Students doing Social Science Research

In December Lorenz commented about an article in Culture Matters about an anthropologist named Alice Corbet. This anthropologist graduated with her PhD from the Sorbonne in Paris against seeming discouragement from her professors. She was  forced to work  along with attending school  to survive, which was frowned upon by her instructors.  This  is  a common  problem  with American students, I personally know very few students who do not have at least a part time job in addition to their student loans.  In her case there were two scholarships were offered a year for anthropologist students which  covered  barely enough to do minimal field work, let alone entire research projects. Corbet then explains to the interviewer how most research students turn to private institutions for funding. This alternative sounds like a good fix to an obstacle many students face throughout their academic careers, unless of course your topic of research makes anyone feel uncomfortable or risks losing anyone money. Due to the “sensitive” nature of her  thesis Corbet was unable to obtain funding from private organizations who feared stepping on any bureaucratic toes.

This leaves me to wonder a few things. First why wasn’t there more funding from her institution for students who would be doing research? Maybe this is a problem in all institutions and I’m just unaware of it due to my lack of experience with post graduate work. Second I’m thinking about her discouragement to pursue this topic because it was too “political”.  Once again this may be me showing naivety about  how research at that  level works. In my opinion however, institutions should be more supportive of their students. Her lack of funding and pressure to not pursue this topic seems to me the opposite of what a university should be providing their students with. Who will encourage students to question the world around them and make it possible for them to do so, if not the schools they are attending.

Maybe I’m a bit idealistic about the role of universities in the lives of the students.


2 Responses

  1. I love the fact that she worked in a cemetery because it provided her with the “quiet” she needed to proof her thesis….

    Pretty remarkable story about her fieldwork, too. It would be interesting to know where she applied for funding; it’s easy to see how research of this kind (which essentially discovers that “humanitarian relief” does not necessarily provide “relief” at all) could make funders nervous. But you’d hope someone would be able to see the value in this project. Good to hear that she finished the degree…

  2. Hi,

    My name is Paul Mason. I interviewed Alice for the above-mentioned blog post. She will be doing some job interviews shortly and one of her advisors suggested that we remove the post before the interviews. I have asked the administrators of Culture matters to remove this post and I would like to ask if you could also please remove your post or introduce some anonymity into the discussion.

    Thank you for your time and thank you for your interest in Alice’s story. When I met Alice, she had some incredible stories to share with some very insightful perspectives. I am wishing her every success as her career progresses.


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