University Launches Summer Research Program on Politics of Place

Interdisciplinary initiative to begin in May 2024

UM faculty members developing the ‘Interdisciplinary Study of the Politics of Place’ include (from left) Simone Delerme, McMullan associate professor of Southern studies and anthropology; Amy McDowell, associate professor of sociology; Catarina Passidomo, Southern Foodways Alliance associate professor of Southern studies and associate professor of anthropology; and James Thomas, associate professor of sociology.

OXFORD, Miss. – The intersection of race and politics is the focus of a new summer research program coming soon to the University of Mississippi.

The “Interdisciplinary Study of the Politics of Place” is an undergraduate research experience funded with a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation. The research experience will offer a unique focus on the relationship between race, power and place in the U.S. South, making it the only program of its kind in the country.

Beginning in May 2024, undergraduate students from other colleges and universities will come to campus for 10 weeks to learn and put into practice basic principles of social scientific research design and methodology.

“This REU program immerses students in a 10-week summer research experience focused on the relationships between race, power and the politics of place in the American South,” said Simone Delerme, McMullan associate professor of Southern studies and anthropology. “Students will have the opportunity to conduct interdisciplinary, social scientific research with University of Mississippi faculty.”

Delerme and James M. Thomas, associate professor of sociology, are co-directors of the undergraduate research experience.

In the summer of 2021, several Ole Miss faculty members conducted a pilot research program on “Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Race, Power and Placemaking,” with support from the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

Following the success of that program, they applied for and were awarded the grant through the NSF’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program in 2022. Students will assist on a number of research projects centered in the U.S. South. Examples of those research projects include:

  • Studying how immigrants are incorporated into the sociopolitical and economic lives of communities that are not traditional migration destinations
  • Examining how the cultural, political and religious context of Mississippi shapes the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ Mississippians of color
  • Examining how food culture is used in the practice of placemaking and the evolution of regional identity
  • Examining how, in an era where whites’ dominant status is increasingly scrutinized, white Southerners are making sense of their place within America’s racial hierarchy

Other faculty members joining Delerme and Thomas are Catarina Passidomo, Southern Foodways Alliance associate professor of Southern studies and associate professor of anthropology, and Amy McDowell, associate professor of sociology.

“This program provides students with the social scientific training and skills to conduct research that can make a positive impact on their own communities,” Thomas said. “It also prepares students with the research skills necessary for a contemporary workforce and provides focused and intensive mentoring of students to prepare them for careers in science.”

The program’s goal is to increase students’ social scientific literacy, equip them with the necessary knowledge and training to conduct social scientific research, and increase the number of students pursuing graduate education and professional careers in the social sciences, Thomas said.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 2243249.