NSF Grant Funds Student Anthropology Research in Europe

Anthropologists Jacqueline Urla and Krista Harper

The anthropology department has been awarded a $249,861 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to implement a three-year international research experience for students who will conduct fieldwork in Europe.

Under the direction of under the direction of associate professor Krista Harper and professor Jacqueline Urla, the Culture and Heritage in European Societies and Spaces (CHESS) project, will provide early-career research experience for 15 undergraduate and graduate students from UMass Amherst and the Five Colleges in collaboration with the department of anthropological sciences at the University of Barcelona in Spain. In the spring 2014 semester, student researchers conduct fieldwork at sites in Spain, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Italy, Iceland and the former Soviet Union. Urla , an expert on Basque language revitalization and activism, will serve as field supervisor for the students.

Each year of the training program, a faculty supervisor will lead a cohort of five students through the process of designing and conducting field research projects organized around a central research stream. In the first year, they focus will be on “Crisis, Culture, and Heritage,” followed by “Sustainable Heritage, Communities, and Economies” in year two and “Social Justice and Changing Forms of Value” in 2015-16. By developing projects in relation to a central set of research questions, say Harper and Urla, students will contribute to three key areas of inquiry for global, comparative investigation of cultural heritage as a site of contestation, conflict and cohesion. The program provides an integrative framework for an ethnographic field school that will draw the participation of students across the four subfields of anthropology—cultural, linguistic, archaeological, and biological—and serve as a model for interdisciplinary teambuilding.

Students are trained in a three-semester course series that includes a fall semester ethnographic research design and methods seminar and an international workshop to be held on campus, a spring semester program requiring field research in Europe and a workshop at the University of Barcelona, and a fall semester capstone seminar on the management, analysis, presentation and writing up of field research. The NSF grant provides travel funding, workshop expenses, and stipends for participating students’ fieldwork.

This NSF-funded project builds upon the success of the 2010-13 NSF-funded CHESS program. Over the past three years, the program has trained 15 students, launching them into independent field research projects in Europe and establishing collaboration with faculty and student the University of Barcelona. CHESS students have presented their initial research findings at departmental colloquia and international conferences and have developed their grant-seeking, research and writing abilities, according to Urla and Harper. The project also builds on the strengths of the department of anthropology’s European field studies program, with more than 40 years of experience in preparing students for successful anthropological field research experiences in Europe .

The for Heritage and Society, directed by professor Elizabeth Chilton, collaborated with Harper and Urla to build the international institutional partnership. Participating students will draw from a team of 10 faculty mentors at UMass and in Barcelona, as well as the institutional resources of the Libraries and the Five Colleges, Inc.