HRAF at Yale University Announces Fulbright Award for 2020-2021

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The Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) at Yale University is pleased to announce that Dr. Teferi Abate Adem has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award in the field of anthropology for the 2020-2021 academic year from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Tef profile photoDr. Teferi Abate Adem is one of over 800 U.S. citizens who will conduct research for the 2020-2021 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Fulbrighters engage in cutting-edge research and expand their professional networks, often continuing research collaborations started abroad and laying the groundwork for forging future partnerships between institutions. Upon returning to their home countries, institutions, labs, and classrooms, they share their stories and often become active supporters of international exchange, inviting foreign scholars to campus and encouraging colleagues and students to go abroad. As Fulbright Scholar alumni, their careers are enriched by joining a network of thousands of esteemed scholars, many of whom are leaders in their fields. Fulbright alumni include 60 Nobel Prize laureates, 88 Pulitzer Prize recipients, and 37 who have served as a head of state or government.

As a Fulbright scholar, Teferi will be teaching anthropology courses at Wollo University in Dessie, Ethiopia. He will also conduct ethnographic research on the social dimensions of how farmers in two ecologically contrasting rural communities are responding to vagaries of climate change-aggravated irregularities in the onset, duration, and intensity of rainfall during local growing wet seasons. While comparable in demography and social organization, the communities vary in rainfall predictability and cropping systems, due to location at vertically contrasting agro-ecological zones. Farmers in the midland receive moderately reliable rainfall to cultivate both in belg (spring) and meher (summer) seasons, while the highland rely mainly on belg rains which proved to be increasingly erratic and unreliable. This contrast makes the communities compelling cases to examine the range of cultural and contextual factors that might differentially affect farmers’ resilience to climate-related agrarian shocks. The project will explore these variations not just between the two communities, but also at the levels of households and individual persons within each community. The comparison will combine data from an existing longitudinal database on household economic trajectories, with new research on access to previously understudied community enforced cultural mechanisms for resource-sharing and effective collective action. The analysis will determine whether resilience to shocks at each of the above three levels was affected by unequal access to potentially adaptive community mechanisms.

This project, which was conceived in consultation with Dr. Carol Ember, is an important follow-up to nuance key findings of HRAF’s recently completed worldwide cross-cultural research project on possible links between cultural transformations and environmental hazards. Controlling for a range of social complexity variables, findings of this NSF- supported show that societies that face recurrent natural hazards display many common cultural features including prevalence of a range of cultural mechanisms and institutionalized practices for sharing food and labor in times of scarcity. While cross-cultural comparisons have the advantage of generalizability, they do not enable in-depth understanding of differential impacts of specific mechanisms especially at the scales of communities, households and individuals. Teferi’s proposed ethnographic fieldwork in an Ethiopian region with clearly documented greater variability in both rainfall patterns and people’s responses to them will go a long way towards linking statistically tested broad generalizations with context-specific drivers of social resilience.

About HRAF

The Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) is internationally recognized in the field of cultural anthropology. Founded in 1949 at Yale University, HRAF is a membership-supported nonprofit organization comprised of universities, colleges, and research institutions. Its mission is to promote understanding of cultural diversity and commonality in the past and present. To accomplish this mission, HRAF produces scholarly resources and infrastructure for research, teaching and learning, and supports and conducts original research on cross-cultural variation.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to forge lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, counter misunderstandings, and help people and nations work together toward common goals. Since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright Program has enabled more than 390,000 dedicated and accomplished students, scholars, artists, teachers, and professionals of all backgrounds to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and find solutions to shared international concerns. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the Program, which operates in more than 160 countries worldwide.

Fulbrighters address critical global challenges in all disciplines while building relationships, knowledge, and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the United States.  Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in many fields, including 60 who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, 86 who have received Pulitzer Prizes, and 37 who have served as a head of state or government.

In the United States, the Institute of International Education supports the implementation of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, including conducting an annual competition for the scholarships.