Category Archives: Recent Research

Museum Education in ‘La Llajta’

Posted by Arlean Dawes – MA Candidate at CLACS /Museum Studies Concentration at NYU

Cochabamba, the third largest city in Bolivia is affectionately referred to as ‘La Llajta’ which in the Quechua language means community or town. The name Cochabamba itself also derives from Quechua. La llajta has become my second home over the past several years and this summer it is serving as my base for field research. As a CLACS student with a concentration in Museum Studies, my experience is rather unique in that I get the opportunity to work within a museum here in Cochabamba and apply certain themes from my thesis to the projects I am heading up at the museum INIAM.

When I initially arrived at INIAM (Anthropological Research Institute and Archaeological Museum), I immediately got started on creating educational materials with Sr. René Machado, the director of the interactive program at the museum. This program was designed by Sr. Machado several years ago with the intention of providing the opportunity for school students to not only have a regular visit touring the museum and seeing artifacts, but rather experience and interact with the collection through activities such as an archaeological excavation, analyzing the Pre-Columbian products found today among the various Bolivian regions and climates. Within my first week in the museum we had planned more or less what we wanted to include in the first 3 doblados and had finished a rough draft of the first two.

The materials and ‘doblados’ or educational foldables are based on six themes which are covered throughout the interactive program—fossilization, migration, stratigraphy and ecological conservation, large civilizations in Bolivian territory, Pre-Columbian agricultural products, and cave art. These foldable will be used to complement the interactive program school children participate in when they visit, however what about schools that are located too far from the city to send their children and don’t have easy access to the museum?

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“La Bestia” and La Casa del Migrante Saltillo

Posted by Katie Schlechter – MA Candidate at CLACS / Global Journalism at NYU

In Saltillo the presence of the migrant feels more present than it does in Mexico City, but also somehow a bit tucked away. On my first walk around the hot city the afternoon that I arrived, I could already hear the trains. “La Bestia” runs right through here, mostly carrying migrants towards the border with Texas—from here it’s only a three and a half hour drive to Laredo without traffic. Yet some migrants are also catching the train south, after a serious injury or an inability to pay the “cuota” to cartel groups in order to continue their journey north forced them to backtrack.

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Train tracks less than a block away from the Casa del Migrante Saltillo in northern Mexico. (Photo: Katie Schlechter)

The train horns carry on throughout the night and I can hear them from the room where I’m staying near the center of town. As it gets later and the traffic noise dies down, I can actually hear train wheels click-clacking and screeching as they pull in and out of the main station a few blocks away. La Casa del Migrante Saltillo is a thirty minute hike down Calle Alvaro Obregón—a sweaty walk that I was disappointed to find offers none of the typical plethora of street food options I’m accustomed to in Mexico City. A panadería was my best bet for breakfast, and shortly after shelling out eight pesos for a few pineapple empanadas, I was turning off Obregón towards the shelter next to the train tracks.

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Homecoming Rizado

My name is Saudi Garcia and I am a first year doctoral student in the NYU Department of Anthropology. My research interests lie at the intersection of race, gender, practice theory and digital media activism. This summer, I will be researching the natural hair movement in the Dominican Republic, historicizing and documenting the collection of people, places and digital spaces that together amount to a force that is visibly shifting Dominican society and culture. I will be talking to individuals about the impact that “going natural” has had on their lives, the lives of their families and Dominican society at large.

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The Dominican racial difference paradox: Many different skin tones, one accepted and expected hair texture.

While much has been written about policies and norms that point to “black denial” in the Dominican Republic, few monographs have substantially covered the emerging efforts to develop Afro-identification and pride in the country. My work this summer involves learning about the journeys and struggles of the women (and men) who embrace natural hair in a place where wearing hair curly or afro has been interpreted as an act of rebellion that belies the Eurocentric aesthetic standards that have long been the norm among Dominicans.

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Somoza: Not Your Average Dictator

Posted by Vladimir Penaloza – MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU

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Anastasio Somoza has been portrayed as a wily politician who was able to appeal to both liberals and conservatives. He was also successful in gaining recognition and support from the United States. According to Knut Walter, who wrote a seminal book on Somoza entitled The Regime of Anastasio Somoza: 1936-1956, Somoza’s regime was an “outwardly personalistic dictatorship” (xviii). 

While conducting research at the Archivo Nacional, located in the National Palace in Managua, Nicaragua, there was a collection of letters from people of all social standing, who wrote to Somoza. People wrote to Anastasio Somoza Garcia requesting, and sometimes begging, for his help. These letters contained requests as varied as the people sending them, for example, there were request for jobs, money, and even soliciting Somoza to buy their property. It is obvious that to a lot of people Somoza was much more than just a politician, General and dictator – he was a line of last resort, one could even say savior. One case in particular affected me the most: that of Iris Proudfoot who was living in San José, Costa Rica at the time she wrote to Somoza on July 21, 1954. In her letter, she requests that Somoza call her husband, Evener Arévalo Ortega, to his [Somoza’s] office. She has been trying to divorce him, but her husband is refusing to grant the divorce. In the letter she goes on to list her motives to ask for a divorce: 

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Talking Drug Prohibition at Mexico City’s Museum of Tolerance

Posted by Laura Weiss – MA student at CLACS

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I’ve now been in the beautiful, chaotic, multilayered Mexico City, or DF, for over a week. Since I arrived, I’ve barely rested for a moment: as it turns out, field research is time consuming! In addition to interviews I’ve set up with local NGOs like the Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (CENCOS), the Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (CentroPro), and doing ethnographic observations of the many protests occurring on Avenida de la Reforma, I’ve been trying to take advantage of the many cursos, talleres and coyunturas this city has to offer.

On Saturday morning, I attended a free curso at the Museo de Tolerancia y Derechos Humanos, located on the Alameda in Mexico’s Centro, across the street from the lively Hidalgo market and downwind of the swanky Reforma Hilton, and more Starbucks than I would care to see. I visited the museum during my last trip to DF, located in a modern, spacious building with exhibits about human rights atrocities around the world, from the Holocaust to the Sudanese conflict to child migrant deaths. The museum offers a series of free courses and events every month, many of which are related to my thesis project. This one was the second session of “La Guerra Contra El Narcotráfico: El Fracaso Ante Los Derechos Humanos” (The War on Drugs: The Failure of Human Rights).

The lecture took place in the large auditorium, and at least 100 people sat in the audience. The session was described as: “La guerra contra las drogas desde el contexto internacional. Identificar los elementos la política criminal que comenzó en Estados Unidos y que se han reflejado en la política criminal internacional y que México ha adoptado desde sus propias características.” (The war on drugs in the international context. Identify the elements of the politics of criminalization that began in the United States and has been reflected in the politics of criminalization international and that Mexico has adopted from its own point of view.)

The lecturer, Jorge Jiménez, a sociologist and criminologist who teaches at Universidad de la Valle in Mexico City, was young and very energetic. He spoke about a mile a minute. He started by talking about the history of prohibition, which officially began in Mexico in 1917, when then-President Francisco Madero proposed the Convention de la Haya, which was ratified between 1924 and 1927. Between 1917 and 1927, the law shifted form mainly being about quality and regulation to focusing primarily on eradication under administrative and penal sanction. However, from its very inception, the laws that dictated eras of prohibition versus tolerance of drugs have been largely shaped by pressure and threats by the U.S. government, who have use the power imbalance between the U.S. and Mexico to influence Mexican policy and practice for a century.

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Immigration, Integration and Identity of Palestinians in Honduras: A Success Story?

Posted by Gina Kawas, MA Candidate at CLACS – Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU

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Identity cards or travel permits issued to Palestinians by the Ottoman Empire; they were called miirur tezkeresi (or laissez passer). In long boat journeys, before arriving to Honduras, most immigrants passed by Europe and the United States. Photo by: Gina Kawas

My ethnographic research in Honduras had two objectives: to study the evolution and socioeconomic impact of the Palestinian diaspora, and comprehend their assimilation/creolization in Honduras. The assimilation was fast-paced, and provoked a disconnection with their homeland after the first generation of Palestinians arrived.

Being born in Honduras and having Palestinian descent myself [on my father’s side], I can relate to this disruption. My father never spoke to me about our Palestinian roots; it was my grandmother who used to tell me stories about what forced our family to migrate. The reasons, which I preliminary share with the subjects of my ethnographic research, were mainly poverty and the repression caused by the Ottoman Empire. Hence, the bulk of Palestinian immigration that arrived to Honduras did so in the latter half of the nineteenth century, which means that they did not have to face the post 1948 dispossession and dispersal caused by the creation of an Israeli state [the Al-Nakba, or catastrophe].

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Thunapa and Azanaques

Post by Raúl A. Rodríguez Arancibia,MA Candidate at CLACS – Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU

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Among indigenous people of the Andes, the geographical features of the landscape play an important role beyond referencing points in space. The narratives of those features, which are humanized and genderized by their inhabitants, constitute an important role in maintaining memory of the territory. Thus, the features are protagonists of mythical stories. These narratives can be understood as tools to create a living landscape, where the unknown is understood, and nature is familiarized.

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