Adam Zimmer, PhD student in Anthropology receives Leifur Eiriksson Foundation Scholarship
for pre-dissertation research
I completed my MA in anthropology in the spring of 2016 with the help of my graduate committee of Dr. Ventura Pérez, Dr. Amanda Walker Johnson, and Dr. Whitney Battle-Baptiste.
I am really lucky to have the support of this committee because they encouraged me to write a book chapter rather than a traditional thesis for my master’s so my work could be seen outside of the university archive. With funding from my NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, I was able to live in Washington, D.C and conduct the bulk of that research at the Smithsonian Institution’s Huntington Anatomical Collection. The result of that project is a new chapter in the Springer Press volume “Bioarchaeological Analyses and Bodies: New ways of knowing anatomical and skeletal collections”. In it, I talk about how the skeletons left over from cadaver collecting and anatomical research in the late 1800s can provide a window into the start of bigger societal issues in America like urban residential segregation and scientific racism.
I’ve been really interested to see how these same processes of cadaver collection played out in other urban environments. UMass happens to have a really great Scandinavian Studies program and a course I took with Dr. Frank Hugus in Old Norse language made me wonder how nations with a history of strong social welfare programs, like Iceland, might approach the issue. I decided to apply for a few different funding sources for my pre-dissertation work and got the Leifur Eíriksson Foundation scholarship. I’m really excited to receive it because it will enable me to spend a year in Reykjavik, Iceland. With the help of my Icelandic collaborators, my plan is to do both bioarchaeological and ethnographic research to see if those patterns of cadaver collection we see here in U.S. cities hold true in other places.
While I’ve been preparing for that research, I’ve been the lead instructor of Dr. Pérez’s summer field school in bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology. Teaching the field school has been really useful because it forces me to get out of “academic speak” and figure out how to talk about anthropological methods and theories with first-time learners. Along with some other side projects, I feel like these experiences are really preparing to engage in long-term, independent research that will hopefully lead to an interesting dissertation.