Undergraduate Research Grant Summer 2018, Roca

This research project was largely an anthropological ode to the contemporary histories of urban farming and seed saving in the Bronx. I fused my last undergraduate research project, carried out during the 2017-18 academic year, into this project that has taken a more creative, visual approach.  The inspiration for this was born from the positive feedback I received on our poster for the showcase in the spring.  On the poster, I tracked migration routes of communities affected by urbanization of the early 20th century with seeds and beans relative to their cultural foodways.  I told the story of the contemporary uprising of urban gardening in communities of color through visuals and captions containing my research points.  The food justice movement, having sprung up from burnt out lots in the 70s, mass displacement and terrible food policy, is resilient and powerful. This makes for a visually-rich as well as politically profound moment of history that I feel compelled to unearth and respectfully honor.  This project helped my academic experience go full-circle—taking the typical archetypes of methodology to the street—drawing inspiration from both academics and the everyday person putting the actual labor into what is shaping the movement on the ground.

Our research so far has taken an unexpected turn, incorporating more of a conversation of seeds and climate change into the mix.  A recent New York Times feature, titled Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change, by Nathaniel Rich, inspired us to touch on the irreversibility of climate change and the role of seed saving in this moment of time.  In a seemingly hopeless political and environmental climate, how does seed saving/banking/engineering outside of the lab have a stake in it all, and what does that look like?  We are posing this additional question to those within the movement we are conducting interviews with.  This is adding some rich audio content behind the moving visuals we are capturing.  Our accomplishments thus far are gathering visuals and audio to piece together creatively.  The time and focus this project requires is a challenge, however this experience has shaped my time management in a transformative and self-disciplined way.  We plan to pursue this film project beyond this research grant, and hopefully enter it into small short film festivals.

My mentor has helped me grow exceptionally as a dedicated researcher.  Her support and encouragement has motivated me to develop my research beyond the start and end date of a grant.  Her questions challenge me and push the research to incorporate narratives that are so often neglected in the larger picture.  I am extremely grateful to study and research under someone as accomplished and brilliant as Dr. Denise Santiago.

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