2018 Grant Winners

Thank you to all who applied for the 2018 Summer Thesis Research Grants. Congratulations to the 2018 recipients for their outstanding work!

Grants in Asian American Studies were generously sponsored by the Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance. Grants in Latina/o Studies are sponsored by the Instituto Cervantes Observatory of the Spanish Language. We are enormously grateful to both for making these opportunities possible.

Summer Thesis Research Grant in Asian American Studies

Jose AvonceTitle: "Pernicious Citizens”?: Anti-Chinese Rhetoric and Chinese Immigrant Negotiations of Identity in Mexico, 1899-1930

During Jose's sophomore year, he learnt about the Torreón Massacre of 1911, in which 303 Chinese immigrants were murdered by revolutionaries and a predatory mob fueled by anti-chinese sentiments before and after the Mexican Revolution. Although one of the most violent eruptions of anti-chinese sentiments, the massacre was ignored, even forgotten, part of Mexican history until the latter half of the 20th century. His project seeks to use correspondence and legal documents to bring Chinese immigrant voices back from the past in order explore how these individuals are negotiating their own ethnic identities in an unwelcoming country.

Summer Thesis Research Grant in Asian American Studies

Sally ChenTitle: Renewing the Narrative: Chinatown Library Activism

As the daughter of working-class immigrants, Sally felt a tension between my education at Harvard and the important work being done by the communities on its doorstep, driving my academic interests to the intersection of scholarship and activism. Teaching classes with PBHA’s Chinatown Citizenship, she witnessed and celebrated the community’s victory in bringing a library branch back to their neighborhood—growing up, she frequented San Francisco’s Chinatown Library constantly. Sally became interested in the advocacy for and community roles of these libraries as contested sites of raced, classed, and gendered citizenship, sparking her thesis project.

Summer Thesis Research Grant in Ethnicity, Migration, Rights

Eliza EnnisTitle: Politics of International Refugee Aid in an Era of Xenophobia and Public Morality

Since civil war began in 2011, more than 5.4 million people have fled Syria seeking refuge and more than 6 million others have been internally displaced. The majority of refugees are in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, living below the poverty line in over-crowded camps. Over a million individuals have applied for asylum in Europe. In her summer thesis research, Eliza plans to examine how international organizations, and the governments comprising them, allocate aid to the crisis. She will be traveling to Geneva, Switzerland and Brussels, Belgium to examine archival resources and conduct interviews on how the United Nations and European Union navigate the complex issues of foreign aid. The implications of this research are clear, as any choices to distribute funds makes a real impact among refugee populations. Yet, it also opens up theoretical questions about humanitarian intervention as a political tool and the morality of organizational spending. As part of her research, Eliza will examine how a recent rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric in Europe may have shifted donation trends, and hoped to explore how non-partisan intergovernmental organizations interact with sectarian networks of welfare distribution in countries such as Lebanon. She will be conducting this research with the backing of the Committee on Ethnicity, Rights, and Migration and the Center for European Studies at Harvard, all working towards her senior thesis for Social Studies.

Summer Thesis Research Grant in Latina/o Studies

Grace EvansTitle: Sanctuary Not Deportation: Political Opportunity and Movement Success in Texas and California Sanctuary Networks

The Sanctuary movement originated in the United States in the 1980s as a faith-based movement to protect Central American refugees from deportation; in recent years, it has been revived by faith communities seeking to physically shelter and otherwise accompany undocumented people targeted by agents of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Through a comparative study of faith-based Sanctuary networks in the states of Texas and California, Grace's thesis explores how federal and state institutions—specifically, immigration law and law enforcement—impact conceptual and enacted approaches to Sanctuary.

To this end, she will examine how participants in the Sanctuary movement enact strategy and religious framing within a United States political context that has become increasingly unfavorable towards undocumented immigrants. It is likely that shifting politics of migration will shape Sanctuary outcomes in the months and years to come; thus, a studied analysis of the movement as it currently stands is both pragmatic for sustained movement success and valuable in deepening our intellectual understanding of the role of politics and religion in social movement framing.

Summer Thesis Research Grant in Ethnicity, Migration, Rights

Luca IstodorTitle: LGBT Activism and the Decriminalization of Homosexuality in Guyana

Luca's project focuses on LGBT activism and the decriminalization of homosexuality in Guyana. As someone who was born in Romania before homosexuality was fully decriminalized, his interest in the project comes from Guyana being the only country in South America to criminalize sexual activity between males. Additionally, he is curious to explore the colonial implications of the anti-homosexuality law (given that it was introduced during British Colonialism) and what role Western politicians or activists might now play in advocating for decriminalization.

Summer Thesis Research Grant in Ethnicity, Migration, Rights

Adele WoodmanseeTitle: Native Maize, International Immigration and Agricultural Change in a Zapotec Community

Adele's research focuses on the links between NAFTA, maize agriculture and immigration in indigenous Oaxacan communities. She is centering her research in San Miguel del Valle, a Zapotec speaking community in the Central Valleys region. As a joint concentrator in Social Anthropology and Integrative Biology, her research will combine genetic and ethnographic study to gain a deeper understanding of the movement of maize seeds and grain within and into Oaxacan communities, and how this movement mirrors the movement of people via immigration and is shaped by global factors including free trade and labor policy. Since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, subsidy programs for small-scale maize agriculture in Mexico have been dismantled leading to emigration from Oaxacan communities and a loss of self-sufficiency in maize. Last winter, she collected samples of maize ears cultivated in San Miguel, which she will use to test for transgenic contamination in the community and to look at the amount of genetic variation among native maize varieties in the community. Over the summer, Adele will be living in San Miguel for 11 weeks to research agricultural practices, perspectives about the impact of immigration on agriculture and the community, the cultural significance of native maize varieties, patterns of local seed exchange, and the provenance of maize grain imported into the community.

Summer Thesis Research Grant in Latina/o Studies

Stephanie WuTitle: The Effects of Immigrant Detention on the Health of Hispanic Immigrants

For Stephanie's research, she will be interviewing formerly detained Hispanic immigrants in San Diego, CA about the threats to their physical and mental health within the detention center, the healthcare that they received while detained, and how they understand the role of detention in their health outcomes. To do this, she will work with the nonprofit organization Border Angels, which provides free services to immigrants and advocates for immigration reform. This topic matters to her because she has worked extensively in juvenile detention centers and prisons, and detaining immigrants is another way in which people of color are incarcerated and oppressed in the U.S. For Stephanie, this issue is especially relevant given the current administration's hostility towards immigrants and the recent changes in immigration policy. 

Summer Thesis Research Grant in Latina/o Studies

Michelle BorbonTitle: Deconstructing Corruption Conversation in Rural Mexico  

NGOs based in Western nations like Transparency International consistently place Mexico low on corruption indices, rankings which media outlets distribute uncritically and internationally. Yet, NGOs often ignore how colonial residues affect the ways that people produce, interpret, and act upon these rankings. Because international NGOs focus on the whole country’s “culture of corruption,” Michelle argues that their reports simultaneously ignore and influence individual Mexicans’ interactions with state officials. But how does corruption really influence Mexican citizens’ daily lives? What do these quantitative reports on corruption miss or obscure about corruption in Mexico? She plans to answer this question by conducting ethnographic research in her parents’ hometown of Navojoa, Sonora.