Undergraduate Research

Learn more about UNC Asheville's Undergraduate Research Program.

 

Madelyn McAllister - The Dark Side of Luxury: the Connection between Chocolate and Child Slavery in West Africa

Faculty Mentor: Surain Subramaniam

Major: Interdisciplinary Studies (International Studies)

Minor: Africana Studies

Presented at Spring 2012 Undergraduate Research Symposium

Slavery has existed, in one form or another, long before written history. The past has shown that the exploitation of people has, and probably always will be, a part of our civilization. Though slavery has been legally abolished worldwide, serious labor abuses on cocoa plantations remain. With the combination of global media and dedicated human rights advocates, exploitation in the form of child slavery in the cocoa industry is at last becoming recognized. The spread of globalization has allowed exploited victims to finally have a voice. As global citizens we have a responsibility to listen to these voices to help those who cannot help themselves. In this paper I will look at the voices of West African children who are forced into a lifetime of servitude working on cocoa farms. Cocoa beans provide the raw materials for chocolate; a luxury item that many Americans enjoy on a regular basis. The cocoa farms in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire provide seventy to seventy-five percent of the world’s cocoa beans.16 Child labor is routinely used on these cocoa farms as a form of cheap or free labor. The International Labor Organization (ILO Convention 182) describes the child labor used on these cocoa farms as “The Worst Forms of Child Labor.” This research paper will analyze the direct correlation between chocolate and child slavery in West Africa.

Morgan Nirenstein - World Camp (Malawi): Reflections on an Internship and on the Needs of an AIDS-Devastated Nation

Faculty Mentor: Surain Subramaniam

Major: Interdisciplinary Studies (International Studies)

Presented at Spring 2012 Undergraduate Research Program Symposium

As an intern at World Camp, Inc. in Asheville in the spring of 2011, I learned about the day-to-day operation of an international nonprofit organization, how nonprofit organizations market themselves and why the people of Malawi need help. From this experience, I was compelled to research and learn why Malawians need help, what the Malawian government is doing to repair the AIDS-devastated nation and how World Camp and other nonprofit organizations are helping. While the focus of my internship was marketing World Camp toward prospective volunteers, I became curious about the work of my superiors. Although I learned more about the operation of World Camp during the course of my internship, I wanted to know more about the African country of Malawi. I performed outside research on questions such as: Why do Malawians need help? What has the Malawian government done to help? Who are the other nongovernmental organizations working in Malawi and what are they doing? I would like to inform my peers, UNC Asheville faculty and the community about World Camp and Malawi. I hope to encourage my audience to volunteer however they may feel led. Malawians need help and are receiving it from a variety of outlets. It is heart-warming to know part of this aid comes from a small international nonprofit organization in Asheville.

Alexandra Ponton - Perseverance in the Face of Oppression: Tunisia’s Revolutions and The Al-Nahda Party

Faculty Mentor: Surain Subramaniam

Major: Interdisciplinary Studies (International Studies)

Presented at Spring 2012 Undergraduate Research Symposium

Tunisia caught the attention of the world on December 18, 2010 when Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest of government corruption, high unemployment, and increasing food prices. In a matter of months the autocratic system in Tunisia that had been in place for 24 years was challenged by a youth revolutionary movement, which eventually toppled the government of President Ben Ali. All eyes are now on Tunisia, as speculation rises over the long-term effects of the Jasmine Revolution, also known as the Arab Spring. This paper focuses on the Hizb Al-Nahda political party, which was banned by the government in 1989, but is now making a political comeback in the wake of the Arab Spring. The paper will explore the history of political uprisings in Tunisia and the role that state repression has played, as well as how the resilience of the Al-Nahda party has allowed it to become a political frontrunner in the Tunisian elections for the Constituent Assembly that were held on October 23, 2011. This paper will conclude with what the lasting role of the Al-Nahda party will be in the coming months.

Erin Putnam - Waging Peace: Analyzing the Effects of International Aid and Assistance on Warring Somalia

Faculty Mentor: Surain Subramaniam

Major: Interdisciplinary Studies (International Studies)

Minor: Africana Studies

Presented at Spring 2012 Undergraduate Research Program Symposium

Since the coup that placed Somalia’s first president, Mohammed Siad Barre, into power the country located on the horn of Africa’s east coast has been thrown into an ever-present state of turmoil and desolation. With the overthrow of Barre, the tribal and clan based conflict that followed, the rise of the militant group Al-Shabaab, and a drought that has been called the worst in sixty years, this collapsed nation has received a multitude of International Aid from the global community to support its approximately 1.1 million internally displaced persons (CIA World Factbook). This paper will analyze the overall effects of such aid across war torn Somalia through an examination of the purpose and distribution of such aid and how this assistance was received by the governing forces within the Somali nation.

Kari Slagle - Heritage Conservation in Africa with Special Reference to Zimbabwe (University Research Scholar, paper published in UNC Asheville Undergraduate Research Journal)

Faculty Mentor: Surain Subramaniam

Major: Interdisciplinary Studies (International Studies)

Minor: Africana Studies

Presented at Spring 2012 Undergraduate Research Program Symposium

Within the borders of the African continent, heritage conservation faces a number of serious threats which are at least partially contributing to, if not already causing, the possible failure of the preservation effort in the years to come. If and where this failure occurs, African society will suffer from permanent losses to their traditional cultural heritage, the value of which cannot possibly be measured for the purposes of simple estimation. Hope remains, however, that the conservation effort will instead enjoy widespread success, and that Africa’s immense cultural wealth  will remain largely intact for the education and enjoyment of future generations. In addition, the methods which  are often used in the process of preservation have proven beneficial for current African citizens as well. The paper first introduces the practice of international heritage conservation; an introduction to intangible heritage, and the important role which it plays in the field of cultural preservation, is also included. The benefits of conservation are then outlined, beginning with those which pertain specifically to Africans, and followed by those which affect others outside the continent as well. Cultural tourism, in particular, is addressed in greater detail in order to identify and emphasize the institution’s benefits for both Africans and non-Africans. The paper then takes a look at the challenges which face heritage conservation in Africa today, and the factors associated with colonialism which ultimately caused these problems, including colonial education systems, museums, and resettlement policies. These institutions led to the present Eurocentric nature of African museums, as well as the lack of funding, human resources, and training which continues to plague heritage practices in Africa today.

In order to provide an example of these circumstances, reference is made specifically to the past and present situation of the southern African country of Zimbabwe. Post-colonial heritage conservation in Zimbabwe, which is involved in the African museum revolution and the preservation  of the nation’s numerous archaeological sites, is discussed in terms of land reforms and cultural tourism, among other things. Finally, the paper addresses the current issues surrounding heritage conservation within the African continent, including critical discussions on community involvement, financial and human resources, professional training, attitudes, sustainable development, cultural policies, and heritage legislation. The paper makes the argument that, once these obstacles are overcome, African nations will be able to actively participate in heritage conservation at an international level. Those who are presently involved in the increasingly urgent struggle to identify, tackle, and solve these problems understand the importance of their mission, and are looking forward to the days ahead when the abundant rewards which accompany successful conservation practices will be realized internationally, and enjoyed locally.

Amanda Tesh - Race in the Sphere of Contemporary Cuban Art: A Culture of Resistance

Faculty Mentor: Surain Subramaniam

Major: Interdisciplinary Studies (International Studies)

Minor: Africana Studies

Presented at Spring 2012 Undergraduate Research Program Symposium

The evolution of Cuban cultural forms after the triumph of the Revolution of 1959 has brought to light a new dynamic potential for art. The ideologies regarding social relations presented by influentially radical personas such as Karl Marx, José Martí, “Che” Guevara and Tomás Gutiérrez Alea have all informed a new understanding of the importance of the artist to society. Contemporary Cuban artists are taking advantage of this cultural space of free expression to initiate the discussion of racial and racist themes using an aesthetic strongly informed by the postmodern experience.