Elizabeth Sheehan Hello there! My name is Elizabeth and I am a senior at Tufts majoring in Anthropology. Born in Connecticut, I was raised on the North Shore of Massachusetts. In my spare time, I enjoy baking, playing the flute and practicing yoga.

What I consider to be one of the most salient aspects of my subject position is that I am the first person in my family to ever study anthropology.  Although I did not have an extensive knowledge of it prior to enrolling in my first course, I felt extremely drawn to it. I may not have realized it at the time but my previous participation in theatre definitely contributed to my passion for anthropology. While acting in plays as a teenager and even before, I found myself fascinated by people and their behavior, particularly the aspects of their lives that contain meaning which is only visible to them as participants — practices which seem mundane on the surface but are actually quite meaningful. Likewise, having been brought up in a very close-knit family as a child I always took an interest in the family as a subject of study. Although I didn’t use the terminology then, I was always curious about notions of kinship, how families related to each other in the private sphere and the public sphere: and how those interactions were similar and different.

In addition, one of the essential elements of my subject position is the lack of travel I’d engaged in before the start of this year. What has always fascinated me is the thought that anthropological investigation may be conducted in your own neighborhood — your own backyard. Because I had not been directly exposed to distant cities and peoples before this year, I’d always been eager to unpack the hidden meanings of our own everyday lives. Even at a young age, I’d wondered, “How do our lives appear to outsiders?” What fascinated me once I began to travel more during my semester abroad in Scotland was the commonalities I sensed in the different cities I visited. I don’t mean to imply that the cities  I visited were all extremely similar; rather I felt as though I saw in action the structuralist notions of Levi-Strauss.  Often, there are key features of every city that a people produce in different forms. Each city has its own character, it’s own physical and social landscape, but this very identity has foundational features which are seen in other cities: features such as a celebration of collective history and individual identity.

I also had a wonderful opportunity this past summer to travel to ten American cities in ten weeks during which time I made similar observations in places such as Peoria, IL, Detroit, MI and Lexington, KY. I loved seeing the incredible cultural diversity spanning across the country. Having never left New England before, I was especially excited to see such places as El Paso, TX and Fresno, CA which have such a strong immigrant culture.

My interest in the course and the study of Somerville’s immigrant community began when I was taking “Growing Up Latino” during my sophomore year. While working on the “Immigrant City: Then and Now” installation I became particularly interested in the interface between separate immigrant communities: those of the past and those of the present. I am fascinated by the notion that seemingly disparate worlds may coexist side by side, commingling in unexpected and diverse ways.  I am curious to learn about the tension that may develop between these separate groups and explore how the bridge between them may be gapped and that tension may be eased through policy-making. Likewise, having studied Spanish in high school and college, I have always had a particular interest in Latin American culture and how it has manifested itself in the United States through various immigrant communities.

What do I hope to accomplish this semester? First and foremost, I hope to develop my skills of fieldwork. I so look forward to finally engaging in that process and  applying my knowledge of Latino culture and anthropology into real-world experience. I also hope to learn more about the community that lies beyond the Tufts campus and how anthropological investigation may be used to benefit that community through the work being done to extend Green Line.