Author: Elizabeth Sheehan
The Final Week
| December 12, 2010 | 10:56 pm | Uncategorized | No comments

I can’t believe this is the week we present our findings! As I’ve spent the past two weeks reviewing my data in preparation for our presentation and our submission of the final report, I am so surprised by the new details I’ve been noticing as I listen to my interviews again and again. It’s so exciting. Just as earlier interviews shed light on potential questions which may be asked in subsequent interviews, so too do the subsequent interviews shed light on overlooked details in the earlier interviews. In the interest of not giving too much away before the final presentation, I won’t divulge very specific details, but I can say that I am currently investigating language — its role in the salon as well as the city of Somerville. As I’ve listened to my interviews again recently, I am brought back to the unique situations where language is negotiated in unexpected ways. For example, in some cases, salon owners feel compelled to learn several languages in order to accommodate their customers. This I found particularly fascinating.

Turning a Corner
| November 24, 2010 | 1:45 pm | Uncategorized | No comments

As we begin to settle into the final stage of our research before compiling our data into our full report, I’m drawn back to what I’ve seen in my interviews thus far. I set out to learn about the beauty parlor as a social space — a meeting place for members of the community — but I ultimately learned so much more

Having been acquainted with the literature of anthropological experts, I thought I already knew of the resilience the immigrant community demonstrates: the determination and passion they share. But, in speaking to local business-owners and immigrants themselves I was still surprised. These people amazed me. Whether it be their determination to master a new language or their commitment to maintaining the best business possible, these people are resilient even in the face of change and the uncertainty of the recession. They are excited about the arrival of the Greenline and looking forward to serving more people in the community.

I so look forward to voicing their stories in my final report and showcasing all that Somerville has to offer.

Initial Impressions
| October 3, 2010 | 12:09 pm | Uncategorized | No comments

Over the past month I, along with other students part of this project, have begun acquainting myself with the areas to be impacted by the extension of the Greenline.
With a team of my fellow students, I embarked on my first walking tour of East Somerville on the morning of Saturday 9/11/2010. We began the tour by exploring more residential areas near Washington St before then making our way to Union Sq.

As we approached Union Sq, we came upon the crossroads: the intersection between Washington St and McGrath Highway. Here marks a turning point as we approach Union Sq. Filled with cars, rushing by it may appear to be a place devoid of cultural representations and perhaps it is, but in my opinion it marks a crucial aspect of the community: it marks a crossroads to be further investigated over time. Who passes through here? Who stops here to enter Union Sq? Who from Union Sq comes here to leave it?

What I found particularly fascinating as we drew closer and closer to Union Sq was the language chosen for the signs in the area. I approached them asking: When did signs contain both English and another language? When did they contain only English, or only another language? Which was appropriate? Notice for example, the Modern Styles facade. The signs are in both Portuguese and English. I found myself wondering: Do they serve English-speaking customers? What is the breakdown of their customer base?

Just down the street is a salon with strictly English writing. Do they therefore not serve customers who do not speak English? To what extent does the language demonstrated on the outside of the salon reflect the language spoken inside it? How is language used to signify space? And when are representations such as those in the shop windows an inaccurate reflection of the reality of the individuals using this space?

On Thursday September 16th, Caroline and I resumed our process of becoming acquainted with the area of the Green Line extension and conducted a walking tour of the Gilman and Lowell Stations. The area we examined was largely residential, but there were some establishments in the Magoun Sq area.

Like the other squares in Somerville, namely Union Sq, Magoun does demonstrate traces of the diverse character of the city. Home to two baseball fields and various establishments, there are several modes of social space here that locals must frequent. Likewise, there are shops just down Medford St which are home to the regional cuisine of the Brazilian community and others.

After starting our journey at Magoon Sq, e turned down Medford St, towards Lowell and Gilman. Among other sites, we saw what we believe to be the area of the future station. It stands in silence, tucked away in this neighborhood. One can only imagine what a bustling center it will be once the Green Line arrives. Indeed, it seems unbelievable — incomprehensible. As we stood there, I was drawn to the CCP Workshop text outlining the intentions of the space: to enhance the community, to contribute to it economically and socially. What is now desolate land may one day be a thriving center of the neighborhood, providing jobs to residents and a platform to Boston.

And then, we made our way to what will become Gilman station. Though it is home to the Library and City Hall, it too possessed an air of quiet — a calm before the storm. Note some of the pictures below. Indeed, it is home to not only the library but also many historic homes. What we did not see on our first journey through this area was an abundance of shops and restaurants reflecting the immigrant community. I was surprised to not see very many at all. Perhaps, though, given its proximity to the great point of intersection between Washington St and McGrath Hwy this too is an intersection. With the library, a community space, perhaps this is one of the spaces where various segments of the community merge.

Note: stay tuned for photos!

Elizabeth Sheehan Bio
| September 13, 2010 | 7:28 pm | Uncategorized | No comments

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.