, wealth in chalices, and dowries. Between these two big scenes, we get a chance to have a close look at how the couple Peli and Nina live and experience these very cultural tropes in their everyday lives.

‘The Chalice’ is a feature-length observational and participatory documentary. Pure observational scenes entwine with non-conventional interviews in which the characters tell their private stories to the camera and to me while minding their own business. One of the secondary characters, Peli’s sister Băra – who is married to brother of Peli’s spouse (a marriage arranged by exchange of daughters) – confides her own experience as a daughter-in-law expected to bring forth a son to the camera and recounts the story of her brother’s marriage. She does so while reflecting on idioms that are central to the Cortorari universe, such as family, household, arranged marriages, and the lived condition of women. All her appearances in the film consist of indoor footage in the form of confessional interviews – in choosing this, I wanted to convey that this particular character is representative of (almost all) Cortorari women of her age and marital status. The camera never follows Băra outside of her house – as the house, and its nearby surroundings, is anyway the space to which newly wed women are confined.

Peli and Nina live under the same roof as Peli’s parents, Costică and Uca, and a sense of transience and uncertainty looms over their household, both in regard to material possessions and to human relationships. Their main source of income is the money earned by Costică and Uca begging abroad, which is little and unpredictable. Peli trained as a clown selling balloons on the streets in Italy, but the urge to conceive a son to redeem his family’s chalice has kept him coming and going between Italy and his home village. Nina’s parents have supplied livestock to her marital household, and most of the time Nina is busy looking after them. Five years have passed since Peli and Nina were matched, and Costică is impatient to get back his family chalice. He thus periodically lashes out against Nina for not having conceived a son yet, and to her family who hold his chalice. When Nina finally gets pregnant, the foetus is a baby girl and she has to go through pregnancy termination. We learn about the termination of Nina’s pregnancy from her five-year old daughter Rada who is a witness to all of her mother’s pregnancy ultrasounds. Similarly to Băra, yet less articulately than her aunt, Rada is there to make the viewer aware of the condition of women in Cortorari society. She is the symbol of the next generation of Cortorari women who will follow a life-trajectory punctuated by similar events, namely they will have their marriages arranged for them and then give birth to a son and/or resort to pregnancy termination in case they bear a girl. The arguments over chalices relentlessly bursting through the fabric of the Cortorari everyday lives – as shown in the prologue to the film – is the very source of the predictability of scripted individual life courses.

The shooting started in December 2016, when the pressure on Nina and Peli to bring forth a son turned into a genuine battle ground for their respective parental families, and stopped in November 2017, when the couple learned the sex of their baby and resorted to pregnancy termination. Throughout 2017 shooting sessions alternated with editing sessions. At the beginning of 2018 I completed a rough cut with the story line of the film.

In October 2017 I pitched the project at the ‘Romanian Docs in Progress’ Industry Section at ASTRA International Film Festival in Sibiu. My film was awarded entrance to the 2018 Outlook International Market by the head of the Industry program at Visions du Reel International Festival. This will be a great opportunity to find co-producers and distributors for my film. The documentary will be launched in the fall of 2018.

Meet Our Wadsworth African Fellows: Kelita Shadrach

 

Kelita Shadrach

Kelita Shadrach received her MSc degree in Archaeology from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. Funded through Wadsworth African Fellowship she will continue her PhD training in archaeology at the University of the Witwatersrand, supervised by Prof. Sarah Wurz, Dr Dominic Stratford and Dr Matthew Caruana.

I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. I have always had a natural curiosity for the past and a drive to continuously learn and challenge social and academic structures. As a woman in academia and particularly one of colour, I find that there are many boundaries to be broken down and redefined within South Africa, as well as between South Africa and the international community.

Acquiring my BA, BSc with Honours, and MSc degrees in archaeology from the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) was important to me. Archaeology inspired me and awoke my desire to keep learning, particularly about the importance of the southern African archaeological record in the study of human origins. My interest is in the Earlier Stone Age, a period which spans from 2.18 to 0.3 million years ago in South Africa. During this time significant cognitive, technological and perhaps social thresholds were crossed, and past human species began producing the first (recoverable) cultural material: stone tools.

I have learned many lessons about passion, leadership and communication during my studies. As the current secretary of the Southern African Archaeology Student Council and as a senior postgraduate student, I have the opportunity to lead a dialogue among students, researchers and communities about archaeology and challenge the mind-set of academic exclusion of the public. Furthermore, I think that academia in South Africa needs to be more racially and gender inclusive. I hope to help change the established institutional dynamic.

Pursuing a PhD allows me to continue pushing boundaries. My research project will be an exploratory study of Early to Middle Pleistocene stone tool technology and site formation processes at the Klasies River Mouth, Geelhoutboom and Amanzi Springs sites in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.  My PhD research at WITS will focus on leading a multi-disciplinary, fine resolution, stratigraphically sensitive study of the sites. For generations, WITS has distinguished itself as a leader in the field of human physical and cultural evolution. This research will build on this existing legacy and, through the application of new techniques and approaches, help transform archaeological practices.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Dmitri Prieto Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto Samsonov received his undergraduate degree from the University of Havana. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in anthropology at University College London, supervised by Dr. Martin Holbraad. Read the previous four entries in the series.

My research interests are focused on the political anthropology of radical social transformations, particularly in Eurasia and the Caribbean. As a person of Cuban-Russian ancestry, I have experienced the long-term, trans-oceanic effects of the Cuban revolution, the Soviet revolution, and Perestroika. I am particularly interested in how emancipatory revolutions produce unintended dynamics of social asymmetry (including class inequality) and structures of hierarchy, authoritarianism and domination. In my MSc dissertation (LSE, 2008) and a subsequent book about the socio-legal aspects of the anti-slavery revolution in Haiti (1791-1826), I coined the term “transdomination” for this sort of social process.  I also auto-ethnographically investigated the (post)-Soviet diaspora in Cuba, a complex group of barely perceptible ethnicities, which emerged as an outcome of revolutionary policies and transatlantic migratory fluxes during the period of geopolitical alliance between Cuba and the USSR.

My current research topic is the ethnography of transdomination in post-insurrectional and post-Soviet Cuba (from1959 to the present). It encompasses the intersection of three areas of anthropological interest, the: (1) anthropology of revolutions, (2) anthropology of freedom, and (3) anthropology of historical consciousness. Additionally, issues related to geopolitics, 20th-century ideological and strategic models of State socialism, and the modern capitalist world-system are relevant for analyzing post-1959 Cuba.

Such a proposal requires carrying out massive fieldwork –which is exactly the sort of inquiry that ethnographic approaches make possible — and conceptualizing an innovative theoretical framework. I will need to collect ethnographic evidence pertinent for interpreting the complex social reality of present-day Cuba, and to put the resulting accounts in dialogue with life histories narrated by the witnesses and protagonists of the post-1959 revolutionary project. Anthropology is the academic discipline that makes such an integrative approach possible. I chose the University College London (UCL) because its Anthropology Department is deeply engaged with the ontological turn in the research of contemporary revolutions, which conceptualizes their social and cultural dynamics as radical cosmological changes. This kind of theoretical and investigative framework will be crucial for formulating an accurate scientific narrative of the process of transdomination in Cuba.UCL also has a tradition of expertise in both Latin-American and Eastern-European studies, which is an interesting combination for problematizing the issues of State socialism in contemporary Cuba.

My previous research has focused on social asymmetries and ethnography of the habitat in Old Havana and the Guanahacabibes peninsula (Cuba), history of the Cuban anthropology, work cultures of the Cuban emergent economic agents, history of the Cuban legal-constitutional identity, and administrative corruption in Cuba. I earned a Masters in Law, Anthropology and Society with Distinction at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and obtained a Graduate Diploma in Biological Anthropology from the University of Havana. My first degrees are a BSc in Biochemistry and an LLB at the same university. I am currently a member of the Research Workgroup “Anti-Capitalismos & Sociabilidades Emergentes” affiliated with the Latin-American Council for Social Sciences (CLACSO) and one of the coordinators of its Cuban chapter. I worked as an ethnographer at the Instituto Cubano de Antropologia, as a Constitutional Law specialist at the Centre for Law Research of the Cuban Ministry of Justice, and as a molecular biologist at the Centro de Ingenieria Genetica y Biotecnologia in Havana. I lectured in Social Theory, Anthropology, Constitutional Law, History of Cuba and History of Philosophy (inter alia) at the Santa Cruz del Norte Community College of the Universidad Agraria de La Habana.I am deeply committed to the future of Cuba and the development of the anthropological sciences in my homeland. After the completion of my degree, I expect to return and work towards opening new fields of study for Socio-Cultural Anthropology, and to strengthen transdisciplinary research.

 

Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth International Fellows: James Munene

James Munene received his undergraduate degree from Keyatta University. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in archaeology at the University of Michigan, supervised by Dr. Brian Stewart. Read the previous three entries in the series.

I was born and brought up in the eastern slopes of Mt. Kenya, Kenya, where I attended both primary and secondary school. I later joined Kenyatta University for a degree program in History and Kiswahili. This is where I met and fell in love with archaeology. I was surprised to learn that although archaeological research in East Africa has been going on for many decades now, there are just a handful of East Africans who have taken it up as a profession. Thousands of research papers have been published on diverse topics over the years but, it is a pity that so few of them have been published by or in collaboration with East Africans.  These few Kenyan archaeologists are responsible for teaching at several universities simultaneously leaving them little time to carry out research. I chose to enter the field with a goal to bring about change.

After my undergraduate degree, I enrolled for a master’s degree in archaeology at Kenyatta University and used my time as a student to gather experience in archaeological field and laboratory methods by working in different research projects in Kenya and South Africa. I am particularly interested in lithic technology, subsistence patterns, environmental reconstruction and comparative studies of Later Stone Age sites. I have worked with collections from various sites in East Africa and Southern Africa. My master’s thesis was a comparative study of two Later Stone Age sites, one in Magadi Basin and another in Lake Turkana Basin. I am especially interested in comparative studies, lithic technology, environmental reconstruction and subsistence systems. I also have a great passion for heritage management.

My decision to seek training at the University of Michigan was a reflection on my experience as a master’s student in Kenya. I was fortunate to meet a number of archaeology students from different parts of the world over the last few years and learn about their experiences in Graduate School. I was inspired to seek admission in schools with well-established archaeology departments that would give me the kind of training I needed to build a professional career and help promote future generations of African archaeologists. I am grateful that the University of Michigan offered me this chance.

Over the past five years, I have tried to get as much archaeological experience as possible to prepare myself for a career in archaeology. I attended field schools in both Kenya and South Africa, worked with various graduate students doing various projects in Kenya as well as participating in laboratory analysis. I have also worked in heritage management projects and on top of working on my Ph.D. in archaeology, I am enrolled in a Graduate Certificate Program in Museum Studies.

I am constantly thinking about ways of marketing anthropology in general and archaeology in particular as a discipline to East African students to increase scholarship and knowledge about the past. I am always looking for opportunities to inspire and motivate African students and encourage established and upcoming Africanist archaeologists to help in the training of African students. I would like to see more Africans become engaged in anthropological research as professionals.

Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth International Fellows: Alexander Titan Kabelindde

Alexander Kabelindde received his undergraduate degree from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in archaeology at University College London supervised by Dr. Ignacio De La Torre. Read the previous two entries in the series.

In October 2011 I was accepted into the Bachelor of Arts program in Archaeology at the University of Dar es Salaam. During my undergraduate studies, I received training in Palaeolithic Archaeology, Human Evolution and cognate courses. These courses gave me a greater understanding of lithic analysis and early humans’ biological and cultural evolution. Towards the end of my undergraduate studies, I did a hands-on analysis of Oldowan and Acheulean assemblages excavated by Mary Leakey at Olduvai Gorge and wrote a dissertation on the transition from the Oldowan to the Acheulean.

My enthusiasm and commitment to human evolutionary research enabled me to get a studentship to undertake a Postgraduate Diploma in Academic Research and Methods at UCL Qatar in August 2014, and then MA Archaeology of the Arab and Islamic World (2015-2017). During my Masters, I have participated in various archaeological projects as a student, collaborator, volunteer and research assistant in Africa (Tanzania), Middle East (Qatar), Central Asia (Kazakhstan) and Europe (UK). My participation enabled me to receive world-class research skills in conducting archaeological research projects. My newly learned skills were applied to conduct an independent research project, written up as a Masters Dissertation in August 2017.

In my PhD study, I intend to focus on the technological behaviour of Homo erectus in Beds III and IV, Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania). Throughout my study, I intend to undertake fieldwork (survey and excavation) and labwork (Leakey’s collection) to address the technological capacities of our ancestors during late Early Pleistocene. My research will require the use of integrative methods to analyse lithic assemblages unearthed from Beds III/IV sites and those stored in the field laboratory at Olduvai Gorge. Although the goal is to better understand Homo erectus technological behaviour at Olduvai Gorge, my research will also increase our understanding of the Leakey collections and adds new knowledge in Palaeolithic research in East Africa. More importantly, the results of my study will provide a new understanding of Acheulean assemblages from Olduvai and Homo erectus behaviour.

Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth International Fellows: Ehsan Lor Afshar

Ehsan received his undergraduate degree at Iran University of Medical Sciences and Health Services, Tehran, Iran. He also has a Master’s degree from the University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran and The New School for Social Research, New York, NY. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in anthropology at the State University of New York in Binghamton, Binghamton, NY, supervised by Dr. Thomas M. Wilson. Read the previous entry in this series.

My journey in anthropology began in 1999 when I was accepted to the graduate program of anthropology in the University of Tehran. Since then, I have always been engaged with the field as student, academic, ethnographer, member of the Board of Directors of Iranian Society of Anthropology, and again student and adjunct in the United States. My Master’s thesis, which was focused on Iranian caravansaries, received the University’s Research Grant for its novel approach and scholarship. After earning my degree, I taught anthropology in Tehran and two other cities in Iran.

Between November 2005 and August 2012, I worked as an academic at the Department of Anthropology of Sistan and Baluchestan University in the southeast of Iran, at the country’s borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan. While there, I became interested in the question of continuity and change in Baluchestan: how has the Baluch society in this relatively arid and isolated area come to be what it is today? Besides teaching, I also conducted three long-term ethnographies on rural communities of Baluchestan.

In August 2012, I moved to the U.S. to attend the graduate program of anthropology at the New School for Social Research. I completed the Master’s program in May of 2014 and started teaching at Saint John’s University the following year.

In September of 2016, I entered the PhD program of anthropology at Binghamton University, the State University of New York, where I can work on my research project under the supervision of world-class experts in anthropology of borders, state, and globalization. I have envisioned a multidimensional entry to the question of change in Iran’s Baluchestan with particular attention to the vortex of three interrelated dynamics: international borders, state surveillance, and forces of globalization.  I seek to contextualize the economic transformation of the Baluch society within the broader frameworks of nation-state and globalized world. The Baluch merchants, for instance, have to cope with the challenges posed by their group historical modes of adaptation and emerging forces of modern governmentality and market economies. My study’s goal is to investigate the confluences and socio-political consequences arising from these challenges.

Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth African Fellows: Kylie Marais

Kylie Marais received her MA degree in Social  Anthropology from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Funded through a Wadsworth African Fellowship she will continue her PhD training in anthropology at the University of Cape Town, supervised by Dr. Dr. Fiona Ross.

I was born in Somerset West, a small town situated outside of Cape Town, where I also attended primary school and my first two years of high school. Thereafter, I spent three years studying at the Cape Academy of Mathematics, Science and Technology, before being accepted into the inaugural class of the African Leadership Academy, where I completed my AS and A-levels. In 2011, I began my studies at the University of Cape Town and became the first member of my extended family to obtain a university degree. My education thus forms a crucial part of my identity; not only has it satisfied my love for learning, but it has also provided new opportunities for my single mother and family, none of whom could afford to attend university under the apartheid regime.

For my PhD, I intend to carve my place in the academe as a woman of color and feminist anthropologist, conducting research that will positively impact the lives of other marginalized women in Southern Africa. More broadly, within anthropology, I am most interested in relationships and meaning, gender and sexuality, development, family/kinship, motherhood, and childhood. As a member of the Anthropology of the First 1000 Days of Life project – an initiative that seeks to produce local knowledge on the critical window of the first thousand days of life – I have already developed my interests for early childhood development (ECD) and maternal and child health (MCH).

Over the last six years, the Anthropology department at the University of Cape Town has become my second home, where I have grown to know and love the space and the staff. After having completed my Bachelor of Social Science degree, triple majoring in Anthropology, Sociology, and Public Policy and Administration, my Honor’s degree in Social Anthropology, as well as my Master’s degree in Practical Anthropology, I knew that I also wanted to complete my PhD at UCT as well.  In addition, as UCT and other universities in South Africa begin to decolonize their curricula and campuses, I feel excited to participate in and contribute new and relevant knowledge towards this transformation.