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Information for students

About the CAS Research Partnership

The Center for African Studies (CAS) Research Partnership pairs undergraduate students with Stanford faculty to work collaboratively on innovative research projects. Students will work directly with a faculty mentor during spring or summer quarter and receive funding up to $2,500, which will be paid via timecard reporting in Axess.

Apply for the CAS Research Partnership

Eligibility

To be eligible to participate in the CAS Research Partnership, you must:

  • Be a current undergraduate at Stanford
  • Not be serving a suspension or be on a Leave of Absence (LOA)
  • Co-term students and seniors are eligible only if the bachelor’s degree will not be conferred before the end of the research appointment.
  • Student athletes should confirm the impact of any funding on their athletic eligibility by contacting the Compliance Services Office prior to applying.

Expectations

  • Each undergraduate student will work on a faculty-led research project with a defined deliverable.
  • Work may be completed in-person or remotely during spring quarter 2024 or summer quarter 2024, depending on the project.

Apply for the CAS Research Partnership

  • Please click on the application form and use it to express your preference regarding faculty mentors and research projects (please see the list below for project descriptions).
  • You will be asked to submit a statement of interest, resume, and unofficial transcripts through the application form.
  • If your application is approved, someone will contact you to set up an interview.

Project Descriptions

Co-creation of a youth-facing CIRCLE platform in Kenya (CIRCLE stands for Community-minded Interventions for Resilience, Climate Leadership and Emotional Well-being)

Summer 2024 | Hybrid Opportunity
PI: Desiree LaBeaud, Professor of Pediatrics (Infectious Diseases)

There is an urgent need for evidence-based interventions that can protect and promote mental health in the climate crisis as well as defend against rising hopelessness as climate impacts intensify. Climate stressors, such as floods and droughts, threaten mental health directly but also traumatize individuals, overwhelm communities, and stress health systems, resulting in decreased capacity to take necessary action to prevent further harm. In Kenya, we have been working for two decades on climate-related vector-borne disease risk. In 2021, we launched a community-based nonprofit, the Health and Environmental Research Institute- Kenya (HERI), to inspire community education, new research, policy change and grass roots activism in environmental health issues related to climate impacts. We recognize that to address rising psychological distress from intensifying climate events andclimate awareness, communities must be supported to not only cope, but also act to mitigate and adapt to climate impacts. Efforts to address the growing problem of climate distress through evidence-based interventions and tools are virtually absent in the vast healthcare, mental health, wellness, climate activism, environmental education and climate adaptation/resilience sectors. Due to mental health stigma, lack of access to healthcare for many, and lack of trained clinicians, relying on local health care systems is not a scalable model in Kenya, particularly for those communities in greatest need of climate-related mental health services. This project will use evidence-based tools and interventions that build resilience, climate leadership, and emotional wellbeing at the community level, co-designed by members of the communities, particularly youth. This pilot research program will provide data on the acceptability, efficacy, and feasibility of co-created interventions for these impacted populations.The novel community-level intervention we will be testing is based on preliminary findings from a Climate Conversations pilot program in which community facilitators ran the conversations using a guide that was co-created with the research team and designed to answer research questions. Participants discussed how climate events are impacting them personally, with a focus on mental health and opportunities for resilience building. Following the intervention, a majority wanted to learn more about climate science and how climate change impacts health inequities to better defend against these burdens as well create spaces to host more climate conversations with others. Our goal is to investigate the acceptability, feasibility and efficacy of the intergenerational climate conversations intervention for protecting mental health in the climate crisis, benefiting youth, and ease of uptake by other communities. This project mitigates the impact of climate change on mental health in Kenya by building the capacity of members of this directly impacted community to: a) Understand how climate change affects mental health as well as how collective efficacy and social capital prevent climate trauma and build resilience; b) Learn to harness the science of hope, positive existential psychology, trauma-informed climate conversations, and decolonial approaches for navigating climate distress; c) Cultivate leadership skills as facilitators of proliferating climate conversations in their own networks, building people power via community organizing methods; d) Co-create a ʻclimate conversationsʼ training manual for use by other communities. We will measure participants' climate distress, anxiety (GAD-7), depression (PHQ-9), collective efficacy, agency, social capital, and mental health quality of life, at baseline and at program completion to assess immediate impact and provide preliminary data for a larger study.

The study will help to: 1) develop the youth climate conversations program; 2) assemble, organize and harmonize the survey instruments; and 2) measure the climate mental health scales pre- and post intervention. 

The student will be mentored by both Desiree LaBeaud, Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Infectious Diseases, and Britt Wray, Director of CIRCLE (Community-minded Interventions for Resilience, Climate Leadership and Emotional Wellbeing) in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences of Stanford Medicine, and will work alongside HERI-Kenya staff and leadership.

French Is Not My Mother Tongue: Linguistic Alienation and Recovery of Self in African Literature

Summer 2024 | Hybrid Opportunity
PI: Vaughn Rasberry, Associate Professor of English

This research project poses the following question: How do writers in Africa and its diaspora cope with linguistic alienation and the ongoing dominance of European colonial languages in African cultural and public life? Ever since the famous Makerere Conference on Writers of English Expression in 1962, African literature—its writers, critics, and readers—has wrestled with the legacy of European colonialism and its linguistic grip on the continent’s literary and intellectual production. To some extent, this debate may appear to have been settled, insofar as the overwhelming majority of African literary texts continues to be composed in European languages. For compelling reasons, most African writers still choose to write in French, English, and Portuguese—and few invoke the cultural alienation felt by their predecessors in doing so. But an array of contemporary writers and critics, from Senegalese novelist Boubacar Boris Diop to Kenyan-American scholar Mukoma wa Thiongo, have reinvigorated this debate and called for the restitution of African-language literature. To achieve this outcome, these and other figures have initiated published houses and other ventures designed to amplify African languages and literary cultures. Yet the linguistic situation in Africa today differs in key respects from the context of the Makerere over half a century ago. Linguistic hybridity and code-switching are now the norm across the continent, as ordinary speakers and literary artists alike combine languages in ways that complicate the binary opposition between European and African language expression. Digital publication and social media, moreover, create alternate spaces and a linguistic fluidity that was scarcely conceivable in the era of decolonization. To put the matter simply: how does this longstanding and still urgent debate on African language and literature look in the twenty-first century? To explore this question, my book project reads contemporary African and diasporic fiction alongside polemical essays, socio-linguistic research, and the political history of postcolonial Africa. I consider both renowned and understudied authors from disparate regions of the continent, including Abdulrazak Gurnah in Zanzibar and East Africa, Laila Lalami in Morocco, Haggag Hassan Oddoul in Egypt and Nubia, and Boris Diop in Senegal, among others. Adding another layer of complexity, this project focalizes the Arabic language in Africa, which occupies an ambiguous and liminal position on the continent and within African language debates. Indeed, during the Makerere Conference, Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe asked if literature in independent Africa should “embrace the whole continent or South of the Sahara, or just Black Africa? And then the question of language. Should it be in indigenous African languages, or should it include Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Afrikaans, etc.?” By lumping Arabic together with European colonial languages, Achebe voiced, perhaps inadvertently, a widespread perception about the language as foreign — or worse, as a medium of Islamic conquest or of the Trans-Saharan slave trade, which predates Trans-Atlantic slavery by centuries and placed millions of Africans in bondage. Though most scholars regard Arabic as unquestionably an African language—it is perhaps the most widely spoken non-European language on the continent, in continuous use for over a millennium—it is not considered an indigenous language. This liminality, I argue, opens a productive problem-space for the question of indigeneity and diaspora in Africa and beyond.

The work of the research assistant falls into two or three areas: first, searching for and summarizing relevant scholarly articles in major journals of African Studies; second, conducting archival research on African newspapers and periodicals; and third--if the student possesses the requisite language skills--performing brief translations or summaries of materials in Arabic or French. These language skills would be a major benefit and qualification should the student researcher possess them. In each of these areas, I would pledge to help the undergraduate student cultivate the skills to conduct this research--skills that hopefully will transfer to the student's own intellectual interests.

McGregor Museum Heritage Partnership

Spring 2024 | Remote Opportunity
PI: Grant Parker, Associate Professor of Classics

The McGregor Museum in Kimberley, Northern Cape, was established in 1907 and now occupies the Sanatorium building in which Cecil Rhodes and others took refuge during that part of the South African War known as the Siege of Kimberley (October 1899 to February 1900). Its wide-ranging collection spans historical, ethnographic and natural historical material. However, in the 116 years since the foundation of the museum, Kimberley has declined in wealth and socio-political status, leaving the McGregor understaffed and under-resourced, not least in its own efforts to transition to increased digital archiving and to more dynamically presented content. As a newly concluded collaboration, the McGregor Museum will work with the PI and with the Photography Legacy Project to digitize two major photographic collections. However, there remains a wealth of other material, around which wider-ranging digital collaboration would be mutually beneficial. Pilot projects chosen to launch this collaboration focus on exhibits for which short books were published by the museum:L. Jacobson and R. Hart, eds., Chapters from the Past: 100 years of the McGregor Museum, 1907-2007 (2007)Vida Allen, Sephai Mngqolo and Sunet Swanepoel, The ANC in the Northern Cape from 1912-1994: an easy-to-read introduction (2012)Vida Allen, Sephai Mngqolo and Sunet Swanepoel, The Struggle for Liberation and Freedom in the Northern Cape, 1850-1994 (2012)Via this pilot, the museum will be able to further its existing digitization plans while the PI’s own portal, Engaging Archives, will be strengthened by the inclusion of new material. The need to extend the range of heritage curation beyond the metropolitan centers of Johannesburg-Pretoria and Cape Town cannot be emphasized strongly enough: it is to these national capitals that most resources and international engagement has flowed. Both face immediate and more subtle, passive dangers. When prominent collections such as UCT Jagger African Studies Library and the National Assembly’s Parliamentary Library burned (in April 2021 and January 2022 respectively) they made news headlines, while smaller collections in less grandiose locations face quieter challenges, not least neglect, every day.The student’s role will not be mechanical but rather a new curation making optimal use the earlier publications. Afterwards, the resulting model can be further applied to other McGregor publications and eventually to other Southern African museums as well. A successful pilot project, as proposed, will thus lay the foundation for considerable capacity-building in the future.

The student’s role will be to create focused online exhibits, working with the PI and in consultation with McGregor staff. The three books mentioned above will be the starting point: text will be extracted, and images (plus rights) will be sourced, from the museum and beyond. The resulting multi-media curations will be exhibited on a website. 

Experience or interest in the following is especially welcome but is not required:

  • (Southern) African history or archaeology
  • Museum or any other heritage curation
  • Omeka or similar open-source web-publishing

Deadline

  • Undergraduate applications are due January 31, 2024

Funding

  • Each undergraduate research assistant will up to $2,500 for spring or summer quarter 2024.

Contact

If you have any questions, please contact Joel Cabrita, Susan Ford Dorsey Director of the Center for African Studies at jcabrita [at] stanford.edu (jcabrita[at]stanford[dot]edu).