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Graduate Research

The KU Latin American & Caribbean Studies program promotes study in Latin America as well as study of the region through strong institutional connections, including faculty and student exchanges, as well as collaborative research projects, with universities in Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Peru, Paraguay and Brazil.

Every year the Center helps encourage graduate field research through a variety of grants and fellowships. The students highlighted below are all recent award recipients. Please see our Graduate Funding page for funding opportunities.

Graduate Research Highlights

Rachel Denney
PhD Student in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies

My doctoral research focuses on feminist models of international development in the Caribbean, with a particular focus on Haiti. My Master’s thesis, “Children Are the Wealth of the Poor: Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV in Haiti” examined the combined impact of gender, HIV, and poverty in Haiti. Specifically, my work explored the class and gender disparities that put poor Haitian women at risk of contracting HIV. It also described the social factors and international power dynamics that keep Haitians in poverty and make them vulnerable to HIV transmission. This sparked my larger interest in the role that NGOs play in carrying out international development objectives.

With the support of the FLAS fellowship, I have taken coursework in Haitian Creole for the past two years, including the 2014 Haitian Summer Institute at Florida International University. This program gave me the opportunity to spend two weeks in Haiti, traveling and doing immersive language training. In 2015, with the support of the Tinker Foundation, I conducted independent field research in the Dominican Republic, investigating the conditions that make Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent vulnerable to human trafficking, after an unprecedented court ruling in 2013 stripped thousands of their Dominican citizenship. I was able to interview service providers, advocacy organizations, and government officials in the capital city of Santo Domingo and I conducted participant observation with local NGOs. The findings from my research will be incorporated into a larger analysis of the connections between trafficking and statelessness. I hope that this research will contribute to efforts to better protect victims of trafficking and prevent it before it happens.


Nicholas Kotlinski
MA Student in Geography

My masters research focuses on human-environment interactions and land-use change in the upper Peruvian Amazon, specifically the biologically diverse transition zone between the selva alta, in the department of San Martin, and the selva baja at the foot of the Cordillera Escalera Conservation Area.

The 2014 Tinker Field Research Grant funded summer research in Peru to study the political ecology of African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) plantations in the Caynarachi Valley. The oil palm economy is a major driver of deforestation and land use change in the region, not only through the establishment of large-scale plantations, but as a lucrative alternative crop for small-scale growers. A secondary focus was on regional protests in opposition to large-scale oil palm expansion in the region. My interviews with protest leaders, farmers, and rural residents highlight issues of effective governance, community solidarity and perceptions of environmental change caused by this new but influential commodity.

The Tinker Field Research Grant also allowed me to take part in a week long participatory mapping project in the native community of Alto Huaja – or the preferred Quichua name, Yaku shutuna rumy – in the province of El Dorado. Native communities in the Peruvian Amazon are often recognized by the federal government, but do not have official communal title to their territory. Furthermore, a shortage of government support in the mapping process and a lack of community access to mapping technologies makes it virtually impossible for communities to secure land title themselves – often while confronting pressures from Andean migrants in search of agricultural lands. This experience allowed me to witness first-hand the process of native community titling while also supporting regional NGOs in their work with communities engaged in participatory mapping.


Courtney Sánchez
PhD Student in Film and Media Studies

My doctoral research focuses on the historical development of cinema in early 20th-century Latin American societies. Alhough film technology arrived in the region as an import from Europe, and though most of the movies seen in Latin American theaters during this time were imports from Hollywood, Latin America also has a legacy of domestic film production that spans more than one hundred years. I am particularly interested in the way that the region’s filmmakers adapted and transformed cinematic tools and models to suit the needs and desires of local audiences at a time of rapid and uneven modernization. My research shows that Argentinean filmmakers of the silent era forged distinctive national film cultures by mixing elements from a range of sources including theater, literature, circus, poetry, folklore and national history.

I have been studying Latin American cinema since 2009, but I gained my first field experience through KU Study Abroad. The university’s “Transnational Cinemas in Costa Rica” program, which was facilitated in cooperation with the University of Costa Rica, enabled me to travel to San Jose during my first year of PhD coursework. There, I worked with Costa Rican filmmakers and scholars who promote national cinema in a market dominated by foreign products. These filmmakers are challenged to create not only the films themselves, but also to form audiences for those films through various strategies that engage all aspects of the filmmaking process, from initial funding to final exhibition at festivals or in theaters. While many of the specific challenges and opportunities facing contemporary filmmakers are tied to broader technological and economic changes characteristic of the early 21st century, the resonances between the birth of cinema and the contemporary era are remarkable. Filmmakers working in Latin America in the early 1900s pioneered a hybrid mode of address that combined Hollywood-inflected generic models and aesthetic trends with local culture, national history, and familiar landscapes. Contemporary filmmakers are using similar strategies to make movies that are at once strongly distinctive and broadly marketable.

Thanks to the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies and the Tinker Foundation, I was able to spend the summer of 2014 in Argentina, where I studied the nation’s silent film industry at the Museo del Cine Pablo C Ducros Hicken in Buenos Aires. The Museo’s vast collection of rare films and primary source documents enabled me to complete a case study of the nation’s first feature-length silent movies, Amalia and Nobleza Gaucha. Both of these movies adapted national literary classics for the screen and thereby participated in the formation of an imagined national community; however, the films also addressed markedly different sectors of Argentine society in a way that challenges simple assertions of a unified national identity. In the coming semester, I will be presenting my research at my department’s colloquium and to undergraduate students in the Film and Media Studies department as part of my role as a Graduate Research Consultant. I hope to use my research experience to encourage those developing scholars to pursue humanities research in and about Latin America.


Meghan Farley Webb
PhD Candidate in Anthropology

Meghan Farley WebbMy doctoral research focuses on the gendered impacts of transnational migration from Kaqchikel Maya communities in the central highlands of Guatemala to the United States.  I work in Guatemala investigating the effects of Kaqchikel men’s migration on the lives of their wives who do not migrate.  I am particularly interested in different forms of social control that the wives of transnational migrants are subject to, especially local and transnational gossip.  My research shows that social media, Skype, and cell phones are important technologies not only for maintaining community bonds transnationally, but also for surveilling migrants’ wives. My intimate ethnography of Kaqchikel transnational households complicates previous understandings of power, affect, and women’s agency in transnational contexts.

I have worked in Guatemala since 2010, spending most of my time in the central highlands around the indigenous city of Tecpán, Chimaltenango, Guatemala.  Kaqchikel language classes, offered through the center and funded by the FLAS program, enabled me to conduct research in the area, where many are either monolingual or prefer speaking Kaqchikel to Spanish.  Grants like the Field Research Grant have funded three areas of my larger research agenda. I used the 2011 Field Research Grant to conduct ethnographic research on community feelings on transnational migration in three key communities.  This research included documenting local jokes, rumors, and sayings about migration.  In 2012, the Field Research Grant funded ethnographic research investigating the relationship between surveillance and protection among the families of transnational Kaqchikel migrants and how migration alters inter-familial dynamics.  In 2013, the Field Research Grant funded ethnographic investigations of local conceptions of love, courtship, and marriage in rural Guatemala. I was also awarded a Stansifer Fellowship for the 2014-2015 academic year that has helped fund the writing of my dissertation.


Grant Berning
Anthropology

Grant travelled to Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico to conduct preliminary research into the number of archeological sites and museums associated with the Olmec Civilization. He spent time in Villahermosa collecting resources and publications at libraries and research institutions. Among his accomplishments on this trip were visits to the site of La Venta to become familiar with its ceramic artifacts building. He plans to build an Olmec ceramic sequence with the Olmec ceramic collection housed in the Archaeological Research Center at the University of Kansas. He was able to locate and photograph the place where former KU archeologist Robert Squier excavated the ceramics. He visited the Sitio de La Venta (INAH), Parque Museo La Venta, Museo Regional de Antropología Carlos Pellicer Cámara, the Comalcalco Archaeological site museum, the Biblioteca José María Pino Suárez, and the research library at the Museo Regional de Antropología Carlos Pellicer Cámara.


Josh Homan
Anthropology

Josh investigated the connections between indigenous Quechua speaking people living in the Upper Amazon region of San Martín, Peru and other indigenous people living in lowland Amazonia within the region of Loreto, and how these linkages have been maintained through trade, shamanism, and indigenous movements. He conducted archival research on communities around that area. He traveled to the small community of Sisa, San Martín and conducted interviews with government officials and indigenous authorities about the history of ampi production in the community. His research provided ample data on indigenous trade relations, identity, and shamanism, from both indigenous and mestizo perspectives. This research expands the ethnology and ethnohistory of the western Peruvian Amazon, which has a dearth of extensive research projects in comparison to other regions of the Amazon such as in southern Colombia, Ecuador, and northwestern Brazil.


Gina Sandí-Díaz
Theater

Gina visited Diriamba, Nicaragua to study the performance of El Güegüense, a colonial theatre-dance drama performed since the 17th century. She witnessed the ritual performances of El Tope de los Santos, El Güegüense, El Toro Huaco, El Viejo y la Vieja and La Giganta festivities in Diriamba and neighboring Dolores. She also conducted open interviews of audience members, mask makers, and artisans about the festivity and visited historical sites and cultural centers to learn the historical context of Granada, the province in which Diriamba lies. Her conversations with artisans, mask makers and audience members suggested that El Güegüense is indeed an icon of national identity, and yet the current government has divested from the traditional dances and forced participants to condense the processions and their complexity.

 

2016 Award Recipients

Tinker Field Research Award

Jennifer Abercrombie Foster, PhD, Spanish and Portuguese
Chile
Faculty Advisor:
Yajaira Padilla

Kevin Chovanec, PhD, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Dominican Republic
Faculty Advisor: Rich Glor

Pietro De Mello, PhD, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Dominican Republic
Faculty Advisor: Rich Glor

Rachel Denney, PhD, WGSS
Guatemala

Faculty Advisor: Hannah Britton

Sara Estrada-Villalta, PhD, Social Psychology
Guatemala and Costa Rica
Faculty Advisor: Glenn Adams

Matthew Fahrenbruch, PhD, Geography
Nicaragua
Faculty Advisor: Peter Herlihy

Joey Hentzler, MA, Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Bolivia
Faculty Advisor: Brent Metz

Jack Hruska, MS, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Honduras
Faculty Advisor: Rob Moyle

Nadia Jessop, PhD, Education Psychology and Research
Costa Rica
Faculty Advisor: Glenn Adams

Lina Muñoz Márquez, PhD, Spanish and Portuguese
Ecuador
Faculty Advisor:
Veronica Garibotto

Ginett Pineda, PhD, Spanish and Portuguese
Bolivia
Faculty Advisor: Santa Arias

Naara Queiruga Domínguez, MA, Spanish
Argentina
Faculty Advisor: Luciano Tosta

Angel Rañales Pérez, MA, Spanish Literature
Argentina
Faculty Advisor: Antônio Simões

Anita Hertzfeld Award

Alex Stuart

James Tandy

KU Sigma Xi, Oral Presentation

Will Fleming

Pierre A. Stouse Award

Will Penner

Diana Restrepo

Stansifer Award

Rachel Denney

Winter 2015 Award Recipients

Tinker Field Research Award

Jennifer Abercrombie Foster, PhD, Spanish and Portuguese
Chile
Faculty Advisor:
Yajaira Padilla

Doriane Andrade Meyer, MA, Architecture, Design, and Planning
Brazil
Faculty Advisor:
Farhan Karim 

Grant Berning, MA, Anthropology
Mexico
Faculty Advisor: John Hoopes

Alba Constenla Torrado, MA, Spanish Literature
Cuba
Faculty Advisor: Jorge Pérez

Josh Homan, PhD, Anthropology
Peru
Faculty Advisor: Bartholomew Dean

Josephine Kapicka, MA, Latin American Studies
Nicaragua
Faculty Advisor: Peter Herlihy

Pamela Rodríguez-Montero, MFA, Theater
Guatemala
Faculty Advisor:
Delbert Unruh

Gina Sandí-Díaz, PhD, Theater
Nicaragua
Faculty Advisor: Henry Bial

Carmen Torre Perez, MA, Hispanic Literature
Cuba
Faculty Advisor: Verónica Garibotto

2015 Award Recipients

Tinker Field Research Award

Brett Bias, PhD History
Mexico
Faculty Advisor: Luis Corteguera

David Cooper, PhD Sociology
Peru
Faculty Advisor: Meranghiz Najafizadeh

Rachel Denney, PhD, WGSS
Dominican Republic
Faculty Advisor: Hannah Britton

Will Penner, MA Geography Guatemala
Faculty Advisor: J Christopher Brown

Diana Restrepo-Osorio, PhD, Geography
Uruguay
Faculty Advisor: J Christopher Brown

Courtney Sánchez, PhD, Film & Media Studies
Argentina
Faculty Advisor: Tamara Falicov

Silvia Sánchez MA Anthropology
Guatemala
Faculty Advisor: Brent Metz

S Thomas Scott, PhD, Vocal Pedagogy
Brazil
Faculty Advisor: James Daugherty

Ximena Sevilla PhD, History
Colombia
Faculty Advisor: Gregory Cushman

Taylor Tappan, PhD, Geography
Costa Rica
Faculty Advisor: Peter Herlihy, Geograph
y

Ariane Tulloch, PhD, American Studies
Panama
Faculty Advisor: Rubén Flores

Oppenheimer Award

Amber Ables (Sum ’15)

Matthew Fahrenbruch (Sum ’15)

Joey Hentzler (AY ’15-’16)

Stansifer Award

Jennifer Abercrombie Foster

Anita Hertzfeld Award

Hannah Taylor

Megan Wetschensky

Winter 2014 Award Recipients

Tinker Field Research Award

Randy David, PhD, Anthropology
Dominican Republic
Faculty Advisor: Michael Crawford

Caleb Lázaro-Moreno, PhD, American Studies,
Mexico
Faculty Advisor: Rubén Flores

César Silva, PhD, Spanish & Portuguese
Argentina & Uruguay
Faculty Advisor: Verónica Garbotto

 

2014 Award Recipients

Tinker Field Research Grants

Jennifer Abercrombie, PhD, Spanish
Cuba
Faculty Advisor: Yajaira Padilla

Marisela Chávez-Narváez,  MA, CLACS
Brazil
Faculty Advisor: J. Christopher Brown

David Dalton, PhD, Spanish
Perú
Faculty Advisor: Stuart Day

Ryan Daugherty, PhD, Political Science
Guatemala
Faculty Advisor: Gary Reich

Jeff Hill, MA, CLACS
México
Faculty Advisor: Brent Metz

Josephine Kapicka, MA, CLACS
Nicaragua
Faculty Advisor: Tony Rosenthal

Nicholas Kotlinski, MA, Geography
Perú
Faculty Adviosr: J. Christopher Brown

Adam Newhard, MA/PhD, History
Perú
Faculty Advisor: Luis Corteguera

Ginett Pineda, PhD, Spanish
Ecuador
Santa Arias

Courtney Sánchez, PhD, Film & Media Studies
Argentina
Faculty Advisor: Tamara Falicov

Ximena Sevilla, PhD, History
Ecuador
Faculty Advisor: Gregory Cushman

Claire Wolnisty, PhD, History
Brazil
Faculty Advisor: Jonathan Earle

Anita Herzfeld Award

Claire MacLachlan

Meaghan Palmer

Stansifer

Meghan Webb, PhD, Anthropology

 

2013 Award Recipients

Anita Herzfeld Scholarship

Erin Ice, Spanish & Portuguese/Biology, Junior

Hannah Lujano, Spanish/GIST, Senior

Stansifer

María Gabriela Torres-Montero, PhD, History

Summer Field Research Grants

Heather Wehr, MA, Anthropology

Faculty Advisor: Brent Metz

Diana Restrepo-Osorio,  MA, LACS

Faculty Advisor: J. Chrsitopher Brown

Meghan Webb, PhD, Anthropology

Faculty Advisor: Brent Metz

Sherry Warren, PhD, Social Work

Faculty Advisor: Terry Koenig

Oppenheimer

Marisela Chávez-Narváez, MA, LACS

Josephine Kapicka, MA, LACS

FLAS Fellowship Awardees

Academic Year Graduates

Crystal Boson, PhD American Studies (Haitian Creole)

Marisela Chávez Narváez, MA LACS (Portuguese)

Josephine Kapicka, MA LACS (Portuguese)

Rachel Denney, PhD WGSS (Haitian Creole)

Ginett Pineda, PhD Spanish (Quichua)

David Cooper, MA, Sociology (Quichua)

Academic Year Undergraduates

Gustin Bova, LACS Senior (Quichua)

Margo Bogossian, Spanish/Journalism Junior (Portuguese)

Summer Graduate Recipients

Colleen O’Brien, MA Linguistics (Miskitu)

Anna Hasemann, PhD Anthropology (Miskitu)

Ariane Tulloch, PhD Education (Miskitu)

Marcela Risso, PhD Spanish (Portuguese)

Devon Lee, PhD Sociology (Miskitu)

Summer Undergraduate Recipients

Rebecca Rosenkrans, Linguistics Senior (Kaqchikel)

Noemí Martínez, Spanish/LACS Senior (Portuguese)

Kathryn Sopcich, LACS Junior (Miskitu)

2012 Award Recipients

Latin American Field Research Grant

David Cooper, MA Sociology
Ecuador
Faculty Advisor: Robert Antonio, Sociology

Rebecca Crosthwait, PhD Anthropology
Mexico
Faculty Advisor: Don Stull, Anthropology

David Dalton, PhD Spanish & Portuguese
Mexico
Faculty Advisor: Stuart Day, Spanish & Portuguese

George Klaeren, MA History
Spain
Faculty Advisor: Luis Corteguera, History

Taylor Tappan, MA Geography
Honduras

Faculty Advisor: Peter Herlihy, Geography

Meghan Farley Webb, PhD Anthropology
Guatemala
Faculty Advisor: Brent Metz, Anthropology

Stansifer Fellowship

Hispano Durón, PhD Student Film Media Studies

FLAS Fellowship Awardees

Graduate Academic Year Recipients
Lindsay Dudley, MA LAS (Quichua)
Phillip Duncan, PhD Linguistics (Kaqchikel)
Francisco Enciso, MA LAS (Portuguese)
Joshua Homan, PhD Anthropology (Quichua)
Lisa Scrivener, MA LAS & MBA (Portuguese)
Heather Wehr, MA Anthropology (Kaqchikel)
Melanie Wetzel, MA LAS (Kaqchikel)
 

Undergraduate Academic Year Recipients
Fisher Adwell, Anthropology (Quichua)
Zach O'Bea, LAS (Portuguese)
 

Summer Graduate Recipients
Edma Delgado Solórzano, PhD Candidate Spanish & Portuguese (Nahuatl)
Chih-Hsiang (“Terry”) Hsieh, PhD Linguistics  (Quichua)
Ariana Toth, MA Geography at Western Michigan University (Miskitu)
Melanie Wetzel, MA LAS (Miskitu)

Summer Undergraduate Recipients
Fisher Adwell, Anthropology (Quichua)
Devin Gerling, Anthropology & Spanish (Miskitu)
Jordan Sparrow, LAS & Co-Major Global and International Studies, Minor Brazilian Studies (Portuguese)
Samantha Spurlock, French & Linguistics (Miskitu)

2011 Award Recipients

Latin American Graduate Field Research Grant

Hispano Durón,  PhD Film Media Studies
Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama
Faculty Advisor:  Tamara Falicov, Film Media Studies

Jesscia Raab, MA Anthropology
Mexico
Faculty Advisor: Jack Hofman, Anthropology

Stephanie Stillo, PhD History
Spain
Faculty Advisor: Luis Corteguera, History

Irene Olivares, PhD History
Spain
Faculty Advisor: Luis Corteguera, History

Meghan Farley Webb, PhD Anthropology
Guatemala
Faculty Advisor: Brent Metz, Anthropology

Graduate Research Competition

1st - Andrew Norris, Geography - "Land Tenure Transformation on the Periphery of San Luis Potosí, Mexico"

2nd - Sydney Silverstein, Anthropology - "Voting, Violence and Change: A Multi-sited Inquiry into Youth and Identity in Peru"

3rd - Kevin Freudenburg, Political Science - "Home Away From Home: Migrant Organizations and Transnational Politics Among Latin
American Migrants in Spain"

4th - Andrew Bailey, School of Business & Latin American & Caribbean Studies - "Brazilian Coffee Cooperatives: Current Opportunities and Challenges"

Ph.D. Level
Co-1st - Ezekial Stear, Spanish & Portuguese -
"Nahua Histories of Migration in the Valley of Mexico, 1519-1619"

Co-1st—David Lisenby, Spanish & Portuguese - “A Cecilia Valdés for the Twenty-First Century:  Polemical Possession in Norge Espinosa‘s La virgencita de bronce"

FLAS Fellowship Recipients:

Graduate Academic Year Recipients
Lindsay Dudley, MA LAS (Quichua)
Joshua Homan, PhD Sociocultural Anthropology (Quichua)
Katherine Moneymaker, MA Social Welfare (Kaqchikel Maya)
Diana Restrepo-Osorio, MA LAS (Quichua)
Erin Sheridan, MA LAS & MBA Business (Portuguese)
Sydney Silverstien, MA Anthropology (Quichua)
Ezekiel Stear, PhD Spanish & Portuguese (Portuguese)
Meghan Webb, PhD Anthropology (Kaqchikel Maya)

Summer FLAS Graduate Recipients
Stacey Burton, MA Latin American & Caribbean Studies (Moskitu)
James Herynk, PhD Medical Anthropology (Poqomchi’)
Molly Martin, MA LAS & MBA Business (Portuguese)
Taylor Tappan, MA Geography (Moskitu)
Ezekiel Stear, PhD Spanish & Portuguese (Nahuatl)
Sydney Stone, MA Latin American & Caribbean Studies (Portuguese)

Academic Year Undergraduate
Mary Grace Felton, LAS & Linguisitcs (Kaqchikel)
Jeff Miller, LAS  (Portuguese)

Summer Undergraduate
Kelsey Adkins, Spanish & Portuguese (Portuguese)
Caroline Dickinson, LAS (Miskitu)

Stansifer Fellowship

Jacob Rapp, PhD in Spanish & Portuguese
Project: A study of literary culture, specifically  the modernista writers of the Porfiriato, the 35-year period at the end of the 19th century in Mexico.

Oppenheimer Grant

Edma Delgado Solórzano , PhD in Spanish & PortugueseProject: “Viva Cristo Rey y fuego!: Discourses of Violence and Religion in the Cristero Rebellion (1927-1929)” investigates why and how Christianity has been co-opted to support armed conflicts

Jacob Longaker, MA in Political Science
Project: “The Politics of Anti-discrimination Legislation in the Sao Paulo State Assembly”


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