Author: Eugenia Lee
Business Owners In Union Square
| November 3, 2010 | 12:36 am | Uncategorized | No comments

I begin every interview I conduct by saying, “I’m here to learn from you.” And it’s true. During the course of my field work in Union Square, I’ve found myself constantly humbled by the perseverance of many of the immigrants I’ve spoken to, by their innovation and resourcefulness.

Above all else though, I’m touched by their kindness. I spent around an hour or more at each of my past three interviews, interviewing but also chatting afterward. Located in restaurants and convenience stores, each of my interviewees asked me if I wanted anything. A sandwich, a Thai iced tea, and dal snacks. Each time when I tried to pay for these items, I was promptly refused, over and over again.

Convincing someone to take time out of their hectic schedule to let you ask probing questions about their life and business is a very difficult task. So far, I’ve felt grateful to every business owner I’ve spoken with not only for their time, but for the learning and experience they’ve provided me with.

Doing field work in Union Square hasn’t been easy. I’ve had interviewees forget about appointments, I’ve had someone suddenly refuse to be interviewed despite the fact that we had corresponded many times before, and I’ve had trouble finding business owners who’ll agree to be interviewed at all.

What I have found is that those who are interviewed are delighted for the chance to tell someone their story. I think to be a business owner in general, you have to have certain characteristics. To be an immigrant business owner, an interesting life story usually comes along with that.

As a student who is all to familiar with the college bubble, the very act of even taking a bus away from Tufts and into Union Square has been an enlightening one. There’s more to the Somerville community than Tufts University and Davis Square, and it’s been quite the adventure figuring that out.

Eugenia Lee
| September 15, 2010 | 1:01 am | Uncategorized | No comments

EugeniaMy name is Eugenia Lee, and I am a senior anthropology major at Tufts University. I was born in Queens, New York to immigrant parents but have spent most of my life living in New Jersey. As someone who has grown up between two different cultures, I am especially interested in the immigrant communities in Somerville. I speak Mandarin Chinese, Swahili, and am working on brushing up on my Spanish!

My interest in community organizing began in 2007, when I worked for the Obama campaign before the primaries in Iowa. Canvassing, walking door to door in the cold and even the rain, and getting in touch with people in the community all made me realize just how important raising community awareness and involving the residents can be.

As a sophomore, I studied abroad in Nairobi, Kenya in Spring 2009. During that time I lived in Kibera, which also houses the second largest slum in Africa. While living there I studied women entrepreneurs who had just received microloans and did photo essays of their lives. This began my interest in urban poverty and ways to alleviate these conditions, especially abroad.

In Winter 2010, with the support of Tufts Institute for Global Leadership and EPIIC, I spent almost a month studying the Dharavi slum in Bombay, India. There I examined how the Dharavi Redevelopment Project, a slum upgrading project, was affecting the private and economic spheres of residents of Dharavi.

I returned again to Nairobi between June to August of 2010, this time to work in the Mathare Valley slum with an education NGO called Dignitas Project. While there I did a mapping of the community schools which can also be accessed virtually here. This involved walking nearly every inch of the slum, extensive interviews with parents and teachers in the community, and more than two months of field work. In addition, I helped initiate a clean water project at one school and had the chance to visit effective public health projects in a neighboring slum.

As an anthropology major, I hope to learn more about how anthropology can be used to create effective development and community projects. I feel that the most important element to creating a successful project is to understand the background, culture, and history of a place. Being someone who has most of her experience abroad, I am interested in learning more about how I can apply anthropological approaches domestically at home!