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Humanities and Humanistic Social Science Research

The HSS (Humanities and Humanistic Social Science) labs program was created to provide research experience for students and expand and advance research for faculty in the humanities and social sciences while expanding understanding of research in these fields and allowing for more collaboration and delegation across campus. These labs create the opportunity for collaborative, public-facing research.

The Basics

How does it work?

HSS labs allow faculty to work with multiple cohorts of students on projects that are in progress year-round. The labs allow students to engage in research topics that hold particular interest and importance to them, to learn a variety of technical skills within their disciplines, to teach those skills to peers, and to develop a host of the ‘soft skills’ necessary to manage and coordinate large, complex projects, both at Smith and beyond. Students receive either a salary for participating in the labs over the summer or academic credit during the year.

How did the labs start?

The HSS labs program in the summer of 2021, Smith College committed to supporting a pilot program of labs in the Humanities and Humanistic Social Sciences (HSS Labs). Smith faculty launched six individual labs over the 2021–22 academic year and added an additional eight labs for 2022–23. The HSS labs hold a series of monthly meetings where students present the research from their labs. These meetings are open to the public and we welcome the Smith community to attend and become involved in the program.

Current Labs

Spanning a wide array of disciplines, our current labs offer unique opportunities to delve into research in a field you’re passionate about. Learn more about the objectives of each lab.

Instructor

Sara Newland

Lab Description

In the past two years, students in EAPL have used both Chinese- and English-language sources to conduct research on local governance in Taiwan; subnational diplomacy between the U.S., China, and Taiwan; and the state of research and teaching on Chinese politics in the U.S. today.

LAB WEBSITE

Instructor

Dawn Fulton

Lab Description

Our lab examines antiracist activism in France, with a focus on social media. Participants research and follow contemporary forms of political activism among communities of Asian, Arab, and African origin in France. We look at alliances that form among these groups through social media, at extranational connections (with antiracism in the United States, for example), and at how social media platforms allow activists to either transcend geographical constraints or bolster spatially grounded movements. Additional topics of study include public art, literature, secularism and political campaigns.

Instructors

Rick Millington and Sam Intrator

Lab Description

The Settlement House Lab explores a movement that began in the 1880s when “settlement houses” were established in underserved immigrant communities where volunteer “settlement workers”—often from colleges and universities—would reside and provide service and teaching within the community. Our lab explores the evolution of settlement houses from their founding to contemporary versions of settlement houses, and in particular, the involvement of Smith College students in establishing and learning settlement houses. Our guiding question seeks to understand connections between the historical movement and more contemporaneous efforts of Smith College and its students to engage in social justice and service work: How might the College’s earliest attempt at social justice outreach—the intense involvement of Smith students, faculty, and alumnae in the Settlement House movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries—be reimagined and reinvigorated for the 21st century? Our seven students, working in teams, will explore the history of the Settlement House movement—its ambitions, its yearnings for connection, its blindspots and limitations—through the extraordinarily rich Settlement House materials in Neilson Library’s special collections; they will meet with community organizations doing important social service or public humanities work to explore how Smith students and faculty might make a genuine, consistent, and sustained contribution to their efforts; and, based on their understanding of the value of this historical example and the needs of area community partners, they will produce proposals that offer concrete answers to our animating question: how might the College and its students, through the exploration, modification, and application of the Settlement House tradition, help its partners create systematic and sustainable social change?

Instructors

Nalini Bhushan and Jay L. Garfield

Lab Description

We are preparing a translation from English into English of Krishnachandra Bhattachahrya’s Subject as Freedom, a masterpiece of early 20th century Indian philosophy, with explanatory notes. Our students work closely with us on the translation and on the notes.

Instructor

Mariyana Zapryanova

Lab Description

The lab focuses on studying the economics of crime and the criminal justice system. Currently, we are working on two projects: (1) a project that explores the effect of rising temperatures on incidences of crime in India, and (2) a project that explores the effect of healthcare access both in prison and outside of prison on crime rates in the U.S.

Instructor

Joshua Birk

Lab Description

In CODEX, students join project-focused teams to gain the skills to work with medieval material. For most projects, students confront large piles of data from the medieval world, and they learn technical skills and technological tools to begin to organize and visualize that data, and then present it to a wider audience. Most recently the lab has focused on using ArcGIS to map elements of the medieval world, and integrate those visual images into narrative StoryMaps. CODEX also runs Dies Legibiles, an undergraduate journal of medieval studies.

LAB WEBSITE

Instructor

Pun Winichakul and Jorge Vasquez

Lab Description

Our lab uses theoretical and applied methods to answer questions of interest in the fields of microeconomics and behavioral economics. Currently, our lab research is focused on topics related to the economics of misinformation and the economics of charitable giving.

Instructors

 Alix Gerber, Emily Norton, Megan Lyster, Kathy Guo

Lab Description

This lab uses practices from participatory and speculative design to explore collaborative ways of imagining futures without capitalism. We believe that design and making provide tools to strengthen our imaginations and break free from the intellectual confines constructed by capitalist hegemony. We co-create immersive experiences and games that imagine different social systems for producing and distributing what we need, through the lens of closer interpersonal ecosystem interactions.

Instructor

Shanon Audley

Lab Description

In general, my research lab consists of 5–8 students at a time, and our lab organization exemplifies a Vygotskian approach. In this model, older, more experienced research lab students are “head” of a research study and mentor more junior students who have less research experience or are unsure about their research interests. All research projects contribute to my more extensive research line, which focuses on understanding how schools, teachers, and students reinforce justice and injustice through their socialization practices at four levels of social functioning: groups, relationships, interactions, and individuals (Hinde, 1987). As a developmental educational psychologist, I situate my research lab in a “third space” where developmental theory and research can provide tensions and conversations with educational experiences. In particular, my lab students work on one of three projects that broadly contribute to the field of socio-environmental justice:

  • Understanding the reciprocal and developmental processes of (dis)respect in elementary-aged children and tensions within the broader school culture.
  • Examining the tensions between how teachers and adolescent youth think about, describe, position themselves, and experience (dis)respect within classroom relationships, and how intersectional identities and White Supremacy in schools contribute to these tensions.
  • Examining how children and youth develop ecologically ecoresilient identities by focusing on how school programs (such as nature-based schools) and curriculum (such as teaching/learning indigenous languages) contribute to a biocentric self that respects nature and reinforces environmental justice.

Each of these research projects employs a mixed methodology to which students from a variety of research backgrounds can contribute.

Instructor

Elisabeth Armstrong

Lab Description

This project focuses on the development of collaborations for an exchange of knowledge on the origins of the transnational women’s movement, with an emphasis on the ways in which rural women in postcolonial nations forged the Convention on the Elimination Against All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This cohort of student researchers will collect, digitize and preserve archive materials that document the role of the Afro-Asian Women's Committee that sought to advocate for the UN Conference on Women held in Nairobi in 1985.

Instructor

Maleka Donaldson

Lab Description

The lab centers on understanding how teachers and students respond to mistakes in educational contexts. My lab will offer Smith students opportunities to (1) gain valuable training and practice in how to use a variety of qualitative research methods in educational research, (2) co-author conference proposals, presentations, and articles intended for external peer review, (3) begin to develop their own research questions to be explored using the data from my lab. The lab will pursue four major projects that can be advanced over the course of the academic year: Interview analysis, literature review, content analysis, child responses to mistakes pilot. The lab research team will engage in a variety of tasks (details provided in the attachment), including developing a codebook, qualitative coding, thematic analysis, inter-rater reliability, literature review, content analysis, writing conference proposals, and more. This will provide students with an arsenal of concrete skills and experience that they can use in the future to pursue their own research interests. In the process, they will learn how to collaborate with others to plan and conduct tasks, and will experience the arc of research projects, from initial development to dissemination.

Instructors

Argyris Tsiaras; Mahnaz Mahdavi

Lab Description

The Financial Economics research lab focuses on the areas of financial portfolio allocation, household finance, and economic inequality. Students will work in groups on tasks involving the collection and/or empirical analysis of financial and household survey datasets related to research projects of the faculty members running the lab. Students will use standard statistical software programs for which Smith has already purchased institutional access (e.g. Stata, R, Matlab etc). Students may also be assigned to write literature reviews on a particular topic.

Instructor

Carrie Baker

Lab Description

My feminist public writing lab will have five students who will work with me on public writing projects for Ms. magazine. They will receive public writing training from me and the editors at Ms. magazine. They will research, edit, and write articles for Ms. magazine. The students will learn about public writing and have opportunities to publish their work.

Instructor

Cristina Valencia Mazzanti

Lab Description

The ALL lab studies the interconnection of learning and the social construction of language in its artful dimensions. We explore: (1) Arts-Based methodologies, (2) autoethnographies and testimonial work, and (3) collaborative and participatory approaches to educational research. Students will be given the opportunity and support to pursue their own studies to advance these areas of research. Priority will be given to students interested in studying these phenomena in connection to childhood.

Instructor

Scott LaCombe

Lab Description

As American politics continues to see polarization and gridlock at the national level, attention has increasingly turned to the American states as “laboratories of democracy,” and states are playing a larger role in day-to-day life for the average American. More specifically, the last few years have seen tremendous growth in laws relating to LGBT rights and restrictions, from bathroom bans to "Don't say gay bills" to codifying same-sex marriage. Our lab is working as a legislative tracker to understand the status of LGBT rights across all 50 states over time.  Students in this lab work together to create a repository of state policies and have opportunities