GC Grad Seeks Environmental Justice, with Mellon Funding

GC graduate James Blair with penguins

James Blair (Ph.D. ’16, Anthropology) is one of a handful of doctoral graduates to be named a 2017 Mellon/ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies) Public Fellow. The prestigious fellowship places humanities Ph.D. graduates in two-year positions with nonprofit organizations and government agencies that work in policy, civil rights, arts and culture, and the media.

This year’s fellows, who were selected from a record number of applicants, receive a $67,500 annual stipend, health insurance, funding for professional development, and mentoring from their host organizations and the program’s alumni council.
Blair will work as an international campaign advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). In that role, he will research and advocate for ways to preserve natural resources — specifically rivers in Chilean Patagonia and boreal forests in Canada — in alliance with indigenous populations.

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GC graduate James Blair on research shipHis new role is in some ways a continuation of his doctoral research, which focused on oil, politics, and environmental issues in the Falkland Islands (or Malvinas in Spanish) and involved 20 months of fieldwork in the Falklands, Argentina, and the United Kingdom. He won support for his research from the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Program, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council.

“I’ll be shifting over to different issues related to energy and the environment, new kinds of natural resource conflicts, and working not just in Latin America but in North America,” Blair said. “I’m also going to have the opportunity to work with native peoples in Chile and also First Nations in Canada, in supporting their struggles for indigenous rights and environmental justice.”

Blair benefitted from the emphasis that the Graduate Center’s Anthropology Program placed on engaged anthropology, or public anthropology, he said. “There was always encouragement not just to publish in academic journals, but to apply my research more concretely, for broad impact — not just working in a silo.”

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Blair’s mentor, Professor Marc Edelman (GC/Hunter, Anthropology), said that Blair “developed an extraordinary project about a small place that nonetheless has implications for some very large issues.” His fellowship “will allow him to deepen his already substantial expertise on environmental policy and will also involve him in hands-on advocacy and policy work with indigenous peoples’ movements.”

Such fellowships offer new avenues of opportunity for recent graduates, Edelman added. “In an era in which there is a crisis in academic employment, it is important that the GC seek out and foster these kinds of non-traditional positions, especially for early-career scholars,” he said. “And it is important to nurture and support our recent Ph.D.s who are seeking out and considering these kinds of exciting opportunities.”

Submitted on: JUN 28, 2017

Category: Alumni News | Alumni News | General GC News