Doctoral student wins Fulbright scholarship

May 12, 2005, vol. 33, no. 2
By Howard Fluxgold

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Doctoral student Gina Michaels has won a prestigious Fulbright student research scholarship to study for 10 months in Riobamba in the Ecuadorian Andes.

The research will form the basis of her doctoral thesis in archaeology.

Michaels, an historical archaeologist, is studying “the constructs of masculinities in the Spanish colonial period through the archaeological and documentary records. My research combines the study of archaeological artifacts and documents housed in archives.”

She spent three months in Riobamba last summer focusing on a Mercederian monastery in the town that had been a textile centre during the Spanish colonial period. The Mercederians came to Latin America with the Spanish colonialists in the 1500s.

“I take the perspective that gender is a socially constructed idea that is unique in each culture and each individual and expressed in different ways,” Michaels explains.

“Masculinity in a male institution such as monasteries could be particularly unique. In the Spanish colonial period men were not expected to do a lot of the domestic housework activities. But in a cloistered environment they were. So you expand on the definition of what it means to be a man. These were powerful men within the community and yet they were doing things and acting in ways that weren't considered masculine. It gives you some light into the range of acceptable behaviours and personas and expectations of what it means to be a man.”

Michaels says that within the study of archaeology, studying gender usually means the study of women. “But for the most part you aren't studying gender. You are just placing women and saying, ‘look, there they are.'” I don't think you can get a clear picture of gender constructions unless you include masculinity.”

A California native, Michaels did her undergraduate degree in anthropology at University of California, Berkeley and her masters degree in social and cultural anthropology at Stanford. She came to SFU to study with archaeology professor Ross Jamieson who, she says, “is one of the only North American academic researchers working in Spanish colonial archaeology in Latin America and the only person working in the Andes.”

The Fulbright scholarship is named after U.S. senator William Fulbright who introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress in 1945 calling for the use of proceeds from the sales of surplus WWII property to fund the “promotion of international good will through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture and science.”

The bill was signed into law the following year by U.S. President Harry Truman.

In 2004, the Fulbright program awarded about 6,000 grants worth more than $250,000,000 to U.S. students, teachers, professionals and scholars to study in more than 150 countries, and to their foreign counterparts to engage in similar activities in the U.S.

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