Class of 2023
Muriel Ambrus, American Studies
AJ Papakee, American Studies
Zaryn Prussia, Anthropology
Isabel Saavedra-Weiss, International Studies, Spanish
Gabby Whitehurst, Religious Studies, American Studies
Class of 2022
Zoe Allen, American Studies
Tonantzin Cabrera, Sociology
Marc Mutka, English and Political Science
Ayize James, Environmental Studies
Diana Her, Asian Studies
Hometown: Blue Island, IL
Majors: Political Science, Spanish, and Sociology
Title: The History of Sanctuary Churches and The Representations of Migrants
Project: While the work of immigrant rights organizations is often underreported, the involvement of places of worship in the current New Sanctuary Movement (and in the US Immigrant Rights Movement in general) tends to be completely overlooked. Recently sanctuary congregations have received greater media attention and yet these congregations are nothing new. The New Sanctuary Movement (NSM) of today, for example, is influenced by its predecessor, the Sanctuary Movement (SM) and has both a historical and theological basis. A better understanding of the historical trajectory from the SM to the NSM and how churches have framed their own involvement through the trajectory of these ideas helps us understand the way undocumented individuals have been perceived. Ultimately, this research points to the limits of and tries to decenter the frameworks imposed by movement institutions and tries to examine the ways migrants frame themselves. In relation to this possibility, I will address issues of self-representation, ally-ship and advocacy.
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Majors: Political Science and Sociology
Project: Ethnographies on undocumented students mainly focus on the negative impacts that undocumentation has. The common narrative is that legality negatively impacts children as they grow up and encounter their status as a barrier to live freely. Undocumented women, specifically, continue to play a central role in maintaining community, taking an emotional toll in their families and schools. However, newer generations have used their status as empowerment to climb the social hierarchy and pursue a career. Undocumented students are no longer hiding in the shadows. My research focuses on how undocumented immigrants take advantage of their status to empower themselves to go into a system where they feel like they do not belong.
How does documentation impact the way undocumented students make decisions and understand their own lives academically, socially, and emotionally? How do undocumented women navigate higher academia despite their responsibilities with their families? Despite the harsh circumstances undocumented students face, how do they use their status and their migration story as motivation to succeed?
Hometown: Houston, TX
Majors: Anthropology and Geography
Title: Rethinking Development: A Case Study of Mano a Mano
Project: Since the Cold War Period, “development” has become a multi-billion-dollar industry. Thousands of interventions have been carried out in the name of development, often with ulterior political purposes, that have left millions of people around the world in worse conditions than before. Within anthropology, two critiques of development have emerged. Some criticize it on the basis that it imposes a teleological path with European standards as the end goal upon people throughout the world regardless of their unique social, political, and economic contexts. This view holds that development practice and integration into the capitalist world-market will lead to further worsening of living conditions. On the other hand, there are those who believe that these interventions are simply misguided with the help of scholarly oversight, by one familiar with the social, political, and economic contexts of the “community,” NGO’s could effect successful development and lead to a genuine improvement in people’s lives. This work looks at Mano a Mano, a development NGO that works with rural Bolivian communities to build clinics, schools, roads, and agricultural projects. Founded by a Bolivian man who is from a village like the ones the organization works, this organization works in partnership with the people through a unique community-based model. Through an institutional ethnography, this project will assess the viability of Mana a Mano as a model for successful development.
Hometown: Plainfield, IL
Major: Sociology and Educational Studies, International Development Concentration
Title: Pinay Identity Construction: Colonialism to Empowerment
Project: With over 300 years of Spanish colonization followed by US occupation after the Spanish-American War, the ramifications of colonialism has had lasting effects on the Filipinx identity. Whether it be living in the Philippines, the United States, or somewhere among the diaspora, Filipinxs face an internal conflict in understanding the fragments of their ancestry within different contexts. As a result, I am drawn to study what identity construction looks like for Filipinx-identifying womxn in the United States. By using colonialism as a framework, I hope to understand its role in fragmenting both the Filipinx and the woman. However, my research will use colonialism as a way to understand historical context and then apply it to how present-day womxn reclaim their narratives and move through the world. Through a series of ethnographic interviews, I will begin my research by interviewing Filipinx domestic caregivers.
Although the focus of my research is on Filipinas, the purpose behind it is to uplift the Filipinx community as a whole. The issues that affect Pinays are community issues. It is important that my work critically engages with the intersecting identities that Filipina womxn hold so that Pinays and their stories are humanized. Through analyzing the effects of internalized colonization, I hope to better understand how Pinays cope and reconstruct who they are. Ultimately, I am drawn to study Pinay identity construction because at the intersection of colonization, Filipino struggle, and empowerment, Filipina womxn are finally seen and heard.
Hometown: Northfield, MN
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Majors: Anthropology and Religious Studies
Title: Situating Corporeal Knowledge, Time, and the Immanent Divine: St. Mary of Egypt and Sha’wana
Project: For my Mellon Mays project, I will synthesize my interests in early Islamic mystical thought with key anthropological texts that develop understandings of self-cultivation through ritual, practice, and discipline. Specifically, I plan on focusing on the figure of Qushayri (d. 1074), his treatise, Al-Risāla al-Qushayriyya, and his Quranic commentary, Laṭāʾif al-ishārāt. Qushayri’s body of work engages with how one reflects on and realizes God’s immanent presence through corporeal forms of knowledge, perception, and time. I am interested in how his texts, in addition to the Quran and Hadith, stress the importance of the sensory body throughout the development of a mystical ascetic knowledge. This project will engage with the field of Islamic virtue ethics, moral self-creation and disciplining. I plan on incorporating my readings of key texts in the anthropology of Islam (Mahmood, Hirschkind, Mittermaier) and asking to what extent can we trace a unified vocabulary between Qushayri’s treatise and the interlocutors in ethnographies of contemporary practices within the Islamic Revival? This inquiry will demonstrate how “Muslim moral lives are incoherent, ambivalent, and fragmented” (Schielke), and anthropological projects devoted to complicating the lived realities of spiritual self-cultivation deepen the possibilities and while also grouding the limitations of Qushayri’s work.
Hometown: Shakopee, MN
Majors: International Studies and Classics
Title: Boycotts and Resistance: Vaccine Opposition in Contemporary Polio-Endemic Countries
Project: Polio, an infectious disease, has been at the forefront of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) disease eradication agenda since its creation. The three current endemic countries– Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan- continue to face barriers that prevent polio eradication. As public health organizations draw closer to polio eradication, these countries continue to face political and historical challenges to eradicating the disease.
Deleted: This paper discusses historical and contemporary resistant practices, specifically opposing the polio vaccine, in the three endemic countries. Polio eradication has been a global public health goal for decades, thus, I explore the causes that make polio a difficult disease to eradicate. My project focuses on three main questions: How are the legacies of colonialism present in the remaining polio-endemic countries? How have extremists groups within the three countries limited and/or banned the polio vaccine, and how does this affect global polio eradication goals? My projects also grapple with the complexities of eradication in these regions experiencing conflict and discusses the importance of why polio eradication matters.
Hometown: Los Altos, CA
Majors: Educational Studies and Art History
Title: Recovering The Invisible Histories of Female Trauma: Nalini Malani’s Resistance Against State Narratives in Post-Partition India
Project: Within the political, religious, and ideological restructuring following the 1947 partition of British India, both India and Pakistan experienced national trauma on an unprecedented scale. Mass violence and chaos pervaded both countries, leaving millions displaced, and this violence has continued to materialize in postcolonial spaces of religious and political conflict. Women in particular have experienced an incomprehensible level of assault, mutilation, and oppression. In this paper, I examine the lasting effects of partition violence on women living in post-partition India and consider the role of postcolonial Hindu nationalism in producing gendered communal violence. Focusing on feminist visual languages, I closely analyze select works from Nalini Malani, a contemporary Indian artist who visually critiques dominant state narratives that simultaneously perpetuate and silence these subaltern histories of violence. Through videos, installations, and large-scale drawings, Malani utilizes mythical female protagonists, namely the Greek heroine Medea and the Hindu Goddess Sita, to visually comprehend national trauma. In intertwining multiple mythologies to construct transnational narratives of postcolonial feminist liberation, Malani resists the monolithic fundamentalist movements proliferating post-partition India and provides a radical space of visibility and healing for these silenced women.
Luz Ramirez Cruz
Hometown: Escondido, CA
Major: American Studies
Project: The saying goes “you are what you eat,” but then what happens when communities don’t have access to ingredients and foods that are staples of their cultural identities? My project will examine the role that food plays in maintaining cultural identity among Latin American immigrant communities in the Twin Cities and, on a larger scale, how the types of food one has access to impact cultural assimilation. In order to begin my investigations I will first try to understand the history of Latin Americans in the Twin Cities. By looking at how and when the population began to grow in Minnesota through the decades, and looking at nationalities, I can begin to understand the motivations behind their migration and how they’ve taken steps to recreate comforts from home here in the US, with specific attention to food. Geographical access to culturally specific stores and when they began to appear in the Twin Cities is another aspect of this project that will be instrumental in obtaining answers. With this context I can then begin to ask larger questions of assimilation and food justice as they relate not only to immigrant communities, but the generations that follow them.
Hometown:Los Angeles, CA
Major: Media and Cultural Studies
Project: My project will analyze the representations of north Minneapolis in commercial media in the context of literature on global cities and population movement. The narratives of north Minneapolis are predominantly ones of crime and crisis. However, there are community members and organizations that are working to revitalize the area. The application of Edward Said’s thought will explain why those efforts to revitalize the community do not have a place in commercial media. I will continue my analysis with these questions in mind: what material effects do these narratives have on the community? How do these media representations affect population movement and the allocation of economic resources? I hope to contribute an interdisciplinary perspective which centers around how representations of north Minneapolis mediate the way people experience the community and how that mediated experience creates real effects on the community.
Hometown: Lubbock, TX
Major: History and Literature
Project: Gendered violence fits into the landscape of settler colonialism, borderland theory, and racial hierarchical structures that are imposed upon women of color. I research how Indigenous women experience sexual violence in a historical and contemporary context. I utilize precolonial maps, treaties, and ideas of sovereignty to mark the physical land dispossession/exploitation of Indigenous nations, as well as the exploitation of Indigenous women. However, my project is a two-fold project. In entirety the goals of this project are to present existing structures of settler colonialism, as well as demonstrating how Indigenous women artists are responding and refusing these narratives of settler colonialism. The examination of selected artists and their respective work will demonstrate how Indigenous women use art as a form of resistance and a form of refusal by reclaiming traditional methods and space. By interviewing Indigenous female artists, I explore how they revitalize and produce cultural traditions that refuse to perpetuate settler colonialism. I analyze why these artists use specific forms and how their art infuses elements and layers of indigeneity.
Makaya Kekoa Resner
Hometown: Missoula, MT
Major: International Studies
Project: The international indigenous peoples movement is one of the most recent phenomenons to come out of the United Nations Human Rights Council and it has achieved more than ever expected in the last few decades. However, progress should not stop with the ratification of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, especially since many of the largest world powers have not signed on. My studies look at the origins of this movement and the necessity to preserve indigenous cultures, the movement’s relations with nation-states and sovereignty as an ideology, and consider revisions that are more inclusive to “mixed” indigenous identities. Mixed race is one of the fastest growing identities globally but scholarship still lacks analysis of how these individuals fit within a group, let alone an international movement. Therefore, the big question asks, what does it take to make international movements integrate multiple identities for the sake of human rights? Many of the obstacles toward reconciliation of indigenous rights occur because states still do not recognize the complexity that many indigenous peoples live with. However, with support from political and identity theory, I strive to incorporate the duality of identities within the international indigenous peoples movement and revise definitions of indigenousness in literature and law.
Hometown: Hancock, NH
Major: Religious Studies
Title: Gaming the System: Critical Essays on Videogames
Project: This project prioritizes a critical analysis of videogames. With a focus on popular current-generation Role-Playing Games (RPGs), I explore how complex cultural projects are recreated and extended or reimagined in these game-worlds. How do videogames represent and participate in conversations on religion, race, gender, and colonialism? Can videogames simulate some form of “activism” in their confined game-worlds? What are the models of resistance and oppression presented by different videogames? Through this study I hope to contribute to the critical study of videogames and improve my understanding of the limits and possibilities of videogame design, gameplay, and discourse.
Hometown: Lima, Peru
Title: The Women (and Men) that Return to Africa: Feminizing Return Migration and Voluntary Reintegration Experiences amongst Senegalese migrants
Project: When individuals, institutions, and governments talk and think about migration, very rarely do they bring up the topic of return. However, many, if not all, migrants express the desire to return to their ‘homes’ eventually, rather than permanently relocating within the receiving communities. My project puts in conversation the study of voluntary return migration and reintegration experiences amongst Senegalese migrants with transnational mobility, gender, and world systems theory studies. Through a review of relevant literature, document analysis, and ethnographic interviewing with returning Senegalese migrants, who’ve returned from West and Central African countries, European countries, and the U.S., and non-governmental organizations working in the field of migration in Dakar, Senegal, my research studies the structural, social, and individual reasons for migrating, their experiences abroad, and the individual and community-based implications of their return. This project uses examples of transnational mobility to complicate socially-constructed notions of ‘’home’’ and ‘’gender’’ in receiving and sending communities for Senegalese migrants. Above all, my project is built on the concept of the dangers of a single story, crafted by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and places the voices of migrants themselves at the frontline of this research to combat the stereotypes and monolithic foundations that are still prevalent within the study of migration.
Hometown:St. Paul, MN
Major: American Studies
Project: My project argues that extrajudicial killings, gratuitous violence, and the legacy of slavery coupled with legalized discrimination against Black citizens is a human rights violation because it undermines their right to life, liberty, and security of persons. Opel Tometi, co-founder of Black Lives Matter (BLM), clarified BLM is not a civil rights movement that focuses on policy reform, but a movement that fights “for the human rights and dignity of black people in the U.S., which is tied to black people’s struggle for human rights across the globe” (Time). In 2016, BLM is internationally recognized as a human rights project, but domestically portrayed as either too radical from the far left or a terrorist group from the far right. This project wrestles with the question, “How is BLM learning from previous Black freedom struggle movements to move beyond the conversation of civil rights to human rights as a way to create a contemporary panafrican human rights movement?”
Hometown: Kingston, Jamaica
Majors: Sociology and Political Science
Project: My project examines variation in electoral violence across countries. Works on nationalism and ethnic violence indicates that although nationalism temporarily unified people to achieve the common goal of independence, it did not erase class or ethnic differences and grievances in the post-colonial era. The rise of nationalism strongly affected the character of group struggles for recognition which became contentious during elections. Hence, politically salient divisions persist within countries, which in turn transform identities into points of open conflict during elections. Therefore, I advance the principal hypothesis that the higher degree of ethnic salience the higher the risk of electoral violence. At the same time, results support a second hypothesis: Economic inequalities based on ethnic divisions also correlate with a higher risk of electoral violence. In this sense, land distribution is often a key factor for these inequalities. Primarily, this study looks to answer the question “why do some countries’ populations protest elections more than others?”