Ana Siegel’s AHSS Summer Research Project

Hello again,

As noted in multiple previous posts, 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. 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 Ana Siegel had to say about her new project:


Ana Siegel perched on the remnants of the Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River.

Though initially overlooked by Euro-American settlers as an arid wasteland, the Four Corners region of the American Southwest has historically been held sacred to countless stakeholders, specifically those with a pro-conservation stance. Many of the region’s indigenous groups—including the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, Uinta, and the Ouray Ute—attribute immense cultural significance to the land, as many of their traditional territories, reservations, and sources of cultural heritage lie in the region. For outdoor recreants, the region is a haven for climbing and trekking; for locals, the land has been used for generations of cattle grazing. Yet, in the last hundred-or-so years, the Four Corners region has been recognized for its natural resource extraction potential, as it is rich in uranium, vanadium, oil, and coal deposits. As a result of the conflicting cultural and economic interests, this region has often been played as a battlefield between contesting groups, toiled over by those who wish to either capitalize upon, or to protect those assets. Bears Ears National Monument is one such landmark, of which has recently come to the forefront of this familiar quarrel. After years of advocacy and petitioning of the federal government, in 2016, the Obama Administration placed Bears Ears under federal protection, by means of the Antiquities Act. But, on December 4, 2017, President Donald Trump made the executive decision to drastically reduce the land protected by Bears Ears National Monument, by 85%. Paired with the simultaneous reduction of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, this ruling was “the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history” (Turkewitz 2017).  

There seems to be a vast disconnect between the understandings and interests of the seemingly-economically-driven decision-makers, and those of the pro-conservation stakeholders; my research will bridge that disconnect by not only drawing attention to, but also making more legible, the narratives of those pro-conservation stakeholders. With this disconnect in mind, the aim of my research is to explore the ways the shifting status, and resulting vulnerability, of Bears Ears has affected the relationship–the sense of place–that connects pro-conservation stakeholders–such as the region’s indigenous groups, environmentalists, outdoor recreants, and locals–to this landmark of the Four Corners region. 

Over the course of the summer, I will be spending time conducting fieldwork in Southeastern Utah; I will be working alongside pro-conservation stakeholders, using varying qualitative ethnographic research methods—conducting semi-structured interviews, engaging in participant observation, as well as organizing transect walks—to explore the ways in which these stakeholders’ relationships are shifting along with the shifting status of the National Monument.The ultimate goal of this research coincides with the fields of public and applied anthropology: I intend to both highlight and amplify these voices by creating a platform, that will be legible to the public and policymakers, through which pro-conservation stakeholders can vocalize their resistance to the reduction, as well as elucidate the reasoning behind their impassioned campaign to protect Bears Ears.​

We’re so excited for you, Ana, and can’t wait to see how your research develops once you get to Moab. We’ll look for an update from you in a few months!



Sam Lilly’s AHSS Summer Research Project

Hello again,

As noted in the previous posts, 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. 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 Sam Lilly had to say about her new project:


Sam Lilly found a book

I have always been intrigued and concerned about mental health, illness, and suicidality, as macabre as that sounds. As a philosophy major utilizing the tools of ethnography, this summer I will happily put on the hat of the philosophical anthropologist and hopefully gather stories and qualitative data that push past the empirical and didactic academic literature that is wildly available to the public.

My summer research project will be an extension of the research I am currently working on in SOAN 299: Ethnographic Methods, and is entitled “Mental Health Care Professionals’ Perceptions and Attitudes Toward Suicidality.” The goal of both the current project and my upcoming summer research is to begin a lifelong exploration to ask a fundamental question of philosophy and life, which is:

Is suicide wrong? If so, how do we know?

The research that I will conduct in the summer will turn from my current research (concerned with the institutionalization of mental health care) to focus on individuals who have lost loved ones by suicide. I hope that these interviews will allow me to explore the varied and diverse perspectives and attitudes Americans’ have toward suicide and hopefully help elucidate how these perspectives relate and are shaped the medical model of mental illness and other institutionalized frameworks that permeate our everyday lives that I believe create a societal apprehension to understand suicide both as a social problem and social fact.

Sam, this project sounds fascinating, poignant, and perhaps treacherous — we look forward to hearing about some of the challenges and initial findings you encounter as the project commences.


Gigi Garzio’s AHSS Summer Research Plans

Hi all,

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. 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 Gigi Garzio had to say about her new project:


Gigi Garzio

This summer I will be gathering data and conducting research for my project, titled Values, Justifications, and Perspectives Connected to the Anti-vaccination Movement. A large portion of the anti-vaccination movement is headed by upper to middle class, educated individuals who are able to comprehend professional medical information, yet they continue to adhere to anti-mainstream modes of thought (Geggel 2017). I am curious as to what mechanisms allow these individuals to continually justify their medical decisions and what contributes to making people so immovable in their beliefs, even in the face of accessed medical research and scientific discovery. The goal of my research would be to answer the question: How do people justify anti-vaccination perspectives, especially in the face of scientific research, and through what mechanisms do they accomplish this? I will look at the resources people utilize to spread information, such as online forums, as well as the personal accounts people give to justify their belief systems, and the presented logic behind their truths.

The anti-vaccination movement is diverse and is made up of a variety of motives and explanations for justification. This array of reasons for drifting from mainstream medical advice surpasses a lack of comprehension, but rather stems from the propagation of alternative ideologies and the rationalization of these perspectives through different modes of thought. This is extremely important because the distribution of inaccurate information by certain groups in the population can be detrimental for the whole. Vaccinations are a prime example of this because they work under the condition that everyone is getting vaccinated in order to protect the minority of people who are not able to for any number of medical or social reasons. In order to protect the efficiency of herd immunity, and the well being of the general US public, there is a demand for an increased understanding of the conflicting viewpoints, in order to move forward and display effective public health improvement. In a larger sense, we can apply this research to better understand how people justify anti mainstream modes of thought, not just in relation to medicine, but also to society as a whole.

This project is extremely important to the field of public health in the US. Because vaccinations are effective within the context of ‘herd immunity,’ or when 90-95% of the population is vaccinated in order to assure the safety of the whole population, a decrease in vaccination compliance may be detrimental to the immunity of our country. Recently, and specifically in the wake of the most recent presidential election, non-medical immunization exemptions have significantly increased in many states. In the past, this rejection of the advice of modern medical institutions has resulted in outbreaks in vaccine-preventable fatal diseases such as measles or pertussis.

Increasing general understanding of the modes of thought that lead individuals to stray from mainstream, modem medical guidance will aid in the public health field’s ability to reach a wider audience when discussing these issues.

Gigi, your project sounds great! Good luck, and we look forward to touching base a little bit later in the summer.



Tessa Samuels’ AHSS Summer Research Plans

Hi all,

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. 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 Tessa Samuels had to say about her new project:

The global attention to the refugee crisis and the role of American communities in receiving and welcoming new families escaping trauma has become one of the most contested and glorified topics in the recent years. Within the past two years Montana has resettled one hundred individual refugees per year, making refugee populations a very small and conspicuous minority within Missoula – a town located in Western Montana. Missoula brought International Rescue Committee (IRC) leaders in from Salt Lake City, Utah to establish an IRC locally. As a result, activists in Missoula founded a non-profit organization called Softlanding to help with the transition for the refugees. Missoula is now home to refugees from four different countries: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During the summer of 2017, I was the Childcare Coordinator for the IRC in Missoula where I registered the children from the newly arrived refugee familiesin schools and helped their family acquire childcare services.


Tessa Samuels

My own experience working with Softlanding showed me, and the literature affirms, how many refugee families struggle with the transition process. In some communities they feel forced assimilation in order to be welcomed (Lazarevic 2006: 218), as well as adjusting to new customs. Refugees are considered semi-non-voluntary immigrants because often times they are forced to flee their home either from an environmental disaster or persecution based on race, religion, political standing, or ethnic identity (Lazarevic 217). The transition and acculturation process is more challenging for these newcomers than for voluntary immigrants, because they do not feel that it was their choice to resettle (McBrien 2005: 330).

Compounding the challenge of relocation is the intergenerational dimension of this transition, defined as dissonant acculturation or segmented assimilation. Dissonant acculturation is when a child acculturates faster than their parents, the parents are often times holding on –with every right to be –to traditions and cultural norms and language from their original country while the child learns the language faster and is more at ease with balancing the culture of the host country and the culture of their original country (Stepick 2006: 394). Although children tend to acculturate faster than parents, they still struggle with the integration and socialization process (McBrien 2005: 360) while sometimes balancing different expectations from home with those set at school in regards to language, beliefs, values and norms and therefore socialization culminating in a feeling of isolation.

My own research will thus intervene by asking refugee parents what schools can do to meet their children’s needs of socialization and a softer transition. What obstacles do parents perceive their children facing in schools?  How can schools help the children make friends and get involved, as well as aid them in sustaining and thriving academically? In addition to exploring these questions, I also will examine the factors that limit parental and school efforts to facilitate that integration such as transportation and special programming. I will ask about family’s expectations for their children’s academics and what parents want to see for their children’s social life during the transition period. I will then compare these perspectives to what teachers are saying about how they are meeting the needs of families. I will ask teachers if they are always told when a child is a newly arrived refugee. I will also share insights from the refugee parents to see if there is common ground on which they can meet, despite potentially differing expectations. For after school programs, based on parent interests, I will examine if there are flagship programs that could be established and how accessible that would be considering transportation.

This study will consist of both ethnographic methods and analysis of preexisting surveys. For the ethnographic methods part of my research I will conduct semi-structured interviews with seven of the newly arrived refugee families. I will also talk to the childcare facilities, teachers at the three schools, and instructors at the three day-camps to elicit their views on the challenges refugee children face and the strategies they use to help these children socialize or to create a more multicultural environment in their classrooms/schools. I will simply be asking what ways schools and childcare centers could change to help the socialization process for the family, and in what ways could schools support a multitude of cultures while remaining in the bounds of being a public school or institution in the United States. I will also be asking about leisure time activities and how that impacts the socialization in schools, because leisure activities –and in Missoula Montana those activities comprise often times of outdoor recreation or sports –are a large social factor in schools and day camps.

Your project is fascinating, Tessa, and we look forward to hearing an update this summer after your research is underway.


Puget Sound SOAN Students at the Society for Applied Anthropology meeting in Santa Fe

Hi all,

Over the past decade, SOAN students have been a regular feature at the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA). The SfAA uniquely convenes academic anthropologists with a constellation of ‘practitioners’ — anthropologists who use their degree(s) to work in international development, public health, international development, the non-profit sector, and a variety of other areas. This year, the annual meeting was held in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Seven students participated in the poster session, which provided them the opportunity to present their research and receive feedback from numerous conference attendees. And as usual, our students’ research widely impressed the anthropologists at the conference. Here’s a quick list of the Puget Sound students’ poster titles.

Elena Augustine’s project, Pro-Life Direct Activists’ Affect on Planned Parenthood Patients and Employees, explored how pro-life activism shapes clinic dynamics and defense tactics in the greater Tacoma area.

Elena Becker’s project, Impacts of Development Discourse on Appropriate Technology “Solutions,” distilled her fieldwork in Madagascar and her subsequent senior thesis work into a critique of the contemporary development paradigm.

Maria Birrell presented her senior thesis project, entitled Applying Feminist Theory to Indigenous Archaeology, which explores how feminist archaeological theory has reshaped the practice of archaeological fieldwork in the Pacific Northwest.

Sam Carp’s summer research exploring agricultural practices in Ghana, further extrapolated for his senior thesis, was distilled in his project poster, entitled, Understanding the Role of Subsistence Farming in a Developing Nation. In that project, Sam emphasizes the food security role of local markets and subsistence farming.

Emma Erler’s project, A Forged Dichotomy between Biomedicine and Traditional Healing Practices: An Ethnographic Study of Sikkim Dichotomy, builds on her ethnographic research during her semester abroad in India, exploring the dialectic between the biomedical paradigm and traditional, historic healing practices in India.

Kathryn Stutz’s project, Transnational Museum Networks Passing Through Qatar: The Balance of Communication, Curation, and Culture, distilled her AHSS summer research project in Qatar amidst the astonishing bloom of new museums there. This project examines some o the complex processes and relations discernible in the the process of establishing these museums, their exhibit, and their content.

Ariel Ziegler’s senior project, entitled National Parks for All?: Exploration of African American Accessibility of US National Parks, uses an ethnographic methodology to explore differential access to America’s archipelago of national parks.

As noted, Puget Sound has established a perennial footprint at the Society for Applied Anthropology, and these students’ work set the pace for the annual poster session. Congrats to all involved for another successful conference.


SOAN Club Brownbag this Wednesday at 1:00 PM

forestWhat:   Senior Allison Nasson will talk about her AHSS Summer Research Project
When:  Wednesday September 28 from 1:00 to 1:50
Where: MacIntyre Room 303

The SOAN Student Club is happy to announce they’ll be hosting the first in a series of brownbag discussions this Wednesday. Senior Allison Nasson was one of several SOAN students awarded the AHSS Summer Research Awards. Allison’s project explored how nonprofits go about the process of constructing and purveying narratives of victimhood. Here’s her description:

Storytelling has become an invaluable tool for nonprofits as they attempt to garner attention and funding for their causes. Countless choices go into the construction of a narrative, and this begs the question: to whom are nonprofits catering these choices? When building and telling a victim’s story takes place with the goal of maximizing donations, NGOs are accountable to potential donors rather than to the people whose stories are being told. This shift in accountability requires an analysis of how victims’ narratives are constructed, whose stories go unheard, and the ramifications of manipulated portrayals of marginalized identities.

Only in recent years has such analysis begun to be called for in communities of activism. In this vein, my research studies the three processes I found nonprofits most consistently applied to victims’ narratives: simplification, sanitization, and solving. This examination allows insight into how storytelling practices contribute to perceptions of legitimate victimhood, and the attribution or denial of this status. Such analysis is critical to understanding whether nonprofits are serving victims effectively, or if well-intended organizational practices are in fact creating further exploitation and harm.

After a brief presentation about her project and its findings, the brownbag session will turn to an open discussion about her conclusions, her project design, and the AHSS summer research experience. Please join us!


Summer Research Update: Sam Carp and his project in Ghana

Untitled2Hi all,

I asked the SOAN students conducting AHSS summer research projects to drop us a line and update us about their exciting projects. While most of Sam’s time in Ghana is spent off the grid, he was able to communicate this to me, and he sent along a few pictures as well! Here’s what he had to say:

It was all a dream: Volunteering and researching in southwest Ghana…

Oh man, I swear if I hear one more rooster crow I am going to lose it! It’s not so bad usually, but when you’re trying to sleep in past 5:00 a.m., it’s not conducive to live in a village where everybody owns at least ten chickens. It’s 1:00 p.m. now in Frankadua, a small farming community in the Volta Region of Ghana located about two hours northwest of the country’s capital city, Accra. I’ve just sat down to drink a second cup of instant coffee after having a lunch of peanut soup, chicken, Untitled6and rice, a dish I know I am going to make when I get back home. Now that the rainy season has come, the temperature has decreased to about 25 degrees Celsius (or 80 degrees Fahrenheit) with only moderate humidity, and people have begun to walk around in brightly colored shirts and long pants. Kids are running around in their school uniforms and playing on the porch of the volunteer house, and the people of the village are out and about selling goods like pepper and corn, or laundry detergents, or out working hard on their farms.

It has been a long four and half weeks so far, but overall my experience here in Ghana has exceeded my initial expectations. Before I left, the piece of advice I was given the most from friends, family members, and professors was to go into this trip with few expectations and to expect my daily experiences to help govern the direction my volunteer work and research would progress. Now that over a month has passed, and with only two weeks left in my journey, I am so glad this was also the piece of advice that I took to Untitled5heart the most. Since I was going to be a volunteer, student, and tourist all at the same time, I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me when dealing with how to balance all of the things that I wanted, or at least thought I should be doing.

So far, so good though. Each day I wake up at 5:30 to go work on the farm that my volunteer program helps to manage. There we help to harvest corn and cassava (a type of root), plant beans, cabbage, and eggplant, and help to weed with machetes and turn the soil. Work on the farm ends around 8-8:30 because it begins to get too hot to do much more physical labor, and at this point we begin the 25 minute walk through the mud (because it’s the rainy season) back to the house to have a breakfast of either pancakes, toast, or egg sandwiches. After this, I usually work on my research or help with various projects around the village. By four, I am usually done with whatever research I have done for the day, which usually entails doing interviews, having short conversations, or conducting simple observations. By this time most volunteers are also back at the house playing with the children, who are done with school by then.

Untitled4My experience so far, though amazing and mind blowing, hasn’t been as balanced and smooth as the description above would appear to depict. Every day has been filled with conflicting emotions and decisions, both with the volunteer work and the research that I have been doing. Frankadua is a town stuck in a cycle of poverty, mainly because it is inhabited by 90 percent subsistence farmers. Because of this, it takes a lot of thought and discussion to coordinate volunteer projects that are beneficial to both the volunteers and the locals. IVHQ is a program that generally hosts volunteers for 2-10 weeks, and because of this, there are a lot of projects that go unfinished. Many volunteers also come in with differing opinions, and while we all get along, we have to constantly be discussing how we want to be interacting with the kids that come by the house, or how we teach in the schools, or how we appropriately give money for varying purposes around the village. The conflicting feelings also accompany the work I have been doing for school. I have made a lot of Untitled8friends and met many engaging and hard working people so far through my interviews, and while they understand that my ability to help them is severely limited, they still consistently ask me for things that I am not able to give them — like heavy machinery, or contact info for non-profits.

While I am not able to help the people that I meet as much as I want to, they have drawn me towards countless realizations and understandings of the realities of the world we live in and how varying systems interacting on a global scale affect the lives of people all over the world. I’m excited to get back to America, but when I leave I know I’m going to miss the experiences I’ve had here so far. Hopefully my volunteer work and research leaves me in a position where I will be able to continue to think about the work I have done in Ghana and what I want to be doing in the future.

So glad to hear from you, Sam, and good luck wrapping up your research. We’ll see you on campus in a few weeks!