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Spring 2021 SBSRI Awards Announced

The Social and Behavioral Science Research Institute in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences has released the list of Summer 2021 awardees. Congratulations to Ziya Kaya, who is an SBSRI Pre-Doctoral Research Award Awardee; Sarah Renkert and Kayla Worthy, who received SBSRI Dissertation Research Grants; and Assistant Research Professor François B. Lanoë (Ph.D. Arizona, 2017), who was awarded a Faculty Small Grant! Titles and abstracts for all four projects appear below.

Ziya Kaya, Digitizing Agriculture: The Impacts of Digital Farming on Farmers’ Livelihoods and Know-how in Turkey

Abstract: Since the 2010s Turkey has been one of several countries that have undertaken projects for the “digitization” of agricultural production, distribution and marketing alongside its financialization (mostly credits and loans). These projects seek increased efficiency (more food from less land) in agriculture through sensors and “big data” algorithms. Between May 20-August 20, 2021, I will conduct pre-dissertation virtual fieldwork with farmers, scientists, engineers, and experts in a digital farming company. I will question the articulation of long-standing farming know-how with the digital data-driven agriculture technologies and its impact on the farmers’ livelihoods.

Sarah Renkert, The Right to Cook Together: Food Aid and Kitchen Controversies

Abstract: Across Lima, Perú, thousands of women (socias) volunteer to cook lunches in comedores populares(communal kitchens), a government-subsidized food aid program. Meals are sold to fellow socias for an affordable price and all revenue is invested in the next day’s meal. On the days a socia cooks, she takes home a free meal for her family. In Huaycán, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Lima, comedores are closing down. While the reasons comedores are closing are multifaceted, socias across Huaycán’s remaining comedores are determined to keep their kitchens open. In the face of government and community pressure, this research asks, why do socias engage in an ongoing effort to keep their comedores open?

Drawing on dissertation fieldwork cut short by COVID-19, my preliminary analysis points to two important factors, 1) the comedores continue to alleviate economic vulnerability, and 2) the comedores serve as a safe social space, where socias are able to support one another while enjoying shared meals. However, it is unclear how the comedores have been impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic. After being closed for more than four months during a nationwide lockdown, comedores where I initially completed research have struggled to reopen and continue cooking. Meanwhile, the Municipality has been opening new comedores across Huaycán, which appear to be thriving. This research seeks to understand the different circumstances confronting socias from these comedores within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding these differences is key to both supporting comedor socias and preparing for future, long-term calamities which may again destabilize community food security.

Kayla Worthy, Environmental context of early ornament use during the Moroccan Middle Stone Age

Abstract: Morocco has recently become recognized as a center for early evidence of symbolic behavior among Homo sapiens due to findings of some of the earliest known ornaments, dated to more than 100 thousand years ago. This project seeks to provide paleoenvironmental contexts for the appearance, sustained use, and disappearance of marine shell beads at the Moroccan archaeological sites of Bizmoune, Taforalt, El Harhoura 2, and El Mnasra. Specifically, I will test whether the intervals in which shell beads were used correspond to particularly wet or dry periods. If a pattern is found, this would indicate that environment may have had a role in establishing favorable conditions for the development and proliferation of shell bead ornament use in the archaeological record of Morocco. If not, it will indicate that other factors were likely more important. This research will serve as a first step towards identifying the contexts in which unique, “modern” cultural practices fluoresced in Northwest Africa. Paleoenvironmental reconstruction will be based on several proxies, including analysis of stable isotopes (δ13C and δ18O) in mammal and mollusk remains and the δ13C values of leaf wax biomarkers (n-alkanes) preserved in site sediments, a novel technique in archaeological research for understanding past environments.

François B. Lanoë, Neanderthal Megafauna Hunting under the English Channel

Abstract: Neanderthal extinction and replacement by modern humans remains a contentious topic, in a large part because of our poor understanding of Neanderthal lifeways and their ecological significance. Some archaeological models for instance posit that Neanderthals were somewhat “affluent” hunter-gatherers whom modern humans would not have easily outcompeted. Testing those models presents a major challenge as much of the evidence of Neanderthal behavior is gone or inaccessible to archaeologists. This project proposes to test the applicability of strontium stable isotope analysis to investigate Neanderthal economy in one such inaccessible landscape, the now-submerged southwestern English Channel (NW France and Channel Islands). Strontium isotope will be used to characterize the ecology of Neanderthal preys and combined with zooarchaeological data to test the regional model of Neanderthal economy. Funding is here requested for a methodology-oriented pilot study focusing on samples from a single archaeological locale. It will be used to apply for funding for a larger project with regional and diachronic perspectives, that may make a significant contribution to ongoing debates about Neanderthal extinction and what it means to be human.

Anthro News Digest date: 04/09/2021