2023 Global Research Trips
In 2023, graduate students from across Global Studies master's programs conducted fieldwork through the Global Perspectives Grant, which is made possible through the generous support of Mr. Dapeng Zhu and Ms. Xiao Liu. Read a few highlights about their experiences abroad below.
Social and economic insertion of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia
Latin American Studies
I was able to go to Colombia for two months to conduct the field research for my M.A. thesis. Because I was studying the social and economic insertion of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, it was crucial to me that I interviewed migrants in person to understand their experience with integration policies directly. Particularly, I was looking at the gap between law and people's lives, and how the implementation of temporary protection status changed people's perception of their status and granted access to certain basic rights for undocumented migrants. I was drawn to this topic because of the relevant role Colombia has played in the insertion of Venezuelan migrants, as the country that has received the most Venezuelan migrants in the world. It was important to have a local perception of people's experience with temporary protection status to provide a timely analysis of an issue that continues to be fundamental in Colombian society, and in migration flows worldwide.
This experience not only informed my research significantly, but made my final experience at Stanford much more rich and complete. I was able to collaborate with key local institutions on the project, such as Univerisdad de los Andes and NGO Dejusticia, where I worked while in Colombia.
I am deeply grateful for the Global Perspectives Award for enabling me, a Venezuelan international student in the U.S., to conduct field research abroad, something otherwise not possible.
Chinese and Russian roles and sharp power operations in the Arctic
Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies
Through SGS, I was afforded the opportunity to travel to Oslo and Tromsø, Norway, as part of my research for my M.A. capstone thesis, which concerns how “sharp power” is employed in the interstate arena. There, I interviewed some of the premier scholars and security professionals studying the Arctic. I pursued this research because I was curious to see how the so-called “great power competition” plays out in ostensibly internationally governed spaces, like the high seas, Arctic, and Antarctic. I was especially enthusiastic to learn how the Arctic illuminates synergies and tensions within the Sino-Russian relationship, and how NATO’s Arctic strategy may evolve in the coming decades.
I learned that the Arctic hosts a thorough, but highly heterogeneous set of legal frameworks and regulations (both national and supranational) that renders understandings of state compliance more nuanced than they might be elsewhere. I found that Russia and China–two states that are increasingly viewed as “revisionist” or otherwise aggressive–both possess varied records of normative adherence and subversion in the region. I concluded that it is erroneous to conflate the two countries’ ambitions in both the Arctic and within the broader Sino-Russian relationship, requiring subtle diagnoses of challenges and dynamic policy prescriptions.
In conducting this research, I was able to practice and modify my qualitative interview strategies and interrogate my hypothesis through methodological frameworks learned in my Stanford courses. I also found that the views these Nordic scholars offered sometimes stood in stark contrast to those I heard from my own professors, or North American academics more generally. Furthermore, these scholars urged me to consider security elements that I had previously neglected in my thesis, such as nuclear posturing and space research. As a result, I have made significant modifications to my thesis, as I revisit my understanding of Arctic governance, and its potential developments as a security theater (or rather, set of theaters).
Highlights of my trip included interviewing military/security scholars at a medieval fortress, Akershus, traveling to Tromsø to see the consequences of stymied Russian cooperation within the city, and witnessing the effects global warming has on Arctic landscapes firsthand. I also had the chance to visit several polar museums, where I learned about northern Norway’s Indigenous communities, geological features, ecosystems, potential downstream effects of melting Arctic ice, and the history of the Russo-Norwegian relationship.
Fulfilling the SGS Global Perspectives Award was instrumental to my current understanding of state behavior in multilateral systems and will influence how I continue to think about Arctic issues, the Sino-Russian relationship, conceptions of “global order,” and “great power competition.” It was certainly one of the most memorable and outstanding features of my Stanford experience.
Understanding the Conservation Movement in Paraná, Argentina
Latin American Studies
During my fieldwork this summer, I conducted open-structured interviews and participant observations of a socio-ecological conservation movement in Paraná, Argentina. I am interested in the human-dimensions of climate change and community-based solutions for land-use change. I learned that relationship-building is at the base of all systemic change, lived-experiences must be at the core of our solutions for environmental problems, and creative solutions for profound eco-cultural change come from the communities.
One of my favorite experiences of my fieldwork was going on a trip into the wetlands and seeing activists interact with the ecosystems they work to protect first-hand. This research experience was a big part of what I took away from my year at Stanford.
Archival Research on Colonial Malaya
East Asian Studies
My M.A. thesis explores the interrelation between race, capitalism, and imperialism from the vantage point of late nineteenth century colonial Malaya, one of the most important and earliest sites of extensive Anglo-Chinese contact. Despite recent trends in empire studies, including the growing popularity of those conceptual models and frameworks associated with what some scholars have termed the ‘new imperial history’, Malaya has yet to receive a level of scholarly attention comparable to other empirical cases. A key goal of my thesis is to show how the application of such theoretical approaches to Malaya not only yields a new understanding of its colonial experience, but also makes a broader contribution to the historiography of empire in general.
Thanks to the Global Perspectives Award, I was able to conduct first-hand research at the UK National Archives and the British Library Archives in London. I studied a range of primary sources, such as declassified government correspondences, anthropological reports, legislative minutes, photographs, and personal journals. Most of these came from the records of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the now-defunct Colonial Office and British India Office, and included original material dating back the early nineteenth century. The sources illustrated a fascinating portrait of how British colonial administrators understood and responded to the sizeable and influential overseas Chinese presence within the Malayan colony, and vice versa. Perhaps the most interesting set of sources I examined were the microfilmed manuscripts from the Stamford Raffles collection.
Archival research is always exciting because you never know what to expect—every box could contain new and intriguing insights, or none at all. I remember one day where hours of trawling through documents came up with relatively few leads, and another where I made unanticipated discoveries in folders I had initially thought were only of cursory relevance. Being there in person and having direct access to the material and their helpful custodians is fundamentally different from performing key word searches via online databases miles away; not to mention, the majority of primary sources, even in archives as established as the ones I visited this spring, still remain undigitized. And there really is nothing quite like being able to handle documents hundreds of years old, each of which is itself a unique window into a past world and human experiences so unimaginably divergent from our own. As someone interested in continuing my studies in history, I am very grateful to Stanford Global Studies for the opportunity to further sharpen my research skills and engage so closely with such fascinating material.