2018 Global Research Trips

Graduate students from across SGS M.A. programs conducted fieldwork through graduate research grants, which are supported through generous gifts from Parveen Hassan, Ritva Heikkila, Dapeng Zhu, Xiao Liu, and the Friends of Stanford University Foundation in Taiwan. Here are a few highlights from their experiences abroad:

Yongjian Si with friends

Intensive Nahuatl Language Course in Mexico

Yongjian Si

Latin American Studies

During winter and spring breaks, I had the opportunity to travel to indigenous communities in Veracruz, Mexico, to study Nahuatl language education and revitalization efforts. Nahuatl was the indigenous language of the Aztecs and is still spoken by 1.5 million Nahua peoples in central Mexico. In the spring, I had the unique opportunity to visit the Nahua-speaking community of El Tecomate, located in the municipality of Chicontetepec. Having studied the Nahuatl language for two years, I was excited to visit the community and learn about its cultures and traditions. During the trip, I had the chance to converse with native speakers in Nahuatl and learning about the unique lifestyles and challenges in indigenous language communities in Mexico.

Read more about Yongjian's research

Intensive Nahuatl Language Course in Mexico

By Yongjian Si

LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES '18

During winter and spring breaks, I had the opportunity to travel to indigenous communities in Veracruz, Mexico, to study Nahuatl language education and revitalization efforts. Nahuatl was the indigenous language of the Aztecs and is still spoken by 1.5 million Nahua peoples in central Mexico. 

In the spring, I had the unique opportunity to visit the Nahua-speaking community of El Tecomate, located in the municipality of Chicontetepec. Having studied the Nahuatl language for two years, I was excited to visit the community and learn about its cultures and traditions. During the trip, I had the chance to converse with native speakers in Nahuatl and learning about the unique lifestyles and challenges in indigenous language communities in Mexico.

In addition, I had the pleasure to participate in the second annual Nahuatl Language and Culture Community Workshops with members of the community, hosted by the Instituo de Docencia e Investigacion Etnologica de Zacatecas. The idea of the workshop is part of the community outreach efforts for the indigenous communities. We invited Nahua-speaking community members of El Tecomate, including school children, older people and other people of the community to participate in a day-long event that focused on language and cultural revitalization. We had members of the community come up and tell stories about their traditions and culture in Nahuatl, and to encourage them to do so gave out prizes for those who were inspired to share their stories in their mother tongue in the community. We also gave out books of traditional tales written in their variant of Nahuatl to the school children. In addition, we held a writing workshop that taught people how to write in their language.

The experience was especially memorable because for many community members, it was their first time hearing their language used in a public and intellectual space. The workshop was hugely successful. Despite the rainy weather, around 50-60 community members showed up. Participating in this workshop reminded me of my passions for language revitalization and the importance for intercultural communication. In addition, it made me to critically rethink some of the problems of traditional academia because research conducted generally does not benefit the communities and people that were studied. 

During winter break, I traveled to Zacatecas for an intensive Nahuatl language course by IDIEZ (Instituto de Docencia e Investigación Etnológica de Zacatecas), an organization that is dedicated to Nahuatl language revitalization and research. During the two-week course, I not only learned to speak the Nahuatl language, but I also learned about the cultures of indigenous communities in La Huasteca and the challenges faced by those communities.

In addition, I had the privilege to speak with my instructors about their experiences growing up in indigenous communities. The highlight of the course was the colloquium of Nahuatl language and research. At this colloquium, I had the chance to meet Nahua-speaking intellectuals, artists, students, and musicians from different communities and learn about their beautiful and meaningful work.

I also traveled to Nahua-speaking communities in the Huasteca region of Mexico, including the towns of Atlapexco, Huejutla, Hidalgo and Tenantitla, Veracruz. Hearing that the language is still spoken by community members and seeing that traditional culture is still being practiced brought tears of joy to my eyes. The trip to these Nahua-speaking towns allowed me to learn more about the traditional Nahua culture and further convinced me of the importance of language education and revitalization.

Pearl Yip

How e-commerce is affecting the lives of China’s villagers

Pearl Yip

East Asian Studies

E-commerce is an undeniable force that has, in the recent decade, proliferated across China. Becoming an e-commerce seller — or engaging in ancillary services such as logistics, photography, packaging, etc. — is seen as an opportunity to escape poverty and ‘strike it rich’. Taobao is one such online marketplace that many Chinese people buy and sell on. The emergence of huge waves of people setting up Taobao online shops has led AliResearch to identify some of China’s villages as Taobao villages. These are villages that house sellers with an aggregated high transaction volume on the platform. Guangzhou is home to some of China’s most active Taobao villages — three of which I visited during spring break through a graduate research grant from Stanford Global Studies. The purpose of my trip was to understand how e-commerce has impacted the socio-economic lives of Chinese villagers.

I learned that becoming a Taobao seller is not a foolproof formula for economic success. Most sellers in the same village tend to sell similar items, making it difficult to differentiate oneself from the pack, and for most small sellers, becoming profitable is a gamble. The Taobao marketplace is also already very saturated, and rents have increased in these villages as a result. In Lirendong, rents have increased by 20 to 30 times their regular rates over the past 10 years, and income growth has not matched this pace. Hence, sellers work under immensely stressful conditions just to eke out a living.

Read more about Pearl's experience via the Global Perspectives blog

Sara Clemente in Chile

Latin American Summer School on Social Issues

Sara Clemente

Latin American Studies

Since I plan on pursuing a non-governmental career in indigenous human rights in Latin America, studying at the Latin American Summer School on Social Issues (LASI) in Villarica, Chile, allowed me to become more informed about specific issues that are prevalent in the region. This is especially true since LASI created comparative discussions regarding Mapuche people’s social issues and those of other groups in Latin America. In turn, I became exposed to interdisciplinary viewpoints that highlight the region’s complex reality. While my M.A. in Latin American Studies allows me to delve into Latin American history and politics, I feel that LASI helped equip me with the tools I need in order to become an effective indigenous rights...read more

Read more about Sara's research

Latin American Summer School on Social Issues

By Sara Clemente

LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES '18

Since I plan on pursuing a non-governmental career in indigenous human rights in Latin America, studying at the Latin American Summer School on Social Issues (LASI) in Villarica, Chile, allowed me to become more informed about specific issues that are prevalent in the region. This is especially true since LASI created comparative discussions regarding Mapuche people’s social issues and those of other groups in Latin America.

In turn, I became exposed to interdisciplinary viewpoints that highlight the region’s complex reality. While my M.A. in Latin American Studies allows me to delve into Latin American history and politics, I feel that LASI helped equip me with the tools I need in order to become an effective indigenous rights advocate.

More specifically, LASI provided relevant and contemporary perspectives regarding Latin American social issues. These issues are vital when it comes to understanding the role that indigenous communities play within Latin America. In fact, discussing and learning more about the encounters between Mapuche people, the Chilean government, and colonos allowed me to delve into the different issues that indigenous people in Latin American face today.

Additionally, I was touched both as a student and a human being by a play performed in a "ruca" about the human rights violations that Mapuches have experienced as a result of discrimination. This complemented what I learned in the workshop as well as my M.A. studies because it exemplified and made real all of the issues we have discussed in theory.

Being able to participate in the LASI workshop has helped me understand the complexities of indigenous Human Rights as and enabled me to learn about new social issues that Mapuche people are dealing with in Chile. 

Interpretations of Wartime Memory in Okinawa, Japan

Ju-Hyun Kim

East Asian Studies

I visited peace memorials and museums in Okinawa, Japan, focusing on the topic of the Battle of Okinawa. During this trip, I observed various interpretations of wartime memory exhibited in popular destinations for tourists who visit the island. I visited Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, Himeyuri Peace Museum, Okinawa Prefectural Museum, and Kaigungo Park. I was interested in visiting this region because Okinawa is such a popular tourist destination within Japan. I wanted to see how the historical events are presented to visitors from outside of Okinawa. Through this visit to these sites, I also found that the word “peace” is a key term that is repeated. This led me to think about the development of the discourse on the topic of peace in Okinawa. I also found it interesting how the idea of peace resonated even outside of the museums and memorials. Souvenir shops and even the ice cream chain in the tourist district, Kokusaidori, would mention the term ‘peace’ on their signs and advertisements. From this, I could observe the concept was not confined within the spaces of museums and memorials, but it was more ubiquitous than I had imagined. The research I have accomplished during this trip will be a vital part of my Master’s thesis.