Ciara is another one of SOAN’s recipients of the AHSS summer research project grants. With her funding, Ciara returned to Los Angeles for the summer, and has designed a fascinating oral history project that explores aspects of her own neighborhood and its history. As the faculty advisor of her project, I asked Ciara to provide our departmental audience with a bit of detail about her emerging project. Here’s what he had to say!
My research doesn’t propose a singular research question, but instead is a collection of ex-graffiti gang members remnants and a set of interviews making up an oral history of their time in the gangs in the 1990s. When gathered, I will correlate all their individual yet analogous recollections to analyze what graffiti meant to them, and assess their perspectives during this time, with particular attention to the dichotomy between art and vandalism, which captures the social realities of the graffiti writers in urban environments. Altogether, this research will explore a multitude of different topics and social themes, such as poverty and violence, and will investigate these artists’ experiences along social, cultural, and political lines. East Los Angeles is a marginalized urban community in which residents began establishing territories and reconfiguring urban space well before the 1990s. But because of tensions, largely defined by the racial and ethnic segregation, and coupled with a deep distrust of the police and ongoing violence, gangs rose in prominence in this period. Graffiti served as a way for members of this urban community to mark turf and establish territory.
I have been in contact with subjects that are now working as muralists or as established graffiti artists. They have detached themselves from any involvement in any graffiti gang activity for the past twenty years, and as I have commenced this project, these artists have brought me to the places in the neighborhood that are important locations from their yesteryears: I’ve been at the walls they’ve tagged, into their houses, and via ethnographic methods, I’ve been trying to blend into the scene, so that I might deploy participant observation to gather as much evidence as possible in addition to the interviews I’m conducting for the oral history.
Ciara, that sounds so interesting, and we’re looking forward to hearing more. We’ll catch up with you again in a few months as your project nears completion!
Thanks to an invitation from Dr. Daniel Rivera and Tal Shergill, I was asked to provide their audience with a brief lecture and interview on their Facebook channel. While focused foremost on human rights, Skyline International for Human Rights places particular emphasis on the freedom of speech and all the rights that underpin it. Migrants and migration to the Arabian Peninsula is one theater of concern for the group. The lecture I provided — The Migrant Journey to Arabia — seeks to provide a very basic overview of migration to the Arabian Peninsula, and this still shot is linked to the interview on Skyline’s Facebook page.
Zach is one of the University of Puget Sound’s Matelich scholars, and that scholarship has allowed him to pursue an independent summer research project in cadence with the AHSS summer research students on campus. As the supervisor of his project, I asked Zach to provide our departmental audience with a bit of detail about his research interests this summer. Here’s what he had to say!
The primary research question I seek to engage with in this project will be: How does Reform Jewish youth engage with and understand their role in Palestinian liberation movements?
In recent months, the Israeli occupation has continued to encroach on territory within the West Bank. In response to the actions of the Israeli government, the If Not Now movement has created a petition for Reform Jews to demand more from the Union of Reform Judaism in regards to condemning Israeli apartheid. I hope to learn from engaged Reform Jewish community leaders who have signed onto this petition in order to better understand their perspective on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and what drives them to engage with the If Not Now movement.
I hope to create of a resource based on what I learn from the testimonials of engaged research participants in order to propose means for improving If Not Now’s engagements as well as providing insights for the Union of Reform Judaism to better understand the growing ideological shift within young community members.
As Palestinians oppression continues to be justified in the name of Jewish safety, the need for Reform Jews to understand the shifting consensus surrounding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has never been greater. As anti-semitism increases across the globe, the Jewish people must find solidarity in humanity’s collective liberation of the oppressed. Through movements like If Not Now, Reform Jews are learning a new side to their story and face an urgent need to reevaluate their approach to Israel education within the faith. In this proejct, I hope to bring forth voices that can bring clarity to the ways in which both the Union of Reform Judaism and the If Not Now movement can increase and retain their engagements with Reform Jewish youth.
Although Zach’s semester with me in SOAN 299 Ethnographic Methods was thrown out of whack by the pandemic, the project he’s pursuing here certainly reflects the aspirations I try to convey to students — to design projects that are of scholarly and academic interest, but also incorporate applied goals that are useful in assessing real world issues or friction. We’ll check back with Zach at the end of the summer and hear more about his findings then!
Due to COVID restrictions, I decided to spend the Fall 2020 semester in my hometown of Palo Alto, California. Influenced by the past summer’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations and the arising discussions around examining systems of oppression rooted in history, I wanted to take the opportunity to engage with and analyze my local city’s history. I was specifically interested in understanding the representation (or lack-there-of) of people of color in Palo Alto history. The option to create an Independent Study course for the semester provided me a space to actively engage with my local history and community despite the isolating reality of stay-at-home regulations.
With the guidance of SoAn professor Gareth Barkin, and History professors Nancy Bristow, and Doug Sackman, I compiled a website which highlighted popular historical myths, underrepresented histories, and the necessary sociopolitical and historical context that is necessary to understand the experiences of people of color in Palo Alto. I also included a page of resources which included books, articles, websites and podcasts.
I did not intend this website to be a fully completed anthology on the history of people of color in Palo Alto. While my intentions of the project were to provide a more diverse historical narrative, there are still many topics, events, people and narratives that were not included. However, I aimed for this project and this website to be a starting point to prompt students, teachers, and community members to reflect on their understanding of Palo Alto history and be inspired to search for more. Recently, my website has found a home in the Palo Alto Unified School District library guide as a reference site for students and teachers to learn more about Palo Alto History and to use the sources and information I gathered for future research projects and lesson plans.
Although we remain mostly locked down by the pandemic, a variety of scholarly and academic organizations are hosting virtual conferences this academic year. I’m happy to announce that my photo exhibit — Proletarian Enclaves in the Urban Landscape of Doha, Qatar — was accepted by The Nature of Cities (TNOC) 2021 Festival, and is showing there all this week!
This particular set of images has an interesting backstory. The images included in this exhibit are part of a larger collection that I put together early this summer, thanks to the generous offer of Kevin McGlocklin, the owner of Tacoma’s Bluebeard Coffee Roasters and Cafe. Culling a thematic set of images from my time and work in Qatar, I was able to carry some of the elements from the Bluebeard show to the TNOC exhibit. Here’s the short blurb from the new exhibit, along with several of the included images:
“These images explore the peripheral urban enclaves where much of the foreign workforce dwells in Doha, Qatar. These transnational migrants, most of whom come from South Asia, both build and service the modern city. Although a few stragglers still dwell in the urban core of Doha, most migrant workers now occupy enclaves constructed at the periphery of the city. In the lifeworlds of these men and women, these migrations are, for most, an economic necessity for the households behind them. But these migrations also serve as a right of passage, and comprise a great and difficult adventure that is sometimes rewarding. The cities they inhabit upon arrival, like the one portrayed here, are far from home for millions of migrant men and women who dwell there, and is simultaneously the setting for this social drama.”
Special thanks to Dharmendra and Deependra for their help with several of the sojourns from which these photographs come.
This posting is about the podcast that senior Maya Gilliam produced about her summer research project!
The University of Puget Sound offers students the competitive opportunity to pursue independent research over the course of the summer. Projects are funded by the university, and are conducted under the guidance and supervision of a faculty member. The SOAN Department — with its sustained emphasis on quantitative and qualitative methodological training, the disciplinary commitment to fieldwork and the value of experiential learning, and the constellation of interests that have long coalesced under the banners of sociology and anthropology — has greatly benefitted from the AHSS Summer Research Program, and we are proud of the amazing work that our students have conducted in summers over the past decade. You can glimpse some of that collected work here.
Over the chaotic summer of 2020, senior Maya Gilliam pursued an independent project that sought to explore the ideas, commitments, and practices integral to various intentional communities in the contemporary era. Although her original plans were to travel around the western states exploring various manifestations of international community, the pandemic constrained Maya to the PNW, and simultaneously made fieldwork difficult for Maya and for several other students pursing independent projects. Nonetheless, instead of producing a paper or an article, Maya pulled together this insightful and fascinating podcast that summarizes her summer exploration. I’ve linked to it below — have a listen!
I think all of us are aware of how challenging the Spring semester of 2020 was for students, faculty, and the entire campus community. For my students in SOAN 213: City and Society, our departure from campus midway through the semester meant a series of virtual lectures, the abandonment of my plans to pioneer the new Tacoma Neighborhoods longitudinal project I had designed, and a substantial reconfiguration of the semester-concluding Global Cities project.
While lots changed, the pandemic also shook up my expectations from students. Sophomore Izzy Pitman (pictured here, at home in Atlanta) convinced me to accept a recorded soundscape in lieu of the written PDF I typically require. And I’m so happy that she did! In this particular assignment, students are required to experientially explore the city, and to use their “drift” through the urban landscape to unpack and analyze some aspect of the theories, theorists, and/or ideas integral to urban planning and history — theories and ideas we’ve been discussing together as a class. This soundscape explores the impact of Frederick Law Olmstead‘s ideas of urban planning and the centrality of parks to the urban landscape through Izzy’s exploration of his legacy in Atlanta. Check it out:
Several students in the orbit of the SOAN Department have new AHSS Summer Research projects they’re pursuing amidst the tumultuous summer. I asked Karina to tell us a bit about her summer project, and her work with my good friend Deependra Giri. Here’s what she had to say:
Collaborative Creation of a Nepalese Research Center
This summer I am honored to be working remotely with Deependra Giri in the collaborative construction of an NGO in Nepal. Deependra has a vision to create an NGO in Nepal, his home, and hopes that the NGO will support researchers on various projects. I intend to help him built his vision, and these efforts will coalesce in creating a website that will distill some of the key research elements he intends to provide, including translation, scheduling, data collection, and establishing qualitative samples. Additionally I will be conducting my own interviews with Deependra and others to explore the current challenges and socio-political climate in Nepal, and attempt to discern what role international research plays in Nepalese society. In the project I hope to gain a perspective on the presence and role of NGOs in South Asia, and better understand how they are responding to the unique needs of the global pandemic.
While I had originally intended to travel and to Bhairahawa, Nepal, I will now be communicating with Mr. Giri remotely. This changes the participant observation emphasis of the project, but still allows for many of the original goals to be implemented. I am excited to learn more about the ways that communities in Nepal are sharing resources and coming together to meet the needs of all people in the face of an uncaring federal government.
Good luck to you, Karina! We’re obviously sorry to hear your trip to Nepal was called off, but this project sounds wonderful nonetheless! Some additional details: With the sustained emphasis on independent field-based research, students in Puget Sound’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology have frequently received support from the University’s competitive program for funded student summer research. Indeed, the sequence of fascinating projects — conducted by SOAN students as part of the University’s AHSS program. This year was no exception, and we’re proud of our students’ success! But the global pandemic threw a wrench in these students’ plans. As a result, projects funded and approved for summer research had to be quickly reconfigured to the new realities of the Summer of 2020. The reconfigured results are detailed above.
As previously noted, several students in the orbit of the SOAN Department have new AHSS Summer Research projects they’re pursuing amidst our tumultuous summer. I asked Maya to tell us a bit about her summer project, and here’s what she had to say:
Alternative Lifestyles: Off-the-Grid and Intentional Communities
My project revolves around individuals or groups of people who choose to organize community and live in ways that deviate from the norm. Specifically I am interested in ‘alternative’ or ‘off the grid’ lifestyles. Washington state has an abundance of these communities that I aim to make contact with and to further understand the driving forces of these places, and the common values they share. The project will delve into particular communities to grasp a deeper knowledge about the social circumstances they respond to. Through this project I hope to aid in dismantling the oversimplification of alternative communities in mainstream culture, and extrapolate and explain their complexities. Although pandemic protocols don’t allow student researchers to engage in person with subjects, I am going to get creative and find a number of ways to explore this topic. My research will look into both historic intentional communities and their changes throughout time. Additionally, I want to grasp a sense of the ways in which these communities are responding to the contemporary crisis. What community ethos are arising in this moment? How is the pandemic changing these communities?
For this project I will do a considerable amount of book research, in addition to reaching out to specific communities to do zoom or phone interviews. Collecting as many interviews and first hand accounts as possible is greatly important for an ethnographic study like this. I aspire to come away from this project with a much more extensive historical and contemporary understanding of alternative lifestyles, and present this acquired knowledge through a captivating platform (blog, podcast, or magazine article). I am really looking forward to engaging in this topic, continuing to be flexible with my work, and learning new and unprecedented tools for safe and responsible ethnographic research.
We’re excited to hear about your findings, Maya! Good luck this summer, and we’ll check back in a few months to hear how it’s all going! Some additional details: With the sustained emphasis on independent field-based research, students in Puget Sound’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology have frequently received support from the University’s competitive program for funded student summer research. Indeed, the sequence of fascinating projects — conducted by SOAN students as part of the University’s AHSS program. This year was no exception, and we’re proud of our students’ success! But the global pandemic threw a wrench in these students’ plans. As a result, projects funded and approved for summer research had to be quickly reconfigured to the new realities of the Summer of 2020. The reconfigured results are detailed above.
Several students in the orbit of the SOAN Department have new AHSS Summer Research projects they’re pursuing amidst the tumultuous summer. I asked Oscar Edwards-Hughes to tell us a bit about his summer project:
Interstitial Space: An Exploration of the Urban Landscape and Marginal Communities of Tacoma, Washington
Cities, and the urban landscape they comprise, are complicated collections of social, political, and historical forces. In the United States, and much of the world, these cities are simultaneously two things: a patchwork of private property and public space, and densely populated areas with a notable social fabric. In all cities around the world, there are better properties and worse properties, and considering contemporary inequality in America specifically, there are wealthy Americans and poor Americans. Of these poorer Americans, many live on the same city streets we see and walk down every day. This project is an exploration of that junction — between urban space in America and American society.
Interstitial space “comprises the zones and spaces between plans, the unplanned, spaces that for some reason or another have eluded planners’ gaze,” (Gardner ND). This unplanned or abandoned space can be seen throughout urban areas, consisting of spaces where planning and boundaries are unclear or non-existent; a space seemingly missed or uncalculated by city planners. At first glance this space seems totally functionless, but previous academic research suggests the possibility that interstitial space, sometimes referred to as “junk space,” provides functions for communities overlooked by the general public (Koolhaas 2002).
This summer I will be conducting a series of interviews with community outreach coordinators, activists, and law enforcement personnel. With these interviews I hope to discover what communities of people are involved with this interstitial space, their differing opinions and roles, and the interactions between them. These interviews are to serve as a tool for gaining more insight into what work is already being done, or has been done, in these spaces, as well building an understanding into the history of these spaces. The heart of my project will be observation in Tacoma’s interstitial spaces in an effort to understand how this space is functionally vital to some of the most marginal members of our society. I will be spending time in Tacoma’s interstitial spaces, observing the things, people, and happenings I see in the space, and documenting my experiences through writing and photography. In my research, I will be observing how people interact with this space, what functions the space serves, what common happenings occur, and what common identifying features these spaces share. I will be observing normal everyday occurrences and abnormal events, the movement and attitudes of people, the mundane and the exciting, etc. Through this observation I aim to build an understanding of the domain, the people interacting with the space, and the space’s functionality.
We’re proud of you, Oscar, and we look forward to hearing about how this project goes over the remaining summer. Good luck! Some additional details: With the sustained emphasis on independent field-based research, students in Puget Sound’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology have frequently received support from the University’s competitive program for funded student summer research. Indeed, the sequence of fascinating projects — conducted by SOAN students as part of the University’s AHSS program. This year was no exception, and we’re proud of our students’ success! But the global pandemic threw a wrench in these students’ plans. As a result, projects funded and approved for summer research had to be quickly reconfigured to the new realities of the Summer of 2020. The reconfigured results are detailed above.