Train: Global Spotlight

2012 Grants Program

Listed below are recipients of the 2012 Global Spotlight grants for international scholarly activities. This program supported targeted research and other scholarly initiatives related to the spotlight areas for 2010-2012: the region of Latin America and the Caribbean and the issue of urbanization. More than $500,000 was awarded to University of Minnesota faculty and graduate students through four grant programs that fund innovative research and support the continued development of a global network of engagement and scholarship across the University.

Major International Research Grants

The purpose of these grants is to promote the establishment of major international research and creative activity initiatives with global visibility. Grants are funded at a level that will provide substantial opportunity for initiation of a major, long-term research program. Awards ranged from $50,000 to $75,000.

The Great Transformation: Urban Land Markets, Livelihoods, & the Growing Ecological Crisis in Asia's Cities

Principal Investigator: Associate Professor Vinay Gidwani, Geography, College of Liberal Arts (UMTC)
Co-Principal Investigators: Regents Professor Eric Sheppard and Professor Helga Leitner, Geography;
Professor Michael Goldman, Sociology, College of Liberal Arts (UMTC)

Rapid urbanization across Asia is undergoing a great transformation under the aegis of neoliberal, market-based policymaking emanating from the global North. Privatization of land and basic services is envisioned as capable of enhancing economic competitiveness, the prosperity of all urban residents and urban environmental sustainability, converting cities where much urban living is informal (e.g., land tenure, economic activities, access to amenities) into places where private ownership and formal markets dominate. A four-discipline three-country research team will undertake a relational comparison of two Asian cities experiencing this in distinct ways: Bangalore (India) and Jakarta (Indonesia). Here, and elsewhere, formalization of urban life and economies is accompanied by ongoing, even expanded, informality. In collaboration with local experts, these "living laboratories" will be studied to understand the processes driving this transformation, their impact on urban residents in formal and informal areas, and how residents negotiate these changes. Core and peri-urban areas will be studied, as urban spaces that are particularly affected by neoliberalization. Utilizing a mixed methods research design (document analysis, surveys, interviews, focus group, participatory mapping), we will examine the transformations and how cities are undergoing neoliberalization, how articulations of distinct urban lifestyles are shifting, and how we should theorize and intervene in cities.

Urbanization and Exposure to Air Pollution

Principal Investigator: Assistant Professor Julian Marshall, Civil Engineering, College of Science and Engineering (UMTC)
Co-Principal Investigator: Assistant Professor Dylan Millet; Soil, Water, and Climate; College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences (UMTC)

In low- and middle-income countries such as India, urban air pollution accounts for 20 percent of all deaths due to environmental factors. Like many developing countries, India is rapidly urbanizing, gaining more than 150,000 new urban residents per week. The impacts of this rural-to-urban migration on air pollutant emissions and exposure are not well understood. Here, we propose a two-year research project to examine the relationship between urbanization and air pollution in and around Hyderabad, India. We seek to address the following core questions:

  • Are new urban residents exposed to higher or lower levels of outdoor air pollution than established residents?
  • How do air pollution emissions and concentrations differ within and among communities of varying degree of urbanization?

The project will involve field measurements of air pollution in several communities along a rural-to-urban gradient.  It will generate new knowledge regarding environmental impacts of urbanization, and we will disseminate this knowledge via journal articles, conference presentations, and lectures to students in Minnesota, London, and Hyderabad. Our collaboration with global experts in urbanization and public health will connect our findings with ongoing research on urbanization and health, assist with dissemination of findings locally and globally, and leverage future funding opportunities.

Source Attribution for Human Toxoplasmosis in Communities from Southern Chile

Principal Investigator: Assistant Professor Claudia Munoz-Zanzi, Epidemiology, School of Public Health (UMTC)
Co-Principal Investigator: Associate Professor Haitao Chu, Biostatistics, School of Public Health (UMTC)

Toxoplasmosis is a zoonotic disease of worldwide distribution caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Felids are the host of T. gondii and shed the oocyst stage of the parasite in their feces. Humans can become infected either by ingestion of oocyst in soil, fruits, and vegetables, or water that has been contaminated with cat feces, or by ingestion of tissue cysts in undercooked meat from a wide range of farm and wild animals that can also become infected. Public health impact of toxoplasmosis is associated with congenital infections, foodborne illness, ocular disease, and, potentially, mental illness. Uncertainty about how most people in a community actually acquire the infection results in general advice to avoid numerous risk factors, making compliance difficult. The overall objective of this project is to gain a better understanding of the relative importance of the various potential sources of human infection in a highly endemic area of Chile and develop a public health risk assessment tool to enable public health agencies to assess the risk of T. gondii infection in any given community.

Food, Health, and Labor: (Im)migrant Agency in the Production of Informal Economic Systems in Colombia, Mexico, and the United States

Principal Investigator: Assistant Professor Lorena Munoz, Geography, College of Liberal Arts (UMTC)
Co-Principal Investigator: Assistant Professor Zobeida E. Bonilla, Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health (UMTC)

In the last 40 years, Latin America has experienced unprecedented levels of migration to urban centers. Concurrently, the informal sector has become a major source of urban employment. Scholars understand the growth of street vending as a survival strategy—a pre-modern unorganized activity of underdeveloped economies. This understanding frames the street vending as a problem that can be solved by institutionalizing and regulating vending practices. Large urban centers throughout the Americas have attempted to control public spaces. However, despite these neo-liberal cleanup strategies, informal vending continues to increase and thrive in spaces of poverty and marginalization. This study examines how employment as street vendors provides a sustainable livelihood for migrant and immigrant laborers in the shadows of large-scale neoliberal development projects in Bogotá, Cancun, and Los Angeles. The project will provide greater understanding of how (im)migrant informal vending labor systems are created, when and where they operate, who participates, who consumes what, how they appear and disappear, and how vending is tied to larger, formal economies that are directly connected to global economic processes.

International Research Seed Grants

These grants support innovative project-based scholarly research and creative production of an international nature with a focus on the region of Latin America and the Caribbean and/or the issue of urbanization. Grants are up to $15,000.

Ecosystem Services and Vegetational Diversity: Valuation, Risk, and Uncertainty

Principal Investigator: Professor David Andow; Entomology; College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences (UMTC)
Co-Principal Investigator: Professor Frances Homan; Applied Economics; College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences (UMTC)

This project will collaborate with colleagues in Brazil, focusing on agriculture in the cerrado biome of central Brazil. Our specific objectives are:

  • Develop a framework for comparing the value of ecosystems services derived from vegetational diversity across several cropping systems in Brazil;
  • Develop possible methods for predicting the value of ecosystem services that can be obtained from vegetational diversity; and
  • Develop a decision framework based on the valuation of the ecosystem services provided by vegetational diversity in tropical agricultural ecosystems in Brazil. 

We will develop a decision-analytic model for small family farmers and for Ministerial policy-makers, and use interviews of Ministerial policy-makers, surveys of farmers, and biological data generated by our Brazilian colleagues to structure the model. We will submit one publishable manuscript and we plan to submit a grant to the NSF-PIRE program during this grant. 

The Politics of Housing, Debt, and Urbanization in Cancún, Mexico

Principal Investigator: Associate Professor M. Bianet Castellanos, American Studies, College of Liberal Arts (UMTC)
Co-Principal Investigator: Assistant Professor David Karjanen, American Studies, College of Liberal Arts (UMTC)

Tourism is one of the leading commodities traded globally and is considered one of the most successful development models in Latin America. Studies of tourism focus primarily on leisure and services. Yet, tourism, especially in Mexico is dependent on the influx of the migrants who provide surplus labor, leading to what Mike Davis (2006) calls “over urbanization” where growth is predicated on the reproduction of poverty, instead of job opportunities. Given that tourism has propelled the expansion of Latin America’s fastest growing cities (including Cancún and Playa del Carmen, both of which are located in Mexico), this project asks what role tourism and migration have played in the urbanization, privatization, and suburbanization of rural landscapes in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. More specifically, through an ethnographic case study of the tourist city of Cancún, it addresses how the importation of an American model of development within a different context (that of Cancún) and a different set of financial mechanisms impacts urbanization in Mexico. As one of Mexico’s largest tourist centers, Cancún has grown exponentially over the past three decades. This growth has resulted in the need for housing and mortgage loans catering to the city’s working class indigenous migrants. Thus, at the local level, this interdisciplinary project will shed light on the implication of migrants, originating from indigenous rural spaces, embracing debt and financial risk in an urban landscape.

Forest Certification in Bolivia: A Status Report

Principal Investigator: Assistant Professor Omar Espinoza; Bioproducts/Biosystems Engineering; College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences (UMTC)
Co-Principal Investigator: Michael John Dockry, Forest Service Liaison to College Monominee Nation, Sustainable Development Institute, U.S. Forest Service

Bolivia has been mentioned as a success story in sustainable forest certification as it managed to, in a relatively short period, become the leader in certification of tropical forests. This is of great importance as South America and Africa continue to have the largest net loss of forest cover. However, during the last years, the certified area has fallen dramatically, having now only half of its peak in 2008. The sustainable utilization of its forests provides this nation with a much needed source of jobs and contributes to its development, especially in rural indigenous communities, many of which are situated nearby or in forested areas. The reasons for this decline are not known, nor the state of sustainable forest management in this country with rich natural resources but a high poverty rate. The proposed research intends to assess the state of forest certification in Bolivia, identifying status and trends, the role and positions of major stakeholders, and benefits and challenges to certification. The objective will be accomplished by an initial consultation to secondary sources of information, followed by a series of interviews and visits to key stakeholders and experts, such as government officials, scholars, indigenous community representatives, and private enterprise. The outcomes from this research will help policy makers and other interested parties with knowledge about benefits, barriers, and pitfalls of certification, to better tailor support programs for this and other forest-rich countries. It is expected that this research can be later expanded to include other countries in the region that face similar challenges.

Of Concrete Beaches and Vales of Pale Rubble: Self-Governance, Natural Resources, the Environment, and Gender Politics in the French Caribbean Imaginary

Principal Investigator: Assistant Professor Njeri Githire, African American and African Studies, College of Liberal Arts (UMTC)

This project examines an environmental phenomenon in the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique characterized as bétonisation or cementification, which provides an apt shorthand for the remorseless spread of concrete in these islands' landscape in the form of hotels, marinas, tourist attraction facilities/sites, airports, roads, supermarkets, housing developments, etc. Generally considered the daunting, faceless sprawl of French hegemonic presence on the French Antilles, the damning portrayal of the effects of bétonisation is also scathingly referred to as francisation or "Frenchification." Consequently, bétonisation is largely deployed in literary, cultural and academic contexts to critic the continuing mandated assimilation, linguistic dispossession and cultural annihilation that these French overseas territories continue to experience. The project follows a two-fold approach: (i) an interrogation of literary texts by French Caribbean writers that draw on bétonisation to critique concepts of citizenship, political agency and their role in cultural maintenance, and (ii) an analysis of possibilities for the implementation of channels for influencing national decision-making within Martinique and Guadeloupe, including the prospects for these islands' self-governance. The project aims at unmasking the process of cultural displacement that French standardisation enacts through the dynamics of bétonisation in its broadest economic, socio-cultural, political and military sense, and considering tentative resources to address it.

Cybertopias: Global Markets, Technology, and Mayan Identities in Guatemala

Principal Investigator: Assistant Professor Jennifer C. Gómez Menjívar, Foreign Languages and Literature, Liberal Arts (UMD)
Co-Principal Investigator: Ricardo Lima-Soto, Anthropology, Universidad Rafael Landívar

The purpose of this study is to explore how indigenous peoples negotiate the rural/urban divide in the context of globalization. The primary objective of this research project is to examine how Kaqchikel and K’iche' indigenous communities in Guatemala use technology to reverse inequitable socio-economic patterns and respond to their communities’ needs.The researchers argue that these ethnic communities use cyberspace strategically in order to align themes with global economies. This study focuses on indigenous people’s agency and contributes to an emerging body of literature on economic, political, social, and cultural sustainability. It is an interdisciplinary collaboration involving scholars in the United States and Guatemala.

Ecological Restoration in the Galápagos: The Galapagos Hawk on the Pinzón

Principal Investigator: Assistant Clinical Professor Julia Ponder, Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine; and Executive Director, The Raptor Center (UMTC)
Co-Principal Investigator: Associate Professor Dominic Travis, Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine (UMTC)

Control and eradication of invasive species is a powerful tool for ecological restoration on islands, but must be done without harming native and endemic populations. The Galápagos National Park has begun a long-term program to eradicate invasive rodents from the islands in the archipelago. The Galápagos hawk is an endemic species at risk for secondary, non-target mortality during rodent eradication projects. A pilot project in 2011 utilized a novel technique to protect at-risk hawks while successfully eradicating rodents on 10 small islands. Pinzón, the next island scheduled to undergo eradication, has genetically distinct populations of hawks. For this project, we will establish baseline health and population parameters for the hawk population, setting the stage for future work to assess the impact of temporary captivity on the fitness of a population with minimal genetic variability. We will also utilize the information collected to inform a revised mitigation plan for the hawks during implementation of rodent eradication on the island of Pinzón.

Politeness, Populations, and Presuppositions in Belizean Kriol

Principal Investigator: Assistant Professor William N. Salmon, Writing Studies, College of Liberal Arts (UMD)

This study is concerned with conventions of language and language practice among speakers of Belizean Kriol, an English-based creole spoken in coastal Belize. It investigates linguistic variation in Kriol between speakers from rural coastal villages and cayes and those in the country’s urban center, Belize City, where the majority of native Kriol speakers reside. The project ties into a rapidly growing area of inquiry, which seeks to extend current thought in pragmatics and semantics to questions of discourse, presupposition, and politeness as seen in indigenous and non-English languages. Belizean Kriol, with its Amerindian and African influences, offers a perfect laboratory for continuing this kind of work. The investigation will contribute to our knowledge of pragmatic and semantic conventions of the language, and it will also offer insight into the diversification of Kriol and the kinds of factors that contribute to this process.

Strengthening Food Safety in Latin America through Risk Analysis Approach

Principal Investigator: Assistant Professor Fernando Sampedro Parra, Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine (UMTC)
Co-Principal Investigator: Professor Francisco Diez; Food, Science, and Nutrition; College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences (UMTC)

The region of Latin America and the Caribbean has a long tradition in the production of agricultural commodities, traditional and artisanal foods. Some of them are sold in traditional markets with poor sanitary measures causing different food safety concerns and increasing the number of foodborne illnesses especially among children. Global trade liberalization is transforming food systems across Latin America but also creating new risks. As the scale of food production and the complexity of supply chains increase, minor errors can translate into widespread foodborne illness. The lack of a structured approach to evaluate and mitigate the risk of national food chains place these countries in a clear disadvantage. Risk analysis framework is a rigorous, objective, and scientific analysis of risks based on the available national data. Intergovernmental organizations such as FAO, WHO, IICA, PAHO, and IBD have identified the need to develop and implement a comprehensive global capacity-building program on risk analysis. A necessary pre-requisite for this hemispheric capacity-building is to establish a baseline of the status of implementation and development of risk-analysis approach within national governmental organizations across Latin America. This research proposal will perform a baseline survey on the implementation of risk analysis in food safety gathering information, the technical knowledge of risk analysis framework, the organization of the national food safety program, the development of food safety agencies, and the human and capital resources allocated to food safety in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Constraining the Latitudinal Variablity in Southern South American Hydroclimate through Lacustrine Geochemical Proxies

Principal Investigator: Associate Professor Josef P. Werne, Large Lakes Observatory (UMD)
Co-Principal Investigator: Sergio Quintana Contreras, Research Associate, Large Lakes Observatory (UMD)

This proposal will study the modern relationship between the position and intensity of the Southern Westerly Winds (SWW) on southern South America with changes in temperature, moisture delivery, and vegetation inferred from molecular fossils, bulk and compound specific stable isotopes contained in surface sediments from lakes along the western (Chile) and eastern (Argentine) sides of the Andes. Southern South America is the only large landmass that extends through the core of the modern SWW. Deciphering the natural variability of the SWW, the main source of moisture in southern South America, and its response to the rise in global atmospheric greenhouse gases beyond the short record provided by instrumental and reanalysis data sets will aid in evaluation of the consequence of ongoing climate change.

Doctoral Fellowships International Research Grant (post-oral exam)

These fellowships support current University of Minnesota doctoral students pursuing international research projects that focus on the region of Latin America and the Caribbean and/or the issue of urbanization. Fellowships up to $15,000 provide support to students conducting international dissertation research on a full-time basis.

Infrastructures of Debt and Property in the Post-Apartheid Suburb: Remaking Race and Class in South Africa

Sian Butcher, Geography
College of Liberal Arts

“Chinese” Models of Ecological Urbanization – The Shanghai Dongtan and Tianjin Binghai Eco-cities Projects

I Chun Catherine Chang, Geography
College of Liberal Arts

Constraints to Policy and Implementation in Urban Water Governance in the Middle East: The Case of Amman, Jordan

Basil Mahayni, Geography
College of Liberal Arts

A Republic of Lost Peoples: Race, Status, and Rural Migration in the Cordillera Oriental (Spain, Bolivia, Argentina)

Nathan Weaver Olson, History
College of Liberal Arts

Contesting Patriarchal Authority: Law, Society, and Marital Conflict in Lima, Peru 1570 - 1670

Alexander L. Wisnoski III, History
College of Liberal Arts

MA, Professional, Doctoral International Grants (pre-oral exam)

These grants support current University of Minnesota Masters, Professional, and Doctoral students pursuing a program of study with an international focus. Grants of up to $7,500 are intended to support short-term activities on the region of Latin America and the Caribbean and/or on the issue of urbanization that enhance the scholarly project and/or professional preparation of the student.

Fluency and Influence: Language Learning In Bolivia

Martina Arnal, Curriculum & Instruction
College of Education and Human Development

Breadfruit Initiative

Daniel Backman, Development Policy/Planning
Humphrey School and the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC)

Temporal Patterns of Leptospira Environmental Contamination in Rural Villages from Southern Chile

Ashley R. Bekolay, Environmental Infectious Disease
School of Public Health

Paleoclimatic Studies of the Lake Chalco Region (Mexico)

Sebastian Cantarero, Geological Sciences

Toward Postcolonial Green Urbanization: Learning from Bogota’s Bicycle Initiative

Laura Cesfasky, Geography
College of Liberal Arts

Gay Related Stressors and Mental Health: An Exploratory Study of a Sample of Urban Brazilian Gay Men

Trevor Dunn, Educational Psychology
College of Education & Human Development

From River to Sea: Consequences of Urbanization on Aquatic Biodiversity of Neotropical Estuaries in Costa Rica

Petra Kranzfelder, Entomology
College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences

Mapuchizando el hiphop/hiphopizando lo Mapuche: MC JAAS and the Role of Hip Hop in Articulating Urban Mapuche Identities 

Kelly McKay, Theater Historiography
College of Liberal Arts

Tarahumara Politics in Chihuahua City: Stories of Urban Nuráami

Victoria Scher, Creative Writing
College of Liberal Arts

A Multi-Sited Ethnographic Study of Community Technology Centers and Open Education Resources

Alfonso Sintjago, Comparative and International Development Education (CIDE)
College of Education & Human Development