Student Research & Special Projects

“The Ancient Mind and Cultural Evolution”

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Student Presenter: Kennedy Sloop
2020 Spring Symposium

The project studies worldviews of ancient societies in regards to their socioeconomic and cultural evolution. The analysis explores how these worldviews are allegorically implied within ancient literature and mythology. Using approaches and methodologies developed in interpretative anthropology, such as Geertz’s thick description and Lévi-Strauss’s structuralism, the project looks at the Epic of Gilgamesh as it was written in the oldest known Sumerian tablets and the more widely read Akkadian tablets. It then shifts to the story of Genesis as it was recorded in ancient Israel. Direct word-for-word translations of all texts are used when available, supplemented with translations that better explain the figurative language not obvious to English readers. The analysis searches for implications and correlations related to the shifting culture of the ancient world. For example, reading Genesis’s Adam being made to till the soil as an allegory for the shift from hunting and gathering to farming suggests the authors were thinking about this historical shift and its implications.

The research also reveals that the implications and correlations presented in the research are too numerous to be coincidental. This concept is particularly important in the modern study of anthropology as it reflects an interest in the transition from hunting and gathering societies to agrarian societies and evaluates ancient conceptions of mind on the socioeconomic, cultural, and evolutionary scale, conceptions that are typically deemed not as advanced as those of later societies. This project also better validates the use of literature as a anthropological means of studying ancient societies.

“A Look Inside The Community Tool School “

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Student Presenter: Caroline Gadsby
2020 Spring Symposium

Young girls are seldom given the opportunity to learn various science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) skills, because of the lack of integrative programs like the Community Tool School. STEAM programs not only allow young girls to learn how to use power tools and build anything from bird houses to guitars, but they also give girls an opportunity to express themselves in a safe and inclusive environment. Over the course of two semesters, I have worked with the Community Tool School at the UNC Asheville STEAM Studio for my Community Engaged Scholar project. The Community Tool School at UNC Asheville aims to promote the participation, support, skill and knowledge-exchange of women and girls living, learning and working in STEAM fields, in an environment that is inclusive, accessible and respectful of all. One of the main goals through my work with the Community Tool School was to assess the importance of programs like the Community Tool School for young girls and whether or not these programs increase their overall confidence while allowing them to learn new things that they wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to learn. This data was collected through survey analysis, and was administered to each participant before and after the program. Additionally, when talking to the directors about the specific needs for CTS, they realized that they needed help in advertising and promotion. I was able to create and develop a website for them that promotes upcoming events, describes each program and when they are offered, as well as shows pictures of completed projects. This website has spread awareness about the Community Tool School, and has overall increased the number of girls who attend each program.

“Art, Community and Stigmatized Grief in the Into Light Project “

Student Presenter: Gillian Maurer
2020 Spring Symposium

This presentation assesses the impact of the work of the Into Light Project, an organization engaging with those who have lost loved ones to the opioid epidemic using the tool of fine art. The Into Light Project goes into communities, interviews 41 people in each community who have lost loved ones to the opioid epidemic, and then creates portraits for each of the lost. These pieces then hang together in an exhibition open to the community and initiate community programming such as panel discussions hosted by a local college or university, before the pieces are gifted to the families and loved ones involved in the project.

To better understand the effects of this project, qualitative interviews were conducted with participants from the first exhibition in Baltimore Maryland, and then analyzed for recurring themes and experiences. Questions center around participants personal experiences and seek less to contribute to the large pool of statistics on those lost to the epidemic, more to uncover the rich human dimensions to not only those lost but to those affected by that loss. Guided by the questions “What is the impact of visual art in public grief? How does it affect perception of stigmatized loss? How does public display affect dialogue around the opioid epidemic?” And “how can visual art be an assistive artifact in personal grieving?”, analysis is focused around understanding the intersection of art, community, and stigmatized grief and the ways these factors are addressed by the work of the Into Light Project. This work will affect the ways in which Into Light conducts future exhibitions, as well as establish baselines for how work at the intersection of art and grief affects people.

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