2020 Grant Winners

Thank you to all who applied for the 2020 Summer Thesis Research Grants. Congratulations to the 2020 recipients for their outstanding work!

Summer thesis research grants are generously support by members of the Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance, donors to the EMR Fund, and the Instituto Cervantes Observatory of the Spanish Language. We are enormously grateful to those who make these opportunities possible.




Project Title: Los Hijos de La Virgen de Guadalupe

La Virgen de Guadalupe is one of the most popular Catholic icons for Latinx communities while also being the mother of all Mexicans. While these assertions are both true and heavily highlighted within the communities that I grew up in, I believe that her influence and the morals she reflects have a huge role in the identity formation for an ethnic demographic that is never given an academic voice, children. In my project, I hope research the way that Mexican and Mexican American children in California, aged eight to eleven years of age understand La Virgen de Guadalupe as a Catholic religious icon and how that understanding has helped them navigate their communities and their own individual identities. I want to conduct interviews with children in California during the summer to respond to the gap in literature within United States Religious Studies academic field that lacks and doesn’t include children’s voices or their opinions concerning religious ideas, religious icons, or religious structures.



Ryen Diaz

Project Title: The Price of Kindness: Criminalization and Humanitarian Aid Along the US/Mexico Border

I'm Ryen Diaz, a Social Studies concentrator working on a project entitled "The Price of Kindness: Criminalization and Humanitarian Aid Along the US/Mexico Border". As someone who wants to go into humanitarian work, I was shocked to watch the arrests of a dozen humanitarian activists in the past years.  I want to better understand the purpose for the state's criminalization of human kindness from a legal and sociological perspective, which is why I will be doing a legal analysis of these recent cases, as well as talking to humanitarian organizations about how these cases have changed the nature of their work.




Project Title: Citizenship With/out Papers: Bodies, Technologies, and the Politics of Belonging in France

Inhabiting lifeworlds of racial alterity, economic precarity, and legal abjection, how does the sans-papiers movement mobilize and renegotiate "citizenship" and social intelligibility in France? Using ethnographic methods, I will investigate the cultivation of political subjectivity among undocumented immigrants striving for social intelligibility, redefining the terms of citizenship, and resisting the social production of their "illegality."



vivekae kim

Project Title: Pima County Justice for All: A Campaign for Universal Counsel for Migrants on the U.S.-Mexico Border




Project Title: A Betrayal of the Fa’asamoa: Domestic Violence in American Samoa

“A Betrayal of the Fa’asamoa: Domestic Violence in American Samoa” will be focused on local government rhetoric and campaign messaging regarding domestic violence in American Samoa. In 2018, the UN estimated that 60-80% of women and girls in the Pacific experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes. And just since the start of 2020, there have already been increasingly violent incidents of domestic abuse. I chose this topic because of the lack of research about the effect of Samoan cultural attitudes on domestic violence, in hopes to help local leaders and anti-domestic violence organizations better serve domestic violence survivors.




Project Title: Imperialism vs. Human Rights: A History of Haitian Asylum in the United States

My research investigates how the legacy of American imperialism manifested in American refugee policy in the late 20th century. Istumbled on the topic in my junior Social Studies tutorial and was struck by how the treatment of Haitian (and Central American) asylum seekers led to the creation of the brutal policies in the United States currently carries out against migrants arriving at the Southern border. I hope to shine a light on the resistance against these policies and the continuity of disciminary, inhumane immigration policy.



Phoebe Lindsay

Project Title: The development of Indo-Fijian Ethnic Identity

This project will investigate processes of ethnic identity formation in the Indo-Fijian population. In particular, I am interested in how this group considers their unique identity within the context of their membership and citizenship in the broader Fijian context and how this identity is manifested in modes of cultural production and language. Through interviews with two groups- one of induviduals in their twenties and another consisting of their parents- I hope to understand how this sense of a group identity has changed as a result of the political changes and coups  in the late 1990s and early 2000s.




Project Title: Bustin Loose: Go-Go Music and Black Identity in a Gentrified Washington, D.C

Washington, D.C., long a proud bastion of African American culture, is rapidly changing. Areas like the historically black neighborhood surrounding Howard University, have different sonic realities happening simultaneously on separate sides of the street. On one side, there are trendy restaurants, attended by young white professionals for brunch as indie pop sets a palatable atmosphere. On the other side, there is a black-owned Metro PCS store playing D.C.’s raucous native musical style, Go-Go. On a nearby brick wall, someone spray-painted the words “Gentrification is Genocide.” Within the past 20 years, many cultural helms like the metro pcs store have been replaced, homogenizing communities and entirely altering the soundscape of D.C.




Project Title: Healing and Protest: Black Feminist Anti-Violence Organizing in Chicago

For my senior thesis, I’m going to be conducting ethnographic research with an anti-sexual violence organization in Chicago. I plan to investigate the methods organizers use to facilitate healing and empower black girls. My interest in this project formed through my own anti-sexual violence activism, and the history of black feminist anti-violence organizing in America. I’m interested in how histories of black feminist activism and resistance are conceptualized and incorporated in present-day activist work.




Project Title: From the Great Migration to School Lunch: Black Women, the Battle Against Food Insecurity in the Promised Land, and their Essential Contribution to the Development of Food Insecurity Initiatives Today

South of the Mason-Dixon line, but for many the stopping point for northern movement, DC, the city I call home is a living embodiment of the Great Migration. As an adult, I began piecing together how much of this country’s framework is rooted in the unreported movement of people like my grandparents. This became the foundation for my thesis: giving voice to the millions who migrated in silence, whose impact we’re only beginning to understand. Just one story is of the Black women, migrants themselves, who led the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast program and paved the way for meals in schools today.