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People: 2017 Field Research Grant Recipients

With support from the Tinker Foundation, the LAII provides field research grants for graduate students in any UNM department who conduct field work in Latin America. Current recipients are listed below; past recipients may be viewed by clicking on the previous year's tab. To see a more complete collection of recent field research photography, visit the LAII's 2016 Field Research Flickr Album.

Monica Asencio


Level of Access to Autism Spectrum Disorder Resources and Types of Interventions in Peru

Monica Asencio, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Special Education will travel to Lima, Peru during the summer of 2017 in order to examine the level of access to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)-related resources and services in addition to the types of ASD intervention within Lima, Peru. Much of the research generated to understanding the biology of autism and the importance of early intervention has been conducted in affluent English-speaking countries, leaving challenges within developing countries to identify effective interventions and services that exist for people with ASD and their families. Monica’s research aims to fill in the existing gap by contributing to an academic research base with relevance for all those engaged in the planning and implementation of ASD policies at both national and local community levels.

Diego Bustos


Variations and empowerment of the Brazilian new middle class: The case of Agência de redes para a juventude in Rio de Janeiro

Diego Bustos, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese will travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the summer of 2017 to research Agência de redes para a juventude, an NGO which supports the entrepreneurial possibilities of creative projects carried out by youth in Rio de Janeiro’s lower-income public spaces and communities. Agência’s aim is to empower young cultural entrepreneurs by providing them with the necessary material and discursive tools to impact the public sphere in their communities through cultural endeavors. Through this, Diego will focus on textual production and their impacts on class identities; allowing him to explore the different cultural representations of the new middle class actively imagined, considering the possibilities and the limits of various models of social inclusion and cultural citizenship. Diego’s research will contribute to the discussion about the articulation and performance of citizenship in Latin American landscapes of social and cultural exclusion.

Diana Chavez Vargas


Exploratory study: creating a trans-indigenous zone at Pastaza, Ecuador

Diana Chavez Vargas, an MCRP student in the Department of Community and Regional Planning will travel to Pastaza, Ecuador in the Summer of 2017 to conduct exploratory research about the visioning of land use and practices on a recently purchased plot of land that will serve as New Intercultural Indigenous city. The New Intercultural Indigenous City is described as a trans-indigenous zone for its intersection between multiple tribes and for its physical location between the city and their Indigenous lands. Diana intends to articulate the perspective of Indigenous people on planning processes and alternative ways to live within the urban area. This will be accomplished by understanding how indigenous views of living are assimilated to non-indigenous norms within the urban area and by analyzing the dynamics between local governments and indigenous people regarding the illegal settlements.

Valerio Di Fonzo


The Role of Catholic Church in Peru: Searching for Religious Discourses in The Neoliberal Era of Lima and Cusco

Valerio Di Fonzo, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology – Ethnology will travel to Lima and Cusco, Peru in the summer of 2017 Lima and Cusco, Peru in order to explore the connections fostered through the Catholic Church between urban and rural communities that center on environmental concerns. Further, this research explores how the progressive wing of the Catholic Church has become involved with the plight of the poor in some of these contexts of environmental degradation. Valerio’s research intends to better understand how has the progressive wing of the Peruvian Catholic Church become involved in environmental issues, how Peruvian Catholic communities are processing the conditions of global capital and modernity through engaging with ecological discourses, and how interaction between urban and rural Catholics communities in Peru are coming together to oppose new investment projects involving extractive industries. Valerio’s preliminary ethnographic fieldwork within Lima and Cusco will provide a necessary foundation from with to construct this multi-sited dissertation project, and help to develop research questions relevant to each field site.

Emma Elliott Smith


Characterizing energy flow in a marine ecosystem in Northern Chile

Emma Elliott Smith, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biology will travel to Chile in the summer of 2017 in order to research the ecology and dynamics of nearshore marine ecosystems. Emma is interested in characterizing trophic interactions (who-eats-who), as well as determining which marine primary producers (e.g., algae versus microscopic phytoplankton) are most important to these dynamic food webs. As a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of local marine food webs is important for conservation and management, Emma’s research will ultimately contribute to the existing research by providing meaningful biological information for local authorities to set management targets. The fish species that will be sampled are important to local commercial and artisanal fisheries. To this end, the research will help to better understand natural systems, allowing for better protect and management.

Kalyn Finnell


Interpreting Gentrification: Local understandings of tourism-induced gentrification in Cuzco

Kalyn Finnell, a dual Masters student in the departments of Latin America Studies Department and Community and Regional Planning will be traveling to Cuzco, Peru in the summer of 2017 in order to investigate how long-term residents of San Blas, a historically Quechua and mestizo neighborhood, negotiate the process of gentrification, resist displacement, and retain control over the neighborhood as related to its position as a tourism hub within Cuzco. Situated at the nexus of Latin American Studies and Indigenous Planning, Kalyn’s work explores the effects of tourism in highly indigenous urban areas, particularly generational language and cultural transformation in areas with heavy tourist traffic. Seeking to examine neighborhood experiences of urban change and the role residents play in these processes, Kalyn will contextualize the transformation of the neighborhood within its particular history and with local people’s perspectives. Further, her research aims to highlight the complexities by exploring the heterogeneity of Cuzco in the global context of tourism.

Pablo Lituma


An inquiry of modern architectural design influences on Ecuadorʼs indigenous communities and its effects on cultural preservation

Pablo Lituma, a dual Masters Architecture and Community and Regional Planning student in the School of Architecture and Planning will be traveling to Ecuador in the summer of 2017 to understand how the built environment and changes in architectural design of residential spaces affect cultural preservation within four Ecuadorean Indigenous communities and cities. Pablo’s research aims to provide an understanding of vernacular indigenous architecture and the current architectural phenomenon that has resulted from globalization, shedding light on globalization issues present in urban and rural environments. Further, Pablo’s study will explore how local indigenous culture (embedded values and norms) influence local (vernacular) architecture language, which will enable designs that support culture and address local needs respective to their distinct communities.

Laura Steele


Spanish Colonialism and the Indigenous Argentinean Diet

Laura Steele, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology – Archaeology will travel to Buenos Aires and San Rafael, Argentina in the summer of 2017 to research how Spanish colonial rule impacted indigenous diets in Argentina. Laura’s research will test two hypotheses about the impact of Spanish colonization on indigenous Argentinians: (1) the indigenous camelid relationship was equivalent under Inkan and Spanish rule, as at Malata in Peru; and (2), the indigenous-camelid relationship shifted drastically from the Inkan to Spanish rule, with camelids becoming a less important part of the diet. To investigate this, Laura will access previously collected and well-curated zooarchaeological assemblages, intending to identify faunal collections. Laura’s research will serve as a critical step in developing her dissertation research proposal.

Zsofia Szoke


The Lithium Economy: Bolivia's "New" Resource and Socialist Transformation in the Context of Resource Extraction History

Zsofia Szoke, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology – Ethnology will travel to the Southwestern region of Bolivia during the summer of 2017 to explore how the Bolivian lithium industry contributes to the emerging energo-politics, intertwining with indigeneity, knowledge production and territoriality in relation to a plurinational state and the struggles over Bolivia’s natural resources in a globalized economy. Zsofia’s research will ask: What kinds of vulnerabilities and opportunities are created by the nationalization of the lithium industry in Bolivia in the 21the century? The study of the 21st century lithium industry is also a study of struggle against neoliberalism, new forms of “resource nationalism”, the changing role of the state and the continued importance of mining in the era of intensive globalization. Zsofia’s preliminary research will provide a necessary foundation from which to construct a multi-sited dissertation project and ultimately, contribute to new chapter in the scholarship of Bolivia’s mining history.