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2022 Grant Awards

Learn more about the global, interdisciplinary work of our 2022 grant awardees. 

Track 1: Racism, Dispossession, and Migration in the United States

Supported by the Mellon Foundation Just Futures Initiative, this funding supports research and engagement focused on the United States that has long-term benefits addressing racial and immigrant justice.

Just Futures Team Research Grants

Displaced and Uprooted: Stories of Belonging, Central American TPS Workers' Defiant Struggle for their Right to Stay Home in the U.S.

This project seeks to elevate the stories of workers with Temporary Protective Status (TPS) who, despite living at the margins of legality, have engaged in social movement organizing, participated in non-traditional political mobilization, and become agents for their own struggle for rights to belong to American society. The project seeks to understand if their history of claims making during the last 20 to 30 years has given them a sense of allegiance to American laws, morals, and values making them feel American in all but in their legal immigration status.

Climate, Dispossession, and Natural and Built Environments

Drawing on the humanities, design disciplines, and film, this project aims to develop methods of research and representation in documentary film that foreground people’s lived experience of their environments. Project investigators will study this in relation to the formation of environmental and climate imaginaries, while looking at larger historical questions of colonialism, imperialism, racism, and economic dispossession that inform personal judgements and everyday practices in ways that are extremely difficult to identify and to articulate, precisely because they are concretely lived.

  • Co-principal investigator: Natalie Melas (Comparative Literature, College of Arts & Sciences)
  • Co-principal investigator: Tao DuFour (Architecture, College of Architecture, Art, and Planning)

Food Beyond Borders: Visions of Hunting and Fishing in the Myanmar Diaspora

The U.S. national border is the constitutive entity around which scholarly and political discourses about the migration crisis are typically framed. This spatial marker is made visible by multiple constructions: physically by walls, visually in media circulations, and discursively through the language of "illegal crossings" and "invasions." Yet, its presence extends beyond the point where it is crossed. This project will examine experiences of Myanmar migrants in the U.S. accessing wild foods through hunting and fishing to understand how border regimes intersect with migrant lives in places far from the border itself. Hunting, fishing, and consuming wild foods are important aspects of rural lifeways in Myanmar and carry cultural significance for various ethnic identities in the region. Migrants from Myanmar, a majority of whom are from rural and ethnic minority areas, constitute the largest group to have migrated to the U.S. over the last decade. By using participatory workshops, interviews, documentary photography, and fish nutrient/toxin analyses with Myanmar communities in upstate NY, our work aims to 1) understand how border regimes directly shape access to food, cultural identity, and health, and 2) reinsert migrant identities into visions of the North American landscape through narrative and photographic storytelling.

  • Co-principal investigator: Kathryn J. Fiorella (Public and Ecosystem Health, College of Veterinary Medicine)
  • Co-principal investigator: T. Bruce Lauber (Center for Conservation Social Sciences & Natural Resources and the Environment, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences)
  • Co-principal investigator: Jenny E. Goldstein (Global Development, CALS)
  • Co-principal investigator: Peter B. McIntyre (Natural Resources and the Environment, CALS)
  • Collaborator: Nicole Tu-Maung (Natural Resources and the Environment, CALS)
  • Collaborator: Yu Yu Myint Than (Documentary Photographer & Founding Member of Thuma Collective)

Just Futures Small Grant

The Alien Commons: Performance and Art Beyond Citizenship

This project will host a two-day symposium and artist showcase on March 30–31, 2023, that explores the connections between migration and performance. Protest poster art and performance serve as important avenues to represent and amplify the experiences of undocumented residents, but artists’ lives behind the works are often unaddressed. This symposium will showcase artists making performances about a legally precarious life. They are asked to address and identify the structural changes needed to support and compensate artists doing critical work for migrants’ rights mobilization. The symposium will feature queer, Indigenous, border-dwelling, and formerly undocumented artists Gabriel Mata, Zoë Klein and Tanya Aguiñiga. This is a pilot program with the objective to define a year-long showcase of immigrant artists at Cornell and to start a nationwide, systems-level, undocumented cultural production support network in collaboration with the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC). 

Just Futures Engagement Grants

Collaborations with Farmworkers to Address Racial Inequalities: Advocating for Legal, Workplace, and Health Justice

Research highlights that farmworkers in New York State are often young, undocumented, have limited formal education, frequently arrive from rural areas, and migrate to the U.S. as a strategy to earn money to support family and investments at home that would enable them to return. These transnational migrants have stakes in both worlds, loved ones in both places, and a potential future in both the global north and south. While there are some exceptions to this narrative—young people fleeing gang violence, women fleeing sexual abuse, climate refugees for whom subsistence agriculture is no longer viable— the CFP does not assume their presence here now is an indicator of where they want to be in the future. Through our research, we learn about farmworker aspirations for the present and future. While individual goals vary, there is general agreement that everyone desires a meaningful, healthy life that is neither shaped nor limited by one’s racial identity or linguistic abilities.

  • Principal investigator: Mary Jo Dudley (Cornell Farmworker Program, CALS)

2022–23 Migrations Exhibition Series at the Cherry Gallery in the Ithaca Arthaus

Faculty researchers will collaborate with Ithaca-based Cherry Arts, a multidisciplinary arts company focused on creating and presenting international, experimental, and locally generated work. During the 2022–23 Cherry Gallery season, the project will support four cross-disciplinary exhibitions of work by nationally prominent artists that will be co-curated by the five co-lead researchers on the project—all Cornell faculty members who are practicing artists, poets, performers, and critics. Each exhibition will be organized around the themes of migration, racism, and dispossession and will approach these themes from a different artistic and philosophical perspective.

Multicultural Cooperative Land Governance and Farming

This project will bring together farmers, artists, organizers, and Cornell faculty and students to document and share new community-based knowledge frameworks emerging locally in multicultural, BIPOC-led cooperative land governance and farming initiatives. Through collaborative processes of teaching, learning, research, analysis, and action, participants will co-­create a series of videos, podcasts, and installations that foster conversations and build relationships across racial, socio-cultural, and geographic lines. The project will open a new line of collaborative teaching, learning, and research on the work of advancing land justice and food sovereignty, centered on a long-term partnership between Khuba International and the university-wide undergraduate Community Food Systems (CFS) minor at Cornell.

  • Co-principal investigator: Scott Peters (Global Development, CALS)
  • Co-principal investigator: Christa Núñez (Global Development, CALS)

Track 2: Researching, Teaching, and Building for a World on the Move

These funded projects have a broad international focus and engage multispecies, interdisciplinary perspectives around diverse migration topics. 

Cross-Disciplinary Team and Individual Research Grants

Right-to-Heal: Housing and Parks of Multispecies Migration

Esra Akcan will research and integrate a multidisciplinary feedback structure for two chapters of her multi-year book project, Right to Heal: Architecture in Transitions after Conflicts and Disasters. The ambition of this book is to synthesize expert knowledge from the fields of architecture, urbanism, landscape, history, international law, wildlife biology, botanical studies, sociology, anthropology, and several area studies (East Asian, Near Eastern and European studies) to bear on issues of the designed environment, both architectural and natural, in settlements with more-than-human residents. While each chapter will be written within the logic of a single-authored book, this grant will make the multidisciplinary reach possible by compensating for the contribution of scholars that are to be integrated into the research and feedback structure.  

  • Principal investigator: Esra Akcan (Architecture, AAP)

From Minority to Majority: Pakistani Hindu Migration to India

An immigration officer at a citizenship office in India clicks on the radio button “Minority” to enter the details of a Pakistani Hindu migrant woman’s naturalization application into an online computer database. How did Hindus come to be recognized as a minority in India, a majority Hindu country? This project will provide a multimodal ethnographic account of the flexible religious minority form in South Asia to understand the ways that immigration regimes in the region are implicated in colonial legacies and majoritarian politics. The overall project includes a book, journal articles, a feature documentary, and a short experimental film series exploring different aspects of contemporary Pakistani Hindu migration to western India to understand how the religious minority form travels across state borders in South Asia. Each form of scholarship offers a medium-specific insight about the ways that cross-border migration calls into question the normative dominance of the nation-state. This grant will support completion of the book manuscript and an initial rough-cut edit of the film.

Linking Impacts of Narco-trafficking in Central America to Overwintering Migratory Birds

Our planet faces a biodiversity crisis that continues to accelerate, in part because we lack the understanding and tools needed to address the complex and often interacting drivers of declines that operate across multiple spatial and temporal scales. Migratory species are especially vulnerable to habitat loss and degradation because they occupy vast geographies and use multiple habitats each year. Several lines of evidence point to habitat loss on the non-breeding grounds as one important contributor to population declines of migratory birds. One growing, though largely unrecognized and misunderstood, driver of deforestation in Central America is narco-trafficking. Although this link between narco-trafficking and forest loss has been recently established, no studies have estimated the consequences for biodiversity. The proposed research will leverage previously-compiled data on narco-trafficking activities to estimate the impact of the drug trade on migratory birds in three biodiversity hotspots within Central America’s last great forests: the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala, northeast Honduras, and the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica.

  • Principal investigator: Amanda D. Rodewald (Natural Resources and the Environment, CALS & Cornell Lab of Ornithology)