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Undergraduate Research in Anthropology

Each summer, about 200 students perform dedicated, funded research. Below is a list of funded undergraduate research by anthropology students.


Funding for Archaeological Research at Villa Adriana

Alexandra Dean ’23
Advisor(s): Kenneth Wolf

Italy is a nation rich in archaeological sites. Archaeologists are continually unearthing new artifacts, structures, even entire settlements. This presents a problem for the Italian government: it lacks funding to maintain even a small portion of the nation’s cultural patrimony. This research project focuses on how the issue of funding affects archaeological work at Villa Adriana, a large-scale UNESCO World Heritage site in Tivoli. To explore this issue, I participated in an excavation at Villa Adriana with the Seville-based Pablo de Olavide University. I interviewed the site director, Rafael Hidalgo Prieto, as well as Catalina Urquijo, the program leader. Finally, I did my own research on the topic of public funding for archaeological sites in Italy. The excavation was highly interesting and fruitful in nature for our site director; our team discovered a large structure that prior to the excavation had not been seen for hundreds of years. Despite this, at the end of the excavation, the trench we dug was covered over again because the site lacks funding to maintain the structure in addition to the already-excavated buildings on the property. Due to this, there is no way to verify or enrich the findings we recorded while on the excavation. This experience, along with my interviews and research, led me to the conclusion that there is a dearth of funding for archaeological work at Villa Adriana that may hinder present and future archaeological research.

A Queer Transnational: Queer Organizing in the Middle East

Ethan Kostishak ’20
Advisor(s): Joanne Nucho

My project, entitled A Queer Transnational: Queer Organizing in the Middle East, examines grassroots queer organizing in the Levant. More specifically this project investigates, the LGBT organization HELEM and the queer group al-Qaws within their unique local and international contexts. The work of al-Qaws in Palestine and HELEM in Lebanon brings into focus the varying state, gender, and sexual regimes each group is seeking to disrupt. By reading into the discussions the groups generate within academia, international press, and other political organizations, I contend that HELEM and al-Qaws’s organizing work highlights both the problems induced by a problematic “gay international” as well as options for an alternative “queer transnational”.

Russian Language, Religion, and Community in San Francisco

Erin Slichter ’21
Advisor(s): Mary Coffey

After three major waves of immigration spanning from the beginning to the end of the Soviet Union, approximately 30,000 Russian speakers live in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area. There presence in the city is felt through names of places like Russian Hill, through cafés, restaurants, grocery stores, and churches in the Richmond District that cater to Russian speakers, through Russian-language newspapers for sale on street corners, and, of course, through the Russian language itself, which can be heard with great frequency if only one stops to listen. Focusing on questions concerning language, religion, generational differences, and community, I conducted research primarily though interviews. Interview participants were either prominent figures at various Russian-language organizations, or people I'd been introduced to by other research participants. I also visited Russian businesses, volunteered at a Russian-American community services center, and spoke informally with people I met along the way. With research participants hailing from Russia, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, China, Belarus, and Philadelphia, and representing different religions and waves of immigration, it was hard to find consensus on the so-called 'Russian community.' Each participant viewed and interacted with it in a different way. However, many participants cited the importance of Russian Orthodoxy to the community, and all said the Russian language was essential for preserving their heritage.


Agents and Agency: Surveillance Policy and Muslims in America

Lea Kayali ’19
Advisor(s): Joanne Nucho

NSA foreign intelligence, Obama’s Countering Violent Extremism initiative, and Trump’s proposed extreme vetting of immigrants have a common thread: the intense government surveillance of American Muslim communities. My summer research project explored the relationship between these communities and counter-terrorism policy that sanctions government surveillance. I focused in on activist groups and the language they use; as advocates often serve as messengers between communities and legislators. This research combined the dual methods of anthropological and policy analysis. While I read scholarly critiques and defense of surveillance policy, I simultaneously observed on the ground activism in American Muslim communities and interviewed advocates for policy reform.

In my findings, I give a comprehensive explanation of what national government surveillance policy is; looking particularly at the policy issues that my interlocutors frequently referenced. I also detail, through anecdotes and interviews, how activists advocate for reform in relation to the most targeted (Muslim and overlapping) communities. The findings of the report focus mainly on the variety of arguments that make up the terrain of surveillance policy discussions. I also unpack the major tensions within the movement for surveillance reform. It is my hope that this study will contribute to the body of research which considers the levels of agency of marginalized groups in American politics.

Funding Provided By: General SURP Fund

Female Muslim Immigrants in Barcelona: The Importance of Community Organizations in Facilitating the Social Integration

Paige Pepitone ’19
Advisor(s): Rita Bashaw

My summer research question looked at the specific types of services community organizations in Barcelona, Spain provide for female Muslim immigrants as they integrate themselves into Catalan, and, more broadly, Spanish society. As one of the most vulnerable immigrant populations, this project seeks to understand the specific needs these women demonstrate, and what types of projects these organizations realize to meet those particular needs. Personal testimonies from these women, interviews with community organization representatives, and my own work as a translator for one such organization, help construct a narrative that highlights the importance of community throughout the process of social adaptation. Social organizations help facilitate both political and cultural integration by providing resources that help these women navigate Spanish society. Above all, language proficiency appears to be critical in ensuring these women feel comfortable in public spaces and engaging with various institutions, such as schools, government offices, and hospitals. In general, the spaces provided by these community organizations helped to allow these women to develop self-confidence and be able to truly see themselves as Spanish citizens.

How do post-1979 Revolution Iranian migrants shape the spaces they occupy in London; and inversely, how does this environment influence these same migrants?

Marco Iovino ’19
Advisor(s): Arash Khazeni

The 1979 Islamic Revolution precipitated the famous Iranian Diaspora, pushing Iranians all over the world. Los Angelinos are familiar with the term “Irangeles” and the city’s famous Persian neighborhoods, but what has become of those who have settled elsewhere, for instance, in the metropolitan city of London? My research draws upon studies of architecture, archival documents and interviews to understand what influences Iranians have had upon London, how political decisions determined the settling process and how the city can now act as a point of refuge but also activism and free expression. I traveled around London, documenting Iranian-heavy neighborhoods and mapped their interrelation with surrounding communities and in historical contexts. I then interviewed community leaders and others to understand both collective and individual experiences. Finally, I turned to archival documents of the British Foreign Office in Iran as well as the Home Office to understand the political perception of Iranians in the UK as well visa-making decisions. This was further deepened by looking into the archives of the London Metropolitan Archives to view what policies existed in London in terms of grants and housing. What becomes clear is that although there is a smaller number of Iranians residing in London than there is in Los Angeles, there is certainly no decrease in the diversity of socioeconomic, religious, and ethnic backgrounds.

Funding Provided By: Clarence '62 P'91, Carolyn P'91 and Peter '91 Sasaki Fund for Student Research

The Role of Coalition Building in Advancing Urban Greenspace Equity in Los Angeles

Jordan Grimaldi ’20
Advisor(s): Joanne Nucho

Key to the health and wellbeing of urban residents, urban greenspaces (UGS) provide immense physical, environmental, social and psychological benefits. In a city infamous for urban sprawl and endless concrete, less than 30 percent of Angelenos have access to parks and the percentages for low-income communities of color are far lower. My project explored the role of coalition building in advancing UGS equity in Los Angeles. Over a period of eight weeks, I conducted semi-structured interviews with park visitors and experts in UGS inequity in L.A.

Interviews indicated that coalitions and partnerships form organically as a result of organizations, agencies, companies and other groups recognizing that UGS equity is a multifaceted issue. UGS equity requires the collaboration of many different groups who each bring unique lenses and constituents to the table in pursuit of a shared mission. Coalitions and partnerships were mutually beneficial relationships that allowed organizations to build organizational capacity, identify new funding sources, organize and engage larger audiences, and learn new strategies. Challenges to forming and maintaining coalitions and partnerships included lack of sustainable funding sources and difficulty navigating such a large range of interests and values despite common goals. Successful coalitions and partnerships were often cross-sectoral, involving a mix of elected officials, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and private companies.

Funding Provided By: Schulz Fund for Environmental Studies