Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Carlos Mario Tobon Franco

With the support of the Wadsworth International Fellowship Carlos Mario Tobon Franco will continue his training in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin sponsored by Craig Campbell. Read the previous entries in the series here.

I am dedicated to the possibilities of working with multimedia ethnography to do justice to the entanglements of the senses. With the increased usage of new technologies that have opened the possibilities to share and distribute anthropological knowledge, we need scholars who are able not only to criticize these circulations but to engage with them creatively. Accordingly, I have experience producing photographs and multimedia pieces regarding social phenomena across the Americas, about Indigenous traditions, urban identities, Afro-Colombian communities, armed conflict zones, borderlands, and immigrants.

My scholarship at this moment is focused on the US-Mexico border and its ramifications. I am curious to look at how border premises are ideologically and politically constructed to shape particular cultural and social configurations. By intertwining race studies, affect theory, and structural violence studies, I envision my dissertation as a multimodal ethnography that relates the US surveillance, racial, and militaristic practices north of the border to structural violence, infrastructure mega-projects, and precarious economies to the south in Mexico and Central America.

I began the doctoral program at the University of Texas at Austin in fall 2020 during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Regardless, I found tremendous support and care within the Anthropology department. After a year of courses, gatherings, and stimulating advising, I can’t imagine getting the training I look for anywhere else. My advisor, Dr. Craig Campbell, and his work with media and leadership in Visual Anthropology have guided me through the latest developments and discussions in the genre. Dr. Kathleen Stewart and Dr. Marina Peterson’s focus on affect studies, experimental ethnography, and media theory have supported my interests and explorations of these topics. Regarding border studies, I am thrilled to join Dr. Jason Cons and Dr. Martha Menchaca in seminars on political ecologies and race and ethnicity in America, specifically. The doctoral program at UT Austin allows for considerable inter-disciplinary study opportunities. Therefore, I look forward to engaging with exciting scholars at the African and African Diasporic Studies, especially the work of Dr. Simone Browne on surveillance practices and Dr. Christen Smith’s research on racial formation, violence, and transnational struggles.

Meet Our Wadsworth African Fellows: Yananiso Maposa

With the support of the Wadsworth African Fellowship Yananiso Maposa will continue his training in social cultural anthropology at the University of Johannesburg under the supervisor of Justin Bradefield.  Read about other Wadsworth fellows here.

I possess close to a decade of professional experience, having worked as one of the archaeologists stationed at the Great Zimbabwe World Heritage Site, one of the five museological regions within the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe. In my position, I got the opportunity to interact with different communities in Zimbabwe. I got exposed to the challenges they face, particularly in their bid to be considered capable agents of sustainable management of heritage sites. The locals have always viewed such sites as critical to their socio-economic livelihood. These interactions with communities engendered my interest in this emotive subject, which led me to pursue my BA in Archaeology, Cultural Heritage, and Museum Studies at Midlands State University, Zimbabwe. My BA thesis investigated the management problems of the Great Zimbabwe World Heritage Site allegedly posed by local communities. After completing my BA, I undertook a MA in Cultural Heritage Studies which situated heritage management at the crossroads of local politics, climate change, and geopolitical dynamics in Zimbabwe with the Central European University in Hungary.

I am now pursuing my academic career at the University of Johannesburg, with a PhD that focuses on mainstreaming biocultural knowledge into sustainable development of marginalised communities in Zimbabwe using the case of the Ndau ethnic minority of Chipinge. The Ndau people have always used their heritage as a source of inclusive social and economic development in the face of escalating socio-political and environmental dynamics. Indigenous knowledge systems are a major umbrella project at the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Johannesburg. I appreciate the unique research UJ conducts on endogenous knowledge practices, from how they shaped technology in earlier civilisations to its significance in the societal transformation of modern societies. My lifelong aim has been to develop a platform that bolsters government efforts in heritage conservation, exhibition, and research. I will pursue the active involvement of grassroots communities in management as a more attentive way of rethinking agency, power, and collective rehabilitation of vulnerable heritage and biophysical environments. This includes rethinking gender, particularly women, as active agents of African communities’ social and material knowledge systems and practices.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Sanaz Shirvani

With the support of the Wadsworth International Fellowship Sanaz Shirvani will continue her training in archaeology at the University of Montréal, hosted by Julien Riel-Salvatore. Read the previous entries in the series here.

As an archaeology student, my scholarly work has been mostly engaged with evolutionary cognitive archaeology/anthropology and study of the ancient mind in prehistoric societies. I am especially interested in a key transition in the history of our species; the transition to an agricultural lifeway beginning some 11,500 years ago in the Middle East. Along with this shift, several other fundamental changes took place, including the emergence of domestic plant and animal species; the development of sedentary villages; the increasing importance of places for ritual and interment; the introduction of clay objects; and the emergence of new belief systems and ideologies.

My current research emerges out of the intersection of these academic interests and focuses on one of the most important archaeological sites in the Central Zagros Mountains of Iran, Ganj Dareh Tapeh, which was originally excavated from 1965 to 1974 and has yielded some of the earliest evidence of goat domestication in the region.

I chose the PhD program at Université de Montréal (UdeM) to continue my education in Anthropology for several reasons. Iranian universities do not provide four-field anthropological training like that found in North American universities. This has resulted in a lack of interdisciplinary collaboration between archaeology and the other sub-disciplines of anthropology. Another reason is that my research on the Iranian Neolithic falls under the Ganj Dareh Project (GDP), which is led by my host supervisor, Prof. Julien Riel-Salvatore. Most of the Ganj Dareh archaeological collections and primary field documentation are curated at the Laboratoire d’archéologie de l’Anthropocène at UdeM which affords me training in the unique combination of North American and French conceptual frameworks that the UdeM Anthropology program provides.

My PhD project examines ancient clay objects (e.g., tokens, figurines, vessels) from Ganj Dareh Tapeh as cultural proxies for reconstructing and gaining insights into key  dimensions of the Neolithization process. In particular, I focus on how new media such as clay allowed the creation of new forms of material culture that became extensions of the human body and the human mind.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Arafat Mamyrbekov

With the support of the Wadsworth International Fellowship Arafat Mamyrbekov will continue his training in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Calgary, Canada, hosted by Saulesh Yessenova. Read the previous entries in the series here.

The project that I am pursuing as part of my doctoral studies explores multigenerational effects of Soviet nuclear militarism on indigenous communities in northeastern Kazakhstan and their ancestral lands.   I examine how the production and testing of nuclear weapons in the service of the arms race has shaped their understandings of citizenship, national security, well-being, and nuclear risk, and explore impacts on the local economy in the aftermath of the Cold War. My hope is that this research will contribute to ongoing public debates in Kazakhstan on the country’s nuclear past and post-nuclear futures.

Before beginning the PhD Program in Anthropology at University of Calgary, I received an undergraduate diploma in Eastern Studies from the Almaty State University in 2002; an MA in History from the Semipalatinsk State Pedagogical Institute in 2007; and a graduate candidacy degree in History from the Shakarim State University in Semey in 2010.

Completing the PhD program at the University of Calgary will enable me to achieve my research goals in anthropology, as well as provide me with  credentials needed to introduce anthropology courses at my home university in Kazakhstan and produce critical research for public good in Semey, the largest urban center in the region that suffered most from the radioactive fallout.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Inditian Latifa

With the support of the Wadsworth International Fellowship Inditian Latifa will continue training in social-cultural anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, hosted by Anna Tsing. Read the previous entries in the series here.

My path to anthropology, like many other things in life, did not follow a straight line. After finishing high school in Indonesia, I chose to study English at the University of Indonesia for my bachelor’s degree rather than anthropology. It was a practical decision based on my experience of English as a gatekeeper to education and employment, which it continues to be. Fortunately, the English Department I attended had a cultural studies bent. I developed an interest in language, power, and history and went on to continue my studies in Global Studies at Leipzig University and the University of Vienna. My first encounter with anthropology was in a class on globalization, where we were assigned to read Anna Tsing’s Friction alongside Aihwa Ong’s Flexible Citizenship. Their work in particular pushed me to learn more about anthropology and to eventually pursue anthropological training.

Given my research interests are in the areas of environment, economy, and religion, the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz provides the ideal intellectual environment for me. Under the guidance of Anna Tsing, my project will focus on the kinds of interrelationship between people, animals, plants, and things that are cultivated through the widespread Islamic practice of waqf (God’s property). I’m interested in how notions of responsibility, reciprocity, and sacrifice are played out in the material and conceptual spaces that waqf creates, given the increasing hegemony of the structuring logics of global capitalism and the modern-secular state project. If the Covid-19 pandemic situation permits, I will be conducting fieldwork in Indonesia where waqf practices have seen a revival and re-figuration since the 2000s.

A common question I hear is, “Why is an Indonesian studying Indonesia?” The idea of a “native” working in their own society does seem to go against the principle of surprise that constitutes ethnography. Yet as someone who was born and raised in the urban areas of Java, I am cautious of assuming too much about my interlocutors who will primarily be Muslim villagers in Aceh, Sumatra. As Marilyn Strathern so aptly observed in her reflection on “anthropology at home”, there is an inevitable social distance between scholar and villager. I’ll be in for a few surprises.

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.