About a month ago, after weeks of waiting and no fewer than 11 emails inquiring about my application status (sorry VPUE!), I found out that I received the Beagle II. The Beagle II is a research award through Stanford University designed for a journey of scientific discovery. Initially housed under the anthropology department, the award is named after the vessel that Charles Darwin sailed on at age 22 during the voyage that eventually inspired his radical theory. The Beagle II draws from Darwin the belief that “many researchers and scholars today have done some of their most creative, path-breaking work in their early years” and offers this opportunity for discovery to undergraduate students.

“The primary purpose of Beagle II Awards is to promote discovery and exploration by Stanford undergraduates who possess a strong intellectual curiosity, a passionate interest in a particular subject, and a keen spirit of intellectual adventure.” (Source)

From the Beagle II website, linked above

As an interdisciplinary major with serious commitment issues when it comes to academics, the opportunity to craft my own proposal with almost no boundaries was too good to resist. Settling on a project idea might have been the most difficult part of the entire process; I wheeled from “conduct a cross-cultural comparison of meaning attributed to the Northern Lights” to “analyze the physiology of and psychological motivations for Scandinavian ice swimming” to “retrace the steps of the Via Salaria (the old salt route) in Rome.” My fascination with Christmas Island began with the red crabs- I had seen documentaries about the migration and was astounded by its magnitude (over 40 million crabs migrate at the same time) and brevity (the entire migration lasts for just a few weeks- easy to miss if you’re a traveler deciding between dates). But beyond being a pretty wild natural phenomenon, the migration called to something else; human migration and the strange semantic boundaries that islands inherit about who belongs and who does not.

Ultimately, I learned that Christmas Island has a pretty dark history of indentured Chinese mine laborers and is currently the site of a detention center for asylum seekers. These populations call to two different migrations; the movement in the early 1900s of Chinese laborers that is part of a larger global movement of Chinese diaspora, and the present-day boat-bound asylum seekers who must encounter Christmas Island before entering (or not entering) Australian borders. You can read a more detailed background on my research on the Voyage page.

For now, I wanted to share why I’m interested in sharing my research journey through a blog. Unlike past experiences with blogging, I hope this site will be a space for thoughts that are more personal, muddy, or unformed. Here’s why:

1. To share my experience with friends

A friend of mine started a password-protected blog last year that served as a sort of personal diary for her close friends; reading her blog was really rewarding and inspiring, especially when we were not physically in the same city for an extended period of time. I thought creating a written, more personal account could be a good way to share my experience with friends and family even when I’m far from them.

2. To give myself space to reflect

In Writing Enthographic Fieldnotes, Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw describe just the act of recording as a first layer of analysis. As someone who has journaled religiously (I started writing every day in July 2015 and haven’t stopped), I’ve learned that writing is a form of processing that, if not a document to look back on, at least becomes a meditative act that facilitates reflection and interpretation. Since this is a research journey, a lot of my thoughts, even now, have been entangled in the different documents and literature I’m reading, and recording these messy thoughts in a digital space is helpful for me to more explicitly articulate how ideas and sources are tying together.

3. To archive

Besides applying for college, completing this voyage might be the most effort over an extended period of time that I’ve dedicated to something I’m taking on alone. Just considering the time period (Jan-Dec, a full year, if not more), there’s a lot of possibility for change over time that I’m eager to record. If anything, this blog will serve as a record of how my project and my thinking around it evolves over time- and might be useful as a research archive.

I’m incredibly excited for the journey ahead- it’s one that’s messy and complicated and probably circuitous, and I think that’s good. I hope my reflections here reflect that complexity, even if I’m just beginning to make sense of it.


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