We are very pleased to share the news that SOAN major Elena Becker (’17) has won first place at the 2017 Society for Applied Anthropology’s Student Poster Competition in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her winning poster, titled Impacts of Development Discourse on Appropriate Technology “Solutions,” drew on fieldwork conducted in Madagascar, which was subsequently developed into her SOAN and Honors Program thesis. In addition to the stiff competition from her SOAN peers, the SfAA’s Student Poster Competition draws entrants from colleges and universities across the country and beyond, including many graduate students, so winning first place is an extremely impressive accomplishment. We asked Elena to describe her research and experience attending the SfAA conference:
When I went to Madagascar to study abroad in 2015 I had a vague idea that my required, month-long research would somehow involve rural to urban migrations and the preservation of cultural practices in cities. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. When I actually got to Antananarivo I started noticing small, metal cookstoves littering the streets. These stoves (called fatapera) were sold on every corner, used in street food stalls, and fired up in middle-class homes three times a day. Their omnipresence piqued my interest, and I ultimately focused my research on how researchers can apply characteristics of traditional stoves to alternative models in order to increase the latter’s popularity.
I re-appropriated this fieldwork when it came time to write my senior thesis in the fall of 2016. Although I kept my focus on the cookstove case study, I created a new framework for it, this time focusing on the way that development organizations (inaccurately) imagine and engage with the Global South as they develop and distribute technologies that they imagine to be “appropriate” for those spaces. A few weeks ago I was fortunate to present this research in poster form at the 2017 Society for Applied Anthropology conference in Santa Fe, NM. As I’ve found in previous years, this was a great opportunity to meet other students, engage with professional anthropologists, and to get feedback on my work and I left the conference with lots of exciting ideas and new directions to explore!
Congratulations on receiving this well-deserved recognition for your insightful work, Elena!