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.

Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth International Fellows: Fatemeh Ghaheri

Fatemeh Ghaheri received her undergraduate education at the University of Tehran, Iran. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship she will continue her training with a PhD in archaeology at the University of Texas at Austin, supervised by Dr. Arlene Rosen.

During  my  undergraduate  and graduate career  in archaeology at  the  University of  Tehran  and  Tarbiat  Modares in Iran a number of academic and research experiences strengthened my desire to pursue graduate work.

My research background includes studies of non-elite architecture, site function and landscape in Iran around 500 BCE in Achaemenid lands among non-elite and elite levels of society. Among other issues that I explored in my investigations is the role that environmental and natural elements played in the distribution of ancient sites in the western part of Iran. By examining the relationship between geography, environment and topography, and human settlement distributions and types I explored how humans chose their settlements regarding environment and geography cautiously.

In my current research I will use phytolith analyses to analyze the impact of ancient empires on agriculture and land-use. I will also study the impact of imperial control on local peasant agricultural production. I would like to compare this type of agriculture with farming choices made by peasant farmers who might tend to choose special types of plants because they are a more reliable source of food and would guarantee a reduction in risk in the event of unexpected and unpredicted droughts and floods. To study these plants and plant-based products and analyze the impact of imperial control on land-use and agriculture, I will collect phytolith data through my field work in Iraqi Kurdistan at an on-going excavation of an Assyrian-period town site. I will then conduct phytolith analyses on these samples in the Environmental Archaeology Laboratory in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin.

What impressed me most about The University of Texas at Austin’s graduate program in the department of Anthropology are the diverse, multidimensional and interdisciplinary research interests of the faculty members and their expertise in such different approaches. Fostering fruitful discussions with other departments will surely broaden and enrich my skills as well as my general understanding of the issues.

 

Meet Our 2016 Wadsworth International Fellows: Joanne Munga

Joanne Munga received her undergraduate education at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship she will continue her training with a PhD in physical-biological anthropology at George Washington University, supervised by Dr.David Braun. Meet the previous four WIF recipients in this series.

My focus is on lithic analysis of East African Early Stone Age tools. My previous work involved a morphological analysis of the Lewa Downs tools a site located in Central Kenya. The main reason why I felt the George Washington University (GWU) would be the best institution for me to take my PhD is because they have a very good Human paleobiology doctorate program, which focuses on several areas of studies, from the Paleolithic to hominin evolution and primate studies. I felt I needed a wide array of experience. GWU is also located in Washington DC and is surrounded by so many resources that will help me in my studies, such as the Smithsonian Institute, and also has a wide variety of laboratories with different types of research going on, of which I will be able to visit and learn about all the research going on. I plan to make good use of all the available resources as I pursue my doctorate.

I will use this unique opportunity to specialize further in the sub-field of Paleolithic Archaeology. In particular, I am interested in a focused lithic analysis that can provide in-depth understanding of early hominin technology.

I obtained both my BA and MA in Archaeology from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. I was also a research fellow at the National Museums of Kenya from 2012, and was involved in several field projects throughout that whole time.

I would very much love to come back to Kenya after my PhD studies and continue doing research and offer my skills to the teaching institutions as well. My desire is that more young archaeologists will become interested in the deep past of our species and want to explore the rich heritage our country has to offer. I love working with younger students joining the Archaeology Undergraduate programs at the Universities, and doing a mentoring program with them is one of the things I would love to do.  We have a huge archaeological collection, and we need research scientists to actually work on all these collections, and who better to work and do research on these than the young upcoming research scientists from the Universities in Kenya.

Meet Our 2016 Wadsworth International Fellows: Ignacio Sandoval

Ignacio Sandoval received his undergraduate education at the Universidad of Chile, Santiago, Chile. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in social-cultural anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, supervised by Dr. David Graeber. Meet the previous three WIF recipients in the series.

I graduated from Universidad of Chile in 2006 with a B.A in Anthropology from Universidad of Chile. After obtaining a M.A in Sociocultural Anthropology at Columbia University in 2015, I briefly taught anthropological theory at Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Chile. My work, strongly post-disciplinary and based in Santiago, Chile, has focused on two topics: (1) the relation between neoliberalism, class transformations and life projects; and (2) the metatheory on social and cultural forms, especially the debate agency-structure. Recently, I started a new focus on sex-gender regimes and their historical becoming.

My current research follows strategies and projects embodied in the life of different families living in Metropolitan Santiago, Chile. I pretend to explore the relations between historical macro-processes and the intimate transformation of agency, subjectivity and temporal dwelling. Particularly, I am interested on understanding the cultural bridges between everyday ethics and political engagement and how they mirror practices of elaboration, resistance and reproduction of the ideological and cultural discourses that had emerged after the neoliberal counterrevolution in the country.

I chose the doctoral program at London School of Economics and Political Science because I think is the best place to pursue several interests that come together in my research. First, the emphasis on the study of capitalism and inequality that had been prominent in the department during the last years. Second, the department’s focus on political anthropology, moral anthropology and the research around personhood and agency was also an important factor. Finally, the possibility of developing metatheoretical inquiries during my studies in the stimulating environment that LSE offers was the final reason for which I chose this program.

After completion of my dissertation, I intend to go back to Chile to keep strengthen anthropological research in the country and to collaborate in the developing of a more diverse and robust anthropological community. I expect to continue my work related to independent collectives of young researchers on the topics of class and capitalism, and also the intersections on political economy and gender-sex formations.

Meet Our 2016 Wadsworth International Fellows: Aleksandra Simonova

Aleksandra Simonova received her undergraduate education at the European University at St. Petersburg. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship, she will continue her training with a PhD in social-cultural anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, supervised by Dr. Alexei Yurchak. Meet the previous two WIF recipients in this series.

I am interested of social implications of science and technology and development of specific urban environment. I am starting my PhD research on post-Soviet cities of science in Russia at UC Berkeley. These settlements were designed for scientific research in the Soviet Union. I consider anthropological approach to be highly valuable for my research, as the latter involves the analysis of spatial organization and architecture elements, practices of city dwellers and state policies concerning the science cities. These heterogeneous elements can be seen as forming the assemblages that are involved in the making of particular urban spaces. I hope to reveal the factors that pushed the development of science cities in different directions during post-Soviet period.

I have a background in political studies and philosophy from Lomonosov Moscow State University where I got my first degree. In 2012 I entered STRELKA Institute for Media, Architecture and Design one of the most promising schools for architecture and urban studies in Russia. My research was supervised by OMA architectural office of Rem Koolhaas. I explored space utopia and how dreams about space influenced political imaginary as well as material environment in Soviet Union.

Simultaneously I discovered the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) that also became a promising framework for my research. I entered MA program in sociology at European university where I became a part of a collective research project on Russian computer scientists at home and abroad. In my research I focused on spaces of scientific and technological creativity called hackerspaces. Along with ethnographic research of Russian hackers’ discourses and practices, I analyzed material organization of hackerspaces, global discourse on hackers’ ethics and identity along with the roots of Russian hackers’ movement in the Soviet tradition of scientific and technological creativity.

At UC Berkeley Anthropology Department I will continue my research on spaces of science and technology. I was impressed by UC Berkeley scientific environment, and I found out that Anthropology Department was a particularly interesting place for me, as its faculty members had specialization in the areas of my scientific interests.

 

Meet our 2016 Wadsworth International Fellows: Mulky Shruti Kamath

Mulky Shruti Kamath received her undergraduate education at the University of Southampton. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship, she will continue her training with a PhD in physical-biological anthropology at University College London supervised by Dr. Maria Martinon-Torres. Read the previous entry in this series.

Growing up in the port city of Mangalore in South India, I developed a fascination for archaeology exclusively through reading and travel. After completing my secondary education in science, I moved on to attain a BA in history (2014). To learn more about archaeological practices, I took up an online course from the Oxford Department for Continuing Education (UK), which furthered my interest in archaeology and anthropology, particularly of the Palaeolithic.

In 2014, I went on to pursue my MA at the University of Southampton, UK, in Palaeoltihic Archaeology and Human Origins, which took a comprehensive approach towards teaching this subject and helped me gain a greater understanding of the human story. I developed my current research interests during my Masters dissertation, when I was given the opportunity to study morphological features of dental samples using novel methods like microtomography (μCT) and geometric morphometrics. I learned and incorporated these techniques that form the core of virtual anthropology to explore variations in premolars in archaeological and modern human samples ranging from 3.5 million years ago to the current era. My results showed an evolutionary change in premolar morphology caused by distinctive adaptations, genetic influences and dietary patterns.

My doctoral research at University College London (UCL), UK, is a progression of my previous work and incorporates μCT, geometric morphometrics and statistical analysis. Dental traits have high genetic components and are particularly beneficial for phylogenetic studies. This research will offer an extensive investigation of the lower premolar morphology of the Early and Middle Pleistocene hominins from Atapuerca (Spain), as well as other Early, Middle and Late Pleistocene samples from Asia, Africa and Europe. Their comparative analysis will provide a clearer insight into the taxonomy and phylogeny of the European hominins, ultimately characterizing the variability of Pleistocene populations. This project is supervised by Dr. María Martinón-Torres, a renowned palaeoanthropologist, and a leader in dental anthropological research. The presence of such prominent academic staff, the availability of high-end research facilities, and the innovative approaches taken at UCL will undoubtedly help me acquire the necessary skills and expertise to establish myself in the field of palaeoanthropology.

Meet Our 2016 Wadsworth International Fellows: Olubukola Olayiwola

Olubukola Olayiwola received his undergraduate education at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship, he will continue his training with a PhD in social-cultural anthropology at the University of South Florida, supervised by Dr. Kevin Yelvington.

The focus of my scholarship traverses different aspects of application in the field of Cultural Anthropology such as economic anthropology; the anthropology of policy; the anthropology of development; complex organizations; and the anthropology of ethnicity and gender, West Africa.

My current research interest is on grassroots women and the violence of credit mobilization in southwest Nigeria. For my PhD at the University of South Florida (USF), I propose to undertake fieldwork focusing on how violence is implicated in the relationship between local women and microcredit institutions. I am interested in investigating the formal and informal processes that guide the disbursement and repayment of small loans by banks that operate in Nigeria under the Grameen Bank model. My interest is driven by the assumption that local experiences of microcredit loans contrast with the popular tendency to see it as sustainable development intervention especially among the poorest of the poor.

After my first degree, I worked briefly as a Program Assistant with the Development Policy Centre, Ibadan (a Non-Governmental Organization) and was involved with the Monitoring and Evaluation of MDGs projects in Oyo State, Nigeria. As part of this position, I conducted field research in a number of locales in Oyo State. The research included key informant interviews, ethnographic participant observation, and focus group discussions and  provided me with what I can now see as important experience as a fieldworker.

During my MA Program at the University of Ibadan, I investigated the role of ethnic identity and organization of informal trade in urban market clusters in Ibadan’s urban areas. Although the idea of the anthropology of space and place was still implicated in this research, my main interest was the historical and social factors that produced specific trade items as specialized areas in which different major ethnic groups maintained trade dominance. This research led to my 2014 M.A Thesis ‘Ethnic Identity and Organization of Informal sector in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria.’ And the following publication: ‘Culture and Informal Marketing’ In A.J Ademowo and T.D Oladipo, eds., Engaging the Future in the Present: Issues in Culture and Philosophy. Pp. 86-92. Ibadan: Hope Publications (2015)

Finally, and more importantly, with greater conviction that application of anthropological knowledge can solve myriad of socio-cultural problems in any human endeavor, a PhD Applied Anthropology will not only fetch me a career in academics but also avail me a rare opportunity of propagating the ‘gospel’ of Applied Anthropology within the shore of West Africa sub-region and beyond.

Meet Our 2016 Wadsworth African Fellow: Kefiloe Sello

Meet our Wadsworth African Fellow for 2016 – Lesotho’s Kefiloe Sello, who will be studying at the University of Cape Town.

I am pursuing a PhD in Environmental Humanities under Social Anthropology based on the fact that most times environmental concerns are left to the natural and geographical sciences. With Anthropological background, I am able to merge my understating of environment to human behaviour and offer insight into how moving forward we can implement policies, technologies and behaviours that are ‘environment friendly’. This research is inspired by my own life, my two lives: the life I knew, and the life I was forced to know due to resettlement. The life I was forced to know was professed to give me a better life but instead I experienced precariousness, as my family got battered, scotched and withered. I hope my research will introduce narratives on beliefs and resilience, accounts of  rural souls in urban settings.

I grew up in the highlands of Lesotho. The first time I came across a computer was when I got to university, ultimately I failed the computing course because I did not have enough exposure and experience.  Later on in life I co-founded a foundation (www.herchancetobe.org) which offers scholarships to girls from rural areas of Lesotho an opportunity to go to the best schools in Lesotho, so that they may have a better chance at life and education, and to break the poverty cycle that entraps them.

How I came to know about Anthropology is that while registered for Political Science, beginning of second year at National University of Lesotho, I accompanied a friend to her class. The lecturer was deliberating on women and development. I never went back to my politics. I found Anthropology to be the most practical discipline, addressing social Issues, causations and probable solutions in a manner that can be grasped by all. I have come a long way since then. I was awarded a Margaret McNamara Memorial Grant for commitment to children and Women in 2012 while pursing a Masters degree at the University of Cape Town. I have also co-authored a book on Marginality, Mobility and Reconfiguration of Social Relations in Africa, in which I address issues on women, identity and negotiation of space.

Meet Our 2015 Wadsworth International Fellows: Suvanthee Gunasekera

The Wadsworth International Fellowship provides the opportunity for students in countries where anthropological education is underrepresented to receive world-class training at a university abroad. In the final post of a series meeting this year’s cohort (here’s the first and second) we meet Suvanthee Gunasekera. A native of Sri Lanka, Gunasekera pursued her undergraduate degree in Zoology at the University of Colombo and will begin work on a doctorate in Biological Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champlain.

Although we never see them with the naked eye, microorganisms play an important role in shaping human biology. My fascination with human evolution and variation was ignited during my undergraduate studies in Zoology at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. I was intrigued by the role of microorganisms in the development of human physiology, and by how the immune system detects and responds to infectious agents.

An interest in the interactions between humans and pathogens was the stimulus to undertake an epidemiological study to detect Human papillomavirus (HPV) in oral and pharyngeal cancer patients where the results of the study suggested HPV as a strong aetiological agent in developing oral and pharyngeal cancer in Sri Lanka. This aroused my curiosity of how infectious agents cause cancers, how such pathogens are transmitted and why they are expressed so variably in infected humans. The project also prompted me to try understand the biological differences in human populations and to investigate the manner in which they have evolutionarily diverged at the level of the immune response.

Soon, it came to my realization that the field of Biological Anthropology would best suit my research goals. Now, it is my desire to be one of the few fortunate individuals studying host-pathogen interactions to better understand human evolution and to produce basic research that can be applied not just to Biological Anthropology/Human Evolutionary Biology, but can also be useful in the development of products and strategies to reduce the global burden of infectious disease. With a particular emphasis on questions relating to human immune system diversification and co-evolution with pathogens, I will conduct research that combines immunologic, genetic, cell biology and bioinformatic techniques to better understanding human evolution. I believe that examining how past pathogen outbreaks and life experience affect present day immune function variation in humans will not only enlighten the study of human evolution, but also help deepen the connection between Anthropology and fields concerned with modern day disease challenges in humans.

Meet Our 2015 Wadsworth International Fellows: Elif Irem Az

The Wadsworth International Fellowship provides the opportunity for students in countries where anthropological education is underrepresented to receive world-class training at a university abroad. In the second of a series of posts introducing this year’s new cohort of fellows (here’s the first), we meet Elif Irem Az of Turkey, whose work concerns militarism, gender and violence and will be studying for a doctorate at Columbia University.

During my undergraduate studies in Political Science and International Relations at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, my compulsory courses largely focused on quantitative research methods and grand theoretical narratives, which usually disregard the experience and subjectivity of both the subjects of the study and the researcher. As a result of my disappointment towards the mainstream research practice within political science as well as of my active involvement with the feminist movement(s) in Turkey, in the later stages of my undergraduate education, I gravitated towards sociocultural anthropology, a discipline which takes into account the significance of self-reflexivity and textuality.

I enrolled in the Master of Arts program in Cultural Studies at Sabancı University in the fall of 2012 with a full scholarship and teaching assistantship, and received my master’s degree in September 2014. Owing to my experience at Sabancı University, teaching is of great value to my academic life.

My master’s thesis entitled Military Masculinities in the Making: Professional Military Education in Contemporary Turkey was on military masculinities and professional military education in contemporary Turkey, and I have ongoing interests in militaries, militarism, gender and violence.

The connections between the body/self and labor in Turkey are central to my current research interests. In my doctoral work, I plan to focus on the intersections of the ongoing rural transformation in Aegean Turkey, national and international agricultural regulations of the neoliberal era, public discourses and policies on coal mining, and mineworkers’ understandings of the body as the self and as labor, and of life and death. Finally, I hope the interplay between fieldwork, ethnographic writing and fiction to be a fundamental concern of my research and writing.