2018 Thesis Prize Winners

Thank you to all who entered the 2018 Senior Thesis Prize in Ethnicity, Migration, Rights. Congratulations to the 2018 winners for their outstanding work!

Puanani Apoliona-Brown ’18

Winner | Food Sovereignty and Traditional Hawaiian Agriculture in the Context of Global Food Systems

Pua BrownConcentrator in Environmental Science and Public Policy

Pua’s thesis artfully demonstrates the connections between legacies of colonial violence and present-day situations of food scarcity in Hawai’i. The committee was thoroughly impressed by the way that this work reframes environmental justice through the interplay of cultural sovereignty and water rights.

About Pua: As the daughter of a Native Hawaiian rights activist and an environmental lawyer, Pua’s interest in environmental studies has always been closely tied to Indigenous rights. Pua hopes to use her degree in Environmental Science and Public Policy to work toward a more equitable and sustainable future by empowering marginalized communities.

Statement from Pua: This thesis explores the significance of water and traditional agriculture to the cultural revival and political sovereignty of Native Hawaiians. It makes an important contribution to ongoing debates over Indigenous rights, arguing their intrinsic connection to environmental policies. The research brought together my parents’ work in Hawai‘i during the 1970s, a decade commonly referred to as the Hawaiian Renaissance. My mother was a founding member of the Protect Kaho‘olawe Ohana (“PKO”), a group of young Hawaiians activists that successfully stopped the bombing of a sacred Hawaiian island that the United States military was using as target practiced for nearly 40 years. My father was involved in the early water rights litigation to restore streamflow to traditional food systems and Native Hawaiian communities on O‘ahu that set precedent for the current lawsuits on Maui.

It was intimidating to write about Indigenous rights because of the unfamiliarity that exists within Environmental Science and Public Policy, but I felt it was extremely important and past. Read more...


Kamran Mujahid Jamil ’18

Honorable Mention | Development, Disease, and Democracy: Understanding the Roots of Poor Social Development in Sindh, Pakistan and Outlining the Possibilities for Reform 

Kamran JamilConcentrator in Social Studies

Kamran’s thesis gives a rigorous account of how colonialism, nationalism, and migration shape the quality of healthcare in Karachi, Pakistan. Its combination of ethnographic, archival, and statistical methods make an important contribution to understanding social inequality and democratic possibility in historicized context.

About Kamran: Kamran has completed his degree in Social Studies from Harvard College in 2018, pursuing both a pre-medical track and a focus field on economic development and history. Having served as the Editor-in-Chief (2018) of the Harvard College Human Rights Review and the Managing Editor (2017) of the Harvard Health Policy Review, Kamran is excited for a career at the intersection of public service and academia.

Statement from KamranThis research undertakes the question: what can explain the vast social developmental divergences, in areas like health and education, that exist across Pakistan today? By specifically focusing on two of Pakistan's most economically developed provinces--Sindh and Punjab--this thesis undertakes a historical study of colonial development to help explain modern day differences (implicating, most prominently, differences in the way land is held between these two provinces). By further including contemporary voices from fieldwork done in Pakistan, this thesis argues: large landholders compromise the work of development often times at local levels, and sometimes at the level of provincial governance. This thesis ends with a reflection on the political and economic power of Pakistan's nascent democracy to realize the developmental needs of its citizens.


Kaveh Motamedy ’18

Honorable Mention | Rethinking Resettlements: The Role of the International Institute of New England (IINE) in the Resettlement Experience of Syrian Refugees in Lowell, Massachusetts

Kaveh MotademyConcentrator in Social Studies

Kaveh performs a case study of a resettlement agency in Lowell, Massachusetts and its work with Syrian refugees. This thesis brilliantly demonstrates the political and historical dynamics, including racialized anti-Muslim bias, that have driven steady decreases in federal funding and demands for refugees to become “self-sufficient.”

About Kaveh: A member of Eliot House concentrating in Social Studies with a Secondary Field in Economics, Kaveh’s Focus Field is “21st Century Migration and its Crises.” Kaveh grew up in New York, with parents who migrated to the United States from Iran. Kaveh was motivated by their migratory experience to focus on immigration studies.

Statement from KavehMy interest in immigration issues began at the end of my freshman year at Harvard when I took a Harvard Summer Course in Greece titled Comparative Studies 107: Cross-Cultural Contact between East and West from Ancient Times to the Present. One of the seminars in the course addressed the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe. During the summer of 2015, as a gateway nation into the EU, Greece had been overwhelmed by an influx of Syrian refugees who crossed the Mediterranean to reach the safety of Europe. Greek media was inundated with reports on the Syrian refugee crisis, including heated debates about the problems and pressures that the crisis created.

Since then, there has also been increased coverage of the Syrian refugee crisis in the U.S. media. These debates have recently taken on a new sense of urgency with President Trump’s proposed ban on Syrian refugees. Much of the public controversy has concentrated on whether or not the U.S should continue to admit Syrian refugees. But there has been little information about the Syrian refugees that have already been admitted in the United States. My thesis examines this angle: What challenges do Syrian refugees face after they arrive to resettle in the U.S.? What are their hopes and expectations when they arrive? What are the realities they experience once they settle here?