Social Science & Humanities Researchers at Trent University Awarded $250,000 in Funding

June 20, 2018

SSHRC Insight Grants support research projects for Trent Anthropology and History faculty

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The innovative research of three Trent University researchers in the Departments of Anthropology and History received a significant boost recently thanks to $250,000 in new funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Dr. Gyles Iannone and Dr. Anne Meneley of Trent’s Anthropology Department will use the funding to advance their research projects examining the socio-ecological history of Bagan, Myanmar, and societal impacts created by walking with digital self-tracking devices, respectively. In the History Department, the national funding will assist Dr. Katrina Keefer in developing a searchable database to assist with the identification of African pre-slavery individuals, societies and families.

“This funding from SSHRC recognizes and reinforces the efforts of our talented researchers and their colleagues,” said Dr. Neil Emery vice-president of Research and Innovation at Trent. “These fascinating projects methodically piece together attributes of life in different times and places – producing important knowledge to be shared.”

Professor Iannone, a faculty member in the Anthropology department, received a $99,342 Insight Grant for his research project titled, “An Integrated Socio-Ecological History for Residential Patterning, Agricultural Practices, and Water Management at the Medieval Burmese (Bama) Capital of Bagan, Myanmar (11th to 14th Century CE).” The project will conduct surveys, excavations and geo-spatial inquiry in the settlement zone of Bagan, an ancient city and Buddhist kingdom. The study will further understanding of Bagan as a dynamic capital city, and provide insight into early urbanism in the tropics. It will highlight archaeology's ability to trace changes in urban forms and lifeways over time, and across multiple climate regimes, technological advances, and socio-ecological changes. The study will explore the root causes of many issues faced by contemporary tropical metropolises including population growth, increasing wealth disparities, and growing water demands.

An additional Insight Grant of $84,695 was awarded to Professor Keefer, an adjunct professor in the History department at Trent, and Dr. Martha Ladly (principal investigator) of OCAD University, for their project titled “Creating a Visual Language of Marks: Approaching African Identities through Data Visualization.” The trauma of enslavement and sustained repression of language, culture and beliefs blurred memories of origins and birthplaces for enslaved Africans brought to the Americas. This joint research will develop a searchable visual database enabling archival records and data concerning former slaves and enslaved persons to be analyzed, revealing individual identities and origins. Records of manumitted slaves include visual descriptions of body markings such as intricate tattoos and scarification that can be used to specifically identify societies and branches of a given family. The project will use machine learning and computational algorithms to develop a virtual mathematical model that will be capable of cross-referencing such marks with all known patterns in the database, powering the likelihood of identifying kinship and birthplace. This project will shed new light on demographic change, individual identities and patterns of slave-taking.

Professor Meneley, also in the Anthropology Department, was awarded a $60,640 Insight Grant to pursue her study, “Fitbit Frenzies: The Quantification and Gamification of Walking in Material Worlds.” Through ethnographic field work conducted in Toronto, Manhattan, Singapore and Palestine, Prof. Meneley will investigate the modern practice of walking with the use of digital self-tracking devices. As part of her work, Prof. Meneley, will explore the practice of walking defined as gamified, entrepreneurial, place-making, and as the means to reclamation of health, surroundings and land. The project investigates how people embark on new self-making projects through walking as they engage with different infrastructures, spaces and political environments.

About Trent University

One of Canada's top universities, Trent University was founded on the ideal of interactive learning that's personal, purposeful and transformative. Consistently recognized nationally for leadership in teaching, research and student satisfaction, Trent attracts excellent students from across the country and around the world. Here, undergraduate and graduate students connect and collaborate with faculty, staff and their peers through diverse communities that span residential colleges, classrooms, disciplines, hands-on research, co-curricular and community-based activities. Across all disciplines, Trent brings critical, integrative thinking to life every day. Today, Trent's unique approach to personal development through supportive, collaborative community engagement is in more demand than ever. Students lead the way by co-creating experiences rooted in dialogue, diverse perspectives and collaboration. In a learning environment that builds life-long passion for inclusion, leadership and social change, Trent's students, alumni, faculty and staff are engaged global citizens who are catalysts in developing sustainable solutions to complex issues. Trent's Peterborough campus boasts award-winning architecture in a breathtaking natural setting on the banks of the Otonabee River, just 90 minutes from downtown Toronto, while Trent University Durham Greater Toronto Area, delivers a distinct mix of programming in the east GTA.

For more information, contact:

Kate Gennings, communications & media relations officer, Trent University, (705) 748-1011 x6180 or