Emma Bernstein ’22

Engaging Anthropology in Early Childhood Education
In this applied research study, I explored styles of early childhood education at Bristol Family Center (BFC) in Bristol Vermont as part of the scoping phase of a new public program in whole student health at Mt Abe Union School District and Middlebury College. I used multimodal research including qualitative interviewing, document analysis, and digital media to describe the Reggio Emilia style of inclusive, child-led, nature-based, sensorial exploration and play.

My findings were applied in several ways. I worked with BFC’s director and my advisor Dr. Bright to develop a new college student internship in ethnographic design, laying the foundation for students to engage in similar experiential learning opportunities in partnership with the broader community. Second, our data were applied to a multi-investigator study led by Dr. Bright in student health at area public schools. We also gave public talks and classroom presentations, including an executive session/ town hall co-organized by Maurice Magaña and Ivan Sandoval Cervantes at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Baltimore MD on critical multimodal research and public commitment. Lastly, I developed a hybrid brochure (print with QR code) for BFC teachers and families to be able to use in organizational communication and fundraising. Supervised by Prof. Bright

Bryan Chang ’22

The Walled Garden: The Social and Socioeconomic Impacts of Apple’s Business Model among College-Aged Students
Apple Inc. is the largest company in the world by market capitalization, around USD $2.9 trillion. This project looks at the social and socioeconomic impacts of Apple’s “walled garden” business model among college students. I explore how Apple created a stranglehold over college-aged students’ software and hardware tech usage using their closed ecosystem, and the social and socioeconomic impacts of that demographic monopoly. Specifically, I study college age students who largely stick to Apple products and those who switch to or from Apple products. I surveyed students at Middlebury College to gain a more overarching perspective on the use of Apple products on the campus. In addition to the electronic survey, I interviewed students to gain a deeper insight towards how they interact with and view their technology hardware of choice. To analyze the data, I used anthropological frameworks and theories, and also on economic and sociological frameworks. I approached this topic using frameworks from Emile Durkheim’s concept of collective social consciousness and Pierre Bourdieu’s social and cultural capital exchange. I also used economist Ivo Welch’s “information cascades” concept and the lens of material culture and the culture of conformity to understand how Apple’s business model has created such an iconic brand identity and resounding stranglehold over college students. The results of this research found that there are existing social pressures on college campuses that have created an unrealistic standard towards conforming to the Apple ecosystem as a result of a culture of exclusion. Supervised by Prof. Fitzsimmons

Lauren Eskra ’22

“We’re Not Like other Churches”: Identity Formation and Community Construction in a French Evangelical Church
This project examines how immigrants create a community in a small evangelical church near Bordeaux, France. I use Benedict Anderson’s idea of an “imagined community” to analyze how people from places as diverse as Spain, Taiwan, and Cameroon find common ground in their Christianity by defining what it means to be a Christian and who gets to count as one. The first section examines the role of the French language in the way the evangelicals interact with French identity. The second explores what these immigrants think of their children’s religious lives. The next part shows how the individualism of evangelical Christianity creates a highly competitive marketplace in which churches constantly work to attract and retain members. Finally, I describe how church members use humor to build connections and how this reflects broader French humor styles. I conclude by comparing how these evangelicals think of themselves as both French and not-French, as Protestant but superior to other Protestants, and how this boundary work relates to broader French understandings of community identity. Supervised by Prof. Doran


Arlo Fleischer ’22

Success in New Landscapes of Social Movements: Building Resiliency and Re-Envisioning Success through Culture
From the Arab Spring protests to the Black Lives Matter movement, contemporary social movements often take new forms as connective actions rather than collective action movements. They are ignited through social media and rapidly form in a leaderless and structureless fashion. Therefore, these movements struggle to maintain stability and long-term drives for change, calling into question the capacity for social movements to effect change. Drawing on evidence from a case study of Algeria’s recent Hirak movement, this thesis explores how success and stability are possible in connective action and examines what resiliency and change look like in these movements. I ask: (1) How are cultural successes most significant for movements to create change? (2) How does cultural success happen, and how do social movement cultures create cultural successes? (3) How does movement culture allow movement success by building more resilient movements? (4) How do movement culture and cultural successes extend beyond the movement moment? (5) How do movement culture and cultural successes extend beyond movement space? Throughout my thesis, I demonstrate that cultural successes and social movement cultures can provide hope that social movements can and do create significant change in society. Based on my findings, I conclude my research by considering how social movements can better succeed. I argue that activists can build stronger movements by focusing more intentionally on a movement’s culture, for example, by considering cultural goals, outcomes, and strategies alongside other goals and strategies.

Madeleine Joinnides ’22

Print and Power: The Role of Radical Printmakers As Sociopolitical Agents
Printmakers in contemporary society exist in a strong but small niche in the United States. With the history of the press rooted in widespread communication and sociopolitical commentary, I examine the persistence of this practice and how it facilitates critical discourse. Two presses were examined for this purpose: Bread and Puppet Press in Glover, Vermont, and A Revolutionary Press in New Haven, Vermont. The anthropological approach of this project is multimodal, including participant observation, tactile participation, semi-structured interviews, and web-based research. By applying Benjamin’s theory of the “democracy of multiples” in mechanical reproduction, this essay positions the printmakers at Bread and Puppet and A Revolutionary Press as sociopolitical actants. I explore the tension in aligning printmakers with organic intellectuals following Gramsci’s

distinction between traditional versus organic intellectualism. These printmakers’ aim is shifting the current ideological hegemony by disseminating radical ideas by the democratic process of print multiples. Supervised by Prof. Nevins

Madeline Lyons ’22

A Place Where More than Bodies are Built: A Critical Feminist Anthropological Study of Fitness Culture at Middlebury
I carried out this applied mixed-methods ethnographic study with my co-researcher Madison Lord ’21. Our main objective was to examine the sociocultural dimensions and experiences of workout spaces at Middlebury and to understand the gym as not only a physical space, but a space of inclusive and exclusive social health. We used a mixed-method design consisting of a survey (N=272) of respondents across a spectrum of gender, ethnicity, class, and fitness orientations including non-athletes and varsity and non-varsity athletes. Our analyses drew on critical feminist and poststructuralist theories of body performance, normativity, and power by Debra Gimlin, Susan Bordo, Pierre Bourdieu, and Michel Foucault. One of our key findings was that 80% of respondents feel “strongly” that Middlebury does not have an inclusive workout culture and should build programs supportive of diverse bodies. We aimed to apply our data in several public ways. First, we gave a public talk with invited members of the College administration and Athletic Center leadership to start a conversation about building more inclusive workout spaces. We founded the student-led organization Uplift to promote more inclusive options for fitness and wellness. Lastly, and importantly, we sparked conversations among hundreds of students about the inclusivity of health and wellness on campus. Middlebury cannot succeed at fulfilling its philosophy of graduating world citizens when its health services and communications remain exclusionary. Our anthropology study enabled us to develop an understanding of the lived experiences of diverse students in order to reimagine ways of doing health at Middlebury College and beyond. Supervised by Prof.  Bright

Grace Metzler ’22

Foster Care in Addison County, Vermont: Disrupted Kinship, Structural Barriers, and Radical Future Possibility
This thesis considers the formal foster care system in Addison County, VT, through ethnographic analyses of kinship, relation, temporality, and care. A focus on the particular terms and priorities identified in foster care policies, including those of permanency, family preservation, and child “welfare” or “safety,” reveals the complex and oftentimes fraught interests of various actors, including children themselves, foster parents, social workers, and local and state agencies. The paradoxical relationship between temporary foster placement and the goal of developing long-term “permanency” for children reflects a number of existential and practical questions: who is family, and for how long? Taking up a sociocultural investigation of new arrangements of foster kinship and care in Vermont, this thesis proposes a hybridized model moving forward, one that might enable a more interconnected community-based vision of child welfare within the foster system and beyond, such that connections with potential family or kinship members needn’t be severed or fade into ambiguity over time, but rather endure as a supporting part of a child’s life into the possible future. Supervised by Prof.  Bright

Haegan O’Rourke ’22

Strange Encounters of the Small Town Kind: Spirit Possession, Kinship and Memory in Rural Connecticut
In this sociocultural and autoethnographic study, I engage with stories about an alleged demonic possession that occurred in Brookfield, the small, predominantly white town in rural Connecticut where my father grew up. This particular case has been sensationalized in films like The Conjuring, and possession more broadly has been popularly depicted as a strange, unhinged, and singularly religious phenomenon. In contrast, this project seeks to understand spirit possession as a complex assemblage of cultural norms, social change, and racialized affect. In this small but potent story, I consider the multiple expressions of fear, familial memory, and normativity to examine the ways possession shapes the lives of my father, his sisters, and myself. How does spiritual fear get learned as a way of inhabiting the body? How does that anxiety get communicated across bodies and communities? While places like Brookfield are often situated as natural, unchanging safe havens, this event in the 1980s and its afterlives illuminate the deeply constitutive effects of whiteness and Christianity on normative codes of space and bodies. This project engages with and problematizes anthropology’s long preoccupation with spiritualism and the occult, while shifting the lens away from typically othered subjects and racialized communities to consider entanglements of possession and exorcism in contemporary New England. Supervised by Prof.  Bright

Massimo Sassi ’22

Modalities of Meaning: The Production and Negotiation of Musical Significance in Bella Ciao
Originally sung by the mondine (female rice field workers) and the partigiani (Italian anti-fascist soldiers) respectively to protest the arduous labor of working in rice fields and Mussolini’s fascist regime during World War II, Bella Ciao has had widespread prominence throughout the world. Consequently, the song has been written, rewritten, recorded, and remixed to fit a wide variety of social settings, including but not limited to, the worlds of the mondine and the partigiani, climate protests, football chants, balcony performances at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and social media. Over time, the original meaning of freedom for the partigiani and the mondine has gradually been restructured and renegotiated as Bella Ciao continued to grow and change. In researching the dynamic progression of Bella Ciao from its origins to modern day interpretations and reception, I explore how the song has been inspired by, and consequently inspired, various modalities of meaning. Specifically, through exploring concepts of song origination, authorship, transmission, intention, and reception, I relate the social science of meaning to the ways that musical meaning is produced, reproduced, negotiated and renegotiated, and ultimately, varied, through the lens of Bella Ciao. Supervised by Prof. Kafumbe


Kathryn Alena van der Merwe ’22

The Toll of a Pandemic: Interpellation, Biopolitics, and the Lived Experience of Moral Distress among Frontline Healthcare Workers during COVID-19
In light of the global pandemic, healthcare workers in the US have been forced to take on a new burden of high stress, personal risk of sickness and death, and higher rates of adverse patient outcomes. This is a phenomenon which builds on the increasing rates of moral distress and burnout among healthcare providers as documented before the Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020. My thesis draws on ethnographic interviews with seven nurses, residents, psychiatrists, social workers, and physicians in the emergency room (ER) and the intensive care unit (ICU) of urban health centers in Minnesota, Missouri, and New York. I focus specifically on their accounts of living and working under the pandemic, including their perceptions of the pandemic’s toll on their mental health and public responses to their wellbeing as workers. I propose a critical cultural analysis of how institutional and societal expectations create a paradox that is potentially destructive to the identities of healthcare workers. I conclude that the interpersonal relationships between medical institutions and staff, healthcare workers and the public, and different groups of healthcare employees are a vital and underappreciated site for understanding workers’ wellbeing and resilience under the pandemic and beyond. Along the way, I discuss how my methodology draws on conventional interview and observational methods, promotes collaborative research methods, and offers pathways toward more equitable and supportive ICU and ER environments for healthcare workers. Supervised by Prof. Bright

Suria Vanrajah ’22

Maybe I’m Q? If I Was, this is Exactly How I Would Do It: A Communicative Analysis of QAnon Organizing Logic and Content Formation
QAnon is an online-based extremist movement characterized by a conspiracy-driven belief system. A subset of the larger right-wing extremist landscape, QAnon’s overarching message concerns global control and crimes against humanity committed by the deep state and a satanic cabal, and the need to root out and combat this evil. With a flexible structure and expansive reach across online and offline platforms, QAnon has succeeded in spreading its ideology and message, and garnered significant social and political support in the United States. This qualitative study examines QAnon’s operation, maintenance, and growth as a process through which participants use the QAnon framework to render their world meaningful and to influence others. Supervised by Prof. Nevins

Anna Wood ’22

Hormone Projects: How Contraceptives Create Conflict and Confusion Among College Students with Uteruses
Birth control is one of the most widely prescribed pharmaceuticals, and the most common “go to” solution for irregular and painful menstruation. But the long-term use of birth control can have adverse effects like cancer, endometriosis, blood clots, and heart disease. How does the ongoing pathologization of menstruation, combined with the authorization of synthetic hormones as medical “treatment,” combine to normalize contraceptives as the answer to all “period problems?” How do gendered and neoliberal ideologies of health contribute to the marketing and consumption of hormones? In this ethnographic thesis, I move beyond the surface of sexual and menstrual health to examine the structural codes and violences entailed in hormonal contraceptives. Drawing on mixed method fieldwork including semi-structured interviews (N=10) and a survey of Middlebury College students (N=143), I explore how contraceptives shape ideas about “good health” and “successful bodies” under late capitalism. Hormones exceed the bodies they are absorbed into and the biomedical categories used to administer them. To make sense of these social processes, I draw on medical anthropology, anthropology of the body, and feminist science and technology (STS) studies to argue that hormones are salient, even necessary, to the production of contemporary Global North bodies. Although hormone medications promise ideals of freedom and control, they do so under biopowered regimes. Therefore, the sorts of relief, sexual autonomies, and “cleaner” intimacies championed by hormonal contraceptives hide the incompleteness of female agency. Ultimately, I argue that medicalized practices, beyond a logical care for menstrual disorders, contribute to the pernicious narrative that synthetic hormones can “solve” menstruation itself. Supervised by Prof. Bright