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For completed Poverty & Equity projects click here.

Social and Cultural Drivers of Assistive Device Design and Re-Design for People Living in Low-Resource Settings

Vaia Sigounas and Peter Redfild–PIs. This project examines how engineers and prosthetic device makers in high-resource settings design and develop medical assistive devices intended for recipients in low-resource settings. In turn, it also seeks to understand how intended recipients – in this case, people who have sustained amputation in Uganda – attempt to improve their economic prospects, social relationships and self-efficacy by acquiring, transforming and using different types of assistive devices. Historically, inventive people in low-income countries hack donated assistive devices or develop their own. Recently, however, there has been a drive on the part of industry and professional schools in high-resource settings to design assistive devices specifically for people living in low-resource settings. In designing for this market, engineers and device makers often modify standard prototypes by taking the cost of materials into account and simplifying products for ease of application, use and repair. However, people worldwide who have sustained amputation seek devices to solve more than just their mobility problems. In Uganda, for example, they must obtain or devise resources to help them address the negative impact of disability on their identities, social relationships, and financial stability, and they engage in embodied socialities, where their disabilities extend beyond physical impairments to influence social relationships.

Staying Cool in Bahrain: Heat, Air-Conditioning and Everyday Comfort

Marwa Koheji and Margaret Joyce Wiener–PIs. The growing popularity of mechanical cooling makes understanding the relation between human bodies and their environments increasingly important. This project addresses this phenomenon by investigating how air-conditioning becomes integrated into, and orients, class and gender practices and relations in Bahrain. Bahrain is known for its hot and long summers, when most people use air-conditioning to cool themselves. Today, the air-conditioning load constitutes up to 60% of the total domestic consumption of electricity. While explanations surrounding the use of air-conditioning often presumes high temperatures to be the primary factor that motivates the adoption of this machine, this project complicates these accounts by investigating how this device becomes implicated in and reconfigures the social practices and relations that pertain to class and gender. It asks: How does air-conditioning shape and reconfigure class and gender practices and relations? To explore these questions, this project relies on historical and ethnographic methods to investigate three empirical domains: the material forms and infrastructure of air-conditioning, the history of air-conditioning in Bahrain, and everyday experiences of cooling and heat exposure among low, middle and high-income Bahraini families.

Investigating Transitions in Agricultural Livelihoods: Global Change, Response Diversity and Local Food Production in Dominica

Samantha King and Colin Thor West–PI. This project investigates how rural households in the Commonwealth of Dominica continue to cultivate sustainable livelihoods from farming amidst complex dynamics of global economic and environmental change.

Caregiving Kids: Understanding the Identities and Everyday Spaces of Youth Who Are Family Caregivers in the U.S.

Elizabeth Olson–PI. This project seeks to conduct transformative research in collaboration with youth caregivers (also “young carers”), or children and young people under the age of 18 who assume caring responsibilities in their home or a nearby home. Children and adolescents are unrecognized participants in the informal, unwaged family caregiving that millions of Americans undertake to sustain their family members daily. Youth caregivers take on a range of roles when supporting a parent, guardian, relative or sibling who is chronically ill, disabled, has a mental health problem or other medically-related condition that requires support for everyday activities. Their caregiving work ranges from supporting activities of daily living (ADLs), such as dressing, bathing and eating, to activities instrumental to daily living (AIDLs) such as shopping, transportation or administering medicine. Some young people may be secondary caregivers, while others might be primary caregivers and largely responsible for the well-being of one or more family members. A 2004 survey estimated that at least 1.3 million young people regularly provide care of this kind in the U.S., with some young people providing over 40 hours of caregiving each week. There is evidence that youth caregivers experience systematic barriers to education, mental and physical health problems, and restricted employment and educational options during transitions to adulthood and throughout the life course, and also indications that other youth caregivers acquire skills related to resilience and empathy over time. However, youth caregivers are conspicuously absent from research on the emerging caregiving crisis in the U.S. They are also not recognized by professionals who work with youth, including pediatricians, social workers and teachers, and are excluded from caregiver support programs by virtue of being under the age of 18. This project will produce and promote qualitative research to influence interdisciplinary debates about the science and politics of caregiving youth, with new theoretical frameworks and empirical insights for U.S. research, and new geographical methodologies for emerging international agendas.

Democracy, Human Rights and Governance Revisited

Brigitte Zimmerman–PI. In this project, a team of 12 affiliates of the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Project will produce a set of research and policy deliverables for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). V-Dem has built up a world-leading research infrastructure for collection, curation and aggregation of expert-based data on democracy, human rights and governance (DRG) and is the largest data provider of its kind with more than 350 indicators and 50 indices capturing the various dimensions in these areas. The project will result in five research papers addressing priority DRG issues, including in the areas of closing democratic space, anti-corruption, human rights, female empowerment and development. The project will also produce four data portraits on priority countries for USAID DRG assistance that will outline and analyze the development trends of the main components of democracy from 1974 to 2017. Similarly, the project will involve five regional analyses – one for each USAID geographic region (Latin America/Caribbean, Europe and Eurasia, Middle East/North Africa, Africa and Asia) – that will summarize regional trends in democratic, governance and human rights institutions across multiple indicators from 1974 to 2017. A final set of deliverables is developing data-driven customized applications for easy-to-use data simulations that can be used by DRG officers and other scholars and practitioners.

Planning for India’s Urban Century: Urban Innovations and The Search for SMART Alternatives to Business-as-usual Urbanization

Meenu Tewari–PI. India is facing immense urban development challenges, and therefore important and exciting opportunities. During the next two decades India’s urban population is expected to double to 600 million, when this shift is completed nearly 1 in 2 Indians will live in cities. To support this transition, and ensure that economically successful, climate safe and livable cities are fostered as India urbanizes, an extensive body of new research will be needed to influence plans and policy-making. This research proposes to take advantage of advances in geospatial data, and for the first time combine it with on the ground econometric analysis, as well as case studies, to analyze urban growth patterns, their drivers and assess their costs. The research will analyze, assess and maps out the patterns of India’s urbanization and critically analyze the economic, social and environmental costs of business-as-usual urbanization in India. This evidence will provide insights into the benefits of smarter urban development, including proposing innovative approaches towards encouraging more compact and connected urban growth that can support economic development, reduce poverty and cut down carbon emissions.

Chokepoints: A Comparative Global Ethnograph

Townsend Middleton–PI. This project brings together social scientists from anthropology, geography and sociology to examine chokepoints–canals, tunnels, pipelines, geopolitical corridors, etc–from around the world. Chokepoints are sites that constrict–or ‘choke’–the flow of information, bodies, and goods due to their natural and anthropogenic qualities. They are, by definition, integral yet difficult to bypass. These bottlenecks accordingly funnel the movements of capital, commodities and populations in ways that ripple far beyond their immediate surrounds. The project will send six established ethnographers to six corresponding chokepoints to conduct 2-4 months of concentrated research. Fieldwork will be conducted in the summer of 2016, with the team convening for a workshop that will lead to individual and collaborative publications (peer-reviewed journal articles, an edited volume and a website) in 2017 and early 2018. Our mission is to define the problem and intellectual field of chokepoints through rigorous ethnographic and interdisciplinary inquiry. Doing so, the Chokepoints Collective aims to develop analytics of vital interest to a number of scholarly disciplines–and, more importantly, to a range of contemporary global concerns.