Mellon Research Grants
Call for proposals
Through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the integration of study abroad with students’ senior-level work back on campus, we invite students planning to study abroad in Fall 2015 and faculty to submit joint research proposals. Students should develop proposals in conjunction with their faculty mentors to fund independent research abroad. Highest priority will be given to proposals that will lead to independent senior work. Depending on the specifics of the proposed research, these research grants will be between $1000 and $2500, and will be designed to cover research costs. Students should specify the research costs that will be funded by the grant. They can propose to carry out this research either during the time of their study abroad or immediately after their study abroad experience.
Faculty should indicate that they have agreed to work with a designated student or students who will be studying abroad, and may mentor one or more students. Faculty may also work with students on faculty research projects where appropriate as long as students have an opportunity to produce a product which they can call their own. Where relevant, research projects will also need to be reviewed by the College’s Institutional Review Board.
Deadline for proposals from Middlebury College students for student research abroad should be submitted via email by February 22, 2015.
Deadline for proposals from students from colleges and universities other than Middlebury who will be studying at C.V. Starr-Middlebury Schools Abroad should be submitted via email by April 5, 2015.
Please submit proposals to the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any questions about what projects might be eligible for funding under this grant, please contact:
Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs
Robert A. Jones '59 House 114
2013-2014 Grant Recipients
2013-14 Middlebury College Recipients
Rana Abdelhamid '15, political science
"Mobilization in Immigrant Communities"
Jacob Eisenberg '15, environmental studies and geography
"Resilient Food Systems in Vietnam"
Dante Fracomano '15, music
"The Transaction of Power and Expression of Cultural Values in African Musical Pedagogy"
Forest Jarvis '15, international politics and economics
"The Politics of Social Justice Movements in Bolivia"
Jia Jun Lee '15, geography
"Informal Voices in Shifting Amman: Studying the Perspective and Agency of Jordanians Working within the Informal Economy in Amman amidst the Influx of Syrian Refugees since 2011"
Winnie Yeung '15, history
"Constructing Jordanian Nationalist Discourse through Ancient Historic Heritage: Analysis of Excavations, Maps, and Museum Exhibitions"
2013-14 Non-Midd Undergrads studying at C.V. Starr-Middlebury Schools Abroad
Christina McDonnell '15, Yale University, history of science and medicine
"Unamuno's Cientificismo: the Intersection of Philosophy and Science"
Anne Elise Stratton '14, Tufts University, biology and environmental studies
"Culinary Diffusion and Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Food Insights into Mapuche-Chilean Culture"
2012-2013 Grant Recipients
Middlebury College Recipients
Caroline Kahlenberg '14, history
"'The Gospel of Health': American Missionaries and the Transformation of Ottoman Women's Bodies, 1890-1932"
This research analyzes American missionary and Ottoman government attempts to physically transform and “modernize” Ottoman women’s bodies from 1890-1932. By the early 20th century, both groups viewed Ottoman women—and their bodies, in particular—as a visible reflection of the supposed sickness plaguing the “dying Empire.” Therefore, women’s physical transformation from “fat” to “fit” was seen as central to the Empire’s survival and revival. Specifically I examine the curricula and rhetoric at the missionary-run American College for Girls in Constantinople (ACGC) to understand the broader collaboration in spreading physical education, hygiene, and recreational sports in women’s schools across the country. It was believed that such curricula would transform students’ bodies and lives from “unhealthy” and “uncontrolled” to “robust” and “disciplined”—creating “good mothers” and “controlled wives” for the emerging Turkish Republic. In highlighting these shifts, I argue that women’s bodies should be studied as an important site of reform and modernization.
Mirian Nielsen '14, environmental studies
"Environmental Sustainability through a Creative Lens"
China, as a rapidly developing country, is encountering many environmental issues. From conflicts arising from the building of the Three Gorges Dam that flooded villages upstream and caused droughts downstream, to the highly prevalent use of cycling for transportation amid the heavy pollution in most large cities, Chinese government and peoples are frequently adapting to and dealing with issues of sustainability. My video work focused on capturing my experience as a student and visitor in relation to the environment in China. This work culminated in a multi-media thesis project aimed at addressing the lack of easily available environmentally focused online media. I created a suite of environmental films and a website for the curating of online environmental media. Please check out http://dailybloom.org for more information.
Paul Quackenbush '14, environmental studies and geography
"A River Runs through It: The Geolinquistics of Two Trentino Valleys"
My project investigated the spatial distribution of linguistic and sociolinguistic phenomena in two valleys know as Le Giudicarie Interiori in Trentino, Northern Italy. I collected survey responses from ninety-three participants from ten towns scattered throughout Le Giudicarie Interiori and tape-recorded dialect use from each survey participant. The linguistic analysis of these tape-recordings generally confirmed my hypothesis that towns located geographically closer together tend to speak dialects that are more linguistically similar. The extensive sociolinguistic data on dialect-use in Le Giudicarie Interiori paints a picture of dialect-use that is declining, but still deeply-rooted when compared to the rest of Italy, with 77 percent of respondents regularly speaking dialect in their day-to- day lives and 87 percent of respondents desiring that their children learn to speak dialect. Dialect-use was considerably higher among residents in mountain villages when compared with larger towns located in the valley. Above all, dialect-use serves as a powerful expression of connection to a town and to one’s roots.
Rachel Sider '14, international and global studies
"Human Security Dilemmas: Social, Political, and Economic Implications of the Syrian Refugee Crisis"
Since the Syrian uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted in March 2011, neighboring countries including Jordan and Turkey have witnessed an influx of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. Dozens of local non-governmental agencies in Jordan have collaborated with the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, to assist in hosting tens of thousands of Syrians, while the Turkish government has entrusted the management of refugee camps exclusively to the Turkish Red Crescent and its own disaster and relief agency, AFAD, turning down offers from NGOs to contribute. The differences in approaches taken by Jordan and Turkey towards refugee crisis management reveal the limited resources and capacity of Jordan an addressing humanitarian crises. Yet the Jordanian government claims that its primary concerns regarding refugee arrival are based on security. This topic is particularly of interest as the number of Syrian refugees continues to increase and will affect stability in the region.
Daphnee Tuzlak '14, geology
"Chemical and Mineralogical Evolution of Arid Tropical Soils (Pacific Coast, Ecuador)"
This study examines changes in soil chemistry and mineralogy of arid tropical soils formed on marine terraces (85 ka to ≥ 1 Ma) along the Pacific Coast of Ecuador. Given that this region is very arid compared to most of the tropics; this study provides the opportunity to compare soils in dry tropical climates to more-frequently studied soils in the humid tropics and determine whether or not temporal changes in soil mineralogy/geochemistry are effective in correlating terraces for tectonic interpretations. XRD, ICP-AES, SEM, TEM, grain size and pH were used to study mineralogy, chemistry and physical characteristics. Results show that smectite dominates in soils > 1 Ma and rates of reaction appear to be at least ten times slower than in moister terrace soils in Costa Rica and Colombia. Trends in soil geochemistry and mineralogy suggest that there is potential to correlate terraces for tectonic interpretation.
Napol Wills '14, American studies and German
"The Other Germans: Black Germans and Their Connection to American From 1945 to Present"
Gregory Woolston '14, geography
"(An)Other Space in Neoliberal Amman: Souk Abdali"
Urban scholars (Parker 2009; Daher 2013) increasingly describe Amman as a neoliberal city. Indeed, political and capitalistic actors have produced new abstract spaces through gated communities, low-income housing, shopping malls, and corporate towers; said spaces ensurecontrolled consumption among the city’s inhabitants. As Lefebvre (1991) repeatedly argues, however, inhabitants are also spatial actors with the ability to produce space. Their other spaces are of and for the people, acknowledging and serving a multiplicity of inhabitants and interests; they are an actual result of the “right to the city,” or the inhabitant’s struggle to participate and appropriate. In this intervention, I argue that Souk Abdali, an informal market that temporarily occupies a former transportation hub each week, is an instance of other space in Amman; further, I reveal the tactics of the market’s production, namely (1) physical appropriation, (2) behavioral appropriation, (3) self-management, and (4) diverse participation. The examination explores a hopeful void in neoliberal Amman, in addition to providing an empirical example of Lefebvre’s theoretical writings.
Non-Midd Undergrads studying at C.V.Starr-Middlebury Schools Abroad
Christian Bale '14, College of William and Mary, public policy and French and Francophone studies
"The University's Role in the Republic: A Study of the French University System, its Discourse, its Impact on Social Mobility and the Effects of the Law LRU"
Devikara Devakula '14, Smith College, East Asian studies and Women and Gender Studies, and medical anthropology
"(Re)producing Anxiety: Intersections of Infertility, Privilege, and Technology in Southwestern China"
David Gardner '14, Macalester College, history and Hispanic studies
"Religious Change at Frontier Sites in Colonial Argentina"
Emily Goldman '14, Brown University, Development Studies (Middle East/South America)
"Hip Hop Don't Stop: Egyptian Hip Hop and Its Political Potential"
Ella Nalepka '14, McGill University, Middle East Studies major, political science minor
"The Politics of Exclusion: Palestinian Representation Under Jordanian Electoral Law"
Simone Schriger '14, Bates College, psychology
"Assessing Psychological Distance Across Cultures Using a Picture-word Stroop Task"
2011-2012 Grant Recipients
2011-2012 Middlebury College Recipients
Harrison Anixter '13, geography
"Occupations of Residential Space in Buenos Aires as 'Heterotopia'"
My grant-funded research connects the case of squatters in Buenos Aires to the concept of Lefebvrian heterotopia in order to provide an example of how and why an avenue for resistance emerges in a group-consciousness fragmenting urban context and to better understand the political implications of a large group of Buenos Aires squatters. Employing focus groups with 46 squatters in Buenos Aires, it finds that neoliberalization, and the particularities of culture and place, explain the emergence of heterotopic spaces in Buenos Aires. The practices and discourses through which squatters produce heterotopic spaces challenge (and at times reproduce) the dominant spatial discourses and practices through which capitalism, patriarchy, and marginality are enforced in Buenos Aires. Bringing together the case of squatting in Buenos Aires and the concept of heterotopia, my grant-funded research fills important gaps in Critical Urban Geography and Squatting Studies literature.
Prottoy Akbar '13, math and economics
"Minimal Percolating Sets in Bootstrap Percolation"
Suppose a set of sites on a grid are initially infected (by some disease). Once infected, a site remains infected forever and a new site is infected if at least r = 2 of its neighbours are infected. Given n initially infected sites, is it possible to distribute them on an n-by-n grid such that the entire grid is eventually infected? Is this the minimum number of infected sites to have this property? Further, what is the minimum number of initial infections needed to eventually infect the n-by-n grid if r = 3 or r = 4? Suppose a grid G is eventually infected given a set A of initially infected sites. How large can A be so that no proper subset of A will eventually infect G? My research explores contemporary combinatorial works on Bootstrap Percolation theory to answer the questions above.
Peter Andersen '13, history and geography
"Catography, Science, and the Rhetoric of Empire in Qing China"
This research, conducted in the Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan during the fall and winter of 2011, consisted of (1) establishing a base knowledge of Chinese cartography, through the study of a broad range of maps, and (2) focusing on a more selective, intensive reading and analysis of Ming and Qing dynasty manuscript maps. The intensive study of Taipei’s National Palace Museum Library manuscript map holdings led to a better understanding of how internal and external administrative divisions were depicted cartographically, as well as how topography was rendered either planimetrically or at an angle. This work allowed me to critically compare these traditional cartographic conventions with those used by the Jesuits in their comprehensive mapping of the Qing empire. Reinterpreting the Jesuit maps as following these conventions leads to a rethinking of how the Qing dynasty appropriated Jesuit mapping technology.
Emily Evans Ashby '13, international and global studies
"From Guns to Carnations to Resistance: The Rise and Fall of the Azorean Movement for Independence from Post-Revolution Liberal Centrist Power"
I mapped the foundations, rise, and fall of the Azorean independence movement the Azorean Liberation Front, which began as a conservative backlash to the liberal 1974 Portuguese Revolution. Although its short duration and conflicting features made it difficult to classify, I charted the development models of three genres of political movements—radical right, secessionist, and social-based—and mapped each of these onto the historical trajectory of the Azores, as lenses to pinpoint critical events and junctures. I then teased out the internal structural, national, and international environmental elements that were most important to its formation and which led to its failure in 1978, paying special attention to political leftist movements of mainland Portugal, the economic viability of the islands, the legacy of Azorean autonomy, U.S.-based Azorean immigrant movements, and social and class divisions within FLA.
Kate Bass '12, sociology and anthropology
"Pseudo Citizens: Perceptions of US Immigration Law in Rural Michoacán, Mexico"
Nathaniel Brown '13, international politics and economics
"Reworking Old Clay: The Effects of Chinese Economic Transition on Jingdezhen Potters"
Through my Mellon Grant I investigated how economic transition affected local potters in the Chinese ceramics industry. My research was based in Jingdezhen, China’s “Porcelain Capital,” a city that has subsisted on government-supported porcelain production for over 1500 years, but in 1999 experienced a collapse of its ceramics industry during market reforms. The brunt of my fieldwork focused on a total of 28 interviews with a broad demographic range of people, ranging from government officials to nationally recognized artists to unemployed ex-factory workers. This was supplemented with a self-conducted market survey on sellers’ attitudes towards the current state and future trajectory of Jingdezhen’s ceramic market. From my fieldwork, I was able to not only delineate patterns of producer adjustment trajectories, but I was also able to establish that the cities economic situation has been improving rapidly. How potters in Jingdezhen were able to succeed after economic transition is the basis for my senior work.
Peter DiPrinzio '13, international and global studies
"Where's the Beef? Changing Incentives in Argentina's Beef Industry"
Nathan Goldstone '13, Russian
"Folk Tales of Russia's Altai Republic"
Zoe Hamilton '13, political science
"Hate Speech: Judicial Decision-Making in the French High Courts"
This thesis examines the considerations that judges take into account when forming decisions in civil law systems. To that end, the example of hate speech law, laws that restrict racist speech, is studied. Hate speech law provides a particularly interesting case because no scholar has yet studied how these laws have been applied in practice: what types of speech have been restricted under what circumstances? This has deep implications for how liberal democracies have managed to balance the competing values of protection against racism and the freedom of expression. Ultimately, the study finds that in close call cases judges have greater latitude to take into account external factors such as the historical contexts of groups claiming protection. When it is unclear whether speech qualifies as hate speech, judges are more likely to protect groups that historically have been vulnerable to prejudice, therefore maintaining the original integrity of the law.
Colin Herd '13, international and global studies
"The Political Economy of Brazil's Oil Industry"
Brazil’s long-awaited rise to global prominence has been the result of a combination of complex political, economic, and social factors. Yet, one industry stands out in its deep linkages to not only Brazil’s historical trajectory, but also its present challenges and future prospects; the oil sector of the economy. This thesis provides a thorough summary of the historical development of Brazil’s petroleum industry from its creation until the 2007 offshore discoveries, focusing on its dynamic relationship with evolving political and economic factors. It builds off of this historical framework to evaluate the response to the Pre-Salt discoveries through the lens of the three primary factors; political leadership, the structural alignment of Petrobras, and the role of private investment. This work thus contributes to the growing body of literature on the Brazilian energy sector by contextualizing the response to the Pre-Salt discoveries within the broader historical context of the petroleum industry, and demonstrating how this response has been deliberately structured to balance nationalistic political motives with progressive economic development.
Amelia Linsky '13, history and Italian
"The Ferrara Earthquakes, 1570-1579: Science, Religion, and Politics in Late Renaissance Italy"
My thesis analyzes a particular body of scientific works written on the destructive earthquakes which occurred in Ferrara from 1570-1579 within their socio-political context in order to show that scientific discussion did not take place in a vacuum, but was closely linked to political concerns. Whenever the writers of the earthquake treatises addressed the popular question of why the Ferrara earthquakes occurred, they necessarily took sides with either Duke Alfonso II or Pope Pius V. I follow the historiographical tradition of examining the documents produced in connection with a specific event in order to contribute to the debate on the relationship between science and religion. In this debate I support and refine the complexity thesis. I argue that the Ferrara earthquake corpus shows that science and religion were inextricably intertwined in the authors’ worldviews, but these two ways of understanding the world came into conflict because they reflected political oppositions.
Maria Elena Lloyd '13, biology
"The Effects of Artificial Ocean Acidification on the Behavior and Physical Characteristics of the Chilean Mussel Species, Perumytilus Purpuratus"
The oceans of the world currently absorb 30-50% of the CO2 produced by human activity, resulting in a gradual decrease in ocean acidity over time. As acidity decreases and the concentration of shell building materials decreases, marine calcifying invertebrates like mussels, crabs and plankton may have greater difficulty creating calcified structures. The effects of ocean acidification on an ecosystem engineer of the South American intertidal zone, the Chilean mussel species Perumytilus purpuratus, were measured. P. purpuratus was held at increased concentrations of CO2 in the laboratory over a three-month period and the animals were measured experimentally for reduced calcification rates and stress in both physical and behavioral characteristics. It appears that this species was mostly unaffected by increased levels of CO2 over the course of the experiment, although shell strength tests suggest overcompensation in the strengthening of shells. Longer-term studies may reveal more subtle effects on the health and survival of the species.
Emma Loizeaux '13, environmental studies and geography
"The Political Ecology of Himalayan Forests: Demystifying Human-Environmental Relations in China and India"
Northwest Yunnan, China is both one of the country's most ethnically diverse and ecologically rich regions. Local people harvesting wood for heating, cooking, and building is considered the primary threat to this biodiversity hotspot. Through conversations with villagers and my own observations during a fieldwork session this January, I researched what forest resource use and management looks like at the local scale. Examining where forest resources are harvested in each of the two villages and why helps identify factors influencing forest harvesting. These include convenience (how far people must travel to obtain wood), legality (where is it legal to cut wood), ecology (where do the desirable species grow), inter-village relationships (where are the management boundaries between villages), and spirituality (where are sacred mountains located). With these factors in mind we can begin to consider how forest management might be improved in the context of southwest China.
Anna Mack '13, sociology/anthropology and Chinese
"One Hundred Million People Equal: Experiences of Nongovernmental Disability Advocacy in Modern China"
The study of disability in global contexts is fundamental to the field of Disability Studies. Despite growing awareness of the importance of cross-cultural studies of disability, little research has been done on disability in modern China. The United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), signed by China without reservation in 2008, lends itself to analysis of internalization of international disability discourse in modern China. Through case study of Chinese rights advocacy organization Zhengzhou Yirenping, I show how nongovernmental organizations draw on the CRPD and its social model of disability to challenge biomedical definitions of disability instituted by the Chinese state. Using data from interviews with Yirenping clients and advocates and participant observation field notes, I argue that nongovernmental disability advocacy in twenty-first century China is a form of political resistance for persons in civil society. Utilizing the rhetoric of disability rights as human rights in the CRPD, disability advocates in civil society petition for state recognition of the human rights of all Chinese citizens.
Jaewon Oh '13, international and global studies
"The Relationship Between Catholicism and the FN Vote in France"
My senior thesis topic was the relationship between Catholicism and the FN vote. Previous literature has established that practicing Catholics are much more likely to vote for the right than non-practicing Catholics or non-Catholics, but there has been an equally strong consensus that practicing Catholics do not vote for the far right in as high numbers, and the electorate for the largest far right party, le Front national (FN), is as secular as any other political party’s. Therefore, I looked to see what might explain this disconnect. My first hypothesis was that it was a question of distinct Catholic and FN values that fundamentally clashed. The second was that it had more to do with which demographic groups practicing Catholics were under- or overrepresented in. My second hypothesis held up pretty well, but it is worth looking into more about Catholic values, particularly as concerns xenophobia.
Elizabeth Scarinci '13, international and global studies
"Moving to Survive: The Lives of Child Domestic Servants in the Andes Mountains"
Thousands of children from remote areas of the Andes Mountains have migrated to cities to work as domestic servants. Most of these children live with their employers, attend school part-time and earn money to send back to their families in the countryside. These children, often younger than sixteen, are vulnerable to physical and verbal abuse and undergo major transformations that threaten their indigenous identities. I will present on my research conducted on the lives of underage domestic workers in Cusco Peru. During the summer 2011, I interviewed domestic workers, their parents, the urban families that employ workers, etc. to ultimately answer the question of whether domestic workers improve their lives by migrating to the city.
Katie Siegner '12, international studies
"Competing Claims Over land Use and Development in Chile: The Example of the Proposed Hydroaysén Dam Project"
The isolated Aysén region of Chilean Patagonia currently sits at the front lines of a heated national discussion regarding Chile’s energy future. The massive Hidroaysén dam proposal seeks to develop the region’s hydroelectric potential through the creation of five mega-dams across two rivers, the Baker and the Pascua. While the project would provide substantial energy to the mines and cities of the north, it would also irrevocably change the river ecology and alter the lifestyles of local populations. During J-term, I used Mellon Grant funding to travel to Chile and conduct field research on the social and environmental impacts of the proposed dam project. I visited several of the proposed dam sites in Aysén and conducted interviews in both Aisén and Santiago with local residents, Hidroaysén employees, politicians, and anti-dam campaigners. My project examines how competing claims over land use and development are addressed in the Chilean post-transitional political system.
Jared Smith '13, international and global studies
"Coming Out in Rio: Sexual Identity Formation Among Middle-class Brazilian Men"
We often underestimate the extent to which social structures, situated in history and culture, affect how we relate to our sexuality. By analyzing gay identity in a different culture, in which the label carries different assumptions and connotations, we can begin to understand how sexual identity is shaped. Urban Brazil is a particularly interesting case, due to deeply embedded class divisions, a long history of cultural imperialism from the global North, and a juxtaposition of violent reactions against and extremely tolerant attitudes towards non-normative sexual identities. Between my semesters abroad in South America, I spent five weeks in Rio de Janeiro, completing a total of twelve 40-minute interviews with young gay men about their "coming out" experiences. This data is presented in combination with extensive secondary research in my International & Global Studies (SO/AN) senior thesis.
Kaveh Waddell '13, international politics and economics
"Authoritarian Durability in the Middle East"
2011-2012 Non-Midd Undergrads studying at C.V. Starr-Middlebury Schools Abroad
Benjamin Bates '12, University of Mississippi, international studies major
"Medical Diplomacy within China: An In-depth Analysis from the Perspective of Medical Personnel"
Ann Dennis '13, Pomona College, biology and French
"Biomimicry in Sustainable Design: How Nature Infiltrates French Architecture"
Katie M. Gray '13, Tulane University, Latin American studies,
"Securing Underpopulated Borderlands: Policy Responses to Immigration in Brazilian Amazonia"
Amy Huang '13, Oberlin College, East Asian studies
"Health Issues and Institutions in East Asia"
Stephanie Huezo '13, Wesleyan University, Latin American studies
"Chile Remembers the Disappeared"
Yureli Lopez '13, Pomona College, science, technology, and society
"Evaluating the Regulation of Cigarette Disposal in Capital Federal, Buenos Aires"
Valentine Sergon '13, Pomona College, politics major
"Navigating Cultures: Arabs in Argentina"
Sophie Weihmann '13, Yale University, political science and economics major
"Changing Political Structures in the EU: European Economic (Dis)Integration under Franco-German Leadership"
2010-2011 Grant Recipients
2010-11 Middlebury College Recipients:
Sydney Alfonso '12, geography and German
"The Old Men and the Sea: The Overfishing and Pollution of the Bosporus Straight and What it Means for Local Turkish Fishermen"
Old men in black hats tanned by years of hard living, non-apolitically smoke their cigarettes as they fish along the curved shores of the fishing villages in Istanbul. Facing pressure from the Turkish Coastguard (Sahilguvenlik), larger institutions such as Green peace and the EU as well as the large fishing conglomerates, the traditional fishing culture is at risk of extinction. By analyzing the fishing culture through a geographical lens, this research project critically examines the causes that contribute to this ancient disappearing tradition.
David Cutler '12, political science
"UNRWA and the 'Paletinian Refugee Problem': Evaluating 62 Years of Temporary Relief"
In 1950, a special UN agency was created to deal with the “Palestine refugee problem.” The agency (UNRWA) was instructed to care for some 900,000 Palestinian refugees, pending a permanent solution to the conflict; its original mandate was good for one year. 62 years later, the temporary relief agency functions more like a quasi-state bureaucracy that touches almost every aspect of the refugees’ lives. My research rests on the proposition that if it looks like a state and acts like a state, it can be evaluated as a state (with certain caveats and qualifications). I use the UN’s Human Development Index to gauge UNRWA’s work through the decades, measuring which factors have had the greatest impact on the welfare of Palestinian refugees. I find that despite UNRWA’s erratic evolution and neocolonialist trappings, the agency has relied upon relatively high levels of funding, unmatched local networks, and a hard-earned reputation for political neutrality in its successful bid to keep Palestinian refugees healthy, educated, and out of extreme poverty.
Molly Drane '12, international studies
"The Living-Dead: Is There Another Hope for Paco Users in Argentine Society?"
This senior project focuses on the stigmatization of paco in contemporary Argentine society in conjunction with the popular social discourse of the drug and its addiction. I explore the history of paco use in order to understand how this substance came to be so highly vilified and why its reputation surpasses the traditional taboos attached to the more common illicit drugs. The study focuses on a population of so-called paco addicts who live in the villa of Bajo Flores in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They are a part of the rehabilitation program Hay Otra Esperanza run by las Madres Contra el Paco. Through their testimonies, I aim to explain both how and why the social construction of paco and the paquero was born and why the dominant social discourse continues to promote a certain course of thought despite the changing reality of paco use.
William Ford, '12.5, international studies
"Environmental NGOs in China: Participation without Democracy"
In the last twenty years China has experienced a proliferation of environmental NGOs. This research project examined the different strategies which various environmental NGOs based in Beijing, China, have pursued their interests, in comparison with Hong Kong NGOs. Interviews with these environmental groups revealed innovative strategies with regard to political participation in mainland China that have important implications for the roles that actors outside the government play in the political process. Some of these strategies involve leveraging local and national media, creating effective issue frames, and building coalitions. Through these strategies, environmental NGOs have been active participants in the political process. If China is to be better understood, it is essential to appreciate such nuanced political participation in what is often perceived to be shut-off political system. For proponents of democratization in China, such trends may reveal a different approach to political liberalization and reform.
Genevieve Guyol '11, history
"Rising Cold War Tensions and Protests at Universities in Spain and the United States"
My project compares the 1949-1952 Loyalty Oath Crisis at the University of California at Berkeley and the February 1956 Student Demonstrations at the University of Madrid. In both countries, protest developed on university campuses in the years following World War II. Activists in both Spain and the United States called upon their governments for greater guarantees of civil liberties. I contrast the ways in which protest developed in Spain under a dictatorial regime and in the United States under a democratic government. The second goal of my project is to examine the ways in which American anticommunist policy affected the rise of protest in each of the countries. In both cases, protestors responded to contradictions in their societies that American anticommunist strategies had helped to create. These events provide two examples of the contradictions that emerged between the practical realities of preventing the spread of communism and America's democratic ideals.
Matthew Hedgpeth '12, English
"Event of Distance, A Novella"
The research I completed abroad in New Zealand over the course of six months started as an ethnographic approach to the expatriate’s role in literature and the reciprocal nature of cultural influence. Since then it has gone through a series of alterations and is now in the form of a novella called Event of Distance. It was only after I’d spent a few months back at home that I realized the story I really wanted to tell was one that, while partially based on personal experience, primarily responded to works from the still-growing but distinct literary traditions of the Māori and the Amerindians––once preliterate cultures. Had I not spent time away from home, I would never have discovered this particular subject. Ultimately, Event of Distance deals with issues of racial/ethnic identity but it is also partial record of what, in my mind, makes studying abroad an incredibly valuable experience.
Celine Lim, '11, environmental studies and geography
"Forest Governance in the Peruvian Amazon from a Rights Perspective"
The rich, biodiverse forests of the Peruvian Amazon are a challenging resource to manage, especially within Peru's complex forest governance structure that involves multiple actors at several scales. Communities at the local level are critical actors directly involved in managing forest resources, but are often poorly informed and give the least say in decision-making processes. Within the context of an international conservation scheme, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, this work investigates forest governance from a rights perspective, exploring the implications of a multiscalar governance structure on the agency of local communities. Interviews with government officials, NGOs and community members reveal the perceived influence of these actors and suggest a lack of coordination and communication between them. Effective and just management of the forest requires that governance activities are nested across scales and that local users are well integrated into policy decisions.
Clara Loebenstein '12, international studies
“Who Was Sendero Luminoso? The Actors and Motivations Behind the Shining Path of Peru”
This thesis presents the tragedy of the internal conflict in Peru from the perspective of the Peruvian peasantry in order to analyze and determine who joined, as well as the why they joined, including the various factors that may have motivated these people to join the Shining Path. Basing my analysis on a variety of individuals using the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s documents, I explore specific cases to determine the relationship between individual motivations and Sendero’s group cohesion. Incorporating research funded by the Mellon Grant, I stress that many of the motivating reasons and problems academics describe such as socio economic disparity, colonial and feudal legacies, racism towards the indigenous, and lack of state presence are still issues present in Peru making certain kinds of citizens susceptible to terrorism under alternative leadership.
Denise Marte, '12, Italian
"Women in Silvio's Italy: Politics, Labor, Media, and Women During the Berlusconi Era"
Seeking to define the status of women in contemporary Italy, this project has looked at the progresses and degresses of women's rights and empowerment in the political sphere, the social sphere and the labor sphere during the seventeen years of Silvio Berlusconi's government. combining on-field research with research conducted independently at Middlebury, this project will evidence the harmful effects that an authoritarian-democracy based on sexist ideals and a powerful media empire, have had on the status of women in Italy.
Avery McNiff '12, history of art and architecture
"The Landscape Palimpsest: Revealing and Concealing History in William Kentridge's Felix in Exile"
This thesis looks at the process behind animation in the work of the South African artist, William Kentridge, in order to explore the relationship between landscape and memory. I propose that the recreation of land through art reveals how we construct memory and history in social, political, and geographical terms. Kentridge’s animated film, Felix in Exile (1994), provides insight into the ways in which the artist remembers and reimagines land, specifically in South Africa, and raises the question, does landscape reveal or conceal history.
Lauren Redfield '11, international politics and economics
"Families in Action? The Realities of Colombia's Conditional Cash Transfer Program"
Women's empowerment is a vital component of poverty eradication and sustainable economic development, as has been affirmed by both the Beijing Platform for Action and the Millennium Declaration. Conditional cash transfers (CCTs), it is often claimed, generate such empowerment through increasing a mother's control of resources, augmenting her decision-making abilities, and encouraging the formation of social agency within her community. Critics, on the other hand, argue that CCTs place an overwhelming burden of time and responsibility on mothers, reinforcing traditional gender roles without necessarily guaranteeing long-term improvement in human capital. This thesis project delves into the debate, examining how female political and social empowerment is treated and measured in Colombia's Familias en Acción program and commenting on aspects of community leadership and participation, capacitation, politicization, and errors in implementation. The project implements both quantitative and qualitative analysis, but draws primarily upon first-hand interviews with program beneficiaries collected during field research.
Tucker Van Aken '12, international politics and economics
"The Two Faces of China's Unique Policy Process: Adaptation and Noncompliance in Energy Policy"
China's ruling Communist Party has maintained its hold on power not simply through repression, but rather through a unique combination of authoritarian institutions, local experimentation and policy adaptation that 1) culls best practices for national implementation and 2) ensures local policy implementation reflects vastly differing necessities province to province. Despite the aegis of central control, policymaking and implementation in China is both top-down and bottom-up. However, local control also often results in mixed policy outcomes, as local governments have the latitude to distort national policies to suit local, predominantly economic, interests. Using the example of industrial energy policy, an area that Beijing has emphasized in recent years, this study employs novel statistical analysis and first-hand interviews to show that China's unique policy process is particularly effective, but due to differing levels of provincial autonomy and local economic interests, results in wide regional variation in the level of success.
Rachel Wold '11, sociology and anthropology
"Feminism and Occupational Identity in Contemporary Spanish Female Visual Artists"
This presentation will center on my thesis research on the occupational and feminist identities of contemporary female Spanish visual artists. The study of female feminist artists, a minority within the artistic community, and their relationship to a society historically dominated by the proliferation of art created by men with a patriarchal worldview, invites many questions. How do the identities associated with artistry, feminism and femininity intersect and/or come into conflict in modern Spain? How does state feminism affect the artists' careers and conceptions of Spanish feminist identity? The social construction and characterization of the role of art and artists in modern society and ebates on the aesthetics of feminist art will also be discussed. The presentation will draw on English and Spanish-language scholarly works as well as personal interviews conducted with Spanish artists.
Gordon (Will) Woodworth '12, history and political science
"Victories Reversed: The 1938-9 Clash of Mohandas Gandhi and Subhas Chandra Bose"
The popular Western perceptions of both Mohandas Gandhi and Subhas Chandra Bose are belied by their interactions in 1939. Gandhi, popularly perceived as the saint-like Mahatma, displayed his willingness to play political hardball to retain his hold on power. Subhas Chandra Bose, a left wing rival to Gandhi within the Indian independence movement, left a political legacy within the movement that controverts his image as an Axis collaborator of minor importance. Using primary source documents including British colonial records, contemporary newspaper reports, Indian National Congress resolutions, and statements issued by Bose and Gandhi, I outline the reasons for their clash and argue that Bose's influence persisted past his ouster from the Congress Party leadership, reappearing in the push for the Quit India movement in 1942.
Emma Stanford '12, literary studies
"Perpetual Circle and Ceaseless Change: The Intersection of Poetry and Change-Ringing in the Seventeenth Century"
This project investigates the connection between English change-ringing and seventeenth-century poetry. I study the underlying philosophy of change-ringing and the treatment of its themes, notably change, constancy, and order, in poetic works ranging from Spenser's Mutabilitie Cantos to Milton's Paradise Lost and the devotional poetry of Herbert, Donne, and Traherne. Through a close reading of canonical poetry, belfry doggerel, diaries, and historical texts, I find a symbiotic relationship between change-ringing and contemporary literary ideas, particularly in the poetic treatment of universal teleology and the relationship between human and divine. Research was conducted during summer 2011 at the University of Oxford with the generous support of a Mellon Foundation grant.
Pui Shen Yoong '12, international politics and economics
"Buying Out the Poor? Bolsa Familia and the 2010 Elections in Brazil"
Hailed for reducing poverty and inequality in Brazil, the Bolsa Familia program (PBF) is the largest conditional cash transfer program in the world. Critics, however, have accused President Lula and his party of indirectly 'buying' the poor vote through the PBF. This research investigates the relationship between the PBF and the voting patterns of its recipients in the recent election. Is the PBF an apolitical poverty reduction strategy? Does it influence the formation of political preferences? Based on interviews conducted in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, I focus on the beneficiaries' own perceptions of the program, exploring the concepts of "ownership" and "clientelism" in social welfare.
Anna Zauner '11, history of art and architecture and French
"Degas, Gauguin and the Theme of Isolation in Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art"
Paul Gauguin and Edgar Degas were working side by side, though they had never collaborated on a project. In 1892 Gauguin took an unprecedented step in his career and completed the unfinished drawing of Degas titled Nude Woman Drying Herself. Degas and Gauguin are two of the most celebrated nineteenth-century French Artists. Degas' art focuses primarily on the urban Parisian figure, while Gauguin is more fascinated with the rural character, enhanced by his sojourns in both Brittany and Tahiti. What unites the two artists' work is their fascination with the depiction of the human figure in intimate contexts and the theme of isolation. In nineteenth-century art, the capturing of private moments was not a theme exclusive to Gauguin and Degas; however, these two artists are linked by inextricable similarities in their art. My research focuses on these aforementioned similarities that scholars have yet to explore.
Peter Grbac '12, Harvard University, sociology and anthropology
"Spaces of Conflict: North African Migration and the French Urban Experience"
Christopher Philpot '12, Kenyon College, Spanish
"The 'Recuperation' of Indigenous Identity in Contemporary Popular Texts"
Laura Valerio '12, Pomona College, Spanish
"The Transcendental Story: From Oral Narratives to Flamenco"