Congratulations to the Winners of the 2023 Engaged Research Grant!

The Foundation is proud to announce the results of the 2023 Engaged Research Grants competition. Engaged Research Grants support research partnerships that forge ethical relationships and empower those who have historically been among those researched in anthropology. Designed in alliance with individuals who have born the impact of various kinds of marginalization, these partnerships bring together scholars and their interlocutors in the mutual production of anthropological knowledge aimed at combatting inequality and promoting the flourishing of human and more than human worlds. The program supports projects that research involves the promise to make a significant contribution to anthropological conversations through collaborations in which engagement is a central feature of a project from the very start.

Blakey, Michael (William and Mary, College of) “The Commission for the Ethical Treatment of Human Remains, AAA, Descendant Community Summit, Smithsonian Institution”

The Commission for the Ethical Treatment of Human Remains (TCETHR) of the American Anthropological Association will bring African American and indigenous descendant community leaders together with anthropologists at the Smithsonian Institution to discuss the ethical treatment of their ancestral remains. These will be engaged in separate and joint discussions of 1) what constitutes ethical treatment, 2) when is research warranted and 3) how is the research or memorial disposition of human remains to be ethically determined with an eye to the ethical principle of informed consent. The answers to these research questions will lead to tangible results. The findings of the Commission’s rapporteurs will become a major consideration for its recommendations of best ethical practices to the AAA for which the Commission was convened. Furthermore, the ‘process is product.’ Domestic and global descendants and scientists will come to know each other, express, and address their concerns. African American descendant communities will have been brought together for the first time with opportunities to organize as a collective should they choose to do so.

Burnett, Jeffrey (Michigan State U.) “Oak Bluffs Historic Highlands Archaeology Project”

The Oak Bluffs Historic Highlands Archaeology (OBHHA) project is a community-based historic landscape study that utilizes archaeological methods, archival data, and oral histories and stories to map the beginnings and growth of a Black vacationing community in the Highlands area of Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. In the resort community of Oak Bluffs, on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, during the early 20th century, Black home- and business-owners formed the core of an infrastructure and landscape that would support the growth of vacationing communities of color. The people who lived in these historic communities, and the descendants and newcomers who live there today, greatly impacted the history, landscape, culture, and future of Oak Bluffs and Martha’s Vineyard, and are connected to the history of tourism and vacationing in America, the history of Black vacationing, and to the 20th century Black Freedom Struggle. This study proposes to explore a history of placemaking through the experiences of Black vacationers in the Highlands area of Oak Bluffs.

Colson, Alicia (Royal Geographic Society, UK) “The Emic, Etic and Anishinahbayeshshikaywin in Lac Seul”

This project seeks to inform the world (Outsiders) by drawing on centuries of lived experience of Oji-Cree speakers, and applying an animist Insider (emic) worldview to an understanding of their Boreal Forest environment to explain their view of their world (etic) to the wider world. George Kenny (an Anishinaabe Knowledge Keeper from Lac Seul FN) invited Alicia to join his teaching circle (Dr Adar Charleton, Michael Auksi, and Mary McPherson) to understand a pictograph site created by George’s father as an apprentice shaman on Route Lake. The teaching circle co-authored an academic article and presented a paper at Cambridge University (UK), which established mutual trust and a working relationship. After a year’s worth of consultations of two hours each week on zoom, Alicia was mandated to recruit three ‘Outsiders’ with accredited skills in botany, biology, medicine, anthropology, archaeology, ethnohistory, history, digital humanities, and project management. George and the Elders, in their 70s and 80s, will teach this new group by experiencing a ‘shaking tent ceremony’, building and experience a sweat lodge, identifying and processing healing plants, collecting and storage of fruits and berries, building a fish weir, making a drum, understanding the solar system and being immersed in their ‘world view’.

Fierro, Alberto (Central European U.) “Collective engaged research with the MTST – Homeless Workers’ Movement: Decolonizing research and developing knowledge against intersecting inequalities.”

This proposal focuses on decolonial and participatory paths to knowledge production. With the MTST (Homeless Workers’ Movement) – a Brazilian social movement that has been struggling against intersecting inequalities for almost 25 years – we will constitute a group of activist researchers to develop knowledge that helps the movement fight for a more just society. This proposal moves from a body of academic and non-academic work that criticizes traditional research approaches towards a goal that explores and pushes existing boundaries between scholarship and activism. Our collaborative research’s central objective is to enhance the skills of activist researchers while producing knowledge that is useful for the MTST. The proposal asks two interconnected questions: first, what knowledge has the movement mobilized during almost 25 years of struggle in Brazilian urban peripheries? Second, how can we best investigate and systematize activists’ insights and expertise? The contribution of this research to anthropology will provide a model for developing theoretical knowledge that is both engaged – it serves the purpose of helping people fight inequalities – and decolonial – it comes from those subjects who have been historically discriminated against and deemed objects of investigation.

Foote, Amanda (Calgary, U. of) “Dagugun Woakide Akide Hnebigan Echin Bathtabi (Studying Museums in a Good Way)”

For decades, Indigenous people have leveled thoughtful critiques at museums; they point to challenges over rightful ownership, conditions of initial collection, contemporary interpretation, and even the nature of the museum institution, as problematic. Building on the skills and interests of a group of collaborators this project investigates potential pathways for improved relationships between museums and Indigenous people, specifically the Îethka (Stoney Nakoda) in Treaty 7 region. Utilizing a methodology developed through pilot study we employ the practice of visiting; with community members, museums, artifacts, professionals, and Indigenous people engaged in museum work. This process supports members of the Îethka community to develop their own positions in response to the myriad challenges presented in museum representation and collections. Their conclusions will then be delivered back to museums and heritage sites so they may conduct more thoughtful engagement processes that yield better results for all involved.

Izaguirre, Joaquin (CONICET) “Videogames as practice for enhancing heritage. Diaguita Kallchakí culture and Identity development in Callchaquí Valley, Salta, Argentine.”

This project seeks to evaluate how interactive VR videogame experiences cocreated with Diaguitas Kallchakies communities affect heritage conservation and processes of identity development processes among indigenous communities of Cachi, Salta, Argentina. Teenagers of these communities are immersed in a technological reality that reproduces content which ignores their traditional knowledge. By producing content that emerges from the community it gives them a way of being in the world and provides them with a sociopolitical context for identity development. We propose a methodology based on three stages. The first is a series of interviews that will explore the knowledge that teens have about the importance of cultural heritage in their lives. The second stage will analyze the data acquired and design a video game that will accentuate and deepen knowledge of Diaguita Kallchakí culture. The third stage consists of assessing the videogame’s performance and people’s experience playing it in schools and in key locales within the Diaguita-Kallchakí community. Collaboration with the Diaguitas Kallchakies will occur at all stages from project design to start-up.

Kelsang, Thupten (Oxford, U. of) “Reanimating Tibet in the Museum: contentions in collections and their contemporary ‘afterlives’”

My research focuses on how to create a sustainable and equitable relationship between the transnational Tibetan diaspora and museums with Tibetan collections. This would enable Tibetan refugees to access and re-engage with their material heritage (which is entangled in both British and Chinese colonialism), and work towards countering the historic and acute absence of Tibetan voices in museums. Grounded in community-based participatory research (CBPR), my research will explore the potential future(s) of Tibetan collections in museums in the UK and their latent affordances for the wider Tibetan community.

Kurowicka, Anna (Brazil, FU Pernambuco) “Interethnic Relations and Ethnography of Territorialization Processes among the Pataxó from the Barra Velha indigenous land. Engaged Anthropology Project”

This study aims to assess the impact of Brazilian governmental policies regarding the Pataxó, an indigenous group inhabiting the Barra Velha territory located in the south of the state of Bahia. Like most indigenous territories in Brazil nowadays, it has suffered major threats to its integrity and continuity. This reality has generated a series of new debates and forms of action/resistance among the Pataxó, as well as a recognition of the need for new approaches to understand the situation from an anthropological perspective. This project will carry out research on the territory of Barra Velha as a way to represent the Pataxó point of view about their history and land rights. It aims to create a Territory Observatory which will collect various types of information: narratives about the territory, aerial images of the invasions, etc. Ultimately the goal of this collaborative research is to raise awareness of Barra Velha indigenous lands and help the Pataxó defend their territorial rights.

Lutfi, Ameem (Lahore U., of Management Sciences) “Economies of Long Covid: Managing Household and School Precarity in Lahore, Pakistan”

In urban Pakistan, a long-term consequence of Covid-19 lockdowns has been the abrupt, permanent closure of schools in low-income areas due to a dramatic decline in enrollment since the reopening of schools following prolonged closures. This project contends that the economic pressures schools face are directly linked to households rethinking budgets and reimagining their children’s futures amidst a covid-induced economic downturn and prolonged uncertainty. Through what kinds of logic and moral calculations are the urban poor making the difficult choice of not spending on educational costs? How is this decision reshaping aspirations of social mobility, and what implications does it have for the country’s already threadbare educational infrastructure? “Economies of Long Covid” looks to answer these questions through innovative, collaborative methods offering research partners auto-ethnographic control and community oversight. Focusing on Lahore’s working-class neighborhood of Chungi, where the project collaborators have long established social connections and political commitments, the project mobilizes decolonial and reparative methodologies of engagement and repair, seeking material redress for the communities who partner in our research.

Nava-Morales, Elena (U. Nacional Autonoma de Mexico) “Systematization of the historical process and sociocultural impact of the Mixe Jënpoj Community Radio”

Indigenous community communication is an important anthropological concern and political goal of grassroots movements in different places across the globe. This project’s central objective is to reveal the social and political processes of an emblematic radio station; the Jënpoj Community radio station. The radio station is located in Santa María Tlahuitoltepec Mixe in the Sierra Norte of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. In 2021 the radio celebrated 20 years of existence serving the Mixe community.  As one of the oldest indigenous community radio stations, Indigenous municipal authorities and Mixe community members see a need for analyzing the radio’s historic processes and sociocultural impacts.

Rupp, Stephanie (New York, Herbert H. Lehman College, City U. of) “Under One Umbrella: Collaborative Research on Ecological and Social Change in the Lobéké Forest, Southeastern Cameroon”

This collaborative research project builds on twenty-five years of research partnership among the members of our team. It asks the core question: In what ways are ecological and social processes entangled in the Lobéké forest system today, and how have these interactive engagements changed over the past twenty-five years?

Umana-Kinitzki, Carmen (McGill U.) “Integrating Indigenous Storywork, Biocultural Cartography, and Baselining Practices to Address Shifting Baseline Syndrome and Establish Forest and Watershed Recovery Targets in the Bayano-Majécito Watershed, Panama.”

Areas that are governed and conserved by Indigenous peoples and local communities are foundational to the preservation and enhancement of conditions necessary for life on Earth. In the Bayano-Majécito Watershed (Panama), Majé Emberá Drüa knowledge keepers are identifying and interpreting historical changes, monitoring current trends, and formulating effective strategies for the defense and resurgence of habitats and species diversity within their territories. This research collaboration combines Indigenous storywork, biocultural mapping methodologies, and baselining practices to track the cumulative effects of hydroelectric dam development (1972-1976) and rampant deforestation that has reduced forest cover by 45% within the community’s 19,000 hectares in less than two decades. In so doing, we seek to identify the biological and cultural baseline conditions necessary for watershed recovery while addressing Shifting Baseline Syndrome, a global phenomenon whereby the place-based memories of elders are forgotten, and degrading territories are gradually accepted as normal with each passing generation. By developing community established biocultural recovery targets as well as protocols for their implementation and monitoring, this work promotes trans-epistemic collaborations in watershed research to decolonize normative baselining practices within watershed restoration research while contributing to the community’s larger efforts to claim collective legal title to their territory.

Work, Courtney (National Chengchi U., Taiwan) “Intangible Heritage and Engaged Research at a Culture Frontier: Transitions to History at the Edge of a Degrading Forest”

Engaged research is at the frontier of social science methodologies, through which knowledge is co-created and the voices and visions of research participants guide data collection and analysis. We bring this method to another frontier, where after twenty years of intensive economic development the Indigenous Kuy and Khmer communities living in and around the Prey Lang Forest, Cambodia, are disenfranchised from their heritage, both tangible and intangible. This project is part of ongoing collaborations with Indigenous Kuy and Khmer members of the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) and seeks to establish community participatory management of Kuy heritage through engaged documentation of traditional practices and Prey Lang’s heritage sites, including ancient temples, trees, and rock formations: all of which are recognized sources of agentive non-human power. Collaborators want to foster the intergenerational transmission of culture, including knowledge about the region’s ancient history. Our research collective blends GIS mapping technologies, photographs, audio-video recordings, and text into ArcGIS “story maps” (an easy to share multi-media online publication program) to document traditional practices, forest knowledge, and the powerful places of the forest. The people of Prey Lang want to share their heritage, their history, and their unique experiences of development and transformation.

Xón Riquiac, María Jacinta (Universidad Carlos, Madrid) “Creole and native seeds in Guatemala. Ontologies, disputes and Human Rights”

Nowadays, the Guatemalan State recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples in exclusion-excluding logics (Agambem, 1998). From this perspective the Maya exist only as exotic and monetizable elements for tourism. When indigenous peoples defend their human and specific rights to protect their territories from monocultures, open-pit mining, etc.; when they oppose patents on native seeds and genetically modified organisms, they become enemies of the State. In recent years the number of indigenous people criminalized by the State has increased. I am Mayan K’iche’ and the aim of this project is to learn ontologies of creole and native seeds “from within” to understand them “from outside” (Tuhiwai, 1999). This entails using multidisciplinary analyses drawn from anthropology, human rights, and specifically the human rights of indigenous peoples as a basis for fighting Commercial Law “disputes”. The project seeks to establish a foundation “between worlds”, “between languages” to support indigenous peoples’ struggles in challenging Technical Regulations for the export of Living Modified organisms approved in 2018, that endangers biodiversity and food sovereignty in Guatemala.