Mariana Sanchez Castillo’s AHSS Summer Research Project

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 Mariana Sanchez Castillo had to say about her new project:

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Mariana at the Church of Santo Domingo in Oaxaca, Mexico

This past February, American movie-lovers witnessed the award nomination and recognition of the Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron for his film “Roma” at the Oscars ceremony. For the first time in the history of the awards, a foreign movie centered around the life of an indigenous woman was nominated for the best picture award. In Mexico, the conversation brought to light the controversial classist and colourist views of the Mexican elite towards indigenous domestic workers as well as their invisibility in modern Mexican life. While rural indigenous communities and traditions have been essential in the creation of the Mexican national identity, when it comes to policy-making their needs are very rarely considered, and they have not been given the agency they deserve to predict their own futures.

In the rise of a global environmental crisis and sociopolitical barriers to indigenous community development, there is a high demand for research that can illuminate how indigenous artisanal practices have developed in relationship to their rural environmental contexts and how those practices might influence national policies to promote the social and environmental prosperity of indigenous communities.

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Mariana during her semester abroad in Jaipur, India

Over the course of the summer, I will be visiting my home country of Mexico and living in Oaxaca City, near three different communities of artesanos. I will be conducting interviews with artisans, their families, and non-profit advocates of Oaxacan folk art production in order to gain a deeper understanding of their perspectives surrounding indigenous folk art and its cultural meaning as well as how environmental degradation could impact the preservation of this art and way of life. My research project will research the relationship between the ecological and cultural dimensions of indigenous craft production through a qualitative study on specific communities of Oaxacan artesanos. ​

Mariana, I think I speak for all of my colleagues when I say that this is really a fascinating project, and we look forward to seeing where your thinking ends up on this after your research. We’ll be in touch later in the summer to obtain an update from you after your project is underway. Good luck!