On April 15th Ph.D candidate Zareen Thomas will defend her thesis entitled ‘Youth Mediators: Hip-Hop, NGOs, and the Politics of Identity in Colombia and Bolivia’. The defense takes place in BUSN 122, 2-4 pm. To celebrate Zareen’s accomplishment we asked her a few questions about her work and her future. Enjoy.
1. What field and specialization of anthropology do you belong to?
I’m a sociocultural anthropologist. My primary research interests include youth cultures,
indigeneity, performance, and NGOs.
2. What made you decide to pursue a graduate degree in anthropology?
I’m a 1.5 generation immigrant, so I’ve spent most of my life thinking about issues of identity
and belonging. Anthropology seemed the like the right field to explore how others engage with
these issues in different cultural contexts.
3. What aspect of your research do you find most fascinating?
My dissertation research was about youth hip-hop NGOs in Colombia and Bolivia. I spent 20
months living in South America, working with young people who used art to insert themselves
into social and political dialogues in their countries. It was particularly fascinating to see how
they used rap to create narratives about decolonization, gender relations, the Colombian peace
process, and more.
4. Now that you are graduating, what do you hope to get to do?
I love teaching and look forward to continuing to do so in both Anthropology and Women’s,
Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
In terms of research, my next project concerns youth of color in the U.S. National Parks. The
parks represent ideals of freedom and democracy and are sites in which people and states fashion
ideas about nationhood. However, these are overwhelmingly white spaces. There are a number of
historical and social reasons as to why people of color are not very visible in the outdoors. Given
this, I’m interested in exploring how the National Park Service engages with diversity and
inclusion, and how indigenous and minority youth, through their labor and leisure practices in
nature, create knowledge about the land and citizenship.
5. How useful has the Ph.D process been to prepare you for the aftermath of a zombie
I haven’t prepared at all. I may be the first to go (ed. let’s hope not!).