Grad Students

2017-2018 Graduate Fellowships

2017-2018 Recipients: Jenna Altherr Flores, Isan Brant, Conor Elliot Fitzgerald, Brittany Singletary, Arica Crootof, Sophia Borgias, Saleh Ahmed, Saffo Papantonopoulo and Joseph Dupris

From left to right, top to bottom: Jenna Altherr Flores, Isan Brant, Conor Elliot Fitzgerald, Brittany Singletary, Arica Crootof, Sophia Borgias, Saleh Ahmed, Saffo Papantonopoulo and Joseph Dupris

This years’ Graduate Fellows are combining creativity with academic rigor in their wide-ranging research activities. The projects span from tribal water rights and language preservation to environmental issues and transgender studies. Some of the projects examine questions regarding social disparities. We are proud to support such a great assortment of projects.


Voices from the Edge: Using Traditional Street Theatre to Promote Climate Awareness in Coastal Bangladesh

GIDP Arid Lands Resource Sciences student Saleh Ahmed is working to help connect rural populations, without access to mainstream media, to information on climate issues impacting the small community of Kalapara in Bangladesh’s Patuakhali coastal district. Street theatre is a deeply cultural aspect of Kalapara, and Ahmed’s goals are to utilize it to disseminate climate information and enhance disaster preparedness where a large share of the population face risks including sea level rise, salinity intrusion, coastal flooding and tropical cyclones.


Multimodality, Social Semiotics and Literacy: How LESLLA Learners from Refugee Backgrounds Make Meaning

Second Language Acquisition and Teaching student Jenna Altherr Flores is working to gain insight into how adult emergent readers from refugee backgrounds and non-Western cultures construct meaning from multimodal texts by focusing on still image, layout and writing. The results will be beneficial for multimodal assessment and pedagogical practices in learning environments, and for materials development and distribution by local and international institutions (e.g. resettlement agencies, USCIS, language and literacy programs) that work with this population.


Water, Law and Tribal Sovereignty: Paiute Perspectives on the Owens Valley Water Conflict

School of Geography and Development student Sophia Borgias is examining California’s Owens Valley water conflict from the perspective of the Owens Valley Paiute tribes, whose history to reclaim water rights has been long-neglected. Drawing political ecology into conversation with legal geography, this project uses a critical interdisciplinary lens to challenge the oversimplified economic and environmental analyses that have dominated study of the Owens Valley water conflict and will use participatory methods in collaboration with the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission.


Eco-Grief: A Poem for No One

School of Art student Isan Brandt is creating a project combining visual art, poetry and ecology to explore the themes of drought and transformation through the geologic and human history of the Sonoran Desert’s basin and range ecosystems. Merging artistic and scientific query, this project calls on divergent ways of understanding the complexity of our human position in the desert ecosystem. Human dependence on natural resources, such as fresh water for both survival and culture, is a central motif of the project.


Translating Science in a Digital Age: Digital Tools to Communicate Science for More Just Transitions to Renewable Energy

School of Geography and Development student Arica Crootof’s project will explore how digital tools such as story maps and visual simulations can help illustrate research to more effectively communicate science to diverse audiences. Crootof’s objectives are to incorporate the aforementioned digital tools to illustrate the spatial and temporal as well as social and physical dimensions of research, and to develop a blog that provides resources to make digital tools more accessible for academics.


waq dal naat maqlaqsyalank hema: Tribal-Centered Inquiry and Participatory Immersion for Klamath-Modoc Language Revitalization

Linguistics student Joseph Dupris’s project is to develop and host a 5-day community-based language skills workshop and research inquiry intended to serve his tribe by articulating the stakes and expectations the Klamath tribal community prioritizes for the revitalization of maqlaqsyals (Klamath-Modoc language). This project is critical because children are no longer learning maqlaqsyals as a first language. The workshop is a tribal-centered inquiry through participatory practice for successful maqlaqsyals revitalization.


Murmullos (murmurs or whispers)

Murmullos, Spanish for murmurs or whispers, is a photographic art project by MFA student Conor Elliott Fitzgerald that investigates violence in El Salvador. The project’s aim is to engage audiences in an installation of large-scale photographs and an accompanying newsprint publication to engender dialogue around how current insecurity in El Salvador is part of a complex legacy of neocolonial violence. The country’s civil war, in the 1980s-90s, was advised and financed by the U.S. government, and Fitzgerald will incorporate declassified U.S. governmental records on the war into this project.


Neither Here nor There: Transgender Sex Workers and the Politics of “East” and “West” in Thessaloniki

Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies student Saffo Papantonopoulou explores the orientation of Thessaloniki, Greece as holding either an Eastern or Western identity. Greece’s cultural and geographical location on the borders between “Europe” and the “Middle East” have become pressing political questions, with very real impacts on peoples’ lives. Papantonopoulou will explore various sites that relate both to sexual politics, discourse, and the production of imagined geographies, in which the city belongs to either the “east” or the “west.”


Who Cares? How Caregiving Influences Early Communicative, Cognitive and Physiological Development

Anthropology student Britt Singletary’s project aims to improve understanding of how human allomaternal care (AMC—care from someone other than the mother) practices have evolved by investigating whether AMC influences signaling, cognitive and physiological outcomes; it will help determine whether AMC improves early developmental outcomes. The project will examine how children successfully communicate with known and unknown receivers within an experimental setting that requires them to solicit help in order to fulfill their desires.


2016-2017 Projects

The graduate fellows continue the Confluencenter’s tradition of challenging disciplinary boundaries while addressing critical issues across the humanities, social sciences and arts. With $45,000 awarded to nine scholars, our graduate fellows program is advancing research in the fields of social justice, inequality, climate change, art, culture, music, queer studies, language and more.

From left to right, top to bottom: Dongchen Hou, Alex Karaman, Christian Ruvalcaba, Jonathan Marquis, Emrah Karakus, Maria Montenegro, Sonia Arellano, Elizabeth Kinnamon, Elizabeth Bentley


Activist Quilters & the Migrant Quilt Project

English doctoral student Sonia Arellano’s project investigates how migrant quilt projects raise awareness about migrant deaths in the Tucson community. She will display her own quilt project at an annual conference in Mexico City, and organize a symposium that brings together quilter-activists to discuss how communities can effectively address social justice issues related to migration. Read more about the project in this Arizona Daily Wildcat article.


Remixing Youth Visions, Reimagining Coalitional Futures: Arts-Based Inquiry as a Participatory Practice for Just Peace in Israel/Palestine

Elizabeth Bentley, a doctoral student in English, is working to create a social-justice oriented, arts-based project involving shared artworks by Israeli and Palestinian youth that envision a just peace across differences. By working with Creativity for Peace, a non-profit that offers leadership training to Israeli and Palestinian women, Bentley will teach participants how to use photography as a way to engage in peace-building initiatives.


From Brush-tips to Machine Arms: Mapping Chinese Writing’s Figural Appearance in Media

East Asian Studies doctoral student Dongchen Hou considers Western and Chinese theories of writing to discover more about the dynamics of the human body in Chinese writing. Hou studies Chinese writing’s figural appearance and its gestural significance and embodiments in media. This project argues that the body can be a site where relations among writing systems and cultural knowledge intersect.


Unruly Archives: Historicizing the Experiences of Queer Communities during Urban Transformation in Turkey

Gender and Women’s Studies doctoral student Emrah Karakus explores the effects of urban transformations on queer communities in Turkey. After conducting an oral history project and archival research that traces the emergence of these repressive policies, this project will culminate in a website that raises awareness of how these redevelopment policies impact queer communities.  


Identity Formation and Hip-Hop Music in Modern Palestine

Alex Karaman, Gender and Women’s Studies doctoral student, uses an interdisciplinary approach to study the connections among hip-hop music production and listenership and Palestinian identity formation. Through on-site research with consumers and producers of hip-hop music in Israel and Palestine, Karaman accounts for how hip-hop music production and consumption relates to Palestinian identity formation.


Meditechion: Mindfulness and Technology in the San Francisco Bay Area

Elizabeth Kinnamon, Gender and Women’s Studies doctoral student, examines how the Buddhist-inspired practice of mindfulness has impacted the Silicon Valley tech industry. Through interviews and participant observation, Kinnamon will investigate how tech workers and members of Bay Area Buddhist meditation centers see the intersections and inherent discord between mindfulness techniques and tech culture.


Like a Glacier

MFA student Jonathan Marquis creates a multimedia art exhibition that situates the scientific, data-driven climate discussion into the felt experience of being in glaciated wilderness areas. Relying on first-hand observations and interactions with field experts, this project will foster discourse between abstract climate data and a perceptual, empathetic sense of agency within wild, glacial places. Learn more here.


The Petro-Narcosphere: Cultural Narratives of Oil and Drugs in the U.S.-Mexico Border

Maria Montenegro, doctoral student in Spanish and Portuguese, examines the relationships between two of the goods that supply consumer lifestyles in Mexico and the U.S. By analyzing the two as substances that characterize U.S.-Mexico relations, this project develops an understanding of how consumers interpret the cultural space created by the relationship between oil and drugs.

Maria organized an art exhibit, “Negra Sangre,” in conjunction with her project at the Sculpture Resource Center April 22-May 6, 2017. Check out the flier! (Opens a PDF)


Language Capital Project

Second Language Acquisition and Teaching doctoral student Christian Ruvalcaba maps where native speakers of non-national languages work and gather in order to encourage the unity and growth of minority language communities. After locating non-national language hubs in Tucson, Ruvalcaba has created a website that locates these spaces, enabling non-national language speakers to find where fellow speakers reside, work, or gather. Visit the website, and learn more in this UA News article.


2015-2016 Projects

With our Graduate Fellowships, we provide real world research experience by funding projects that are diverse, innovative and demonstrate a broad commitment to interdisciplinary explorations. For 2015-2016, Confluencenter’s nine graduate fellows – hailing from the colleges of Fine Arts, Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences – received close to $45,000. We are advancing the next generation of thinkers and researchers and are honored to do so.

A photo of the 2015-2016 Graduate Fellows

From left to right, bottom row: Martin Barros, Angela Storey, Anabel Galindo, Carolina Maki Kitagawa; Top row: Joaquin Perez-Blanes, William White, Christina Greene, Gabriel Higuera, Jeffrey Wilson; Not pictured: Christopher Yutzy

Mapping Yaqui History: Mobility, Labor, and Identity

History PhD student Anabel Galindo mapped the historical movement patterns and settlements that Yaquis have followed since the last decades of the Spanish rule and into the mid-twentieth century. By searching for factors that influenced collective movement and helped Yaquis retain symbolisms of cultural resilience, this project postulated that Yaquis exercised agency and negotiation within and outside of both colonial and republican institutions. 


Drought, Livelihoods, and the Food System: Exploring Drought Narratives in California

Christina Greene, PhD student in Geography and Development, explored the physical and social dimensions of drought through the words and images of people living and working in drought-impacted central California. Along with analyzing narratives that link agricultural livelihoods and the food system, this project used web-based storytelling to share new perspectives that challenge dominant notions of drought impacts and drought relief.

In December 2016, Greene was awarded a $95,000 pre-doctoral fellowship from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


Collaborative Research in Action

Gabriel Higuera, PhD student in Mexican American Studies, organized an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional event where high school students shared their research on Ethnic Studies in a format similar to conferences held on college campuses. This symposium connected high school and college students as they engaged in dialogues about ethnic studies, enhanced platforms for youth voices as they share ideas with the public and helped local organizations collaborate with Tucson youth. Collaborative Research in Action (CRiA) is an intergenerational, multi-institutional project designed to examine the lived experiences of our communities, share findings, propose and enact alternatives to today’s critical issues. 


Como 8 Horas

MFA student Carolina Kitagawa composed a time-based performance art piece that examined underrepresented voices in Tucson and Los Angeles. As a live event that fostered collaborations among artists in Tucson and Los Angeles, the multi-media performance transmitted video footage between the two cities and combined sculpture and imagery to explore how the Kitagawa/Frisby family navigated locations, borders and histories between these two cities and the U.S.-Mexico border. 


Amuletos Through the Frontera

Manuel Martín Barros and Joaquin Perez-Blanes, PhD students in Spanish and Portuguese, visually and textually narrated the experiences of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and the role amulets played in their journeys. While the migrants’ identities remained anonymous, an examination of objects they carried for good luck was exhibited to build better understandings of how migrants maintained hope in their crossings. 


Everyday Infrastructure: Documenting Struggles for Water, Sanitation, and Electricity in Cape Town's Informal Settlements

Anthropology PhD student Angela Storey traced how residents of informal settlements narrate their struggles to secure access to basic services. Highlighting the often overlooked and unknown everyday experiences of residents, this project explored individual efforts to secure water, electricity and sanitation, as well as community perceptions of the reasons for the gaps in service. Through combining photographs and audio recorded interviews, this project improved understandings of lived inequality and how local residents challenge the structures that created this inequality. 


Archaeology at the Confluence of Race: The River Street Public Archaeology Program

William White, PhD student in Anthropology, explored the remains of a working-class, interracial neighborhood in Boise, Idaho, collected information about the neighborhood and shared findings with the descendent community and the general public. In its efforts to investigate how racialization affected whiteness as a racial construct in Boise, the public outreach component of this project allowed it to teach university students and the community about how working-class Boiseans lived in a multi-ethnic neighborhood. 


Geography and the Graphic Novel

Geography and Development PhD student Jeffrey Wilson created a graphic novel that explores the experiences of Detroit residents battling Type 2 diabetes and housing insecurity. In an effort to bring a knowledge of geographic research to the wider public, this project shared information about the Detroit housing crisis and its effects on how residents manage a pervasive medical condition. 


Improving Information Access in Urban Slums: Social Technology as a Practical Alternative to Clientilism 

Christopher Yutzy, PhD student in Anthropology, created a communications nexus — comprised of a magazine called A Voz de Todos, a website for digital content, social media and WhatsApp groups — through which neighborhood residents of the Grande Bom Jardim slum in Fortaleza, Brazil, shared information and established avenues for free speech. This project investigated how Grande Bom Jardin residents used these technologies to counter clientilism, the practice of depending on personal relationships in politics rather than democratic processes.


2014-2015 Projects

Confluencenter awarded 14 Graduate Fellowships for 2014–2015 totaling $52,000 to students from the colleges of Fine Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Humanities and Graduate Interdisciplinary Programs.

collage of the 2014 - 2015 grads

From left to right, top to bottom: Cari Tusing, Cecilia Lewis, Marcos Macias, Joy Liu, Joseph Bickley, Valente Soto, Edward Polanco, Laurel Bellante, Dylan McCarthy Blackston, Emily Bell, Jan Bindas-Tenney, Eric Magrane, Kyle Boggs, Gina Richard

Values, Beliefs, and Behavior: What Drives Pro-environmentalism in Brazil’s Amazon and Cerrado Biomes?

This pilot project, by Emily Bell (Government and Public Policy - SBS), assessed the relationship between pro-environmental values and beliefs and pro-environmental behavior by studying farmers in a Brazilian program called the Registry for Socio-environmental Responsibility. The program guided these members on how to reach compliance with federal and state environmental laws and regulations (notably in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes), but participant efforts have demonstrated varying success. Data from interviews and ethnographic study conducted during summer 2014 helped to identify possible causes for such differences. These findings will guide future efforts to develop a model that may help us understand what drives dissonance between values and beliefs, and subsequent behavior in the context of pro-environmentalism.    


Small Farmers in a Changing World: Linking Farmer Livelihoods and Agricultural Development in Mexico through Digital Storytelling

Over the last decade, development groups and social movements alike have increasingly championed small farmers as holding the key to sustainably achieving global food security in a changing world. Yet decades of reduced state supports and trade protections of the farm sector, demographic changes and increasingly unpredictable and extreme climate events have left many rural families with fewer incentives to remain in food production. In other words, there is an apparent mismatch between global imaginaries of small farmers as compared to their complex, lived realities. Although the world needs these farmers, many of them are aging and/or leaving the farming sector. In the interest of elucidating this tension, Laurel Bellante (Geography and Development - SBS), explored the changing nature of food and farming in the Highlands of Chiapas, an important agricultural region of Mexico. Specifically, this research asked: How do agricultural programs focused on intensifying small-scale agriculture intersect with the socioeconomic, political and environmental shifts facing small farmers in Chiapas? View this video, produced by Bellante, which tells the story of a group of food producers in Chiapas who have formed an alternative market and network of farmer-to-farmer support to overcome many of the socioeconomic challenges of being an organic and/or artisanal food producer in the region.


Colonial Violence Geodatabase

This project, by Joseph Bickley and Patrick Hanley (History - SBS), created the Colonial Violence Geodatabase - an interactive Spatial History project using GiS that built an incident database showing colonial violence. The CVG analyzed a wide range of events from 1830 to 1975 - the years between when the new imperialism began and decolonization ended. This new tool can reformulate questions and discern patterns by examining colonial violence globally in a comparative perspective.  These patterns may not be observable without this interpretive technology.  The CVG is an adaptable and expandable scholarly tool that allows for plotting additional data and examining the correlation between patterns of colonial violence and other factors such as environmental conditions. Lastly, this project can enable undergraduates to study colonialism and its processes.


Dead Bodies in the Pecan Fields: Under the Surface of the Good Life       

This book-length collection of essays, by Jan Bindas-Tenney (English - SBS), explored American enclave (gated, secluded and intentional) communities and their relationships to a continually dissatisfying and unattainable desire for the American Dream. The project described a desert retirement enclave on the border with Mexico, an oil boom town bursting at the seams, a rural queer commune in the deep south, a gated community next to the site of a racist murder and a prison. This collection illustrated the deep and widespread melancholia of late capitalism, revealing the sterile, apocalyptic, isolated and troubled landscapes that we live in.


The Spaces of Trans in Photography

“Transgender” is increasingly receiving mainstream media attention. Images of transgender people and video blogs describing week-by-week processes of medical and social transition have found space to instruct and inspire on web-based platforms. These versions of “transgender” also emerge alongside a growing body of transgender portraits by photographers such as Zanele Muholi, Zackary Drucker, Amos Mac, Aiden Simon, Loren Cameron and Jen Rosenstein. These portraits refigure gender and sexuality—focusing on the trans-body has allowed for a reformulation of dominant notions of what a trans- body “looks like.” Dylan McCarthy Blackston's (Gender and Women’s Studies - SBS) project investigated trans-/transitional spaces outside of these body- or narrative-focused portraits. In short, this project was created to change how we “look at” transgender by centralizing physical and affective spaces beyond the body. The final products are a book and companion web project that will include photographs by artists whose work grapples with these questions.


Collaborative Communities and Contested Spaces       

Kyle Boggs (English - SBS) organized a small conference in Flagstaff, Arizona, focusing on a critical understanding of, response to and engagement with regional controversies between nature and culture. Some examples included the controversy over development on the San Francisco Peaks by a ski resort and the commercial developments proposed in the Grand Canyon, at the confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers. The 3-day workshop combined elements of a symposium, an art installation and included a series of workshops. Contrary to many large and impersonal conferences, this one was designed to be small without competing sessions, where there was time allotted between sessions for conversation. The conference further fostered creative community, scholar and activist collaboration by offering shared meals, volunteer run childcare and a co-mingling of resources from groups on campus, in Flagstaff and throughout northern Arizona.


Leaving a Legacy: Celebrating the Lives and Contributions of Women of Mexican Heritage in Douglas, Arizona – 1920s-1940s

Cecilia Lewis' (Mexican American Studies - SBS) traveling exhibition “Leaving a Legacy” addressed a gap in history that has resulted in the exclusion of the numerous contributions women of Mexican heritage have made to Douglas, Arizona. The women featured in her exhibit demonstrate just a small percentage of women of Mexican heritage who impacted their community. While some of the women have been recognized individually, this exhibit highlighted how varied and powerful their collective contributions have been.The exhibit consisted of narratives and photos from the women and their family members.  Lewis' research combined the personal stories of the women with the varied accomplishments they achieved. “Leaving a Legacy” illustrated the various borders these women crossed in order to provide for their families and their community. The exhibit was on display at Cochise College, Sierra Vista, and traveled to the college’s various learning centers in Fort Huachuca, Benson, Willcox and Santa Cruz County. In the Spring of 2015, the exhibit made its final appearance at the University of Arizona. 


Collective Action for Sustainable Restoration in China’s Arid Lands

YuRong (Joy) Liu's (Arid Lands - GIDP) study explored how restoration as both means and ends of development is being implemented in arid regions in northern China. Through investigating reforestation policies, and local endeavors to reforest sloped lands, the project conceptualized the type of restoration imperative (scientific, utilitarian, ethical) that enabled the state, local agencies and NGOs to become part of the collaborative process of restoration. Liu's project also examined how the collaborations enabled social learning amongst farmers, state, local agencies’ role in restoration and sustainable development. Drawing on comparative environmental governance and dryland conservation experiences from the Western U.S., Liu developed a set of hands-on activities and a field guide that communicate the evolving scientific, ecological, agricultural and sustainability knowledge garnered from scientists, experts and local actors in China and Arizona who interact with and restore arid lands. View Liu’s findings on her Conservation and Development on the Loess Plateau website.


In Pursuit of Francisco ‘Pancho’ Villa’s Myth

Marco Macias (History - SBS) traced the cultural history behind famed Mexican Revolutionary Francisco “Pancho” Villa after his assassination in 1923 by looking at material culture produced from the 1920s onward. These materials found in archives, private collections and in people’s daily lives include books, interview, newspapers, movies, comics, statues, murals, t-shirts, key chains, internet, re-reenactment, ceremonies and other cultural artifacts. This project concluded with a full length documentary showing Villa’s transformation from man into myth.


Ecological Encounters: Exploring Human and Non-human Co-aesthetic-production at the Arizona-sonora Desert Museum

As the first Poet in Residence at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, as well as a PhD student in the School of Geography and Development, Eric Magrane (Geography and Development - SBS) conducted creative and ethnographic research on the possibilities of designing a poetry installation at the Desert Museum that also serves as animal enrichment. A pilot installation completed in summer 2014 took the form of a one-line scorpion poem by Arizona’s Poet Laureate Alberto Álvaro Ríos that only appeared under blacklight as scorpions literally moved through the poem. The encounters that began to occur—between the public who visit the Desert Museum, Magrane as a human-poet-geographer, and the other species who interact—allowed Magrane to interrogate questions of environmental subjectivity, human and nonhuman relationships, representation and geopoetics as technology. As part of a broad-scaled collaboration with the Desert Museum and the University of Arizona Poetry Center that is using poetry to help inspire conservation in the public, this project also allowed Magrane to expand the notion of collaboration to include the Sonoran Desert itself as well as other species as collaborators. As examples of the work-in-progress, Magrane also explored possibilities for poem-enrichment-encounters with an otter and also planning public presentations with Desert Museum and Poetry Center collaborators including Miss Marple, a ringtail (which is the Arizona State mammal) currently in residence at the Desert Museum.


Nahuatl Naman: Conserving and Disseminating an Indigenous Language through Technology and Collaboration

Through collaboration with software engineers and an indigenous scholar, Edward Polanco (History - SBS) created “Nahuatl Naman” (Nahuatl Today), an educational application for mobile devices. Nahuatl Naman is the first application for Android devices that allows users to learn Nahuatl, an indigenous language of Mexico. Users can interact with onscreen flash cards, listen to a native speaker’s pronunciation, and study with memory games as they learn the Nahuatl language. Nahuatl Naman also provides historical and cultural information about Nahua people and Nahuatl. The application is now available for free on Google Play.


Radical Cartographies: Relational Epistemologies and Principles for Successful Indigenous Cartographic Praxis

For more than a century, Indigenous peoples have sought to regain access to and control over ancestral heritage lands through alliances with key partners and through an unsympathetic legal system. These efforts have realized only limited success due to their dependence on outsiders to understand the connections and importance of these lands to Indigenous identity. Today, a few international Indigenous groups are beginning to utilize an emerging Indigenous geospatial technology to reassert ties to these ancestral lands, stop illegal resource extraction and prepare for the inevitable consequences of climate change. Gina Richard's (American Indian Studies - GIDP) project assisted Native Nations in the U.S. in asserting treaty rights and land claims, managing their own cultural histories and natural resources and preparing for the future. In 2015, Richard accepted a tenure-track position at Montana State University, where she established the Indigenous Mapping Center, the first of its kind in the country.     


Witnessing and Dealing with the Effects of Drug-related Violence in Northwest Mexico

Since 2006 the Mexican government has implemented a national security strategy based on law-enforcement and the militarization of Mexican cities that aims to reduce the power of criminal organizations. The intensification of drug-related violence has resulted in a state of generalized fear where more than 60,000 people have been killed. Valente Soto's (Geography and Development - SBSresearch explored the effects and means by which professionals—psychologists, social workers and journalists—who witness or indirectly experience the outcomes of drug-related violence perceive and develop mechanisms to cope with its growing prevalence in Sinaloa, Mexico. Through the use of semi-structured interviews and field notes, the research examined the role of affect, emotions, and memory in the creation of coping mechanisms and seeks to understand how the urban landscape both shapes and is shaped by responses to drug-related violence. Findings suggested that psychologists and social workers are more susceptible to experience symptoms of Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder (STSD), while journalists experience similar effects that result from a closer distance with the violent event and a more ephemeral contact and interaction with the victims, which Soto identified as Narco-trauma. Still, the perceptions of the causes of violence, insecurity and risk in Culiacan have been distorted by local narratives and historical practices that have normalized the multiple forms and effects of drug-related violence, as they are perceived as side effects of an illicit practice that is socially and morally accepted. This research is relevant for other parts of Mexico and Latin America that are struggling with similar challenges.


Proposing Community Participation: Indigenous Grant-writing Workshops

Indigenous people in the Americas are directly involved in socio-environmental disputes affecting their communities but may lack the training and resources required for their work to make a broader impact. Cari Tusing's (Anthropology - SBS) project addressed this gap by designing and implementing a series of grant-writing workshops for young indigenous Latin American leaders attending the Study of the United States Institute (SUSI) at the UA. Through community mapping and peer-editing activities, the leaders wrote grants focused on urgent social and environmental issues in their communities. Written and video feedback from their experience established the groundwork for a grant-writing website to be used as a resource for indigenous grant-writers.


2013-2014 Projects

More than 75 graduate students from across the colleges of Fine Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences and Humanities applied for Confluencenter Graduate Fellowships of up to $5,000. Fellowships were awarded for the most innovative or collaborative research projects. The nineteen 2013-2014 fellowships granted reflect the most innovative or collaborative research projects.

collage of 2013 - 2014 grads

From left to right, top to bottom: Geoffrey Boyce, Dylan Baun, Kevin Chau, Diane Daly, Adam Kullber, Mark Blair, Courtney Dorroll, Megan Henley, Erin Durban, Diana Montano, Kristin Helland, Lucero Radonic, David Tecklin, Miriam Gay-Antaki; Not pictured: Morgan Apicella, PennElys Droz, James Howell, Maya Kapoor, Sarah  Kelly-Richards, Diane Richardson

Lettuce Turn Up the Beet: Assessing Barriers and Opportunities to Increasing Teacher Involvement in Gardening and Ecology Programs

Morgan Apicella (Geography and Development) assessed the factors that influence the participation of teachers in gardening and ecology programs at their schools in Tucson. Apicella's project determined what types of support might encourage and sustain teachers’ involvement in these programs in order to improve a gardening and ecology teacher-training program. This study, in the initial stages of development, involved a partnership between Manzo Elementary School, the Community Food Resource Center (CFRC), as well as faculty and students from multiple disciplines at the University of Arizona.


Rethinking Conflict: Social Mobilization, Popular Politics and Practices of Violence in Lebanon

By rethinking recurrent strife in Lebanon from the 1950s-1970s, Dylan Baun (Middle Eastern and North African Studies) considered those “from below” who actually participated in conflict. To capture the underlying dynamics of social mobilization and armed conflict, this project focused on the practices of two populist organizations that used violence in this period (i.e., the Kata’ib Party and the Lebanese National Movement) and their perceptions and experiences. 


The Native American Graduate Center

Mark Blair (American Indian Studies) identified the factors that support Native American student retention and what American Indian Studies Programs are doing to support students. His research helped him propose the re- establishment of a Native American Graduate Student Center on campus.


Pushing the Boundary: Border Policing and Everyday Geographies of Immigration Enforcement in Southern Arizona

Geoffrey Boyce (Geography and Development) studied how the 2010 controversy over Arizona’s SB 1070 illuminated the proliferation of policies that target and criminalize immigrants and their loved ones in the United States. Yet in the debate surrounding the Arizona law there was strikingly little discussion of the ways that SB 1070 merely extended – rather than departed from – the broader thrust of federal policy directed toward the policing and criminalization of immigrants. Boyce’s research addressed critical gaps in conversations about SB 1070.


Visualizing Classical Music

Kevin Chau (Music) composed a creative performance project aimed at the development of a real-time art music visualization program that reflects live music. The resulting live acoustic performance combined a musician and responding real-time visualization program with an intention to guide an audience into an active listening role.


Designing and Documenting A Virtual Community Space for Living Mexican Puppetry

Diane Daly (Information Resources and Library Science) created a dynamic virtual space to strengthen the Mexican puppetry community and advance the field of puppetry research in the Americas. Her project website facilitated the Mexican puppetry community’s collective expression and added value to its artistic output. In recognition that living Mexican puppetry is an animation of popular Mexican society and a subculture with great influence on puppetry in the Americas, the site advanced interdisciplinary scholarship by promoting research access.


Representations of “Turkishness”: A Neighborhood Analysis

Courtney Dorroll (Middle Eastern and North African Studies) examined a Turkish neighborhood called Hamamönü which underwent extensive revitalization and restoration in 2010. This neighborhood stands as a visual representation of the Neo-Ottoman movement in contemporary Turkey.


Indigenous Epistemologies and Bio-cultural Engineering

Indigenous peoples worldwide demonstrate profound resilience amidst challenges emerging from colonization, working to re-empower and provide for the contemporary needs of their people in a manner supporting bio-cultural integrity and the interconnectedness of people and homeland. In this project, PennElys Droz (American Indian Studies) accomplished the following goals: identification of the areas of intersection between Indigenous epistemologies, practices and ecological engineering; creation of a design methodology rooted effectively in culture, land and community relationships; and identification of successful practices and challenges to the use of a biocultural design method.


Heteronormativity and the Postcolonial Nation-State: Queer Haitians after the Earthquake of 2010

In the words of M. Jacqui Alexander, how and why does the postcolonial nation-state become “configured as heterosexual”? Erin Durban-Albrecht (Gender and Women’s Studies) examined this question and considered the following in a study of queer communities in Haiti: Why is it common sense that some places are inherently homophobic? What effect do these configurations and understandings have on gender and sexual minorities? This project, guided by these pressing questions, contributed to cutting-edge scholarship in several interdisciplinary fields and intervened in harmful thinking that impacts multiply-marginalized communities.


Engendering Climate Change: A Feminist Approach to Climate Governance

The literature on gender and climate governance is very sparse with little attention paid to issues of gender or feminist perspectives. Miriam Gay-Antaki (Geography and Development) addressed relevant questions about women’s relationship to the environment, and about how others, especially in government and NGOs, see their roles. Gay-Antaki explored ways to document these relationships for the community and communicated her findings at the national, international and NGO levels.


Expanding the Linguistic Landscape: A Multimodal Approach to the Study of Code-switching in the Media

Kristin Helland (Second Language Acquisition and Teaching) explored code switching in three different genres (a TV/Internet ad, a music video and a film) from the perspective of linguistic landscape (LL) and multilingualism. This study expanded the definition of LL that goes beyond the visual texts found in public spaces to incorporate “all those displayed and interwoven ‘discourses’– what is seen, what is heard, what is spoken, what is thought” (Shohamy & Waksman, 2009, p. 313). It introduced an innovative way of analyzing linguistic and non-linguistic semiotics in advertising, music videos and film.


Their Best Care: A Survey Comparison of Attitudes Toward Labor Practices and Sources of Knowledge Among Labor and Delivery Nurses, Childbirth Educators and Doulas across the United States

Medical research has demonstrated that emotional and physical support during labor improves birth outcomes, yet existing research has paid little attention to the workers who provide that care. Megan Henley (Sociology) used results from The Maternity Support Survey to understand the roles and experiences of labor and delivery nurses, childbirth educators and doulas in the United States. This survey asked delivery nurses about their views of childbirth, their perceptions of obstetric practices, the sources of their beliefs about best care and the organizational supports and challenges that they face.


Oceans and Deserts: Charting Transdisciplinary Currents in Environment and Culture within the Arts and Sciences

Interdisciplinarity can seem daunting to graduate students and faculty faced with the often isolating structures of academic fields. This collaborative project led by James Howell and Diane Richardson (German Studies) strove to overcome obstacles to interdisciplinarity by building tangible bridges between various fields of study. This goal was realized through a symposium, "Oceans and Deserts: Charting Interdisciplinary Currents in Environment and Culture Within the Arts and Sciences," hosted by the Transcultural German Studies Program during the spring of 2014. 


Keeping Our Seeds: Saving Desert Seeds as a Human Response to Climate Change

Maya Kapoor (English) explored how humans manage desert plants in the face of climate change. Specifically, it considered the connection between Arizona’s ecology and the rest of the world, and how conserving our species in response to climate change is a global problem with global players and solutions. 


Bridging the Divide: Developing Collaborative Interdisciplinary Projects Across Borders

As of late, there has been a focus on ideas of engaged scholarship, community collaboration and multidisciplinary work, but there remains a need for models appropriate for border cities and an ongoing dialogue about the structure of engagement for these endeavors. This project by Sarah Kelly-Richards (Geography and Development) brought together social science and natural and physical science students from both sides of the border to create multimedia materials and workshops on community-based research that addressed complex issues of engaged scholarship. 


Mapping the Social and Environmental Impact of Nuclear Weaponry and Technology in the Southwest

Adam Kullberg (English) analyzed the impact of nuclear weaponry and technology on various sites and populations throughout the Southwest, including uranium mines throughout the Navajo Nation in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico; nuclear testing sites; and cities affected by radioactive fallout. It explored not only how experiences connected to these sites have affected specific populations, but how the lasting impact of political and environmental changes have rippled through generation after generation, transforming these populations’ neurological, physical, spiritual and ethical connections to the land.


La Muerte Viaja En Tranvía: Walking and Falling between the Tracks of Mexican Modernity, 1900-1920s

Diana Montano (History) examined the ways culture shaped Mexico’s course of electrification, contributing to the discussion of the making of a modern nation and modern citizens. It placed the ordinary citizen at its center to reconstruct how modernity was lived, consumed, rejected and shaped in everyday life. It presented modernity not simply as an abstract force or a static concept but a complex pattern of human choices.


Recording Tales of Repair, Not Despair: An Ethnography of Informal Infrastructure

Using infrastructure surveys and resident interviews, Lucero Radonic (Anthropology) traced the water that flows through a multi-authored maze of pipes connecting a low-income indigenous neighborhood in Sonora, Mexico.  An interactive infrastructure map, ten short video vignettes and some explanatory texts were uploaded onto an interactive and bilingual website where visitors can learn about informal water infrastructure and the micro politics of water management. 


Telling Property Stories Geographically: A Proposed Interactive Map of Competing Resource Claims Along the Chilean Coastline

David Tecklin (Geography and Development) explored how fishermen, women shoreline collectors and indigenous leaders have reinterpreted and reshaped the property rights designed for them as part of the Chilean government’s large-scale privatization of the coastline. The final product is a web-based interactive map (or story map) that presents filmed interviews as embedded within the larger geographic context of struggles over the country’s coastal waters. The project thus advanced interdisciplinary inquiry into property claims as a theme in environmental governance and explored new and accessible ways of communicating the practical relevance of such research.