Watch Makda Aman '13 discuss her anthropology research project.

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


An Investigation of the Elevated Prevalence Rate of HIV in Black MSM in LA County

Ellelan Degife ’18; Advisor: Pardis Mahdavi

This study was created as an attempt to understand the elevated prevalence rate of HIV in Black MSM in LA County through a synthesis and re-examination of existing information and ethnographic research. A literature review was conducted, and in-depth interviews and participant observation were carried out in several locations in LA County over a period of two months with the target population, community health workers, and other researchers of similar subjects. The prevalence rate is elevated by a two-part mechanism: high-risk sexual behavior is caused by a variety of triggers plaguing the Black community, and the risk is confounded due to insular sexual networks. Since literature has demonstrated that Black MSM do not practice unsafe sex at a rate higher than those of their white counterparts, intervention should move towards addressing structural factors instead of behavioral issues in Black MSM.
Funding Provided By: Aubrey H. & Eileen J. Seed Student Research Fund

Urban Planning Infrastructures: “A Tale of Two Cities”

Alejandro Guerrero Vargas ’19; Advisor: Joanne Nucho

This project asks the questions: how might mundane and large-scale infrastructures serve as an important site for examining the complex intersections of social, political, economic and environmental processes in cities and metropolitan regional areas? How do municipal planning commissions deliberate and make decisions about what gets built where and why? Finally, what are the relationships between cities and within larger regions that perpetuate certain forms of inequality, and how might looking at the way that cities are built, planning decisions are made and infrastructures are maintained provide a way to examine these relationships more closely? This preliminary study took a closer look at the environmental impacts of urban planning and zoning decisions on residential areas and schools, starting with the highly publicized concerns about the high concentration of recycling centers and the newly completed trash transfer station in the city of Pomona, California. We also took into account other controversial projects recently under consideration in the city of Pomona. The research took a comparative approach between the cities of Claremont and Pomona, looking at planning commission proceedings over the past two years, in order to analyze how spatial inequalities are maintained and perpetuated by the uneven distribution of risk and environmental impacts. The culminating project for this research was a GIS storymap and discussion for future collaboration with Gente Organizada.
Funding Provided By: Schulz Fund for Environmental Studies


Effects of environmental change and land use policies on Taiwanese Aboriginal groups

Yttrium Sua (2015); Mentor(s): Dru Gladney​

Abstract: The rapid economic development of the island of Taiwan has often been termed as nothing short of a miracle, with industrialization and urbanization occurring at a breakneck speed in the 1970s to the 1980s. However, many of the 14 currently recognized Taiwanese Aboriginal tribes have found their communities on the losing end of such developments. Through staying and visiting 10 different Aboriginal villages in Taiwan, while conducting interviews with both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Taiwanese, a deeper understanding of the various environmental-related issues related to Taiwanese Aborigines was gained. Nevertheless, issues of the environment rarely stand in isolation, and many other aspects related to environmental change were also investigated. Through ethnography of those involved in Aboriginal environmental issues, some of the most pertinent environmental and social problems were identified, such as rising temperatures, deforestation, and tourist and government developments on Aboriginal land, and the ban on hunting. The outlook for the future is one filled with pessimism, as the main problem leading to the continued discrimination against Aboriginal communities is both systemic and multi-faceted in nature, with an indifferent government and no unified resistance movement existing. However, compared to the other indigenous movements currently occurring in Asia and the Pacific, the Taiwanese Aboriginal situation still holds much hope and potential for the future.
Funding Provided by: Schulz Fund for Environmental Studies


Creating a Ceramic Type Collection for a Prehistoric Pueblo Site

Joanmarie Del Vecchio (2015); Mentor(s): E. Charles Adams*
*University of Arizona

Abstract: This summer I participated in an archaeological field school run by the University of Arizona and University of Illinois at Chicago. As part of my experience I created a ceramic type collection for use by Chicago researchers, involving collection, typing and organization of over 100 potsherds of varying time periods and style. In Southwest archaeology, identification of ceramic types is crucial in determining the age of structures or artifacts, as ceramic patterns and production changed frequently over the almost millennium of pottery production. This creates a Linnaean-like system for identification of broader wares and more specific style types. My type collection is useful for researchers in that sherd samples collected in excavation can be compared to known samples of agreed-upon types. I aimed to create not just a physical product of sherds in bags, but a digital, easily-distributed type collection that can be multiplied for anyone working with Puebloan pottery.
Funding Provided by: The Wade Family Anthropology Field School Fund

Heading North: An Analysis of the Culture Behind Labor Migration in Ethiopia

Makda Aman (2013); Mentor(s): Pardis Mahdavi

Abstract: With thousands of Ethiopians migrating to the Middle East every year to find labor, the opportunities to study what encourages people to relocate are plenty. Working legally or not, many suffer severe human rights abuses and alienate themselves from their families during their time abroad. Whether it’s caused by issues ranging from misunderstandings between cultures to being underprepared for the labor for which they are hired, it’s clear that there’s a disparity between what’s happening in the place of employment and what’s being told to the interviewers before leavingEthiopia. Interning with an employment agency and conducting interviews with those who have worked as day-laborers, housekeepers, drivers, etc. has given me the opportunity to better understand this disparity.Prominent public service announcements and easier access to training centers hold the key to increasing awareness about the risks involved in migrating and being properly equipped for work.
Funding provided by: Faucett Catalyst Fund

Contrasting Policies and Lived Experiences of Maternal Mortality in Tamil Nadu

Morgen Chalmiers (2013); Mentor(s): Pardis Mahdavi

Abstract: Since the publication of the 5th Millennium Development goal--to reduce maternal mortality by 75% by 2015-governments worldwide have stepped up interventions to prevent maternal deaths. Evaluations of these interventions have prioritized statistical success while largely neglecting women's own perspectives. Thus my own research sought to prioritize women's lived experiences in my examination of the sociocultural effects of initiatives to reduce maternal mortality in Tamil Nadu, a state in India that has been widely praised for its achievements in this area. Cash incentives attract poor women to government institutions, which have subsequently become overcrowded and unable to provide even the most basic aspects of quality care. These conditions further contribute to the culture of abuse-both verbal and physical-that is present in large government hospitals. Though I asked a variety of questions about women's birth experiences, I found that the women I interviewed tended to focus on the issue of abuse and their related fear of delivering in government hospitals. My report delves into their stories, their lives, and their births, as they themselves experienced them and unfortunately reveals that the results of Tamil Nadu's maternal health program are far more complicated than the simple success story told by statistics.
Funding provided by: Aubrey H. and Eileen J. SeedStudent Research Fund

Hong Kong Parenting

Hannah Chasnov (2013); Mentor(s): Pardis Mahdavi

Abstract: This project is a study of parenting in Hong Kong. Its purpose is to examine how parents from various cultural and social economic backgrounds in this unique city differ in their parenting methods and values. In order to focus my participants, I observed and interviewed members of a single, diverse community in Hong Kong – a University campus. I interviewed members of the HKUST community: faculty, spouse, staff and workers about their family lives and their decisions regarding their children. Three main categories can be used to summarize my findings: the importance of education and the large selection available in Hong Kong, the importance of retaining Chinese culture and language in an increasingly international community, and how a difference in income and status largely affect the role in which parents play in their children’s upbringing. Findings from this study on parenting can serve as a window to examine cultural values of Hong Kong residents, a culture often described as the intersection between the east and the west.
Funding provided by: Faucett Catalyst Fund

Trafficking Terror: Illicit Networks Forces in Opposition

Justin Gutzwa (2014); Mentor(s): Pardis Mahdavi

Abstract: My summer research was centered around helping Professor Mahdavi conduct research for her new Routledge book, Trafficking Terror: Illicit Networks Forces in Opposition. The goal of the research was to discern the difference between different forms of trafficking and the war on terror. Increasingly, politicians, scholars, media outlets, and the general populous alike are trying to find some form of connection between trafficking and terrorism. As Professor Mahdavi writes in her work, the terms “trafficking” and “terror” are thrown around so interchangeably and attached that they have taken on their own hybrid combination of “traficking and terror.”My research determined that generally, such claims are centered around inconclusive evidence which are based on correlations found in oftentimes faulty data. Through reading scholarly articles and books, news outlets, and political documents, we were able to determine there to be little to no connection between the two concepts. Specifically, my readings were generally focused around three different types of trafficking: human, drug, and weapons trafficking. Each of these are connected to terrorism on varying degrees. As most of my research concluded, however, none are directly related to terrorism. In addition to researching and reading, I also proofread the written chapters of Professor Mahdavi’s work and compiled reference lists for her chapters.
Funding provided by: Pomona College SURP