Hecht, Erin E., Emory U., Atlanta, GA - To aid research on 'Neural Adaptations Underlying the Evolution of Social Learning and Imitation,' supervised by Dr. Lisa A. Parr
ERIN E. HECHT, then a student at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, was granted funding in October 2009 to aid research on 'Neural Adaptations Underlying the Evolution of Social Learning and Imitation,' supervised by Dr. Lisa A. Parr. Humans have unique capacities for social learning and culture. Other primates focus mainly on what is achieved by others' actions. Humans have the additional capacity to focus on how it is achieved. This enables us to copy not just an action's end result but also its methods. As a result, human culture is cumulative -- socially transmitted behaviors acquire successive improvements that are propagated with high fidelity. This ratchet effect lets each successive generation build upon the achievements of the last, resulting in things like particle accelerators and the Internet. This project searched for a biological basis for these behavioral adaptations. It compared brain activations and anatomy in macaques, chimpanzees, and humans. It focused on the mirror system, a network that maps others' movements onto one's own body. Two major findings have emerged. First, when chimpanzees view others' actions, they have more activation than humans in frontal cortex, which processes goals, and less activation in parietal cortex, which processes movement details. Second, the human mirror system has stronger anatomical connections with parietal cortex and with other regions that are involved in tool use and spatial attention. Together, these results offer a mechanistic explanation for human specializations for social learning and culture.
Maurer, Megan Lynn, U. of Kentucky, Lexington, KY - To aid research on 'Growing Change? Urban Gardening and Citizenship in Southeast Michigan,' supervised by Dr. Kristin Monroe
Preliminary abstract: Residents of Southeast Michigan are challenging images of urban decay by physically transforming their cities. People from all walks of life are investing 'sweat equity' in their urban environments, turning vacant lots into vegetable garden plots and generating civic life. Through these investments gardeners engender forms of citizenship, creating new landscapes of political engagement, as well as producing green space and food. However, what kinds of citizenship these gardeners enact remains unclear. Do gardener-citizens operationalize neoliberal ideologies of private responsibility for social service provision, or are they forging alternatives to them? Urban gardening thus raises important questions about how people use everyday activities to affect the sociopolitical conditions of their daily lives. To investigate these questions, this project uses in-depth ethnographic study in a small Southeast Michigan city to identify gardeners' ideas about urban land use and civic life, and to explore how these ideas impact urban gardening and citizenship. This project also considers how different experiences of race and class inequalities shape participation in urban gardening and citizenship. Finally, given the regional impacts of global economic restructuring and recent changes in Michigan's urban governance policies, this project asks in how gardeners influence their city's political governance and economic redevelopment.
Carruth, Lauren Elizabeth, U. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ - To aid research on 'Bad Medicine: Risk, Rumor, and Humanitarian Relief in the Shinile Zone of Ethiopia,' superivsed by Dr. Mark A. Nichter
LAUREN E. CARRUTH, then a student at University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, was awarded funding in October 2008 to aid research on 'Bad Medicine: Risk, Rumor, and Humanitarian Relief in the Shinile Zone of Ethiopia,' supervised by Dr. Mark A. Nichter. The most common causes of death in humanitarian emergencies are infectious diseases, and these are largely treatable with a short course of antibiotics. Consequently, millions of people benefit from the distribution of antibiotic medications during humanitarian relief operations in disasters and conflicts around the world. Yet, although pharmaceuticals are central to humanitarian interventions, and although there is extensive research on the effects of humanitarian interventions on people's health, most studies fail to account for the lasting effects temporary humanitarian relief on local healthcare systems and health behaviors. Therefore, this dissertation project asks, 'What effect does the temporary provision of free medications to underserved populations have on their health-seeking behaviors, local social relations of illness and healing, local health systems, and transnational flows of unregulated pharmaceuticals?' More generally, what are the lasting effects of clinical humanitarian interventions? To address these questions, this research employs multi-sited ethnography in communities, clinics, and relief agencies in the northern Somali Region of Ethiopia-a hub of recurrent humanitarian crises, repeated clinical humanitarian interventions, and transnational contraband pharmaceutical trade.
Greenfield, Dana Emily, U. of California, San Francisco, CA - To aid research on 'Crossing the 'Valley of Death': Biomedical Innovation and Entrepreneurship in a Public University,' supervised by Dr. Vincanne Adams
Preliminary abstract: Since the 1980s, federal legislation has increasingly encouraged universities to capitalize on basic research through widening intellectual property regimes and industry partnerships, particularly in the biomedical sciences where new discoveries, drugs, and devices have recently been lagging. Concurrently, the transformation of biology into a science of engineering and the rise of venture capital, have encouraged scientists to become entrepreneurs and translate their academic research into their own start-up companies. The need to capitalize on academic research has intensified amidst current federal and local funding crises, raising questions about the future, direction and mission of public research universities, in particular. The proposed project is a year-long ethnographic study of a translational research institute at a public research university and medical center in California, with the mandate to transform scientists into entrepreneurs and the university into an engine of economic growth. This research aims to understand how the values and practices of market-driven medical innovation and entrepreneurship affect the trajectory, mission, and organization or research throughout the campus. My project will also trace what counts as 'innovation' in this context, asking what is possible and what is foreclosed at the current frontiers of medicine. This project will be based on participant-observation, interviews of entreprenuers, faculty, and staff, and analysis of published media. My research will contribute to a better understanding of how the funding of science relates to broader concerns over the role of the university and state in knowledge production, and the concrete impact of private capital on the contours, outcomes, and responsibilites of biomedical research.
Wroblewski, Michael, U. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ - To aid research on 'Subject Shifting and Style Sampling: The Creation and Sanctioning of Voice in Amazonian Ecuador,' supervised by Dr. Jane H. Hill
MICHAEL WROBLEWSKI, then a student at University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, received funding in April 2008 to aid research on 'Subject Shifting and Style Sampling: The Creation and Sanctioning of Voice in Amazonian Ecuador,' supervised by Dr. Jane H. Hill. Increased interethnic contact, language revitalization and standardization projects have introduced controversial new forms of expression for indigenous Kichwas living and working in the urbanizing Amazonian region of Tena, Ecuador. The objectification of Amazonian Kichwa language and culture have heightened the public visibility of Tena Kichwas, who are engaged in a struggle to overcome a historically disadvantaged position that is further complicated by new social divisions, shifting definitions of identity, and divergent ideologies of language socialization. This dissertation examines the creative linguistic strategies Tena Kichwas utilize to form unique voices, contest historical ethnic categories, and stake a claim in national Ecuadorian culture. In-depth interviews, recorded speech performances, and media texts gathered through ethnographic fieldwork in Tena reveal complex, multilingual sign-making processes at work. This dissertation combines an ethnographic approach to local social relations, politics, language ideologies, and metalinguistic behavior with systematic analysis of salient linguistic variables and linked social categories. It operationalizes theories of language objectification and ideologization, bringing the experiential processes of language change to the foreground. It is an attempt to illustrate a complex matrix of social forces that act on language, forces often dismissed as below the threshold of perception and analysis.
Wroblewski, Michael. 2014. Public Indigeneity, Language Revitalization, and Intercultural Planning in a Native Amazonian Beauty Pageant. American Anthropologist 116(1):65-80.
Lin, Hsiu-Man, U. of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM - To aid research on 'The Biological Evidence of the San-Pau-Chu-Site, Taiwan, and Its Association with Austronesian Migration,' supervised by Dr. Osbjorn M. Pearson
HSIU-MAN LIN, then a student at University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, received funding in June 2005 to aid research on 'The Biological Evidence of the San-Pau-Chu-Site, Taiwan, and Its Association with Austronesian Migration,' supervised by Dr. Osbjorn M. Pearson. The general aim of this research is to characterize genetic variation in native population(s) in Taiwan as a tool to test hypotheses about population relationships and possible migrations in the southern Pacific. To date, we have collected samples of forty-one individuals from the San-Pau-Chu (SPC) site in Taiwan. Current ancient DNA results conducted for mitochondrial DNA hypervariable region sequencing and cloning as well haplogroups A, B, and M have show that at least two individuals can be assigned to haplogroup A, one to haplogroup B4, and four to haplogroup M. However, the results so far have raised additional questions. Do current results show that the SPC people are related to (or the ancestors of) the Ping-Pu people, the populations who were historically closer to Han Chinese, and more frequently admixed with them? Were the Ping-Pu people are genetically closer to Han Chinese than other highland Taiwanese Aborigines? Have issues with small sample sizes complicated the conclusions? Additional tests on haplogroups C and F, simulation studies of sampling designs, and collected dental morphological data may help to answer these questions. These next steps are currently underway and will be included in the dissertation.
Block, Caroline Mohr, Johns Hopkins U., Baltimore, MN - To aid research on 'Rabbis, Rabbas, and Maharats: Aspiration, Innovation and Orthodoxy in American Women's Talmud Programs,' supervised by Dr. Veena Das
Preliminary abstract: My research centers on the women's Talmud programs that have recently emerged in the American Modern Orthodox Jewish community, where women study the rabbinic curriculum without the current possibility of receiving ordination or of serving as rabbis in their Orthodox communities. Institutionally unable to claim traditional rabbinic authority, these women have begun to experiment with cultivating alternative forms of pious authority and spiritual leadership within the bounds of American Orthodoxy. In an ethnographic investigation of these educational institutions and the ways in which aspirations for both individual cultivation and communal innovation are enacted through study within them, this research examines the changing landscape of religious authority in a community which has received little attention from anthropological research. Through its focus on American Jewish denominationalism, and the ways in which it simultaneously promises and poses a threat to innovations such as those toward which these female Talmudic scholars aspire, this study aims to contribute to a new and dynamic picture of tradition as it relates to modern religion in the public sphere.
Quinn, Colin Patrick, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Inequality in the Presence of Death: Mortuary Rituals in Bronze Age Transylvania,' supervised by Dr. John O'Shea
COLIN P. QUINN, then a student at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, received a grant in April 2013 to aid research on 'Inequality in the Presence of Death: Mortuary Rituals in Bronze Age Transylvania,' supervised by Dr. John O'Shea. Death, as a universal experience, has long been considered a great equalizer. However, mortuary rituals involved in death and burial are an important social context in which social inequalities are often materialized. This research project examined how people used mortuary rituals to negotiate social relationships and influence the development of social inequality in Bronze Age Transylvania. Using demographic and material evidence from the Trascau Mountains and Mures River corridor in southwest Transylvania (Alba County, Romania) during the Early and Middle Bronze Ages (2700-1400 BC), this study addresses: 1) how relationships of social inequality in these communities were materialized in mortuary contexts; 2) the rate and extent of change in mortuary rituals throughout the Early and Middle Bronze Age; and 3) whether changes in mortuary rituals, as ideological institutions, reflected or influenced changes in the scale and degree of social, economic, and political inequality in local communities. Research included field surveys and an intensive radiocarbon dating program. Preliminary results suggest that mortuary practices shifted through time. Inequality was manifest in all Bronze Age mortuary contexts. Variability in the tempo and nature of burial through time suggests that ideological institutions served key, potentially transformative, roles in the organization of Bronze Age societies.