As is typical, our Hart Fellows' research projects and lives abroad have shifted from their initial expectations. Here are some updates from their lives and work.
Human trafficking and forced labor
Sanjeev Dasgupta, originally from New Delhi, India, graduated from Duke in 2018 with a degree in Political Science and a concentration in Security, Peace, and Conflict. His focus is the intersection of human rights and development, particularly focused on forced migration. Sanjeev's senior thesis that looked at the international response to the current Rohingya crisis. During his time at Duke, Sanjeev interned at the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, the Poverty Unit of the UN Development Programme, and also at the Statelessness Section of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He also participated in a Duke Immerse program with the Kenan Institute for Ethics in which he conducted field research about Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan.
Sanjeev is spending his fellowship year in Bangkok, Thailand, where he is partnering with the Issara Institute, an organization dedicated to stopping human trafficking and forced labor.
Thailand is one of the primary destination countries for migrants in the region, particularly migrants from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. For decades, migration between the countries was unregulated which meant that the vast majority of migrants from these three countries made it to Thailand through irregular channels, lacked any kind of proper documentation, and were exposed to widespread exploitation. In the past fifteen years, the Thai government has tried to crack down on irregular migration by creating channels for legal migration. However, the channels are slow and restrictive. The majority of the migrants in Thailand have continued to use irregular channels.
Sanjeev hopes to conduct a research project that explores migrant worker’s perceptions of the changing work documentation requirements for securing legal status in Thailand.
Indigenous people organizations in the Arctic
Michaela Stith, originally from Anchorage, Alaska, graduated from Duke in May 2018 with a degree in Environmental Science and Policy and a concentration in Marine Science and Conservation. While at Duke, Michaela's passions drew her to work on social and climate justice in the Arctic. She helped launch two job skills training programs in Anchorage. The first program was at the Downtown Soup Kitchen during her Service Opportunities in Leadership summer experience, and second was at Loussac Library via the Mayor's AmeriCorps Program. During her junior year, Michaela studied Arctic climate change in Iceland and Greenland, where she independently researched the feasibility of an Icelandic environmental tax on cruise ships. She extended her research into an honors thesis by compiling lessons learned from the Alaskan Cruise Tax Initiative.
Michaela is spending her fellowship in Tromso, Norway, where she will partner with the Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat of the Arctic Council. The Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat is an organization that works to facilitate the participation of indigenous people organizations in the work of the Arctic Council.
There are six Arctic indigenous organizations representing about 500,000 Indigenous peoples currently hold Permanent Participant status on the Arctic Council. This means that the organizations sit next to the eight member states to ensure that their views are being represented and respected when decisions are made.
Michaela hopes to conduct a project to raise awareness about the contributions of Indigenous groups to policies in the Arctic.
Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Migrant domestic workers and forced labor
Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi, originally from Wellington, New Zealand, graduated from Duke in 2017 with a degree in Global Cultural Studies in the Literature program and a certificate in Documentary Studies. While at Duke, his interests in the politics of domestic welfare, gender and sexuality led to a range of independent projects: a narrative and mapping history of Durham gentrification, a multimedia documentary on New Zealand teenage parents and drag queens, and an honors thesis centering on the visual spectacularization of transgender bodies. He founded the Duke Men’s Project and worked as a summer middle-school teacher in Durham. As a writer, Andrew has received poetry, journalism and creative non-fiction awards and was recently an editorial intern at The Nation magazine.
Andrew is spending his fellowship year in Hong Kong, where his is partnering with the Fair Employment Agency. The Fair Employment Agency is a non-profit employment agency that aims to improve industry standards for hiring migrant domestic workers.
In Hong Kong, employment agencies will make money by placing domestic helpers with employers. They charge fees to both the domestic helper and employer. Domestic helpers will go into debt to pay these fees, and often those placements don’t work out. This means the domestic helper must go into debt again to find a new job. The Fair Employment Agency offers a better way of hiring domestic helpers. They do not charge agency fees to the domestic worker and only place workers that would be a good fit for their family.
Andrew hopes to conduct a research project that looks into the motivations that drive the domestic helper industry in Hong Kong.