Last April, I proudly represented the Anthropology Department and Michigan State University at the G200 Youth Summit in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. This international conference provides a platform for students, academics, and young leaders to discuss the major issues facing our world today. I was initially drawn to the G200 Youth Summit as an opportunity to present research in a way that facilitates further conversations and to meet and learn from other students with a variety of interests from all across the globe.
I participated in an event called the Youth Conference, where roundtable discussions focused on large global themes are guided by research projects that students present. With the help and mentoring of Dr. Joe Hefner, I presented a research project entitled “Who Are They?: Forensic Anthropology, Context, and Identification Along the U.S.-Mexico Border” at the roundtable focused on law and human rights.
The project investigated the human rights issues surrounding the identification of migrants dying along the United States border with Mexico. For this research, Dr. Hefner taught me how to score crania using both morphoscopic and craniometric measures and use these measurements to assess ancestry. I pulled from sociocultural theory and consulted the institutions working directly with the unidentified border crossers, such as the Colibri Center and the Texas State Forensic Anthropology Center, to understand the crisis of identification and human loss from multiple viewpoints. My presentation’s analysis addressed the legal context that has heightened the crisis, the cultural materials associated with unidentified border crossers, and the ways in which the institutions working with this crisis navigate the process of returning lost loved ones to their families. The combination of forensic ancestry assessment methods and sociocultural approaches allowed me to paint a full and clear picture of what is happening along our border to my international audience at the G200 Youth Summit.
This opportunity enriched my understanding of the vast amount of information we can learn from the human body. As a result I have begun to shift my academic interests towards bioarchaeology from an initial interest in archaeology. Dr. Hefner has immensely influenced this newfound interest, because before I took his Introduction to Physical Anthropology course and had the opportunity to work with him for this project, I had never considered doing any research or study with human remains. I am beyond grateful to the Anthropology Department for the opportunity to participate in such a rewarding and influential conference and to Dr. Hefner for mentoring me through the process from application to final presentation.
Above, Right: Lucy takes measurements in the Forensics Lab
Below, Center: Lucy at the G200 Youth Summit
This article appears in our Fall 2016 newsletter. Read the entire newsletter here.01.01.17