Welcome! Thank you for taking the time to check out this blog, which I will be posting to sporadically over the next year. I am a recipient of the Thomas J. Watson Traveling Fellowship, which funds college graduates to pursue a year of self-directed research outside of their home country. This is the chance of a lifetime for me — both to explore some of the most out-of-reach regions on Earth and to prepare myself for a career in social impact architecture and sustainable development.
Through visual journaling, a reflective process that incorporates mapping, gestural sketching, and architectural drawing, I plan to engage with various indigenous communities in Sarawak, Malaysia, the Peruvian Amazon, the Omo Valley in Ethiopia, and the Siberian taiga. The great value in visiting each of these places is that although they are all similarly undergoing forced transition and are at risk of becoming culturally extinct, the challenges they face are distinctive. I am concerned with how environmental, political and cultural threats to these peoples affect their housing security and the prognosis for the health and viability of their communities. In traversing these unique and rapidly changing environments, I will weave together a visual anthology of the communities that call these lands their homes and the forces that threaten them.
Please note: the potential moral and ethical implications of this project are not unsubstantial and I have spent many a sleepless night considering my purpose, both actual and perceived, in the places I am traveling to. I engage with this topic more in a post called “Indigeneity in the Twenty-First Century”. There are several ways in which this project diverges from the typical Western journey into the “jungle”. First, this year is not about service (please read “A Personal Statement” to understand why). Second, I plan to leave my camera and computer behind for the year, as these devices can be intrusive and distracting for the people I hope to engage with. Third, I am going to do my best to share my drawings of these issues in a way that preserves their complexity and broadcasts them to as large an international audience as possible.