The Master’s Project is a key component of the CLACS MA program at NYU. On the first day of class, we were urged to begin thinking about what, and where, we might want to research. As I started thinking about my project, I had a few countries in mind that I wanted to travel to, but I wasn’t sure what topic I wanted to dedicate a year and a half to reading and writing about. I got a bit of help by talking to classmates, getting advice from second year students, considering what kinds of themes would work in certain countries, and keeping in mind that I didn’t want to study something that has been overdone. It was especially reassuring to speak with second year students who have already done their research.
This first semester of the required intro class for CLACS has been really helpful in narrowing down our project ideas and putting together the grant proposals that we will be submitting in order to receive funding for our research abroad. After submitting two potential project ideas, we submitted a database log, which contained our search findings from resources such as JSTOR and the NYU library catalog. We also submitted an annotated bibliography and a working bibliography with sources that we might find useful in our final research. While next semester’s intro class will focus on the logistics and practical matters of conducting research abroad, such as interviews and travel, this past semester has shown me just how much planning is necessary for going abroad to do research. Since we will all have a limited time to gather the information needed to complete our projects next fall, we must be as prepared and knowledgeable as possible before going into the field.
After considering my interests in development and wealth disparity in Latin America, the Southern Cone, and the impact of foreign aid to Latin America, I decided to focus on the villas miserias, or shantytowns, in Buenos Aires and the “slum tours” that have become available for tourists in recent years. While these tours are more prevalent and well-known in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, they are becoming increasingly popular in Buenos Aires as well. I hope to interview both villa residents and the foreigners who go on these tours to see whether or not these tours have any tangible and sustainable benefit for the villas, and why foreigners are compelled to participate in these tours. What do these tours say to Westerners about Latin America and how is their perception of the region altered after participating? Could these tours be a form of modern-day colonialism? Is foreign aid provided to the area solely because of the interest of curious Westerners, not because villa residents need sustainable aid?
Choosing a country to research in was tough, but I ultimately chose Buenos Aires, because I spent a semester there during my undergrad study and I feel that there is still so much to be explored there academically. Its history, politics, and people are fascinating and the city itself is equally captivating. I struggled with the idea of going back to Argentina because there are so many other beautiful countries to learn about and spend time in, but given the limited time we have to conduct research, I hope that my prior knowledge of the city and the connections that I made two years ago will be a great advantage to me this summer.
I’m looking forward to getting deeper into my research and refining what I want to achieve through my MA Project. I’m excited to head back to Argentina this summer and to learning new things about its diverse people and culture. I think it will be an eye-opening experience to spend time in Argentina as a researcher.
Elizabeth Con is an MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU