Archive for Wadsworth Fellowships

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.

Meet Our 2015 Wadsworth International Fellows: Abebe Mengistu

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 first of a series of posts introducing this year’s new cohort of fellows, we meet Abebe Mengistu of Ethiopia, who will be studying paleoanthropology at the University of Florida.

My interest in archaeology developed while obtaining my B.A. degree in History at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, followed by my employment opportunity to work as cultural expert in the World Heritage Sites of Lalibela northwestern part of Ethiopia. During the time I was working Lalibela, I had the opportunity to obtain archaeological excavation and surveying experience with various researchers. This archaeological field work opportunities in Lalibela laid the foundation for my interest in studying archaeology, an interest that lead me to pursue M.A. degree in archaeology from Addis Ababa University in 2011. After my M.A. degree, I had the opportunity to work as an archaeologist for the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for 2 years which has opened me more opportunity to involve in more archaeological research projects and to decide my future research interest and specialization. Due to this, in September 2013 and I went to Portugal and joined Polytechnic Institute of Tomar to Study another M.A. degree to benefit from a specialization in quaternary and prehistoric archaeology.

For my PhD research, I am interested to conduct archaeological research on understanding lithic technology that can make important contributions for understanding the dynamics of prehistoric societies. Particularly, I am interested on Late Pleistocene period, which is a very crucial period to understand modern humans behavioral pattern and their paleoenvironmental adaptation which uncovered on limited geographical regions where the prehistoric human population took refuge and later radiated elsewhere.  The project I am currently developing in Ethiopia focuses on understanding cultural changes of hunter-gatherers of the Late Pleistocene through close examination of land-use and mobility patterns, subsistence strategies, symbolic and social behaviors and technological innovations.

Meet Our 2015 Wadsworth African Fellow: Njabulo Chipangura

Every year, the Wenner-Gren Foundation awards the Wadsworth African Fellowship to a young African scholar, enabling them to undertake graduate training in anthropology at a world-class institution. This year’s recipient is Njabulo Chipangura of Zimbabwe, who will be commencing studies at South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand.

I was born in 1984 in Mutare, Zimbabwe. I did my undergraduate honours degree in Archaeology, Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies at Midlands State University in Gweru, Zimbabwe between 2004 and 2008. In September 2009, I joined the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe as a curator in the archaeology department at Mutare Museum. Since then I have been involved in a number of archaeological researches which touches on conservation of all archaeological and historical sites, exhumations, rescue excavations and archaeological impact assessments. In 2011, I was awarded with the National Heritage Council of South Africa Scholarship and the Robben Island Museum Grant to study for a Master’s Degree in Museum and Heritage Studies at the University of the Western Cape.

For my PhD in Anthropology at the University of Witwatersrand, I am interested in understanding artisanal and small scale mining practices (ASM), technologies and processes in Eastern Zimbabwe using ethnographic and archaeological methodologies. The research seeks to pursue the significant lack of knowledge of all aspects of ASM in Eastern Zimbabwe, and the little knowledge of its history. Contemporary ASM activities have identifiable historical continuity with the past. This might be, for instance, include contemporary re-exploitation of nineteenth century or even much earlier mine workings and shafts, and there may be oral traditions or indigenous memory in some form.

The University of the Witwatersrand will be an ideal place for my study because of its reputation as one of the best universities in Africa. Moreso, the anthropology department at the university is a place with renowned scholars who will help me in achieving my own career goals. The diversity of anthropological issues that the department is involved in also places me at a vantage position in terms of learning and gaining new knowledge.

Meet Our 2014 Wadsworth Fellows: Tegenu Gossa

Better late than never! Our final report on the 2014 class of Wadsworth International Fellows – Ethiopia’s Tegenu Gossa.

I have a BA degree in History from Alemaya University in Eastern Ethiopia in July 2004. Some of the basic archaeology courses I have taken in my undergraduate study helped me to develop an initial interest in this field of study. Hence, I eventually took up the chance to study my graduate study in Archaeology in Addis Ababa University from 2010 to 2011. I have worked as a lecturer of Ancient History of Ethiopia in Arba Minch University in Southern Ethiopia between 2009 and 2011. I have also been lecturing Archaeology in the same university since 2011.

The research project for my graduate study focused on the analysis of MSA/LSA lithic artifacts excavated from the site of Aladi Springs in the Afar Rift. The research proved to be successful where the major findings of the research were published in an international journal (Gossa et al 2012). Besides, this study provided me with best opportunities to have continuous contact and communications with foreign and Ethiopian researchers working in the country and thereby participate in various paleoanthropological field projects organized by those international team of researchers. To this end, I have participated in the expedition to the Blue Nile Basin of northwestern Ethiopia in 2010, the Main Ethiopian Rift system (Gedamotta MSA site) in 2011 and 2012, and the Ledi-Grearu research project in the Afar Rift system in 2013.

Besides elevating my interest in the discipline, these field engagements also greatly shaped my future research interests. The research project I have proposed for my PhD training is going to be held in the newly discovered site of Melka-Wakena located at the headwaters of Wabe-Shebelle River found in South-central Ethiopia. This site appears to be one of the few highland hominin occupation sites at world scale with an elevation of about 2400 m.a.s.l.  In the exploratory survey we have conducted in the site in 2013 and 2014, we already identified numerous localities rich in Early Stone Age lithic artifacts and faunal remains along the banks of the river.  Hence, the research project is going to revolve around lithic analysis and Early Stone Age hominin foraging strategies. This relatively unique site is expected to produce important paleoanthropological and paleoecological data pertaining to the Lower and Middle Pleistocene hominin highland adaptations.

Meet our 2014 Wadsworth International Fellows: Enquye Negash

Meet our final new Wadsworth International Fellow of 2014 – Ethopia’s Enquye Negash.

I am a PhD student from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, studying in the Hominid Paleobiology program at the George Washington University (GWU).

I graduated from Addis Ababa University with a BSc degree in Earth Sciences (2008) and a MSc degree in Paleontology and Paleoenvironments (2012). After graduating, I have been teaching at the Department of Earth Sciences at Addis Ababa University. During this time I have also been undertaking research activities focusing on understanding the paleoenvironments of early humans from fossil sites in Ethiopia.

My research interest focuses on studying early humans, their evolution, adaptations, biogeography and environments especially during the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs. I am also highly interested in understanding modern environments to have a better understanding of the past.  I have a special interest in understanding the extent and the type of impact the environment had on the course of human evolution.  Thus, my graduate research focused on understanding the paleoenvironments of early humans in the Shungura Formation, a Pliocene-Pleistocene fossil bearing site in the Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia.

To pursue my PhD I chose the George Washington University because the Hominid paleobiology program in the Anthropology Department has the right set of professors and research community with expertise and interests parallel to mine. The program is one of the few anthropology programs mainly focusing on human origins and offers a multi-disciplinary approach in addressing questions in human evolution.  Thus, during my graduate study, I intend to acquire a professional training in the field of paleoanthropology and also improve my knowledge and understanding of paleoenvironments and learn new techniques in understanding the impact of the environment on early humans.

I am grateful to be one of the recipients of the Wadsworth International Fellowship. The Fellowship is helping me to pursue my PhD studies at the George Washington University. I believe this is a great opportunity for me to get the professional training I will need to contribute to the scientific community and society at large.