Admissions & Aid
Village Health Workers (VHWs) in the Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP)
My current research in rural India uses anthropological ethnographic methods to assess a community-based comprehensive health program. This research raises the question of how health and the provision of health care is directly and indirectly affected by caste inequality and gender discrimination, as a function of power structured through local and national social, political, and economic forces. The research centers on women Village Health Workers (VHWs), an official title that reflects their role in the Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP), a program that began in Jamkhed in Maharashtra, India, more than 40 years ago. Through participant observation and extensive life histories, the experiences and practice of local women VHWs explain the ongoing cooperative efforts of CRHP to reduce mortality, eliminate endemic health problems, and advance social and economic well-being in villages across the region. This social anthropology research contributes to a growing field in medical anthropology and the political economy of global health and economic development.
Professor Britt working with students in her lab with historic artifacts from various contexts of New York City, exposing students to archaeological methods and the rich history of the city.
I focus on community-based historical archaeology of urban spaces directly tying past to present. I am currently interested in the process of erasure, and my research focuses on looking at it archaeologically through materiality and through tracing left on the landscape. This research interest is manifesting through two specific projects. The first project is located in my own backyard community of Brooklyn by exploring the intersection of gentrification, activism, and materiality with the United Order of Tents, Eastern District, the oldest all-women African-American benevolent society in the United States, and the role of the organization within the community as the neighborhood rapidly gentrifies. The second project is looking at the mark climate change leaves through past and present disasters and the relationship heritage management can play in recovery. This project is not located in a specific location but rather continues working with former colleagues at FEMA Region II’s offices in New York, where I served as regional archaeologist from 2010 to 2017. We continue to work to develop collaborative initiatives with tribal nations and local community groups centered around heritage and historic preservation and its role in post-disaster recovery. Both of these projects have student participation opportunities, whether through a summer field school, a special topics course, independent studies or senior theses. Additionally, I have several artifact-processing projects that I am working on that allows students to work in my lab with historic artifacts from various contexts of New York City, exposing students to archaeological methods and the rich history of the city. I have always felt service is an important part of any position within a chosen career path, therefore I work on projects that engage with the communities because I feel it is important to bridge the gap between scholarship and action.
Illustrated map of the region west of Bergamo, Italy, overlooking the Ex Monastero di Santa Maria in Valmarina.
As a linguistic anthropologist, my research focuses on the value, ideologies, and use of language in Italy. I am interested in how people use the symbolic and material resources at their disposal to live meaningful lives, and what constrains them in these projects. My current research is about the role of language in heritage food production, namely, the essential functions that talk and documents play in the making of food that comes to count as a part of heritage, but also food that is deemed safe for modern consumers. This research, which takes place in the northern Italian town and province of Bergamo, has been supported by the National Science Foundation (#1259752), the PSCY-CUNY Research Foundation, and a Tow Research Professorship. Earlier projects were funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner Gren Foundation, as well as the National Science Foundation. I mentor student projects through independent study courses and other independent research, such as senior theses. I have also studied, teach about, and mentor students on topics such as language and gender, language and power, language ideology, language revitalization and shift, and food production, circulation, and consumption.
Hypothesis of evolutionary relationships of plesiadapiforms, euprimates, and other eutherian mammals.
We study the fossil record to understand the origin and early evolutionary history of primates and other mammals. More specifically, we are focused on (1) the oldest known fossil primates and their closest non-primate relatives to understand the initial divergence of our primate ancestors from other mammals, (2) patterns of mammalian recovery following the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction event, and (3) how primates and other mammals responded to periods of climate change during the early Eocene. The Evolutionary Morphology Laboratory is a fully operational fossil preparation facility, a 3-D scanning, visualization, and printing studio, and a computing laboratory for morphometric and phylogenetic analyses. Brooklyn College undergraduates and CUNY Ph.D. students are actively involved in all aspects of laboratory research and also have opportunities to participate in summer paleontological expeditions to Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, and/or Colorado.
Chacma baboons in South Africa
My research questions focus on the evolution of sociality, specifically to understand why sociality has evolved in primate societies and what the adaptive benefits of sociality are. By exploring the costs and benefits of sociality, I aim to understand variation in social behavior in different groups of primates. I explore the benefits by examining the fitness effects of social bonds and behavioral flexibility, and study the costs in terms of the effects of social, anthropogenic and environmental stressors on stress physiology. I study two closely related species of wild primates—chacma baboons in South Africa and hamadryas baboons in Ethiopia. In addition to field work in Africa, where I conduct behavioral observations and collect fecal samples for hormone analysis, in my lab at Brooklyn College I plan to analyze glucocorticoid and reproductive hormones to understand the endocrine bases of social behavior. Students at all levels of study (graduate, undergraduate, and high school) may conduct field work, lab work, or data analysis to learn methods and answer questions in behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology.
Nairobi street view
My research focuses on the connections between humans and the urban environment, especially as it is mediated through urban infrastructure. My current book project is based on long-term ethnographic research conducted in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya, with public transportation drivers and conductors, who make up one of the largest workforces in the country. My research explores the economic and social strategies of this labor force as they negotiate the changing urban landscape of one of Africa’s largest and fastest-growing cities. I am also developing a research lab for continued projects in urban anthropology exploring Brooklyn-based topics, particularly at the intersection of urban planning, transportation infrastructure, and climate change.
Participating with a fitness class as part of Professor Hejtmanek’s research
My interests focus on the meanings and powers that influence self-transformation within various cultural contexts. I’ve published numerous articles and a book, Friendship, Love, and Hip Hop: An Ethnography of African American Men in Psychiatric Custody, based on research within the confines of an adolescent mental institution. I am currently working on meaning, power, and self-transformation through sport, fitness, and movement culture.
View of Islamic Relief, South African Ramadan Food Distribution Center
How might we use what makes us different to work together toward a more just world for all life on the planet? In my research and teaching, I focus on transnational practices of racialization and I forefront the question: How is human difference used for justifying systems of inequality and oppression, and how might we instead engage difference with an eye toward liberation? I apply theoretical insights from black feminist thought and indigenous studies to situate ideas and practices surrounding Islam, Africa, and Blackness within a historicized, politicized context. I have advised students working on similar topics surrounding the contemporary racialization of Muslims. My research interests and potential advising areas include: ethnography of global NGOs, humanitarianism and development in Africa, intersectionality, afrofuturism, black internationalism, and Muslim identity.
View of the East River, Manhattan Bridge, and the Brooklyn waterfront from Manhattan
I am conducting ethnographic research on New York City’s efforts to adapt to climate change. I am interested in how the history of the built environment—our housing, parks, and roads—shapes how New Yorkers work together to confront the challenges of rising sea levels. My focus is on the Lower East Side, where the city has proposed to spend more than $15 billion in the next decade to build sea walls and new land along the East River to protect Lower Manhattan from sea-level rise. This research is vital to understand how elected officials, activists, architects, and government staff might challenge or reproduce historic inequalities of class, race, and gender as we attempt to confront the climate crisis.