NSF International Grant Awarded to Anthropologists for CHESS

Jacqueline Urla and Krista Harper
Eleanor Finley
Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A $249,861 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) has come to anthropologists Krista Harper and Jacqueline Urla to implement "Culture and Heritage in European Societies and Spaces (CHESS)," an International Research Experience for Students (IRES) project, for another three years. The CHESS project (award #IIA-1261172) will provide an early-career research experience for fifteen undergraduate and graduate students from UMass Amherst and the Five Colleges consortium in collaboration with the Department of Anthropological Sciences at the University of Barcelona in Spain. This spring semester, student researchers in the 2013-14 cohort will participate, conducting 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.

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: 1) "Crisis, Culture, and Heritage" (2013-14), 2) "Sustainable Heritage, Communities, and Economies" (2014-15), and 3) "Social Justice and Changing Forms of Value" (2015-16). By developing projects in relation to a central set of research questions, 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 team building.

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 at UMass, 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 2010-2013 NSF-funded CHESS program (OISE-0968575). That program launched fifteen students into independent field research projects in Europe and established 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. The project also builds on the strengths of the UMass Department of Anthropology's European Field Studies Program, with over 40 years of experience in preparing students for successful anthropological field research experiences in Europe. The UMass Center for Heritage and Society, directed by Prof. Elizabeth Chilton, collaborated with the PIs to build the international institutional partnership. Participating students will draw from a team of ten faculty mentors at UMass and in Barcelona, as well as the institutional resources of the UMass Amherst Libraries and the Five Colleges, Inc. 

Co-PI Harper is an associate professor in the UMass Amherst Department of Anthropology and the Center for Public Policy and Administration (CPPA), and she serves as Director of the European Field Studies Program.  Co-PI Urla is a full professor in the UMass Amherst Department of Anthropology and the Director of the UMass Modern European Studies Program.  Karen Mason, ISSR's Grants Manager, and anthropology graduate student Dana Johnson facilitated the grant submission process. 

For more information, please contact Harper or visit the CHESS website.