2020 Summer Research Grant Recipients


Claudia Diaz-Combs

Bio and Research Proposal

Claudia Diaz-Combs is a PhD Student in the Geography program. She is broadly interested in themes of political ecology, agrarian political economy and development related to agriculture. Her research focuses on the rapid expansion of sugarcane plantations in El Salvador, focusing on land change uses and labor relations in the coastal regions of the country. In the past few decades, sugar has eclipsed coffee as the country’s major export crop, facilitated by legal reforms that allowed for an influx in foreign investment. In 2001, El Salvador passed a national Sugar Law that approved the agriculture industry for commercialization, processing, production, and distribution of sugarcane (Perez, 2016). The rapid expansion of sugar plantations has radically reshaped landholdings in the Salvadoran countryside. Given that sugar is a relatively low-value commodity crop whose production tends to be water and chemical intensive, this expansion raises several questions regarding the social and environmental implications of large-scale sugar production. El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America, with limited marginal land available to grow this crop (Borras et al., 2012). The expansion of sugarcane has transformed the country into a landscape of sugar production with the emergence of a ‘Sugar Belt’ running West to East along the entire length of the country. The history of El Salvador has always revolved around its scarcest commodity: land. Exploring the processes of sugarcane production in El Salvador can tell a broader story about global agriculture production and land use.


María Laura Veramendi García

Bio and Research Proposal

María Laura Veramendi García is a Peruvian sociologist (PUCP, 2010) and a rising fifth year PhD student at Syracuse University, studying the comparative political economy of social policies in Latin America. She also holds a Master of Public Administration from the same University (De Sardon-Glass Fellow, 2014-2015). The research experience of María Laura focuses on topics such as the evaluation of education policies in urban and rural areas of Peru, the relation between education and citizenship, among others. She has also held executive positions in organizations working towards the promotion of evidence-based policy-making and gender equity in academia. These experiences, next to a brief stage within the Peruvian bureaucracy, triggered María Laura’s interest in studying the political and economic obstacles that public policies face on the road to a successful implementation. Driven by such concern, her research agenda focused on the political economy of social policies in Latin America, which she studies from a comparative perspective, paying attention to elements such as policy legacies and business power and, particularly, to the Peruvian case. The title of her proposed research is "The Political Economy of Healthcare in Latin America: A Comparative Historical Study on the Participation of the Private Sector in the Provision of Healthcare, Health Policies and Reforms in Chile and Peru." Different factors influence the design and enactment of policies aimed at increasing the access to and the quality of healthcare in Latin America. In this project, she focuses on an element that the literature considers only superficially, in spite of its relevance: the participation of the private sector in the provision of healthcare. Using qualitative methodologies and focusing on the history of health policies in Chile and Peru, she will analyze the effects that the participation of the private sector brings to the establishment of policies and reforms aimed at the universalization of high-quality healthcare.


Mirella Pretell Gomero

Bio and Research Proposal

Mirella is a Geography PhD student and Graduate Teaching Assistant at Syracuse University, New York. Mirella has an MSc in Environment and Sustainable Development from University College London (UCL) with Merit and a Bachelor of Social Science, with major in Political Science and minor in Latin American Studies from Stockholm University. Mirella is a Grantee of the Erasmus Exchange Program at the Autonomous University of Madrid. Mirella has served as Head of the Loreto Region Office in the Amazon for the Agency for Environmental Assessment and Enforcement (OEFA in Spanish) and has also provided technical advice to the Government of Peru, through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Project that supported the implementation of the Joint Declaration of Intent between the Governments of Peru, Norway and Germany on REDD+ to reduce deforestation in the Amazon. In the Northern Peruvian Amazon, oil pollution has transformed the lives and territorialities of Indigenous people. Though the proximate cause of oil spills in the Loreto region of the Northern Peruvian Amazon is mainly poor infrastructure, the broader and underlying causes have to do with systemic racism and cultural exclusion, together with the neocolonial dynamics of extractive capitalism. This is closely intertwined with environmental degradation and political discrimination leading to nearly fifty years of unequal distribution of environmental harms. Women face distinct challenges due to contamination because they are disproportionately responsible for caring for those in the household. Therefore, any situation which places the household at risk is borne by women in ways that are distinct from men, and therefore are worthy of particular attention. Mirella's research project seeks to examine Indigenous struggles against large-scale environmental injustices in the Loreto region. This research focuses especially on the effects on Indigenous women, due to the long-standing invisibility of women’s lives.


Steven G. Harris

Bio and Research Proposal

Steven G. Harris and is currently a teaching assistant within the Anthropology PhD graduate program. Originally from Akron, OH, Steven's research interest involves studying elements of the African diaspora, observing how it is represented through the historical and archaeological record in parts of the Caribbean. While past excavations have been fruitful, through conducting archival research within the next few months in Bridgetown, Barbados, Steven hopes to have better means of understanding how both free and enslaved communities would have navigated their social landscapes more than 200 years ago. Outside of studies, Steven is a huge fan of traveling, reading manga, playing video and board games, and bowling. Trents Cave, Barbados is a site hidden between the previous enslaved laborer settlement (1650-1838) and the planter’s compound (1627- present) at Trents Plantation. Containing caches of various metal artifacts, Trents Cave is believed to be a site of special purpose, where selection and use of ferrous materials was conducted by people of African descent as a form of ritual and resistance (Armstrong 2015, 2019). While ferrous artifacts make up a significant component of archaeological sites in the colonial era, often these artifacts are studied only in relation to form, with little recognition of metal content, source of production, or social significance regarding the individuals that use them. Utilizing a range of interdisciplinary methods and XRF chemical characterization, this assessment will provide a comparative analysis of ratios of metals recovered from different loci at Trents Plantation, to shift how interpretations of the ferrous artifacts found at local, regional, and global scales are ultimately conducted.

 

Julissa A. Collazo López

Bio and Research Proposal

Julissa is a doctoral student from Puerto Rico with a focus on Historical Archaeology. She holds a BA in Anthropology from the University of Puerto Rico and an MA in Nautical and Underwater Archaeology from the University of Cádiz, Spain. Her research interests include gender in the 16th century Spanish Caribbean, specifically the presence of women and children in domestic spaces. This research project focuses on the archaeological presence of women and children in the Spanish towns of Puerto Real (1503-1578), Haiti, and Sevilla la Nueva (1509-1534), Jamaica. Drawing on documentary sources spanning the occupation of these early Spanish settlements, and archaeological evidence from the already excavated artifact collections from these sites, Julissa investigates transformations of the roles women and children in the domestic sphere. As part of this, Julissa's research will center on the presence of children and women in colonial contexts and examine how processes of gendering were transformed in the production of distinctly colonial gendered subjects. She will analyze artifacts associated with clothing, personal adornment, play items, and educational artifacts to reveal how emerging colonial gender roles were materialized via practices and material culture. In addition, it is necessary to take into account the intersection of social class and gender by assessing and comparing findings from the elite residential areas and the poblados of the towns at both sites.


Aykut Ozturk

Bio and Research Proposal

Aykut is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science. His research agenda revolves around the issue of political identities and mass attitudes towards democracy. His articles have appeared in Comparative Political Studies and Middle Eastern Studies. As part of his dissertation research, Aykut studies Bolivian voters' reactions to democracy and democratic erosion during the last decade. More specifically, he is interested in how Bolivian voters approached Morales' decision to remove term limits, and what influenced their attitudes during the process.