Student Research Blog


Institutionalizing Incorporation: Foodways, Sectarian Pluralism, and Royal Authority at the Capital Āśramas of Angkor, Cambodia

Through the generous support of a Division of the Social Sciences Short-Term Research Grant, I was able to successfully complete the last phase of my dissertation fieldwork at archaeological sites in northwestern Cambodia.  Centered in the ancient royal capital of Angkor, my research consists in the use of archaeological and paleoethnobotanical analyses to investigate the dynamics of religious institutionalization and the politics of kingly patronage through the medium of foodways at royal hermitages, or āśramas, during the incipient phase of the Khmer Empire dating to the late 9th


Forming Impressions of Others Varying on Financial and Moral Status: An fMRI Investigation of Status-Based Person Evaluation

Non-humans and humans alike structure their societies on the basis of hierarchies, with social status as one of the main elements.


A Stranger in a Strangely Familiar Land

Although I have studied Chinese for the better part of a decade, my life situation had colluded to prevent me from visiting China. Finally, this fall, I was able to visit Beijing, and see the country I spent so much time studying. Although I never felt Chinese, I was surprised at how "non-foreign" my surroundings felt as I strolled around the alleys of this ancient city. The sights, sounds and especially smells were different than anything you would find anywhere else, and yet I was comfortable there.


Mindfulness and Happiness in America

During the past twenty years, there has been an explosion of scientific interest in the topic of “happiness” in the form of research on what is called “subjective well-being” (or SWB for short). Not only has the turn of the century seen the development of hedonomics, positive psychology and the neuroscience of happiness, but it has also witnessed the emergence of various statistical measures of well-being, or “gross national happiness” indices as they are also called.


The Flying Spaghetti Monster, Atheists and the Bible Belt

It came around the corner, its googly eyes scanning the crowd and its noodly appendages hanging free. The creature’s rosy meatball cheeks proclaimed its pleasure at the event’s success to the hundreds of admirers along the parade route.  Escorted by few dozen members of a local atheist organization, several holding pro-LGBT signs and banners, the Flying Spaghetti Monster had arrived at the Pride Parade in this conservative Bible Belt city.


Rediscovering Dejima: My journey through early modern Japan’s window to the West

The little-known artificial island of Dejima often surprises people.  Though the “opening” of Japan to the West is popularly regarded as the arrival of American Commodore Perry’s steam-powered gunships at Tokyo Bay in 1853, Dejima proves Westerners were welcomed in Japan long before Perry.  Ever since I first learned of Dejima, I have been fascinated by this intriguing site that can expand our understanding of early global commerce from a non-colonial perspective.


Billable Services and the ‘Therapeutic Fee'

In response to soaring depression rates, United States public health officials have expressed a commitment to understanding mood disorders as diseases of the brain. This biomedical framing is believed to legitimize these mental illnesses as "real" diseases that warrant state attention. Indeed, an influential commentary by the director of the National Institute of Mental Health argued: “psychiatry’s impact on public health will require that mental disorders be understood and treated as brain disorders” (Insel & Quirion, 2005, p. 2221, my emphasis).


"Learning Between the Cracks": My Research at Hindu Summer Camps

The puja room, or worship room, at Hindu Camp was housed in a converted cabin. There were mats on the floor for the nearly 100 campers, counselors, and volunteers to sit comfortably. Before entering the prayer room, the campers dutifully removed their shoes to show reverence for the gods, and arranged the shoes haphazardly around the entrance. As soon as puja, worship, ended, there would be a mad dash, a scuttle of sandals, and a whirl of anxiety as campers attempted to grab and affix the correct shoes in time to catch up with their counselors and head off to their next activities.


Studying Genomics as Science, Industry and Culture

My dissertation is an ethnographic study of frontier genomic culture in California. Genomic technologies promise rationalizing, predictive capacities. Beyond these aims, they produce new problems of interpretation and futures of variously implicated subjects. My project assesses how the biomedical and biometric assertions of genomics – such as medicine ‘personalized’ for individuals – play out vis-à-vis its everyday uses, values, and implications.


Subjects of Justice: Representing Animals in Dutch Legislature

My dissertation research is focused on the recent surge of interest in animals and animal rights, particularly with respect to how animal rights political parties deal with the challenges of representing nonhuman animals in the political arena. Unable to internalize social norms, nonhuman animals, we presume, have experiences that cannot be captured through standard conceptualizations of human subjective experience and viewpoints that cannot be neatly fitted into human legal, political, and ethical schemes.