Recent examples of senior capstone and honors projects

Exploring the Role of Horticulture in Alleviating Food Insecurity Among Women in Botswana
Rachel Fehr ’16, Geography and Economics

By most measures, Botswana is an African development success story.  However, there are still segments of the population that suffer from the interlinked phenomena of persistent poverty and food insecurity.  The Government of Botswana and its partners have increasingly sought to address household food insecurity through gardening initiatives of various sizes and commercial orientation, but the success of these efforts has not yet been evaluated. I use an interdisciplinary approach, incorporating both econometric analysis and qualitative data viewed through the theoretical lens of political ecology, to determine how effective these women’s gardening initiatives are in addressing household food insecurity. I compare the relationship between commercial orientation and food security for women who rely on borehole water, tap water, and river water. I find that food security status improves with commercial orientation only if a woman is already experienced with the commercial market or if commercialization will help her cover her water bills. I also challenge the discourse that women who receive food aid put forth less effort in their gardens; I find that there is no significant difference in harvest for those who rely on government food assistance, and that a woman’s attitude toward gardening is a much more important determinant of garden success. This study’s results call into question  claims that commercialized horticulture will improve food security without addressing the gendered dynamics of water access.

Gëm Sa Bop: Performing ethics, claiming space and grabbing the mic as Senegalese female hip-hop artists
Sophie Keane ’16, Anthropology

The hip-hop cultural movement has taken hold of youth communities around the world. DJs, taggers/graffiti artists, rappers/MCs, and breakers/dancers exist in every corner of the globe; Dakar, Senegal is no different. Hip-hop has historically privileged male bodies, but female artists in Dakar “grab the mic” to unapologetically express themselves and disrupt the systemic silencing of their voices. I argue that Senegalese female hip-hop artists navigate and claim gendered spaces by carving out creative spaces of their own and grabbing the mic. Gëm sa bop, a Wolof phrase meaning “believe in yourself,” grounds the ethics — how an actor practices being good, broadly defined — that drive the actions of the individual artists with whom I spoke. Gëm sa bop has roots in historical Senegalese cultural values but also supports the outspoken, liberated values of hip-hop music and culture. In exploring how female hip-hop artists acted out the ethics of gëm sa bop by claiming space and grabbing the mic, I follow my informants across the spaces I observed them inhabiting: homes, hip-hop production spaces (the label/recording studio), other kinds of everyday hip-hop spaces, and concert stages. I identify key cultural values that women learned within their homes, characterizing the domestic sphere as a site of both identity construction and contestation. I follow my informants to the recording studio, examining female artists’ ethical relationships with Senegalese cultural values and hip-hop values as they navigated male-dominated spaces of hip-hop production. I analyze two major performative actions women used to linguistically claim space within the hip-hop community: ego trip and speaking up. Finally, I analyze women’s onstage performances as exemplifications of grabbing the mic, claiming space, and thus expressing their ethics. Ultimately, in this ethnographic analysis, I argue that Senegalese women have made critical creative contributions to global hip-hop culture via the platform that hip-hop has provided for their voices.