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Anthropology | Selected Student Profiles

Aixa Alemán-Díaz


Aixa Alemán-Díaz

Aixa Alemán-Díaz is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at American University. She holds a Masters of Anthropology (2010) from Rutgers University and double major (2005) in Psychology and Anthropology (Highest Honors) at The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Also, Aixa is Semester at Sea alumni fall 2002. Aixa was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She is fully bilingual in Spanish and English, with intermediate skills in Brazilian Portuguese. From her current location in Puerto Rico, Aixa is conducting ethnographic fieldwork. In 2008, she won an NSF-GRFP fellowship. Aixa has completed internships at the U.S. EPA and NIH. Her research experiences involve various fields of public health, psychology, and cultural anthropology. Aixa's current research interests include human and coastal relationships (management, policy and governance, patterns of resource use and history), marine protected areas, maritime livelihoods, gentrification, Caribbean, Latin America, and Puerto Rico. In addition, Aixa is committed to providing access to education for all different learners. She is familiar with assistive technologies, including but not limited to, Kurzweil, Dragon, Endnote, and Inspiration. Past teaching and education experiences have given her lessons: 1) both depth and understandings of historically under-represented populations (with special attention to Latinos/Hispanics, Puerto Ricans, youth, and special education); 2) the creation and the dissemination of multi-media educational materials; and, 3) the development of curriculum and teaching. Feel free to contact Aixa at aa3237a@student.american.edu.  

Rachel Cantave

Rachel Cantave received her BA from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. She studied colonial/post-colonial theory, history, literature, and philosophy of Latin America and the Caribbean. Rachel's current research interests include religion, morality, gender, race, and social justice in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2011, she won a Tinker Field grant to do pre-dissertation research on Neo-Pentecostalism in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. Rachel recently won a Fulbright grant to conduct fieldwork for a comparative study of religious influence on moral attitudes and social justice movements in Northeastern Brazil.

Jennifer Delfino

Jennifer Delfino is a Ph. Candidate in the Race, Gender, & Social Justice track. She holds a BA. in Anthropology from Reed College and an MA in Public Anthropology from American University. Jennifer served as both Teaching Assistant and Adjunct Instructor in the AU Anthropology Department from 2007-2011. From her current location in Portland, OR, she is currently writing her dissertation on language and schooling experiences among African American preadolescents who participated in an after school program Southeast Washington, D.C. Jennifer’s dissertation research draws primarily from linguistic anthropological theories and methods to investigate how the 9-13 year-old students she worked with found themselves in the difficult position of being forced to choose between local and school-based models of identity and academic success as they approached their youth and how they attempted to negotiate their social positioning through linguistic practice. Jennifer’s research interests include U.S. specific inquiries into the anthropology of schooling, language diversity and linguistic and cultural racism, language ideology, language and identity, African American language and culture, the anthropology of children and youth, and critical pedagogy.

Nell Haynes

Nell Haynes completed her PhD in Anthropology concentrating in Race, Gender, and Social Justice in Spring 2013. Her dissertation project, “Chola in a Choke Hold: Gender, Authenticity, and Globalization in Bolivian Lucha Libre” explores the ways indigenous women utilize notions of authenticity to gain social capital and shift cultural discourses. Nell holds a bachelor of science degree from Northwestern University in anthropology and theater. Her research addresses themes of performance, authenticity, globalization, and gender and ethnic identity in Latin America. She was the recipient of the 2010 Roseberry-Nash Award for best paper in Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology from the American Anthropological Association, and her research has been supported through grants from American University, Cosmos Club Foundation, and Explorer’s Club of Washington, DC. Dr. Haynes will be spending the next two years as a Postdoctoral Fellow working on the Social Networking and Social Science Research Project in conjunction with the Centro Interdisciplinario de Estudios Interculturales e Indígenas atPontifica Universidad Católica de Chile.

Mahri Irvine

Mahri Irvine is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at American University. She has served as an adjunct professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at American University from 2011 to the present. Mahri has been actively involved in the anti-sexual violence movement for over a decade, serving with Chicago Rape Victim Advocates, Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and the D.C. Rape Crisis Center. Her dissertation examines the dialectical relationships between patriarchy, rape culture, capitalism, and the legal system in the United States. Working with women in Washington, D.C. who have survived imprisonment by the state and pre-incarceration sexual violence, Mahri argues that patriarchy and rape culture play a direct role in shaping some women’s pathways to crime and imprisonment, and ultimately, in contributing to the continuation of capitalism and economic inequality. Despite the overwhelming structural inequalities facing her research participants, Mahri illustrates women’s agentive claims and personal victories in their decisions about how to respond to, and cope with, sexual violence. She hopes that her research will help policy makers and law enforcement authorities better understand the complex life histories of women and girls who have been labeled as “offenders” in the U.S. legal system. You can contact Mahri at mahri.irvine@american.edu and read more about her work at www.mahri-irvine.com.


Laura S. Jung

Laura S. Jung is currently working on a PhD in Anthropology at American University. Her dissertation research focuses on the ideological and conceptual contradictions that are manifest in the exchanges of humanitarian aid between aid practitioners and recipients of aid. Right now she’s looking at medical missions in Honduras and plans to begin work there in 2014. While this is her primary area of focus, Laura's research interests are broad. Throughout her academic career, Laura has been an anthropologist in disguise, she holds a dual BA in Political Science and Spanish from University of North Texas and an MA in International Studies from DePaul University. Laura has been involved in the Anthropology Graduate Student Council and 2013 Public Anthropology Conference activities - and thinks you should get involved, too!!. She loves dogs, baking gluten-free cupcakes (and other sweets), and recently started sewing her own clothes. Laura’s email is lj5517a@american.edu, get in touch any time!

Michelle A. Marzullo

Michelle A. Marzullo holds a PhD in Anthropology concentrating in Race, Gender, and Social Justice at American University in Washington, DC and a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality Studies from San Francisco State University. Her dissertation project, “The Marrying Times: Progressive Marriage Under Neoliberalization,” examines how progressive-identifying people living in the Village of New Paltz, New York USA come to decisions about marriage in the current neoliberalized economy through different renderings of time (temporality). She is currently working to translate the dissertation into a book. Her research interests are in the realms of kinship/relatedness, sexuality, gender, political economy, cultural notions of time (especially age and life pacing) and research methodology, including UX research techniques. Dr. Marzullo is honored to be a past recipient of the American University College of Arts and Sciences Dissertation Fellowship, a Point Foundation Scholarship, the Carlos Enrique Cisneros Scholarship for LGBT students of distinction attending American University, Genentech’s Out & Equal Scholarship, and the Grant Larsen Fellowship at San Francisco State University.

Siobhán McGuirk

Siobhán McGuirk previously attended The University of Manchester 2005-2009, where she received a BA in Anthropology and International Politics and an MA in Visual Anthropology. Her research interests include queer diaspora, migration, religion, gender, and neoliberal subjectivity. Her ethnographic fieldwork will be carried out with same-sex desiring asylum seekers living in the U.S. She uses documentary film and other visual research methods in her work, and places high value on social activism and critical journalism.

Lauren McKown

Lauren McKown attended the University of California San Diego where she received a BA in anthropology in 2005. In the years following her undergraduate studies, Lauren became interested in religion, identity, gender, and the state. In 2012 Lauren received a MA in public anthropology at America University and is currently a PhD candidate in cultural/social anthropology. Her doctoral research addresses debates about the role of religious identity in the construction of national identity and the relationship between religious and national identities and political participation. It pursues two major questions: 1) how does participation in a religious community influence understandings of national identity? 2) how, if at all, do individuals base their political action and strategies to influence state policies on their religious and national identities? She is exploring these questions through a case study of Christian and Muslim religious participants in Bergen, Norway.

Joeva Rock

Joeva Rock received her BA in International Relations from the University of California-San Diego, and is currently a PhD student focusing on colonial left-overs in West Africa. She is interested in colonial legacies in Ghana, specifically in relation to globalization, identity, education and development. Joeva can be reached at joeva.rock@american.edu.

Ted Samuel

Ted Samuel is a PhD candidate in Cultural Anthropology. His research focuses on the ways that activists and development professionals from the Thirunangai – Tamil transgender – community use varied forms of performance to craft contemporary socioeconomic niches for themselves while instantiating claims to either a female or third gender identity. By examining specific performances – from beauty pageants, film, dance venues, and online social media – as well as the processes leading to their production, Ted’s dissertation further analyzes how Thirunangai performances draw upon and sometimes reinterpret localized notions of tradition and modernity to bolster their gendered claims.  An avid performer of Karagattam – a South Indian folk dance – for the past ten years, Ted is incorporating various performance-based research methods into his work. Ted earned a BA in International Studies from Kenyon College and an MA in Public Anthropology at American University. He was a recipient of a Fulbright Research Fellowship and is currently serving as an American India Foundation William J. Clinton Fellow.

Matthew Thomann

Matthew Thomann is a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology at American University and also holds a master's in teaching and a BA in anthropology. His research examines how sexual minorities in West Africa carve out political space for themselves within the nonprofit industrial complex and how they negotiate a multiplicity of discourses to form identities and subjectivities. He currently lives in Chicago, IL and teaches undergraduate anthropology courses at DePaul University.

Justin Uehlein

Justin Uehlein is working towards his PhD in anthropology with a focus in historical archaeology. His research interests include diaspora studies, Marxism and anthropology, critical theory, labor history, animal rights, capital crises and transitions, and historical archaeology as public and political praxis. Justin currently holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Maryland, College Park in anthropology and is continuing his work in anthropological archaeology at American University. Justin's research centers around themes of globalization, immigration, and class stratification as they existed in the past and pertain contemporarily.