Alena McIntosh’s AHSS Summer Research Project

Hello again,


Alena McIntosh in her natural environment

As noted in the previous post, students at the University of Puget Sound can compete for funding to support their summer research endeavors. Our department’s students were particularly successful in past years, and again this year we’ve had numerous proposals successfully funded. This is the second of three we intend to showcase here on the blog. In short, the AHSS Summer Research Awards, varying from $3250 to $3750, allow students to pursue an in-depth research project over the summer months. I’ve asked each of this year’s batch of students to tell us a little bit about what they’ll be doing with their time, energy, and grant monies in the coming summer. Here’s what Alena McIntosh had to say about her new project:

This summer I will be conducting research in Kathmandu, Nepal on the urban infrastructure of transnational labor migration. International labor migration has increasingly become a central component of economic stability and growth within Nepal and I am curious to see how out-migration has impacted the built landscape of the city of Kathmandu. We live in an interconnected world unlike any time in human history. Today, transnational labor migration is both a common and essential component for the survival of many people around the world. I am aiming to gain a better understanding of a side of transnational labor migration that is relatively understudied by anthropologists. I am fascinated by how the landscape of the city can be built to reflect social and cultural beliefs and values. I want to uncover the ways in which labor migration has been etched into the built environment of Kathmandu.


The bustling streets of Kathmandu, where the proliferation of migration infrastructure is visible in the sorts of businesses that accumulate in many neighborhoods of the city

I am planning on conducting community level analysis by performing semi-structured interviews, photo ethnography, and engaging in participant observation with residents and business owners in certain areas of Kathmandu that serve as migration hubs within the city. The broad questions that frame this research are as follows: How has internal migration impacted existing communities? How is community reflected and constructed in these new urban spaces? Who is responsible for the development of migration infrastructure and what purposes does this infrastructure serve? How is gender understood within migration infrastructure? How has the experience of return migrants and the influx of international culture shaped the built landscape of Nepal?

The goal of this project is to help add further nuance to the ongoing scholarly debate regarding the impacts of transnational labor migration systems on sending countries. Additionally, I hope to compile an oral history of the neighborhoods of the city most affected and help to document the change that has occurred and is currently occurring within these spaces.

This is a fascinating research agenda, Alena, and we look forward to hearing more from you as the project gets underway. Good luck!


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