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Help with draft Statement of Purpose/Intent for Anthropology MA/PhD Application


wlarra 1 / -  
Dec 6, 2010   #1
Hello all,
Any insight/critiques on this draft for my PhD applications would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!!

At a time in history where humanity is facing drastic environmental and climatic changes, what can be said about how our natural environment shapes our collective and individual identities? How can a dramatic change in landscape alter, transform, or otherwise affect an ethnic identity? I am confident that insight into these questions can be found among the indigenous Cofan, Secoya, and Kichwa of the northern Ecuadorian Amazon. For over forty years Texaco Corporation (now Chevron) extracted crude oil from the region known as El Oriente, and left behind an unimaginably toxic wasteland that has decimated the ecosystem. This cavalier disregard for the health of the environment has had a deeply detrimental effect on the health and livelihoods of the indigenous peoples. Without romanticizing the relationship, it can be said that these particular peoples traditionally have an intimate spiritual connection to the forest. I believe an ethnographic study of the sociocultural and psychological implications of the pollution will provide valuable insight into the nature of the relationship that post-'development' indigenous groups have with their natural environment, as well as contribute to our understanding of identity formation as an ongoing cognitive process. This knowledge, on a broader spatial and temporal level, will contribute to our understanding of humanity as a whole and the effects that an impending global climate change will have on our sociocultural identities and senses of place.

My experience and training in Anthropology, social, cultural and environmental rights, and indigenous advocacy make me an ideal candidate to pursue this research. During my time at McGill University, I became fascinated with the history of indigenous peoples in North and South America, traditional ecological knowledge, and the politics of identity. My subsequent LLM in International Human Rights Law allowed me to refine my interest in the relationship between indigenous rights and climate change, culminating in my thesis on the Inuit Circumpolar Conference's case in the Inter-American Justice system. Since 2008 I have completed various competitive internships that demonstrate my highly developed critical thinking, writing, and research skills. My work with Amazon Watch over the past four months has greatly deepened my understanding of the human impacts of extractive industries in the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Amazon. I have contributed to published documents on free, prior and informed consent, corporate responsibility in international law, and emerging indigenous rights norms in the Inter-American Justice system. I will be continuing my work them in early 2011 by monitoring Ivanhoe Energy's exploratory activities near Tena, Ecuador for six months.

I am confident that McGill University's Anthropology department would be an ideal place to conduct this research for a number of reasons. Importantly, I have taken courses with most of the faculty already and have a clear idea of which professors would be most instructive for this kind of research. In retrospect it is obvious to me that much of my academic and personal interest in indigenous issues can be traced to Dr. Colin Scott's Ecological Anthropology class. He planted the seed of my fascination with issues of environmental degradation and indigenous rights, the politics of inequality, and the cross-section of issues inherent in natural resource extraction and 'development'.There are numerous other professors within the department whose research interests would compliment my own, such as Kirsten Norget, John Galaty, and Ronald Niezen. I am drawn to the Graduate program's focus on inter-disciplinary approaches to research and theory; my interests truly lie at the intersection of sociocultural, environmental and development anthropology, and I would benefit greatly from such an open-minded and innovative approach. I know from experience that the department is particularly strong in cultural and symbolic anthropology, which, combined with the emphasis on ethnographic case studies, would provide a solid basis from which to develop my MA and subsequent PhD research foci.

The undertaking of such a lengthly and intensive degree requires an ambitious and driven character, and at this point in my life I am absolutely sure that I am prepared to take on the challenge. After taking a few years to explore different fields and professions, I am secure in my decision to pursue a career in academia. On a personal level, it is worth mentioning that I have travelled in Europe and South America alone since I was twenty years old; I feel this illustrates my self-assured, outgoing, and independent personality, which will undoubtedly prove useful when conducting ethnographic fieldwork. I am highly intuitive and sensitive, which has had positive and negative effects in my life so far. I am astutely aware of other's personalities and motivations almost upon meeting them, which will serve me well as an Anthropologist. An unfortunate downside of this sensitivity manifested itself in a constant struggle with clinical depression for much of my early twenties. A casualty of this personal battle is my uneven academic performance at McGill. Thankfully I have since made a complete recovery, and I know my academic record since then and my numerous achievements outside of University paint a more accurate picture of my capabilities.

Overall, I believe I have much to contribute to the field of Anthropology and to academia in general. I aspire to be a professor and published author, and I am confident that an Master of Arts and PhD from McGill's outstanding Anthropology department would be invaluable in achieving that goal. Thank you for your consideration.
EF_Susan - / 2,364 12  
Dec 7, 2010   #2
At a time in history when humanity is facing drastic environmental and climatic changes,...

For over forty years, Texaco Corporation (now Chevron) extracted crude oil from the region known as El Oriente, and left behind an unimaginably toxic wasteland that has decimated the ecosystem.

In retrospect, it is obvious to me that much of my academic and personal interest in indigenous issues can be traced to Dr. Colin Scott's Ecological Anthropology class.

The undertaking of such a lengthy and intensive degree program (?) requires an ambitious and driven character, ...

On a personal level, it is worth mentioning that I have traveled in Europe and South America alone since ...

I am astutely aware of others' personalities and motivations...

You do sound much more like a professor than a student. I don't think you'll need it, but good luck in school!


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