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Anthropology grad student wins NSF grant

The TU Department of Anthropology has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to continue research on the history of enslaved Africans who once lived on the Christiansted National Historic Site in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Award: A Cross Cultural Comparison of Risk and Adaptation Strategies will be facilitated by doctoral candidate Alicia Odewale and Associate Professor Thomas Foster.

Alicia OdewaleOdewale began studying archaeological evidence of slave quarters in St. Croix in 2015. The NSF grant will support a second summer of field research in the U.S. Virgin Islands in partnership with the National Park Service and the Southeast Archaeological Center. Odewale’s dissertation, “Living Among Presidents and Kings: Enslaved Africans Coping with Risk in Service to the Elite,” offers a comparative analysis of slavery through the lens of archaeology. Odewale and Foster are researching artifacts recovered from the residential spaces of enslaved Africans at the Christiansted National Historic Site as well as the Montpelier Plantation in Virginia.

“The comparison between urban and rural African heritage sites as well as highlighting the experiences of those individuals who were enslaved under the most elite factions of society, namely presidents and kings, makes this research an important contribution to current scholarship in African Diaspora archaeology,” Odewale said.

Her field research in the Virgin Islands also includes a community outreach component. In the summer of 2015, Odewale was asked to serve as the archaeologist-in-residence for a local youth camp program in the Crucian community. The camp, AUTISM Globe: Humane Inclusion Camp at Salt River Bay, offers a three-week immersive experience for children along the autism spectrum. Sponsored by the organization Earthangle in partnership with the National Park Service, the program introduces students to archaeology with opportunities to build their own archaeologist tool kit, draw and trace artifacts, and participate in a mock excavation. Odewale plans to resume her work with the camp this summer.

Alicia Odewale
Odewale discusses her research with members of the St. Croix community

Odewale’s accolades also include the 2015-16 American Anthropological Association Minority Dissertation Fellowship, sponsored by AAA and the Committee on Minority Affairs in Anthropology. The annual $10,000 fellowship encourages minorities to complete doctoral degrees in anthropology, increasing diversity within the discipline and promoting research on issues among minority populations. Odewale received funding from the Society of Historical Archaeology to attend the New Considerations in African Diaspora Material Culture and Heritage symposium in January 2016 in Washington, D.C.

Odewale is the first person of color to graduate with a master’s degree in museum science and management from TU. She anticipates being TU’s first African American alumna to earn a doctorate in anthropology in December.