Elizabeth Schmidt, a graduate of Western Sydney University, received our 2022 Project Support award to conduct a policy and media analysis of Australian policy on the rights and safety of LGBTQ refugees in detention. Her research aims to address the experiences and needs of these refugees during displacement. Upon her return to the U.S., Elizabeth plans to work with non-profit organizations that advocate for the rights of vulnerable displaced population. She also plans to pursue a law degree focusing on human rights and migration to promote comprehensive US refugee resettlement policy, reforms to US asylum procedures, and humane conditions for asylum seekers who are detained in the US.
Daniel Sherrell, of the University of Adelaide, is writing a book centered around young people’s perceptions of climate change as it becomes an ever more serious threat. His LRE Project Support award will allow him to conduct ethnographic research on the island of Tuvalu concerning the challenges that its inhabitants are already facing as a result of climate change. Upon his return to the U.S., Daniel plans to incorporate this research into his book in order to raise awareness about the ways in which climate change has begun to seriously affect our planet.
Victor Lopez-Carmen, of Ithaca College, received our 2018 award to extend his public health research in Australian Indigenous communities to the Lokono-Arawak Tribe in Barbados. Upon his return, he shared the knowledge that he acquired with his Arizona tribe and is working towards becoming a doctor, a public health official and an Indigenous rights advocate and leader of his tribe. One day, he hopes to run for Congress!
This year’s award went to Travis Franks of Arizona State University for his dissertation comparing narratives of settler colonialism and literature in two Texas-es: the town of Texas, in Queensland Australia, and the US state of Texas. His research will explore the use of literary and musical tradition to imagine a collective identity tied to a specific place and defined against Indigenous populations. Travis will also conduct ethnographic fieldwork on settlement history with colleagues in Queensland as well as with his research partner at the Texas Heritage Museum. Supplementary funds from the Roth Foundation will help support his presentation at the international conference of the National Indigenous Research and Knowledges Network on “Race, Whiteness and Indigeneity,” featuring major scholars from the U.S. and Australia. Travis hopes that his research into the transnational links between settler nativism and anti-immigrant nativism will contribute to social justice on behalf of Indigenous, immigrant, and refugee populations.
Matthew researched of the causes of video game-related aggression, specifically the role of certain social mechanisms, such as game difficulty, user experience, community engagement and perceived social support, in encouraging or deterring anti-social toxicity manifested through cyberbullying and the intentional sabotage of other players’ experiences. Matthew’s findings contributed to his dissertation, which focused on a model of design for positive games that promote healthy behavior. Our award helped Matthew to travel to the Australian Psychological Society (APS) Congress, where he presented a tutorial on the use of psychological concepts for interdisciplinary collaboration, especially in the design of digital environments that could be used for educational or therapeutic purposes.
Originally, Vince set out to examine the effectiveness of deliberative democracy and hoped to apply his findings to US political theory with the aim of improving intercultural communication and the well-being of Native Americans. However, Vince’s research led him to examine the legitimacy of the rule of the Australian government over indigenous people, which he believes can only be obtained through their deliberate consent. Consent is only meaningful, however, when indigenous groups must the option, and the resources, to govern themselves. Vince believes that through improvement of the conditions of Aboriginal communities and large-scale reconciliation and trust-building efforts, Australia can morally legitimize its rule.
His research in cultural anthropology looks at Indigenous media as an essential element for engaging and supporting some of the most culturally rich, yet vulnerable peoples of the world. In the Kimberley region of Australia, he explored the stakes involved in different Indigenous visions of Aboriginality by comparing two media organizations, following the social lives of their media through collaborating on production teams. His study reveals the changing diversity of Indigenous media in settler-colonial nations, as well as Indigenous challenges and perspectives in Australia and the U.S. Visit his website to learn more about his research, writing, films and podcasts.
This ninth of twelve portraits in 2017, honoring alumni from thirty years of Roth Foundation programs, features anthropologist William Lempert. Support from the Roth Foundation helped him carry out his work in the Kimberley region of northwestern Australia. William is now wrapping up his Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His dissertation is titled Broadcasting Indigenous Futures: The Social Life of Kimberley Aboriginal Media. Take a look at William’s website, featuring his articles, films and podcasts.
My desire to become an anthropologist had many roots. The importance of understanding how historical legacies impact the present was instilled into me at a young age. Undertaking a series of interviews with my 92-year-old grandmother, I learned more about the personal history of her life and our family; although she lost most of her extended family in Nazi Germany, as a teenager she was able to save her parents from certain death at the Dachau concentration camp. My perspective expanded further when I undertook volunteer work in the aftermath of racial riots in my hometown of Cincinnati.
As an undergraduate, the interdisciplinary Western Program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio gave me a chance to participate in a range of social and environmental programs in Brazil, Nicaragua, Kenya and Australia—leading to my honors thesis on the politics of popular Indigenous representations. Once I began graduate school, I discovered and cultivated a love of teaching, which continues to this day. In my teaching, I seek to engage students and broader audiences through a multifaceted approach to anthropology that integrates writing and media production.
During my first trip to the Kimberley region of Northwestern Australia in 2006, I learned about the inspiring ways that Aboriginal people are using media to transcend stereotypes and the mainstream media representations that represent their communities negatively, if at all. To prepare for my doctoral fieldwork, I returned to Australia for two summers as a media volunteer in the town of Broome and remote communities in the region. I was humbled by the palpable sense of joy and welcome that I felt from my Aboriginal collaborators, in spite of legacies of historical trauma and serious material and health disparities that continue through the present.
My dissertation project focuses on how Aboriginal Australians imagine and create their futures through the process of filmmaking. In the tradition of cultural anthropology, my approach centers on sustained participant/observation research. The project draws on my experience working within the production teams of two Indigenous media outlets. I worked on dozens of film projects with them, over a cumulative 26 months between 2006 and 2016. The primary film that I worked on—Tjawa Tjawa (2015)—screened at the Margaret Mead, ImagiNative and Sydney international film festivals.
I view collaborative media production as a framework, not only for re-imagining the relationships between anthropological practice, theory, and modes of representation, but also for an ethically-focused methodology. In my view, understanding the process of collective cultural production is essential, since culture itself is not pre-existing, but something that comes into being through doing. In particular, films emphasizing futurity—including such genres as science fiction—are particularly important for asserting Indigenous visual and temporal sovereignty.
My long-term goal is to facilitate community-partnered projects that transform how Indigenous challenges and futures are imagined by anthropologists, policymakers, and broader publics. Once my dissertation is finished, I look forward to developing an emerging research initiative on visualizing Aboriginal sign language and hearing loss, which evolved out of my work on film projects.
I am especially grateful to the Lois Roth Foundation for enabling me to attend a 2015 conference at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the National Australian University during my Fulbright research period. This was especially important, as it provided opportunities for mutual, extended engagement with Aboriginal and Australian scholars. In light of the complex challenges of our current global era, the Roth Foundation’s support of creative scholarship has never been more relevant.
“From remote communities, I have learned about the art of subtlety. There are often powerful things happening at a granular level. You can see a lot but miss everything. I think the more you see, the more you realise how much you are not seeing. For example, there are a myriad of little things about people who are interacting. You start to realise there are endless layers of social worlds that people live in. It’s quite an honour just to move into the first layer.” — William Lempert
This text evolved from correspondence between William Lempert and Skyler Arndt-Briggs. Thanks to Drew Barnhart, our Media and Outreach Manager,for producing our September Portrait.
Project on linguistic quantifiers in Warlpiri, an aboriginal language spoken by 3,000 people in Australia’s Northern Territories. Bowler’s Roth Foundation award helped defray the costs of field work and data collection. She is a graduate of Reed College.
Studies with Richard Whiteley, an internationally renowned artist and expert in glass casting, at the Australian National University. His Roth Foundation award allowed Perez to travel from Canberra to Melbourne and Sydney as a visiting artist to engage university audiences on his research project, entitled “To Anneal,” on new techniques of glass fabrication. See www.matthewdayperez.com.
Project on water distribution policy in the Murray-Darling basin, which weighed the needs of communities against those of farmers and the environment. Lane-Miller, a graduate of Dartmouth College, conducted this research in Adelaide at the University of Southern Australia.
Project on dance forms and dance education. Sebaly, a Merce Cunnigham dancer and graduate of the University of Michigan, is now at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, continuing her research into methods of curating contemporary dance.
Project on the Australian experience of constitutionalism and its US links, conducted at Melbourne University’s School of Law. Jones is a Columbia University and Harvard Law School graduate.
Project on the obligations which group membership implies in different societies. A former Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi, at the time Schockley was studying philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis.
*The Prix Coindreau Prize, The Jeanne Varnay Pleasants Prize for Language Teaching, and the CASVA-Henry & Judith Millon Award are currently inactive.