We are proud to announce that our 2016-2017 OHMA Research Grants have been awarded to current students Robin Miniter (2016) and Fanny Julissa García (2016), who will be exploring the experiences of women who have navigated either American wilderness and patriarchy, or immigration detention and identity formation.
We look forward to following Robin and Fanny's contributions to both the historical and national narrative as their projects unfold in the coming months! Funding and support has been made possible through the GSAS Thesis Research Matching Award program.
ROBIN MINITER: In its 100th year, the National Park Service is on the cusp of transition. With an institutional culture that exhibits parallels to the military—male-dominated, patriarchal, historically misogynistic—internal investigations conducted this past year by the Department of the Interior have only just begun to excavate claims of sexual harassment, assault, and ensuing cover-ups within the organization.
Our American wilderness—pregnant with history, rich in legend, and steeped in mythology—belongs to a folklore tradition that has long warned little girls of the dangers that lurk in the woods. Traditionally, the American wilderness has not been a place women have been welcome. But: they continue to go. Defining society’s expectations, within the NPS now exists a dispersed community of female wilderness rangers who, for the first time in agency history, have chosen to raise children in the backcountry.
In collaboration with Emma Courtland (2016), the goal of this project is to use photo, audio, and video documentation to tell the stories of these women at this historic turning point with an interactive, portable art installation meant to re-craft, retell, and celebrate their stories in the outdoors.
Robin Miniter (2016) comes to OHMA with a B.A. from Marist College and a critical eye turned to the experience of female bodies in motion. During undergrad, her senior capstone project was a photo documentation of feminism, gender performativity, and the experiences of women in “hyper-masculine” sporting realms.
As a Fulbright-Nehru Student Research Scholar to India, she took to the pitches with her cleats and camera, as she chased the rise of women’s rugby across the subcontinent. Robin is currently pursuing her Certificate in Documentary Arts from Duke University. From OHMA, she hopes to refine her vision as a multidisciplinary documentary artist by exploring the experience of backcountry motherhood within the confines of the National Park Service.
FANNY GARCÍA: In 2014, the United States responded to the surge of women migrants and unaccompanied children seeking asylum and refuge by jailing them in a practice that we now call “family detention.” Thousands of families, including children and babies, have been jailed and continue to be detained in prison-like detention centers. These detention centers are operated by for-profit, private prison companies contracted by the U.S. government.
In July 2016, I volunteered for the CARA Pro Bono Project and served as a legal assistant at a detention center in Dilley, Texas. Many of the women I spoke to during the intake process described their time in the “hieleras” and “perreras” as one of the most dehumanizing and demoralizing experiences of their lives. The journey sometimes paled in comparison because at least while traveling to the United States they were taking their destiny and livelihoods into their own hands. In other words, the women used their agency to flee their countries.
Instead of providing refuge and a humane immigration system for refugees, the temporary and long-term detention centers in the U.S., robbed them of their humanity. The media covering the crisis has largely focused on the cause and effect of the Central American refugee crisis, and the action the U.S. has taken to deter these refugees from coming to this country, but they have not examined the impact that detention has had on migrants’ lives and psyche. This is why the central component of my project must be the stories and experiences shared by the women who have lived the journey.
The goal of my oral history project is to collect and document the experiences of Central American women who have migrated to the U.S from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala and who have been detained by the United States at the Mexico/U.S. border. The main purpose is to make visible the lives of Central American refugees, their experiences, and why they are forced to flee their homes.
One of the overarching questions of this project is, “How does spending time in immigrant detention centers affect a person’s identity as an American?” The term “American” will be defined broadly and will encompass the continent of America, which includes much more than just the United States. Furthermore, how does the treatment a person receive as a refugee and asylum seeker affect their integration into their host country? Does the refugee/asylum seeker see himself or herself as a guest or hostage of the nation in which they seek refuge?
Fanny Julissa García (2016) is a writer and editor. Born in Honduras and raised in Mexico, she called Los Angeles home before moving to Las Vegas to work in digital and social media marketing. She graduated magna cum laude from UCLA with a degree in English. Her undergraduate honors thesis, "Guate-Angeleno: An Exploration of a Trans-Isthmian Category of Identity in Hector Tobar’s The Tattooed Soldier and Translation Nation," was made possible through a grant from the UCLA Undergraduate Research Center.