Campus & Community

African Studies awards travel grants

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The Committee on African Studies has awarded eight student grants for travel to Sub-Saharan Africa this summer. The four juniors who received the grants will be conducting research for their senior honors theses, while the four graduate student recipients will be researching their doctoral dissertations. The graduate student grants are funded by an endowment established by Jennifer Oppenheimer ’89, J.D. ’93.

The senior honors thesis research recipients are:

Ceridwen Dovey, an anthropology and visual and environmental studies concentrator, will travel to South Africa. Dovey will examine how labor relations between white farmers and their nonwhite workers in the wine farming community of Stellenbosch have changed since 1994 as their ethnic identities and affiliations have been constructed and interpreted differently.

Scott Lee, an anthropology and religion concentrator, will travel to the rural Kenyan community of Ugunja. Lee will explore the intersection of health, culture, and political economy, and will address local responses to HIV/AIDS, in both the interpretation of the disease and how interpretive processes impinge upon public policies designed to alleviate suffering.

Elizabeth Thornberry, a social studies and women’s studies concentrator, will research young urban women in South Africa who have returned to the rural lots from which their families were previously removed. She is interested in determining how they are affected by apartheid and post-apartheid government ideology, which casts Africans as inherently linked to a rural lifestyle.

Alfa Tiruneh, a government concentrator, is part of a group of six undergraduates who will travel to Rwanda to examine its innovative Gacaca – a countrywide system of community-based courts designed to address the cases of the 120,000 prisoners still awaiting trial on genocide charges. Implications of this process range from its social effects in Rwanda to its contribution towards the worldwide search for methods of post-conflict recovery. Tiruneh is this year’s Harvard African Students Association (HASA) alumni grant recipient.

The graduate-student grant recipients for doctoral dissertation research are:

Sara Byala, a history concentrator in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), will examine the production, display, and reception of those products deemed to be true ‘Africana’ in one cultural history museum in South Africa. She will trace the changing debates about culture in the rhetoric and policy of both the African National Congress and the Nationalist Party. Putting these two stories together, Byala hopes to provide an original analysis of political change in 20th century South Africa.

W. Scott Gordon, an international health concentrator in the School of Public Health, will travel to Uganda and Ghana to study how decentralization and integration impact the effectiveness and equity of immunization programs. He will evaluate the impact of the different degrees of local program control and integration, and explore the impacts of organizational structures within each country and between the two countries. The study will have implications for the design of programs addressing diseases of poor populations in resource-scarce environments.

Ruth Kerkham, African art history concentrator in GSAS, will travel to Zambia for predissertation research on political diaspora and the construction of memory. She will explore how Zambian ceremonies and contemporary performance art are used to instill contemporary political identities. Kerkham will also examine contemporary performance art as an attempt to break down the distinction between “traditional” performance and contemporary performance art.

Ingrid Willenberg, a student in the Human Development and Psychology Program in the Graduate School of Education, will conduct a study of the literacy skills and home and school literacy environments of kindergartners in South Africa. Her research will focus on the historically disadvantaged “colored” children of Western Cape Province, and will aim at providing a baseline for monitoring whether educational reforms will create more favorable literacy environments for them.