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Previous Small Grants Projects

Fall 2017 - Trans-Atlantic Rural Research Network (TARRN) Annual Meeting (David Brown and John Sipple)

The Trans-Atlantic Rural Research Network (TARRN) will hold its annual meeting March 23-25 at Cornell University. TARRN is a network of scholars, both well-known and less experienced, from seven institutions in the US and UK. Member institutions include Penn State, Aberystwyth (Wales), Queens (Northern Ireland), Aberdeen University and The James Hutton Institute (Scotland), Newcastle (England), and Cornell. TARRN was organized in 2006 as a result of a Polson Institute Research Working Group. This year’s three day meeting will be organized around five activities: (1) Discussion of five think pieces identifying and examining emerging and newly important issues for rural research, (2) Informal discussions of new and mid-stream research projects, (3) Panel discussions of “research into policy” examples, (4) meeting with editors of key journals (Sociologia Ruralis, Journal of Rural Studies, and Rural Sociology), and (5) a field trip to the Erie Canal corridor. 

Fall 2017 - Global Africa and Ethnographies of Interconnection: A Writing Workshop for Graduate Students (Ewan Robinson and Janet Smith)

A wealth of contemporary research - informed by historical and ethnographic approaches - has traced the specific processes of interconnection that have constituted social forms in and beyond Africa. This body of work reminds us that would-be global projects depend upon the particularities of the places in which they take shape, whether these are board rooms in Washington D.C. and Addis Ababa, marketplaces in Touba, or oil platforms in rural Chad. This Polson-funded workshop (April 20th) aims to contribute to this emerging literature, building on Anna Tsing’s (2005) famous use of “friction” to describe how projects become global precisely by connecting specific places, people, and rationale - without resolving their differences. The workshop will bring together early-career scholars who are actively studying global projects in and of Africa using ethnographic, historical, and/or relational approaches to elucidate African agency in the contemporary moment and challenge conventional accounts portraying Africa as disconnected, passive, or marginal.

Fall 2016 - The Risk of American Poverty: Developing and Evaluating a Web Based Poverty Calculator (Tom Hirschl)

This research seeks to further develop and evaluate a poverty risk calculator developed through prior research. The project will involve analyzing sample data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) in order to build a series of life tables estimating the adulthood probability of using a social welfare program, experiencing a spell of unemployment, and encountering a composite measure of economic insecurity.  In addition, I propose to assess, along with my research collaborator, whether exposure to the risk calculator changes attitudes towards poverty and inequality. To measure response to the risk calculator we will implement a test/retest design in college and high school classrooms where students will be surveyed using items from a set of previously researched questions about attitudes toward poverty and inequality.  Students will be randomly assigned to treatment and control groups, and the results will be analyzed to determine the type and degree of change, if any. Depending upon the results, changes to the content of the poverty calculator will be implemented. The research results will also be incorporated into a research proposal to the National Science Foundation.

Fall 2016 - Food, Agroecology, Justice and Well-Being Symposium (Rachel Bezner-Kerr)

The Food, Agroecology, Justice, and Wellbeing collective is a research group consisting of graduate students, faculty and post-doctoral students from across the university. Our overarching interests are on the intersections and connections between the broad themes of agroecology, food sovereignty/food justice and health/nutrition/well-being. We began as a Research Working Group in 2014 with support from the Polson Institute, and have met numerous times to share work in progress, host speakers, and discuss relevant papers on these themes. The membership of the group has changed over the last 2 years, and we currently consist of approximately 15 members from Nutrition, Development Sociology, Agricultural Economics, Crop and Soil Sciences and Ecology. In April 2017 , a 3-day symposium was held which will brought together external participants (5 international, 15 domestic) as well as Cornell researchers—including junior and senior faculty, postdocs, and graduate students, exploring transformative methodologies for linking agroecological practice, food justice, food sovereignty and improved health and well-being through presentations, discussions and collective writing.

The Polson Institute has supported numerous efforts since its inception. For more information regarding previous projects, please contact