Undergraduate Grant Research Update

By Jessica Shakesprere, Undergraduate Student, The Ohio State University 

As a senior in the summer of 2017, I was given the opportunity to pursue an undergraduate research thesis with the assistance of Professor Jan Pierskalla in the Department of Political Science. I began my project with an inquiry of understanding the lasting impact of political violence on the psyche that went beyond visible-short term consequences. My background in Political Science and Biology with a concentration in Behavioral Neuroscience helped me understand how trauma is currently being narrated in these disciplines. I became invested in Sri Lanka as a case study as it is an understudied country concerning civil war violence. Moreover, given relatively recent political shifts within the country such as the change in political leadership in the 2015 General Election that “replaced” a government perpetrating state violence, this suggested evidence of political mobilization among Sri Lankan Tamils following the war. The diaspora is a new source of engagement in how political violence can having lasting impacts in new, foreign geographical spaces. To this end, I became interested in exploring the transmission of political violence across identities, attitudes, and behaviors in relation to political mobilization and social activism in the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora. This study aims to add to the existing literature on large-scale traumatic events and their lasting impacts on individuals across generations as well as inform readers on how to understand and describe the complex effects of trauma. This understanding of trauma is crucial for domestic and international efforts to effectively address the psychosocial impacts of trauma in post-war societies.

In order to study the possible link between direct exposure to violence and prosocial behavior, my specific goals are to 1) determine if civil war violence has an effect on prosocial behavior in second-generation Sri Lankans in the Western diaspora 2) unpack the mechanisms of transmission of civil war violence to sociopolitical engagement, and 3) determine if contextual factors such as the size of the local community or density of social networks in the diaspora condition this relationship. Through the course of this project, my main focus is to understand how this trauma affects second-generation offspring. Thus far, my research illustrates that individuals do not process or perceive trauma in a linear way such as via varying levels of exposure to violence. Rather, narratives of self in relation to history, community, psyche, and cosmos shape the present context of second-generation Sri Lankan Tamils in the diaspora. As a result, there are various reasons, some factors deriving as an effect of a traumatic experience, that lead to an individual’s sociopolitical engagement in their community.

Due to the generous grant sponsored by the Global Mobility Project at The Ohio State University, I helped advance my project by obtaining and accessing relevant archival data on political violence and trauma during the Sri Lankan Civil War. Moreover, I was able to connect with Dr. Daya Somasundaram, a senior professor of psychiatry, consultant psychiatrist, and leading researcher on trauma studies following the war in Sri Lanka. I was also able to conduct qualitative interviews with participants both within Columbus, Ohio and Toronto, Canada, the latter city holding the largest number of Sri Lankan immigrants from the diaspora. Through this, I was able to gain a diverse sample of participants but also hear from a multitude of perspectives in the diaspora. I have the utmost appreciation for the team coordinating the Global Mobility Project, and I am excited to see the progression of this project as I continue my research.

Research Update: The African Slave Trade, American Slaves, and the Migration of Black Mythology

by Carley Reinhard
Faculty Mentor: Stephanie Shaw

Professor Stephanie Shaw with Carley Reinhard at the Denman Forum

Having been awarded one of the Global Mobility Project undergraduate research grants, I was afforded the opportunity to conduct research at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. this summer. In the Rare Manuscripts Reading Room at the Library of Congress, I was able to retrieve documents from the Work Project Administration’s Federal


Writer’s Project papers, specifically interviews of former slaves completed during the late 1930s. Further, I was able to access secondary literature on both folktales and American slavery. In doing so, I completed the primary background research I needed to begin developing and writing my research paper on the migration of black mythology this fall. Professor Stephanie Shaw, my research advisor, also was able to come to D.C. and work with me for a few days thanks to the Global Mobility Project grant.

My research focuses on the mythology presented in many of these interviews. Hundreds of accounts detail the folktales that slaves grew up hearing in their communities. These folk stories reflect aspects of the larger development of African American culture, as well as how it evolved from the forced migrations of Africans to America and subsequent movement of African American slaves from the Upper-South to the Lower South and Southwest as slavery expanded across the United States. As people voluntarily leave a place or are involuntarily uprooted from their homelands, whether for economic, social political or environmental reasons, they bring their cultural heritage with them. Consequently, where these stories were continuously told and how they were adapted speaks to the survival of African culture in the diaspora as well as the development of African American culture.

Specifically, this research seeks to explore the mythology that traveled with these individuals. A group of these stories focused on the initial capture, the transportation (across the Atlantic), the enslavement, and any subsequent relocations they endured. These stories also focused on deception and power. The deception usually involved having been lured to a slave ship by the display of certain trinkets. Over time and across space, however, these stories changed and evolved based on new circumstances. They not only have survived the forced, transatlantic journey from Africa, but gained new significance and were readapted for new purposes within the United States. My research this summer, working directly with these narratives, laid the groundwork for this project.


The Madison Building (LOC) where Carley did the bulk of her research this summer

In September, I was fortunate to be able to present my research thus far at the Fall Denman Poster Forum. I am also applying to present my research at the AHA annual meeting in January, which would be an incredible opportunity to share my research with scholars. I am taking five credit hours in order to continue to develop my research into a paper. Ultimately, myproject will provide a more complete understanding of both the significance of African American folklore and how the international slave trade and subsequent migrations of slaves in the U.S. influenced black mythology across time, oceans, and continents.


Undergraduate Research/Faculty Mentorship Grants

The Global Mobility Project at Ohio State (#GlobalMobilityOSU) funded by the Humanities and Arts Discovery Theme invites applications for our grants programs for research and creative work on the topic of global mobility. We shall consider research and creative project proposals on all aspects of mobility and migration, regardless of geographical, historical, or thematic focus.  This semester, we are offering undergraduate/faculty mentorship grants (in collaboration with the Office of Undergraduate Research).  Our next deadline for Undergraduate/Faculty Mentor Grants is November 13, 2017.

Please check the following CFPs:

Global Mobility Undergraduate and Faculty Mentorship Grants


Spring 2017 Grant Recipients

Undergraduate Global Mobility Grant Recipients

Graduate Student Global Mobility Grant Recipients

Faculty Global Mobility Grant Recipients

Research Update: Citizenship and The Birthright Lottery

by Andreas Moghimi-Danesh 
Faculty Mentor: Alexander Wendt

As a sophomore in Spring of 2016, I was given the opportunity to begin developing an undergraduate research thesis with the assistance of Professor Alexander Wendt. While I began my research developing a constructivist theory of international relations with regards to Crimes Against Humanity, my research tangentially evolved into a research project on a completely different topic. After reading Ayalete Shachar’s book, The Birthright Lottery, which draws an analogy between most common routes to citizenship and inherited property, I was shocked by the economistic legal terms by which many human experiences are dictated. In search of a greater understanding of this phenomenon, I enrolled in Philosophy 3410, Philosophical Problems in Law, which specifically discussed various jurisprudential theories of property and the just acquisition of property. It was at that point when I decided to pursue developing a research thesis with regards to the jurisprudential implications of the movement of peoples across state borders and the institution of citizenship as a predominantly inherited property.

Thanks to the Global Mobility Project at The Ohio State University, I was able to pursue this interest to the highest level, as I was given the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. and work with various professors of law at the Georgetown University School of Law over the summer. My work with Professors Munshi and Luban not only gave me a wonderful opportunity to connect with two experts in the field, but also provided me invaluable advice and guidance in furthering my research aspirations. Additionally, throughout meetings with these law school professors, I had the opportunity to ask them all about their experiences with law school as well as my career goals of working in immigration and citizenship law. Again, I cannot begin to sufficiently express my gratitude to the Global Mobility Project as well as Professor Theodora Dragostinova, who connected me with the Global Mobility Project, for allowing me such an amazing opportunity to further my research and career goals.

Research Update – Nationality before Nationalism: Ethnic Politics, Geopolitics, and Sustainability of the Magyar Kingdom in the East

by George Andrei
Faculty Mentor: Nicholas Breyfogle

Panoramic from Citadel ruins (Râșnov Fortress, Brașov County). Photo by George Andrei

This honors-thesis project examines the migration and settlement of the Saxon “nationality” in the province of Transylvania within the Hungarian Kingdom from 1191 to 1400 (from just before the Mongol invasions (1241) to the middle of the Late Medieval Period). It attempts to understand the political and inter-ethnic effects of Saxon settlement in the context of the political, military, and social integration of Carpathian Transylvania into Hungary. The project analyzes how the Hungarian Kingdom utilized these relocated Saxons as an empire-building tool, allowing the Hungarian Kingdom to expand its empire. It also analyzes early governmental centralization efforts in Central- Eastern Europe by the Hungarian Kingdom. The differential utilization of different ethnicities became a significant topic at this time because religious differences between the Catholic Hungarian kings and the Orthodox Romanians played a part in the larger struggle for the dominance of Catholicism in Europe.

City wall of Sibiu (Sibiu County). Photo by George Andrei

This summer, I took an archival research trip to Sibiu, Romania, one of the first major administrative centers of the Transylvanian Saxons. Upon arrival to Sibiu, I met Prof. Dana Dogaru, professor of German at the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu and an expert on the Transylvanian Saxons, who agreed to help with my research.

My time in the archives was limited by a combination of national holidays and protests which delayed access to the archival materials until nearly the end of my trip; however, I spent several days in the archives and got what materials I could.  Luckily, I discovered that many of the documents have been digitized. Prof. Dogaru assisted me in learning how to read the centuries old, handwritten Saxon script. The time spent in the archives, though it was short, was incredibly useful, and now I have access to scanned original sources which I can (slowly) read.

While waiting for the archives to reopen following the unexpected closure, Prof. Dogaru allowed me to examine and photograph analytical works from her personal collection.  I also visited sites important to the Saxon settlement – such as Slimnic, Biertan, and Sighișoara – and collected texts from local historians to get a local view of events.  Some of the books I purchased include:

  • Geneza orașelor medievale în Transilvania (The Genesis of Medieval Cities in Transilvania) by Paul Niedermaier
  • Die Ansiedlung der Siebenbürger Sachsen (The Settlement of the Transylvanian Saxons) by Thomas Nägler
  • Hermannstadt (Sibiu) by Harald Roth

Fortified Church at Biertan (Sibiu County). Photo by George Andrei

Upon return to the United States, I collected additional materials from OSU’s outstanding library and Inter-Library Loan Services, and shifted my focus from gathering to analyzing.  I still have quite a bit to go.  I have been able to find, online, four volumes of published primary sources gathered by Saxons in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, titled Urkundenbuch zur Geschichte der Deutschen in Siebenbürgen.  They are divided into volumes based on the dates of the documents (going back almost a millennium) and attest to Saxon presences and colonization.

My thesis will explore Saxon colonization, the Mongol crisis (first Mongol invasion), rebuilding, the Second Mongol invasion (which took place in 1285 and was repelled), internal struggles, and the lasting impact of these events.


George Andrei with his faculty mentor, Nicholas Breyfogle, at the Fall Undergraduate Research Forum – Photo by Theodora Dragostinova

Skills Gained

There are two skills that I believe I have gained that will be invaluable to my future aspirations: (1) the ability to read hand-written medieval documents in the script of the Saxons and (2) the research method that I had constructed for myself.

The handwriting of the Saxon notaries, of course, varied greatly, but there were many patterns and symbols that one can only learn in-person with a professional. I am very thankful that Prof. Dogaru took time out of her busy schedule to come with me to the archive and instruct me in the script. Without her assistance, I would have been completely lost, for while the German was similar to modern German, the letter fonts and symbology were radically different. Very importantly, I know how to access scanned documents through the archive’s website.

The research method that I have come up with is more than just reading the sources. I have come up with a way of indexing the materials that I read and wish to use, noting content, page numbers, and personal comments/thought process at the time of reading and analysis. This enabled me to make connections between texts, both secondary and primary.

Fall Undergraduate Research Forum

Presented by OUR&CI and the University Libraries, the Fall Undergraduate Research Forum is a stepping stone to larger venues such as the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum.

The 2017 Fall Forum is scheduled for Thursday, September 14 in Thompson Library. The event is open to the general public.

Four students who are presenting at the Fall Undergraduate Research Forum participated in our Spring Undergraduate/Faculty-Mentor Grant Program.  Learn more about their projects below.

Gretchen Klingler

Session 1: 11:00am-12:15pm

Student Presenter: Gretchen Klingler
Booth Number: 40
Research Mentor: Jeffrey Cohen
Project Title: More Than Babel: Opening the Door to Iraqi Women’s Narratives on Migration, Assimilation and Hopes for the Future

Abstract: The President’s executive order regarding immigrants and refugees entering the United States from seven Muslim majority countries has been questioned heavily for the last 6 months. However, resettled families already in the United States continue to face a steady and increasing stream of xenophobic and anti-Islamic rhetoric. My work is centered specifically on Iraqi women as they confront life and establish themselves in the U.S. Building upon my


experiences as a translator during my time in Iraq, I have a unique opportunity to interview in both English and the Iraqi dialect of Arabic. My background knowledge and understanding of Iraqi culture facilitates my research and helps me build bridges with my informants. I have developed my project around my contacts in the Iraqi communities located in California Bay Area (San Francisco/Monterey), and Columbus and Dayton, Ohio. The research is framed within the theory of Feminist Anthropology, and Parin Dossa’s work with Iranian women in Canada (Politics and Poetics of Migration: Narratives of Iranian Women from the Diaspora (2004, Canadian Scholars Press)) guides my ethnographic study. I discern how women’s narratives differ in relation to their experiences and how their experiences fit into the larger social realities of settlement. How Iraqi women respond to their new and changing environment is at the center of my project. Are Iraqi women looking forward to the future? Are they taking new precautions as they adapt to increasing Islamophobia? Do they hope to return to more culturally traditional roles or do they look to embrace new opportunities and express their agency in new ways? More than storytellers managing their own lives, my discussion of how Iraqi women narrate their experiences in response to xenophobia will reflect their changing roles as women in their communities,

and the process of assimilation and settlement in the U.S.

Read Gretchen’s blog post about her summer research.

Andreas Moghimi-Danesh

Session 2: 1:00-2:15pm

Student Name: Andreas Moghimi-Danesh
Booth Number: 62
Research Mentor: Alexander Wendt
Project Title: Towards a Just Acquisition of Citizenship

Abstract: Despite widespread use of the term “citizenship,” there is much debate in the literature with regards to what citizenship entails and how exactly it is acquired. Legal scholars, philosophers, historians, and political scientists alike have all advanced arguments across their disciplines to either support or undermine different models of citizenship and citizenship acquisition. For example, while 97% of citizens obtain citizenship jus sanguinis or jus soli, meaning citizenship by right of blood and by right of soil, respectively, there exist many moral and legal objections to these models. In my research, I examine Ayalete Shachar’s The Birthright Lottery, which essentially serves as Shachar’s entry into this ideological race. Contrary to traditional definitions of citizenship, Ayalete Shachar’s The Birthright Lottery posits that citizenship is an inherited property. While this theory advances general moral theorizations and assessments of trends such as nativism, it fails to address the jurisprudential ramifications of labeling an entity such as citizenship as being property, specifically an inherited property. In pursuit of satiating the absence of a jurisprudential nexus in Shachar’s argument, this paper applies the logic of various legal theories of property to modern models of the just acquisition of citizenship. In doing so, this paper will demonstrate how Shachar’s taxonomization of citizenship as property is an equivocation with dangerous consequences. Ultimately, once this “stress test” has been applied to Shachar’s argument, it will be clear that on normative and practical levels, Shachar’s entry is as insufficient as it is threatening to the establishment of a more just acquisition of Citizenship in the modern day.

Carley Reinhard

Session 2: 1:00-2:15pm

Student Name: Carley Reinhard
Booth Number: 77
Research Mentor: Stephanie Shaw
Project Title: Examining African American Slave Migrations through Folklore in the W.P.A. Ex-Slave Narratives

Abstract: During the 1930s, as part of the W.P.A. Federal Writer’s project, over 2,000 interviews of former slaves were completed. These interviews were transcribed and compiled into a grand collection of first-person accounts of all the former slaves who could be located at the time. Within many of these narratives, hundreds of accounts detail folktales the slaves grew up hearing in their communities. The development of these folk stories, which seem unique to African American slaves in their specifics if not in their generalities, reflect aspects of the larger development of African American culture that arose due to forced migration from Africa and, for some, their movement from the upper-South to the Lower South and Southwest as slavery expanded in the United States. Thus, these stories, along with other aspects of African American culture, arose in part as a product of the intersection of traditional African folklore and new circumstance. This research seeks to explore these stories, determining their origin and tracing their development and their dispersal. This will not only contribute to the current studies of the African Diaspora, but it will also contribute greatly to studies of the inter- and intrastate migrations of slaves that never delve into the culture of slaves and to the cultural studies of slavery that don’t pay much attention to the migrations of slaves. It is my hope through the course of this research to arrive at a more complete understanding of both the significance of African American folklore and the factors, including migration, that shaped it.

George Andrei

Session 3: 2:45-4:00pm

Student Presenter: George Andrei
Booth Number: 4
Research Mentor: Nicholas Breyfogle
Project Title: Nationality before Nationalism: Ethnic Politics, Geopolitics, and the Sustainability of the Magyar Kingdom in the East (1191-1400)

Abstract: The medieval kingdom of Hungary, founded by St. Stephan, was a patchwork of many ethnicities–Germans, Hungarians, Vlachs, Szekelys, and many others–sedentary and nomadic, Catholic and Orthodox. It was also situated on the very eastern border of Western Christendom; as such, its defense was of vital importance not solely to the local rulers, but for Rome as well. One group–itself multiethnic in nature–was made up of German colonists to southeastern Transylvania. First arriving in the middle of the XII century, the Saxons, as they are known collectively today, settled near several Vlach “countries”: simple confederations of Vlach villages which held significant sway over their domains. The Vlachs, predecessors of modern Romanians, had presences in modern Romania and Serbia, and spoke Latin-based dialects. My research explores how the Vlachs and Saxons would later come to play vital roles in maintaining the Hungarian Kingdoms domains in the east. I argue that the Saxons were, from the beginning of their colonization, used as a tool by the Hungarian Crown and other authority figures in the region to expand, stabilize, and dominate the area: drawing in, after the Mongol invasions, desperately needed manpower, taxes, and support from the local populations. Reading a plethora of published sources by Hungarian, German, Romanian and other historians, both contemporary and more antiquated, as well as archived primary sources from the Romanian national archives, I will argue that the Hungarian authorities enabled the Saxons to flourish by granting specific privileges, which allowed the Hungarian kingdom to acquire land, peoples, and thus providing greater stability in the east. This research provides another view at the long history of ethnic and religious minority groups used by authorities to fill certain societal roles, one from an area often overlooked by Western historians.

Read George’s blog post about his research here.


*Photos by George Andrei and Theodora Dragostinova

More Than Babel: Opening the Door to Iraqi Women’s Narratives on Migration, Assimilation and Hopes for the Future

by Gretchen Klingler and Dr. Jeffrey Cohen
Summer Research Update


Gretchen Klingler at mosque during her research

My summer research has been very fruitful. Attending the Expeditions “Off the Beaten Track” ethnographic field school, Gozo, Malta, in June 2017, I was able to further refine my research skills. The field school taught me several lessons about being an ethnographic researcher that were critical in my summer research project. The Global Mobility Undergraduate Research Grant provided me with my first experience as a researcher, and practicing ethnographic methods at a field school was fantastic preparation.

To date, I have conducted several interviews with a diverse group of Iraqi women. These women arrived in the United States between 1988 and 2013, and range in age between 30 and 62. My sample includes women who are married and divorced as well as with and without children. The women I interviewed speak excellent English. These women learned English in Iraq rather than the US; they studied in universities, watched movies and television, and listened to music in order to expand their vocabulary and become comfortable with the language. Each woman has completed or is working to complete a higher education program.

In my project, I wanted to learn if Iraqi women faced new challenges as Islamophobia increases in the US.  Preliminary findings show that programs and educational opportunities provided by local communities and friendly neighbors are essential to the process of adaptation for Iraqi women. The opportunity to learn American culture and customs among friendly, helpful, American born (native born) community members, and peers who are also learning (including immigrants from other countries) gives Iraqi women opportunities to feel comfortable.  My findings suggest that Islamophobia may not be a challenge when native born North Americans have the opportunity to meet and become friends with Iraqi immigrants.  While none of my current informants wear the head scarf (hijab), I anticipate that future participants will. They may also struggle with English, and lack degrees in formal, higher education.

Women’s experiences vary drastically when they discuss their migration. One woman walked several days in the desert to arrive at a location where her life was no longer under direct threat.  Another gathered her things and drove to Jordan, while a third flew to Jordan. Nevertheless, most women had transit time for 6-12 months between the time they left Iraq to the time they came to the United States. There are some exceptions: one woman waited 5 years in Iraq before she was able to leave due to life events that caused changes in her legal status and affected her paperwork. Another woman had a very different experience: she packed her belongings and fled Iraq in a week’s time. In 3 out of 4 cases my informants were threatened with death and chose to leave to preserve their life.

My informants are looking forward to stability in their lives and for their families and children. They all hope that their children will find jobs and promotions, educational opportunities live healthy lives in the future. When I asked my informants to comment on their futures, the current political climate was not an immediate factor.  However, the continuous edits to the Trump administration’s “travel ban” remain a cause of serious concern, particularly for women who planned to return to Iraq to see family.  Although the Supreme Court ruling in late June exempted Iraq from the list of countries in which individuals without ties to the United States are barred from entry, the looming threat of once having been included in this list remains an ever present reminder of their “otherness” even as legal residents and citizens.  One woman, who is an American citizen, is concerned for her upcoming trip to Iraq – her first in over 10 years. She is concerned about her return and she is taking precautions to remain safe in Iraq. Another woman would like to visit her family in Iraq but feels she cannot risk it. She is not an American citizen, and she worries about the uncertainty surrounding the administration and the possibility that she may be denied reentry, separating her from her son who would remain in the US.

Becoming an American citizen or being an American citizen is critical for these women. Their interest is not necessarily due to patriotism – although every woman celebrates her appreciation and gratefulness to the United States – but its foundation stems from the fear that she may not be able to return to the United States if she is not a citizen. Aspirations of citizenship for those who are not currently U.S. citizens has taken on new meaning as the ideas of security and stability shift.