Asami Nago, Graduate Student at the Department of Anthropology of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa received a Travel Grant from the East-West Center Alumni Association to help her attend the National Science Foundation-Summer Institute for Research Design in Cultural Anthropology (NSF-SIRD) from July 19th to August 7th 2010 in Beaufort, North Carolina.
Here’s Asami’s report from her experience.
El Asami Nago
EWCA Summer Travel Award
August 12, 2010
First of all, I would like to thank the East-West Center Alumni Association and EWCA Hawaii Chapter for giving me a great opportunity to attend a workshop in North Carolina this summer. Without this generous help, I would not have been able to have experiences of learning research methods in cultural anthropology which are not offered at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and meeting with young colleagues and acknowledged professors in my academic field.
I have attended National Science Foundation-Summer Institute for Research Design in Cultural Anthropology (NSF-SIRD) from July 19th to August 7th 2010 in Beaufort, North Carolina. The objectives of the SIRD workshop are: to acquire skills to develop research design; to acquire basic research methods of both quantitative and qualitative methodologies in cultural anthropology: to write a scientifically well-conceived grant proposal; to develop skills how to solve the research questions by combining theories and methods learned through the courses.
The workshop place was at Duke University Marine Lab. It was on a very small island surrounded by beautiful Atlantic Ocean and we camped at a white double-wide camping deck standing right on the ocean side. In total, we had 16 graduate students who major in cultural anthropology from all over the United States and three well-acknowledged professors. Among the students, some have already lived in the field areas and they already had clear ideas for their research plans. But all participants were at more or less similar stage; we were preparing for comprehensive examinations and writing a grant proposal in order to conduct a Ph.D. dissertational fieldwork. During the first and second weekends, we could go to the nearby sand islands by canoe and do fishing beside our camping dorm. However, sadly, we did not have any break on the third week because we had to work very hard literally from dawn to dusk to meet all deadlines. But through the solidarity, we could develop a strong bond in our SIRD group.
From the SIRD courses, not only could I develop the great friendships, but also learned quite a few new research methods which I have never heard before. I have never taken any quantitative method course in cultural anthropology at the UHM since they do not offer a statistical method course and the majority of cultural anthropologists at the UHM do not deal with numerical data. However, from the SIRD, I learned that I could measure cultural beliefs and human behaviors which, cultural anthropologist often explicate by “thick description” which was suggested by one of the great modern anthropologists, Clifford Geertz.
In my Ph.D. dissertation study, “The local perceptions of malaria and health-seeking behaviors among the Karen in Western Thailand”, I will combine both qualitative and quantitative methods by conducting non-structural interviews and questionnaires. I need the combined methods to analyze how much the cultural consensus model is shared by the group, and what other factors that affect health-seeking behaviors beside cultural factors need to be considered. I still feel that I need to learn basic knowledge of the method skills and need hands-on experience of operating software.
The SIRD courses opened my eyes to a new world of the cross-section between cultural anthropology and public health disciplines. I will be going to take a research statistic course at the UHM for the Fall semester in 2010 and use the methods I learned for the fieldwork in Thailand next year. I believe that my study which uses cognitive and statistical analyses will contribute to the better understanding of the border health situation among ethnic minority groups in Southeast Asia. I also hope that my Ph.D. study which focuses in medical anthropological theories and combined methods will contribute to the East-West Center research community.
- Read more reports from the Summer Travel Grant
- Learn more about the Natural Science Foundation – Summer Institute for Research Design in Cultural Anthropology