2014-2015 Projects

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


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.


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.