Honors & Theses

Anthropology concentrators pursue a diverse range of topics and places that covers every time period from the pre-historical to the present, and every major world area. Recent senior honors thesis have investigated:

  • The emergence of the alt-right on Twitter
  • Infant Sacrifice at the Phoenician Tophets
  • The Bangladeshi Shipbreaking Industry
  • The impact of neoliberalism on a Boston experimental art collective
  • Sustainability in Maine's coastal cities
  • Moralization of mental health in contemporary Shanghai

The requirements for honors eligibility are distinguished by program. In Social Anthropology certain honors recommendations are possible without a thesis, but not to students pursuing the combined track in Archaeology and Social Anthropology. In Archaeology, honors recommendations require a thesis.

A Student's Guide to Reading and Writing in Social Anthropology 

Past Honors Theses


Haley Baker (Caton & Lorenzini)

“Culture Comes from the Family”: Tracing Constructions of Culture, Poverty, and Motherhood in Modern Chile
Advisors: Steven Caton and Rebecca Lorenzini (History and Literature)
David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies Prize in History and Literature

My thesis explores how concepts of culture, poverty, and motherhood are linked in educational contexts to explain student behavioral and academic de cits. A historical investigation into these ideas reveals that the United States was central in contributing to the conceptual frameworks seen in Chile, speci cally through Oscar Lewis’s “culture of poverty” thesis, neoliberalism, and Cold War era geopolitical relationships. Drawing on two months of ethnographic eldwork in Cerro Navia, a low income neighborhood in Santiago, I analyze how these ideologies manifest on the ground through motherhood interventions and daily mothering practices. I argue that navigating these ideologies involves a complex process of both acceptance and resistance of certain aspects of the discourses of globalization. Ultimately, this thesis reveals how hemispheric structures of power generate speci c ideologies of motherhood, how these ideas enter individual schools and homes, and how parents negotiate these ideas through the upbringing and education of their children.

Maryssa Barron (Subramanian)

Mighty Hunter, Gentle Shepherd: Finding Wilderness on a Game Farm in South Africa
Faculty Advisor: Ajantha Subramanian

“Deemed “despicable and barbaric” by its critics and “necessary for the preservation of African wildlife” by its proponents, trophy hunting in Africa is enmeshed in an enigmatical public debate over the ethical treatment and conservation of wildlife. In an effort to better understand the persistence of trophy hunting in this contested political landscape, I traveled to South Africa to conduct ethnographic research on a game farm hosting recreational meat hunting and trophy hunting. What I discovered were practices informed by seemingly competing understandings of agency, place, ownership, and self in relation to a “constructed” Wilderness. My thesis examines the constellation of tensions between the affectual and corporeal experiences of hunting, economies of tourism and conservation, and conceptual representations of Wilderness that constitute the being of sports hunters. I attempt to privilege the phenomenology of the hunt while also contextualizing it within a fraught landscape of racial exclusion and social inequality. My thesis is also the narrative of my own hunt within the sometimes fractured, but also fruitful landscape of anthropological inquiry.

Emily Bishai (Yezbik)

Singing Character: The Importance of the Body, the ‘Fach’, and Image to the Young Opera Singer’s Career
Faculty Advisor: Julia Yezbick

My thesis is an ethnography of young singers on the brink of operatic careers. Based on research conducted at the Aspen Music Festival and School, I describe the experiences of young singers as they navigate the precarious world of the modern operatic industry. Besides technical vocal skill, which is paramount, this thesis nds that three other aspects are also crucially important to the successful development of singers’ careers: (i) the paradox of the singer’s body as an instrument and as an object through which character is communicated onstage, (ii) vocal fach as a primary locus for developing and communicating sung roles that are mutually understandable to the singer and audience, and (iii) the singer’s image as a means of cultivating reputation, marketability, and career stability. I examine these three aspects, the challenges they present to young singers, as well as the skills and mechanisms developed by the singers to successfully mediate them.

Cole Edick (Caton)

BINJworthy: Rethinking Truth Through Authenticity at a Boston Alternative News Organization
Faculty Advisor: Steven Caton

My thesis rethinks anthropological approaches to authenticity through an ethnographic study
of the Boston Institute for Nonpro t Journalism (BINJ), a freelance journalism incubator in Boston, Massachusetts. The project focuses on how BINJ contributors, as alternative newsmakers, conceptualize their history, identity and rhetoric to be more “authentic” than the dominant mainstream news. Throughout, I point out the ways in which BINJ frames these spheres of authenticity in distinction from mainstream media, contesting the notion that journalism as a profession has a singular interpretive community. I argue that BINJ’s exploration of these several spheres in parallel both marks alternative newsmakers as authentic subjects and engages them in a continuous process of authenticity-making, resulting in a unique approach to uncovering truth. In an age of historically low public faith in journalism and the emergence of “post-truth” phenomena, my thesis asks if there is a way to contest homogenizing notions of truth and acknowledge its worthiness at the same time.

George Goodwin (Caton)

Sustainability in Maine
Faculty Advisor: Steven Caton

Maine’s coastal communities, especially those situated on unbridged islands, face perpetual diminishment and decline. My thesis is concerned with the overlapping and often contradictory forms of environmental, economic, and social sustainability that are mechanized to enable a viable future for Maine’s coastal communities. Within Maine’s island communities, interventions for sustainability by outsiders have evolved from attempts to maintain a perceived traditional identity to the incorporation of a telos of progress that re ects the values of the ‘rusticators,’ typically summer residents. I argue that interventions by outsiders, including the construction

of wind turbines, affect the structure of feeling within these communities, who simultaneously incorporate the beliefs of outsiders while dissociating from the same beliefs to maintain a sense of local identity as a form of social sustainability. As communities that are small, isolated, and vulnerable to change, social sustainability often acts to silence voices of dissent to these interventions, which distorts how they are presented to the outside world and enables exploitation.

Mireya Hernandez (Meadow & Schiefsky)

“THE DAWN OF A REAL REVOLUTION”: A Reinterpretation of Infant Sacrifice at the Phoenician Tophets
Faculty Advisors: Richard Meadow and Mark Schiefsky (Classics)

The Phoenicians were a thriving cultural and economic force on the Mediterranean from 1200 BCE to 146 BCE when Carthage, the most famous Phoenician site, fell to Rome. Unfortunately, after the erasure of their literature, only depictions of Greeks and Romans survive that highlight the Phoenicians supposed practice of infant sacri ce. Modern scholarship continues this condemnation in the debate over whether the Phoenician tophets are sites of infant sacri ce. My thesis refocuses this argument through an attempt at Geertz’s “thick description” analysis of the Phoenicians, an exploration of the social role of the infant, and an examination of the act of infant sacri ce itself. Though the Phoenicians likely practiced infant sacri ce, a comparison to the Aztec practice reveals the possibility of a society not of butchers but a people who prized their infants as the greatest gift that could be offered to the gods.

Marisa Houlahan (Subramanian)

Living Ships: Representation, Labor, and Value in the Bangladeshi Shipbreaking Industry
Faculty Advisor: Ajantha Subramanian
Seymour E. and Ruth B. HarrisPrize for Honors Thesis in the Social Sciences
Hoopes Prize Winner

More than ninety percent of the world’s trade is carried out by sea, relying each year on tens
of thousands of cargo vessels. At the end of a life spent ferrying commodities, ships are sold to shipbreaking yards in South Asia, where they are dismantled and their steel and contents are transformed, resold, and redistributed for use around the world. Drawing on two months of eldwork, my thesis examines the social, economic, and material networks that constitute shipbreaking in Chittagong, Bangladesh, where the industry has ourished amid low labor costs, high demand for steel, and unenforced environmental regulations. I attempt to trace the extended linkages that place a local industry at the center of fundamentally global processes, arguing in the process that shipbreaking in Chittagong does more than replicate global phenomena or serve to reproduce economic centers. Rather, it is a shipbreaking “world”

unto itself, grounded in mediating labor and productive of new forms of value, new social arrangements, and new meanings. I argue that consideration of shipbreaking and ships—variously understood as vehicles of exchange, hazardous wastes, capitalist detritus, and wellsprings of value—opens inquiry into the material and meaning-making worlds of contemporary capitalism and its connected forms of labor.

Jennifer Kim (Steedly)

Convulsive or Not at All: The Endurance Politics of an Experimental Art Collective
Faculty Advisor: Mary Steedly
Hoopes Prize Winner

This thesis seeks to ethnographically ground the lived experiences of the Boston-based Mobius Artists Group within a broader conceptual schema of precarity. Bringing to the fore the “extinction anxiety” circulated by the members of this experimental art collective, I illustrate and interrogate the ways in which Mobius’ struggle to “survive” runs up against the restrictive machinations of

a neoliberal state. In the friction between the Group’s distinctly ephemeral art practice and the state’s project to align art with the logics of the market, a sense of indeterminacy pervades the collective’s outlook. Exploring how this felt precarity is rendered legible through the Group’s experiences of death, movement, and memory, I demonstrate the ways in which neoliberal rhetorics of market freedom and moral “decency” endanger Mobius’ project of performative critique.

Ari Korotkin (Steedly & Tutschku)

Hear What I Mean: An Ethnographic Study of Digital Electronics, the Voice, and Musical Composition
Faculty Advisors: Mary Steedly and Hans Tutschku (Music)
Hoopes Prize Winner

My thesis explores the various ways that sociocultural meanings are integrated into creative-artistic processes - how culturally shared values, principles, and identities work their way into a seemingly “solitary” or “isolated” act. As a composer, I use my own creative process as a case study in order to observe how writing a piece of music for voice and electronics - whereby I create sounds in the body and in electronic space - is imbued with both hidden and blatant forms of cultural and social mediation. Speci cally, I focus on the ways in which digital interfaces work as interlocutors in the interactive process of electronic composition and how shared attitudes toward these virtual spaces, and other physical spaces in which electronic composition takes place, obscure the importance of those interactions. I also focus on how the encoding (and judgment) of individual identity in the voice affects compositional decisions made during various points of the creative process. In doing these things I employ what I call methodological dualism, which allows for my experiences as a composer and my observations and analyses as an anthropologist to mutually inform and shape each other.

Ivan Levingston (Rossoukh)

#AltRight: The Self-Making of a Twitter Counterpublic
Faculty Advisor: Ramyar Rossoukh

Over the course of the 2016 presidential election, the alt-right emerged as a potent force in American politics. Twitter was a particularly important medium for the movement’s rise and self-fashioning as a counterpublic. My thesis explores the emergence of the alt-right on Twitter through the lens of language, collective action that takes the form of “trolling,” and an ideology of racial citizenship. Through a close reading of tweets associated with the alt-right, I aim to understand the broader processes by which a white nationalist community challenges discursive norms and propagates an identity and ideology on social media—within the context of Twitter as a speci c site for racialized communities to contest external representations and construct counternarratives. Donald Trump’s campaign played a direct role in galvanizing the alt-right, and in this thesis I analyze where they both converge to understand why the alt-right could claim Trump’s victory as their own.

Bessie Zhang (Kleinman)

Cultivating ‘Sunniness’: Childhood, Collective Caregiving and the Moralization of Mental Health in Contemporary Shanghai
Faculty Advisor: Arthur Kleinman

In the late 1970s the Chinese state embarked on a project to craft a generation of globally competitive citizens, as part of the country’s aspiration to modernity on a world stage. While
this has advanced the country’s development, this project has simultaneously placed immense pressures on children. As youth suicide enters the public consciousness in Shanghai, my thesis explores how children’s mental health emerges and manifests as a priority among parents and teachers. In particular, the mentally healthy child is conceptualized as a ‘sunny’ (yangguang) child, who represents a uniquely affective, optimistic subject that stands in contrast to the self-restrained, disciplined ‘good student.’ I argue that ‘sunniness’ responds to and implicitly critiques realities inherent to China’s shifting moral, economic and political circumstances. Amidst a perceived moral crisis and children’s contemporary high-stress context, the ‘sunny’ child and the moralization of mental health serve as a depoliticized, secular manner to articulate a contextually shaped morality for the next generation. In addition, my thesis demonstrates how efforts surrounding children’s mental health represent a form of collective caregiving among parents and teachers.

Joyce Zhou (Kleinman)

Looking at, Pushing Against, and Looking After: A Threefold Consideration of Frailty in the Context of All-Inclusive Care
Faculty Advisor: Arthur Kleinman
Hoopes Prize Winner

“Frail” is a popular concept in healthcare, frequently used to describe older adults with increasing physical ailments, decreasing cognitive ability, and/or rising need for functional assistance. Recently, scholars in health and medicine have sought to de ne frailty because they believe
its operationalization enables the assessment and improvement of elderly health outcomes.

My thesis examines various presentations of frailty at On Lok’s Jade Center, an all-inclusive organization in San Francisco that serves an elderly Chinese immigrant population. I analyze frailty as institutionally and professionally conceptualized, frailty as contested by the elderly it is used to describe, and frailty as responded to and made meaningful through everyday caring practices.
In doing so, I hope to open up the possibility for alternative modes of thinking about frailty. Frailty’s applicability across various professional, lay, and practical domains must be considered comprehensively if we aspire to provide responsible and moral eldercare.


Hanna Amanuel (Comaroff)

Hanna Amanuel: "(In)visible Bodies: The National Campaign to ‘Eradicate’ Female Genital Cutting in Eritrea"
Advisor: Jean Comaroff
Hoopes Prize Winner

In 2007, the newly independent Eritrean government criminalized the practice of female genital ‘mutilation’ (FGM). Since the introduction of this law, the state has sought to “eradicate FGM” through a national campaign involving data collection, promotional film, health workshops, and other means of converting community attitudes. The questions that orient my research include: how do national actors, from government officials in the metropolis to healthcare workers in rural areas, understand, construct and politicize female genital cutting (FGC)? How do these agendas shape the bodies of Eritrean women, who are often imagined as subjects to be “saved,” while projecting images of moral womanhood and, metonymically, nationhood? Drawing upon four months of fieldwork, my ethnography focuses on how the state—amidst threats to its legitimacy—employs the anti-FGC campaign to signal progressive policy in an international ‘women’s rights regime’ and shape a certain kind of ‘modern’ citizenry by naming and targeting its internal ‘Others’: ethnicized, Muslim, and rural women, while simultaneously deflecting attention from state-inflicted gendered violence. Furthermore, I argue that the campaign serves as a mechanism through which the state seeks to control its citizenry by acting on the bodies of ethno-religiously marked women in politically threatening regions of the country.

Kapena Baptista (Meiu & Wolf)

Kapena Baptista: "'Lovely Hula Hands': Native Hawaiian Identity in Hapa-Haole Music and Hula Performance"
Advisors: George Meiu & Richard Wolf
Hoopes Prize Winner

This thesis engages with the performance conventions and politics of Hawaiian music and hula performance from the 1930s to the present. I look specifically at the Lexington Hotel Hawaiian Room in New York City—the premier venue for Hawaiian entertainment on the American mainland from 1937 through 1966—contextualizing the venue, its music, and its female hula dancers within the development of Hawaiian tourism, tourist iconography, and the Hawaiian cultural “renaissance” of the 1960s and beyond. Previous studies on Hawaiian tourism tend to gloss over the lives and narratives of native Hawaiians involved in the industry by focusing on tourism’s (often negative) effects on Hawaii’s economy, ecology, and traditional cultural practices. In my project I zoom in on the lives of the Hawaiian Room hula dancers as a means of understanding the historical and cultural significance of native Hawaiian women performing and surviving off of a transnational Hawaiian tourist economy. The Hawaiian Renaissance in the 1960s eschewed any kind of relationship with the tourist vision of Hawaii in favor of revived “ancient” Hawaiian traditions. Today, the Hawaiian Room women exist at the crossroads of post-Hawaiian Renaissance traditionality and fetishized Hawaii-tourist fantasy—they redefine, and assert through their experiences, what it means to be a native Hawaiian.

Schuyler Berland (Harkness)

Schuyler Berland: "Branding Harvard: The Advertising & Imagining of the College Student Identity"
Advisor: Nicholas Harkness

My thesis explores how university students are imagined, branded and advertised through the lens of Harvard University and the inner workings of The Harvard Shop, a student-run university merchandise retailer. Looking at four products, a Harvard diploma, mug, letter sweater and H sweater, I seek to understand how students at an educational institution become “branded” and what the implications are of such actions. Through my time spent working as a sales associate at The Harvard Shop and analyzing both its products and advertising campaigns, as well as studying archives and interviewing students, tourists and professionals on the topic, I aim to understand the consequences of creating an imagined student identity, along with how this imagined student shifts and responds over time. Lastly, I analyze how larger societal understandings of self and tastes at times clash or align with official university proposed imaginations and idealizations.

Bethany Donovan (Liebmann & Loveluck)

Bethany Donovan: "With This Ring: Textual and Material Evidence for the Role of Rings in Medieval England, 1350-1550 AD."
Advisors: Matthew Liebmann & Christopher Loveluck

This thesis presents an interdisciplinary study of the role of finger rings in late medieval England, combining evidence and methodology from both history and archaeology in order to present a more complete picture of the social lives and functions of these understudied, but remarkable, objects.  I analyzed a corpus of 284 wills and inventories and a sample of 63 excavated rings from the Museum of London Archaeological Archive.  This was supplemented with a review of a substantial number of archaeological excavations, including cemeteries, urban foreshore sites, hoards, and monasteries, among others, that illustrate how rings moved through society. My research has shown that rings were more complex and multi-faceted objects than previously recognized. They had many functions, including expressing personal identity or status, storing wealth, building relationships, and bridging the divide between generations.  A single ring could play multiple roles, either at the same time, or over the course of its use-life, as they frequently remained in circulation through multiple owners.  In addition, rings moved between men and women in this period and were not a medium for the expression of gender.  Thus, they cannot be classified by gender, as modern rings typically are.

Kevin Hilgartner (Caton)

Kevin Hilgartner: "The Detroit Water Shutoffs: An Ethnography of Governance and Activism"
Advisor: Steven Caton
Hoopes Prize Winner

In May 2015, the city of Detroit began shutting off the water supply of unprecedented numbers of residents with overdue bills, affecting many thousands of people and leaving entire neighborhoods without water. The crisis unfolded as a new discourse took shape heralding an imminent revitalization of the city in the wake of its 2013 bankruptcy. In this context, local activists have mobilized against the shutoffs and raised questions about who will actually benefit from the city’s promised transformation. This thesis provides an ethnographic account of contrasting voices and perspectives in the water-shutoff controversy. Research methods included participant observation and in-depth interviews with key subjects, ranging from high-ranking employees of the mayor’s office and water department, to activist leaders from many organizations, to people who have themselves had their water shut off. The thesis documents how these subjects expressed divergent visions of social change and of the proper interrelations between government and citizens. The result is a rich account of this complex controversy, and an analysis of the conflicts--about competing conceptions of human rights, democracy, citizenship, governance, and activism--that underlie the dispute.

Sarah Martini (Quilter)

Sarah Martini: "The space between: An investigation of the changing occupied landscape and urbanism at the El Brujo Archaeological Complex, Chicama Valley, Peru"
Advisor: Jeffrey Quilter

The identification of urban places in the past has beguiled archaeologists since the beginning of the study of urban origins. This process of identification is particularly fraught due to the relations drawn between urbanism and political and/or religious complexity. In Peru, archaeologists historically argued that the first Andean state arose during the Moche Period (approximately AD 100-800), a time characterized by the building of massive ceremonial complexes with adobe temple-mounds called huacas. However,research has focused almost solely on these huacas, ignoring the surroundings where key features of complex society such as urbanism, would actually be found. In this paper, the results of a recent systematic survey of the surroundings of one of these ceremonial complexes on the El Brujo geological terrace is presented. Using material analysis and ArcGIS to map spatial distributions, the presence of urbanism on the El Brujo terrace during the Moche fluorescence is questioned. The markers of occupation types recognized in this Peruvian example are then used to explore the limitations of current methods of identifying an urban place.

Iyeyinka Omigbodun (Ahmed)

Iyeyinka Omigbodun: "Walking 'Good Governance' To Nigeria"
Advisor: Asad Ahmed
Philippe Wamba Prize for Best Senior Thesis in African Studies
W.E.B. Du Bois Award

Instituted in 2004 through a partnership between the Nigerian government and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), the SERVICOM policy has a mandate to improve the quality of service delivery in government agencies. SERVICOM follows a series of reforms established to combat the inefficiency considered to plague government bureaucracies. This thesis integrates anthropological literature on transnational governmentality, the cultural production of the state and bureaucracy to examine the formulation and implementation of this policy. Adopting a multi-sited and multi-scalar ethnographic approach, I follow SERVICOM as it has “walked” from the transnational to the national level to its implementation in a public hospital. I examine the meanings of SERVICOM for its various stakeholders: DFID Officers, Nigerian politicians and civil servants, SERVICOM officers, and citizens. By exploring daily bureaucratic rhythms, media publicity and auditing practices, I show the dubious claims of success; the state performance; the fears and aspirations of SERVICOM officers; and the ambivalence of citizens that have been part of the life of this reform. This thesis makes visible how an abstract technical “good governance” policy has become a site for the exercise of governmental power and bureaucratic agency, while reproducing inequality.

Ikaika Ramones (Meiu)

Ikaika Ramones: "E OLA MAU: Indigeneity, Land, and Political Subjectivities in Contemporary Hawai’i: Mauna a Wākea and the Thirty-Meter-Telescope "
Advisor: George Meiu
Hoopes Prize Winner

This thesis examines the mass movement to protect the mountain Mauna a Wākea from construction of the Thirty-Meter-Telescope observatory campus. The mountain summit, however, is increasingly seen as spiritually and politically significant for Kanaka ʻŌiwi (aboriginal/native Hawaiians), and implicated in broader contexts of settler colonialism and moves for various forms of self-determination. While contemporary anthropological analysis of indigenous rights and resources are approached through questions of identity and resource distribution, I prefigure the aboriginal Hawaiian’s own attempts to make self, nation, and land. I argue that processes of group formation, collective (re)membering, relation to place, and dexterous maneuvering within the hegemony of the settler state illuminate what it can mean to be political and indigenous. Chapters focus on the stories and native knowledge systems around land, nation, and self in time; the semiotics of sociolinguistic processes in the movement; and the lived forms of citizenship and subjectivity. Amid a global moment of indigenous revivals, this thesis attempts to pioneer new questions of how anthropology understands and discusses the category of “indigeneity” itself, and how lived experiences exhibit the complexities of manifold political subjectivities.

Leah Singer (Ahmed)

Leah Singer: "Valuing a Life: Injury Law and the Calculation of Future Lost Income Capacity"
Advisor: Asad Ahmed
Second Place, 2016 Science and Technology Studies Undergraduate Essay Prize competition

How do we place a dollar amount on injury? In the United States we are all at least slightly familiar with the tort law industry. We hear jingles of solicitation on the radio and see news of large settlements on television. Despite this, we rarely hear about the actual process of calculation. When an injured individual sues they may be awarded damages on three axes: medical expenses, pain and suffering, and future lost income capacity. My thesis focuses on this third category, which asks the question of: How much would this person have earned in a lifetime had the injury had not occurred? Injury and defense attorneys hire forensic accountants answer this question. Particularly in the case of injury to children, lacking in occupational history, this question is difficult to answer. In such cases forensic accountants use race, gender, parental employment and education, amongst others variables to make this calculation. In the case of a trial, other notions of value may influence a jury, but ultimately through such practices there is a depreciation of the value of certain marked bodies. This area of our judicial system has largely persisted without contestation or visibility. How is it that the key actors come to justify the work that they do? How is it possible to transmute something as affective as injury to a number? Where is the activism?

Brianna Suslovic (Greenhalgh)

Brianna Suslovic: "'In the Middle of the Movement': Advocating for Sexual and Reproductive Health-Rights in the Nonprofit Industrial Complex"
Advisor: Susan Greenhalgh

Nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations are known colloquially as “charitable” organizations, and yet the work that many of them engage in is less charitable and more political. Using an ethnographic study of a nonprofit organization in Washington D.C. advocating for sexual and reproductive health and rights for young people between the ages of 13 and 24, I illuminate the reasons why individuals are loyal to the nonprofit structure, despite its shortcomings or political limitations. Specifically, I interrogate the ideological, financial, and political investments made by nonprofit employees and citizens outside of nonprofit structures to determine why this type of social organization has emerged as a means of creating social change, despite its tenuous relationship with the state. I analyze the habitus and rhetoric of the organization’s employees in order to develop conclusions about their framing of the nonprofit structure in relation to their personal ideologies and worldviews.

Rachel Thompson (Caton)

Rachel Thompson: "<type=“title”>Digitizing Literature:</type>: An Ethnography of the Offline Workings of an Online Literary Magazine"
Advisor: Steven Caton

My thesis interrogates literature’s evolving role in the digital age through an ethnographic study of Narrative, an online literary magazine based in San Francisco.  The project focuses on Narrative’s process, product, and reception, taking a dialectical approach to tease out the different paradoxes embedded in each of these stages.  First, unlike other studies in the digital humanities, I approach the online magazine initially from its analog, offline positioning.  I trace the effects of physicality and materiality, such as the office’s location and employees, on the editors’ literary creation.  Next, I enter a debate on the impact of technology on artistic production by arguing against overly deterministic models for understanding online art.  These models suggest that all contemporary literature is always already digital, but, by conducting a comparative analysis of well-known works of digital literature and the pieces published by Narrative, I broaden what counts as digital literature as well as the methods used to interpret the emerging genre.  Finally, I explore the rift between offline readers and online followers, showing how the goals of online art oftentimes contrast with trends established through social media and online communities.

Kathy Tran (Harkness)

Kathy Tran: "Rising to One’s Potential: Joshi Ryoku and the 'Power'of Femininity in Japan"
Advisor: Nicholas Harkness
Noma-Reischauer Prize

Joshi ryoku (lit. ‘girl power’) has been gaining wide use since its first appearance in popular women’s magazines in the late 1990s and experienced its biggest boom in the mid-2000s when other mass communication outlets such as TV and radio started to pick up the phrase. Joshi ryoku has since outgrown its status as a buzzword and has become a seamless part of daily speech and interactions. Joshi ryoku is difficult to define succinctly as it is not limited to one use or definition. My thesis seeks to cover these daily, all too often overlooked expressions of joshi ryoku and analyze the ways in which the phrase would be used. In the process of defining joshi ryoku, my thesis fundamentally attempts to clarify the social, historical, and economic discourses and motivations  behind the expression as well as its role in reflecting contemporary Japanese society and in particular, modern views on femininity.

Alexia Zagouras (Kleinman & Sahay)

Alexia Zagouras: "Chimeric Knowledge and the Constructed Brain: An Ethnographic Account of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and an Examination of the Role of Klf9 in the Regulation of Activation and Quiescence of Neural Stem Cells in the Adult Hippocampus"
Advisors: Arthur Kleinman & Amar Sahay
Hoopes Prize Winner

This interdisciplinary thesis presents my research in the laboratory of Amar Sahay, a Principal Faculty Member at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), as well as an ethnographic study of the HSCI. Drawing upon methods and scholarship in anthropology, science and technology studies, and stem cell and regenerative biology, this project creates new “chimeric knowledge,” which both challenges and contributes to these disciplines. I begin by demonstrating the ways that sociopolitical landscapes have influenced research at the HSCI. Next, I examine how the “potential” of stem cell research is presented to the public and experienced by researchers. I then interrogate how laboratory methods, including my own, render and reconstruct the brain in ways that challenge our notions about the body and self. Finally, I transition from an anthropological discussion of laboratory methods to a presentation of my research and results, which indicate that the transcription factor Kruppel-like factor 9 may play a role in regulating the activity of neural stem cells in the adult mouse hippocampus. This interdisciplinary study positions my laboratory research and other work at the HSCI in a larger social context, in which processes of life and knowledge production are challenged both through scientific and anthropological inquiry.


Veronica Behrens (Tuross)

Veronica Behrens: "An Alternate Approach to Questionably Authentic Objects: An X-Ray Fluorescence Mineral Identification Study of Three Mesoamerican Mosaic Skulls"
Advisor: Tuross

As a group, the mosaic skulls of Mexico are strikingly understudied, largely because of their questionable authenticity.  This thesis aims to treat the mosaic skulls as objects worthy of rigorous academic study.  The bulk of my analysis focuses on three of the nineteen known mosaic skulls, the three housed at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C.  Many methods are ineffective for studying these three skulls due to their extensive restoration, and a mineral identification study of the mosaic tesserae is one of the few techniques that can provide meaningful information despite restoration.  Therefore, as part of this thesis, I use X-ray fluorescence spectrometry to conduct such a study.  The results reveal that the tesserae of the skulls are chemical turquoise, malachite, and Spondylus shell, all of which were available in ancient Mesoamerica and are frequently found in mosaics of known authenticity.  Although these results support the authenticity of the tesserae, this particular study says nothing about the authenticity of the integration of the tesserae and skulls as decorated objects.  I conclude that due to the extensive restoration of these three mosaic skulls, we will likely never know whether or not they are authentic.  Importantly, however, this does not mean that they should be fated to sit in museum storage.  Rather, these skulls and other forged or questionably authentic objects can be used as case studies to promote ‘virtual restoration’ and as fascinating tools in studying how opinions of past cultures have changed through time.

Athena Bowe (Li/Steedly)

Athena Bowe: "Changing the Channel: A Study of Audience Reception and Identity Formation of University Students in Shanghai"
Advisor: Li/Steedly

Through ethnographic fieldwork, this project seeks to better understand a complex generation of Chinese elite university students in Shanghai. Due to generational gaps with their parents, the unique position of China as a very newly minted world superpower, modern technologies, and strict governmental control of media, the television mediascape of China is particularly intriguing. By studying television-viewing practices of these future leaders I look to see what might be discovered from how they make use of this leisure time. In my first chapter I address the state pressures on how television is broadcast domestically, segments the market and causes students to use domestic television shows almost exclusively for re-envisioning China’s future in a new “Chinese Dream.” In the second chapter I look at how top-down economic, academic, and social pressures push many students to watch American and British television series. This chapter explores what it means to have it be demanded that you are culturally (and linguistically) fluent in a culture that is not your own, and whose country you may never want, or intend, to visit. Finally in the last chapter I investigate how the previously understood top-down influences create a space for regional television shows to fill a fantasy space of leisure for students. Neither forced, nor encouraged to watch them, I use melodramas from South Korea as a case study to understand how regional shows fill a gap in audiences viewing desires.

Domniki Georgopoulou (Herzfeld)

Domniki Georgopoulou: "The Harmony of Antithesis: Walking with Mathematicians in Greece and the US"
Advisor: Herzfeld
Hoopes Prize Winner

No one really knows what mathematics is about. The difficulty about studying it is that it goes much further than the physical world we are familiar with. I propose that we can overcome this obstacle by studying, instead of the mathematics, the experience of the people who practice it: mathematicians. Under that prism mathematics can, in fact, become familiar, without losing any of its innate strangeness. Through a series of interviews with professors in Greece (Athens and Patras) and the US (Cambridge), supplemented with conversations with students of mathematics, as well as classes, lectures, and seminars, I became aware of a chain of seemingly contradictory ideas that mathematicians manage to delicately balance. I have structured my thesis around these contradictions: how mathematics comes to be communally experienced as an individual relationship, how its truth-value is evaluated with aesthetic criteria, and how its method becomes the foundation of personal beliefs. The mathematical experience is a never-resolved, harmonious antithesis: it seamlessly transitions from the individual to the collective, the logical and the beautiful, the objective and the subjective, striking a perfect equilibrium. The common thread of these contradictions is that mathematicians experience mathematics as both transcendent and immanent.

Franklin Lee (Eckert/Harkness)

Franklin Lee: "Conception of “Heritage:” Registration of “Jeju Haenyeo Culture” onto the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List" Advisor: Eckert/Harkness

Can a group of women be preserved as a national treasure of a country? If so, how? My research aims to shed light on the meaning, significance, and tensions behind such ongoing cultural preservation processes today at local, regional, national, and international levels. Haenyo, Korean female-divers, in Jeju Island are known to dive into sea for over two minutes at a time to collect seaweed, abalone, and top shells to sell in the market. There were over 30,000 haenyo in the 1960s but now has decreased to a mere 5,000. Since 1988, South Korea joined the UNESCO program in an effort to preserve such national treasures around the world. My research is not limited to the study of cultural preservation within South Korea but extends beyond to the East Asian region and—if put even more broadly—cultural preservation processes occurring at global scales. While my focus is on the cultural preservation processes happening within a very particular context and location, the study of the divers actually provides readers a better understanding of how “culture” is defined by national and international organizations. My research on haenyo will not only add a new dimension to how culture and tradition are defined in South Korea but also tackle how local perspectives, regional conflicts, Korean-Japanese relations, and international affairs frame a much more nuanced picture of cultural preservation processes around the world.

Reed McConnell (Ahmed)

Reed McConnell: "Special Affects: An Examination of the Boston Marathon Bombing Lockdown through an Affective Lens"
Advisor: Ahmed

April 19, 2013 saw an event unprecedented in the history of the United States: the government locked down the entire Greater Boston area to enable a manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two major suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing case. While the lockdown technically extended throughout Greater Boston, the conditions in the small suburb of Watertown, where Tsarnaev was eventually discovered, represented an especially extreme departure from everyday life. In this honors thesis, I examine the emotional and affective dimensions of the experiences of Watertown residents during this lockdown in order to see what they can tell us about the workings of the post-9/11 security state on a micro-level. By focusing on fear, compassion, and the constellation of emotions and feeling that come with understandings of witnessing, and using the media produced during the lockdown as a non-traditional field site, I explore the way that the modern liberal subject is formed in the post-9/11 United States. To this end, I suggest that national security measures largely shape subject-formation by shaping emotion and feeling, and that this affective dimension of national security measures plays an important role in the extent to which such measures are understood to be justified. Because of their importance to subject-formation, then, I suggest that landscapes of feeling and emotion may serve as key sites for the contestation of the current U.S. security regime.

Samantha Noh (Capone)

Samantha Noh: "Protection and Destruction of Cultural Heritage: the Legacy of American Occupation and the Korean War"
Advisor: Capone

Recent news on the destruction and looting of cultural property has garnered interest on the effects of armed conflict on cultural heritage and the international art market. This growing interest has made evident the lack of research on the impact of Korea’s post-liberation turmoil, namely the American Occupation and the Korean War; this thesis explores the effects of such political unrest and armed conflict on later cultural heritage management policies and the international proliferation of Korean cultural objects. The first half of the study criticizes the direct comparison between the Japanese colonial system of cultural heritage management and the current system in South Korea. This section looks at the military policies implemented during the American Occupation and Korean War, recognizing the Cold War politics that enabled and sustained the neglect of cultural objects and monuments protection. The second half of this paper identifies the relationship between the Occupation and the war, as well as the post-war years, and the increase of Korean archaeological and cultural material on the international art market. Looking at the extensive growth of private collections and museum acquisitions following Korea’s political turmoil, this thesis reevaluates the legal and ethical ramifications of removals made during this period. 

Debbie Onuoha (Roupenian/Comaroff)

Debbie Onuoha: "Murky Waters on a Gold(en) Coast: Discourses of Pollution Along the Korle Lagoon, Accra, Ghana"
Advisors: Roupenian/Comaroff)
Hoopes Prize Winner

The Korle Lagoon is one of the largest and most polluted waterways in Accra, Ghana. This lagoon—where Accra began centuries earlier—is often tied to the fate of the city: for Accra to become world-class, many believe, the Korle must be restored. Popularly called ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’, the Old Fadama slum is largely blamed for destroying the lagoon. As a result, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) regularly undertakes ‘decongestion’—removal of informal settlers and traders—as essential for ecological recovery. Thus 100,000 of Accra’s poorest residents—predominantly Muslims from the Dagomba ethnic group in northern Ghana—are cast as pollutants to be removed. Scholars such as Douglas, Kristeva, Sibley and Pile maintain that such attempts to police dirt, symbolize a desire to maintain societal order.

Chapter One refutes assertions that settlement is recent and incompatible with the lagoon by outlining how the Korle has been implicated within socioeconomic developments throughout the city’s history. Chapter Two analyses how the language and imagery of pollution articulates and effects the marginalization of minorities from the urban landscape. And Chapter Three provides an alternate conceptualization of the Korle and Old Fadama by showing first that the slum is not (as is widely believed)  the main source of pollution to the lagoon, and also that activities in the slum help to mitigate waste along the Korle.

Ishani Premaratne (Kleinman)

Ishani Premaratne: "Playing Not to Lose: Women’s Healthcare Seeking Behaviors and their Conceptualization of Value within the Changing Healthcare Marketplace of the Sierra Madre Region of Chiapas, Mexico"
Advisor: Kleinman

The role of the market is inseparable from the political and biomedical forces at play within healthcare today. This study provides a critical exploration of the particular role of women as the stewards of healthcare for themselves and their families in the rural community of Honduras in the Sierra Madre region of Chiapas, Mexico. The author spent 3.5 months living within this community in order to study the interactions between patients and their healthcare system as it changed before their eyes. The results of the study demonstrate that these women conceptualize value within their healthcare system in a fundamentally different way than do their counterparts in the United States. For the women of this community, the notion of “value” in healthcare is grounded in their ability to obtain medications, not in a diagnosis or advice from a medical professional. Thus, despite the fact that the medications that they purchase from traveling salesmen represent a significant financial burden, the women show more willingness to continue this practice as opposed to receiving free care from a recently established Partners in Health clinic. What may initially appear to be irrational healthcare-seeking behavior to the casual observer is undergirded by a highly ordered pattern of behavior that can be explained in terms of the fundamental divide between patients of this community and the outsider physicians who have established a clinic there. While the doctors are playing to win in the battle against illness, the women continue to purchase unproven medications simply in an effort not to lose.

Rachel Taylor (Steedly)

Rachel Taylor: "Posthumanism in the Sea King’s Palace: Jellyfish Imaginations and Encounters"
Advisor: Steedly
Hoopes Prize Winner

Though water has been referenced in anthropological literature for more than a century, maritime anthropology seldom considers the lives of creatures below the sea’s surface.  This thesis aims to broaden the boundaries of maritime and posthumanist studies by exploring human conceptualizations of and interactions with jellyfish.  I first examine the spectacular visual and physiological properties of jellyfish to argue that in attempting to fit the creatures into a framework of what an “animal” should be, they become increasingly alien.  Next, I describe instances of jellyfish proliferations, or “blooms,” during which the animals are seen as a single, malicious collective, as opposed to a collection of autonomous animals.  Finally, I present instances of jellyfish in science and art to assert that in these outwardly inclusive, inventive engagements with animals, jellies are detrimentally viewed as producers, not final goods themselves.  I argue in aquariums, venues sometimes associated with voyeurism and exploitation, that jellyfish are respectfully recognized as agentive, worthwhile beings.  My central claim is that a “critical distance” must be maintained when confronting jellyfish: we cannot expect properties of them as animals, and we cannot preconceive what our interactions with them should be like.  Furthermore, seemingly progressive engagements with animals should not be accepted as necessarily forward-moving along the scale of imaginative nature/culture relations.  Rather, we should interrogate what such processes announce about the animal and how we may engage with it.

Rose-Ann Thomas (Kleinman)

Rose-Ann Thomas: "Protecting Oneself: How Resident Physicians Navigate Priorities, Pressures, and Expectations within a Chinese Hospital"
Advisor: Kleinman

Through a combination of archival research and ethnographic accounts from a hospital in southern China, this thesis examines the motivations and methods that resident physicians employ in navigating the complex web of challenges, responsibilities, and priorities that come with practicing Western medicine in China today. To do this, the thesis dissects the salient factors that have shaped the patient-physician relationship, the hospital environment, and current perceptions of Chinese physicians among ordinary Chinese. Paying careful attention to the evolution of Western medicine, medical laws, and medical education in China, and balancing these against physicians’ and patients’ shifting and increasingly divergent moral expectations of the medical field, this thesis concludes that recent changes in the political economic environment in China have resulted in a moral clash of expectations between the two groups, in turn leaving Chinese doctors feeling owed a moral debt. The resulting tension has shaped an increasingly hostile environment in which physicians pave ways to secure the compensation they feel entitled to. This thesis adds to both the study of China and medical anthropology, casting doctors as agents that consciously influence their career environment despite constraints levied by the legal, professional, and sociocultural backdrop of the hospital. It engages with the effects of China's neoliberal political economy and analyzes the patient-physician relationship through observed interactions, conversations, and behaviors at the hospital. Most importantly, this thesis paints the patient-physician relationship and doctors' navigation of China’s healthcare system in moral terms, and illustrates the very real stakes of China’s shifting moral environment.

Anneli Tostar (Subramanian)

Anneli Tostar: "Bodies in the Street: Social Mobility and Spatial Segregation in São Paulo, Brazil"
Advisor: Subramanian

In June 2013, protests all over Brazil against an eight-cent hike in bus fares escalated to international attention. In São Paulo, along with the demands to lower the fares came many grievances, but the primary themes were centered around inadequacies in the transportation sector. Astonishing for some, the government of São Paulo not only stabilized the tariff at its previous price but also took measures to improve the quality of and access to public transportation through implementing segregated bus lanes, having a more open dialogue with cyclists, and opening up bus company data. However, the demand and response were not a 'freak incident,' but rather came in tandem with a wider cultural shift towards improving mobility for all residents of the city.

This thesis looks at how physical mobility is both a symbol of and a means to social mobility. It looks at how access to the city has come to be seen as a basic right by both poorer residents and the middle class, subverting previous notions of segregation, fortification, and neglect that have come to characterize a metropolis with extreme disparities in wealth and political influence. It maintains that the aesthetic of mobility is slowly beginning to replace the former aesthetic of stasis and isolation for the younger generation, which has lent itself to greater political engagement and communication between different strata of citizens. Ultimately, this thesis explores a pivot in the urban narrative that places greater value on equity and access than in the past decade.

Dilia Zwart (Kleinman)

Dilia Zwart: "City of Symbols: Reimagining the Public Sphere Through “in between” Spaces in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina"
Advisor: Kleinman
Hoopes Prize Winner

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) is a city of spatial and social symbols. Its architecture and social layout represent the rich cultural heritages of both the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires as well as the multi-ethnic social fabric of the socialist Yugoslavia. Since the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the ensuing violent war in BiH, Mostar has also been characterized as a “microcosm” of ethnically divided BiH, with Catholic Croats in west Mostar and Muslim Bosniaks in east Mostar. My thesis challenges ethnic and spatial binaries attributed to Mostar by exploring “in-between” spaces and counterpublics, produced by citizens who desire alternatives. By integrating theories of physical space and the public sphere, I investigate three key sites that transgress the formal, visible sites of the public sphere: the youth cultural center OKC Abrasevic (at once a café or site of apathy and an NGO or site of activism), the Mostar Gymnasium (the site of both integrated and segregated educational projects), and the Spanish Square (a site of protest). I argue that it is important to acknowledge these in-between spaces and alternative discourses for future reconciliation work in BiH and other post-conflict societies.


Kyra Anwi Atekwana: Toward a Theatrical Ethnography:  Musical Theater as Ethnography and Ethnography as Musical Theater (Caton/Rossoukh)

Katryna Cadle: Selling the Philippine Voice:  Vocal Adaptability and the Colonial History of Service in Philippine Call Centers (Harkness) - Hoopes Prize

Nicole Delany: Sneakerheads:  A Commodity’s Role in Identity Formation and Sociality in New York City (Ralph)

Hannah Donoghue: A Bioarchaeological Study of Medieval Human Skeletal Remains from western Iceland with comparison to northeastern Iceland and Ireland (Morgan)

Mackenzie Sterling Hild: Walking in Beauty:  Navajo Women Navigate Tensions between Tradition and Modernity Within Healing Systems (Kleinman) - Ethnic Studies Prize

Angela Lee: Body Talk:  Navigating Silences and Belonging in Eating Disorder Treatment (Kleinman/Lee)

Emily Lowe: From Sunda to Sahul: Implications of Sea Level Changes for Human Dispersal across Wallacea (Mitrovica/Meadow/Tryon)

Sheba Mathew: Aid and AIDS:  Transnational Governmentality and New Subjectivities in Contemporary South Africa - Hoopes Prize

Leila Lakshmi Pirbay: The Subject Formation of Businesswomen Given a Gendered Notion of ‘Success’ at Harvard and Beyond (Rossoukh)

Marta Stevanovic: The Reciprocal Relationship between Microbially-Rich Soil Environments and Bone and Plant Remains (Tuross/Meadow)


Katie Louise Gallogly-Swan: ’Real’ Scottish: Emergent Voices in a Musical Community in Glasgow (Harkness)  - Hoopes Prize

Ruth Goins: What’s Harappan-ing? Computational Linguistics and the Indus Script (Meadow)

Noah S. Guiney: Sounds of the Iranian Diaspora: Fusion Music and Exclusionary Practice in Canada’s City of Diversity (Caton) - Hoopes Prize

Elizabeth Hoffman: World Heritage at a National Icon: Combining Archaeology and African-American Interpretive Programs at Colonial Williamsburg (Hodge)

Lillian Morgan Kivel: Education of the Excluded: Adoption of State Ideology in Schools for Children of Chinese Migrants in Beijing (Greenhalgh)

Sydnie Leroy: Rocks of Ages: A Use-Wear and Typological Analysis of the Groudstone Collection from The Pre-Pottery Neolithic A at el-Hemmeh, Jordan (Meadow)

Andrew Lorey: Parsing the Production and Distribution of Moche Ceramics: A Chemical Characterization Study Using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) Spectrometry (Quilter)

 Daniel Keo Okubo: The Fiscal Health Vital Signs: An ethnography of a non-medical approach to improving health in Codman Square (Kleinman)

Lauren Paul: ’They Keep German Alive’: The Expression of Exclusive Political Culture Among German Students (Herzfeld)

Dustin KG Poore: The Moral Career of an Economic Agent: An Inquiry into the World and Work of Call Center Debt Collectors (Ben-Yehoyada)

Bethany Potter:  Early Life in the Ancient Northeast: Investigations at a Paleoindian Occupation in the White Mountains (Liebmann)

Mehron Price: Nongovernmental Organizations and Street Children in Addis Ababa (Subramanian)

Annemarie Elise Ryu: Culture in the Clinic: Hmong Americans’ Experiences Navigating Conflicting Prescriptions (Kleinman) - Hoopes Prize & Ethnic Studies Prize

Katherine Elida Warren: Coming of Age in the Epidemic: Suicide and Adolescence in a Tribal Nation (Kleinman) - Hoopes Prize & Ethnic Studies Thesis Prize


Honors Concentration Requirements

For Archaeology honors candidates (12 courses)

  1. Basic Concentation Requirements
  2. ANTH 99z: Thesis Tutorial in Anthropology, a full-year research and writing course, culminating in the submission of a senior thesis and related poster, followed by an oral presentation of and examination on the thesis.

For Social Anthropology honors candidates (12 courses)

  1. Basic Concentration Requirements
  2. ANTH 99z: Thesis Tutorial in Anthropology, a full-year writing workshop, culminating in the submission of a senior thesis and an oral thesis examination.

Non-Thesis Track (10 courses)
All graduating seniors in Social Anthropology who are not thesis candidates may be considered for a non-thesis honors recommendation of Honors, provided that their concentration grade point averages calculated at the end of their next to last terms are among the highest twenty-five percent of non-thesis candidates in their graduating class in Social Anthropology. To be considered for a High or Highest Honors recommendation in Anthropology, a student must complete a thesis, in addition to the requirements specified above.

For Combined Archaeology and Social Anthropology honors candidates
Non-thesis honors is not available to students doing a combined concentration in Archaeology and Social Anthropology. These students may pursue honors via the thesis track of the program that best fits the primary orientation of their thesis project.