Anthropology Student Focuses on Sustainability

What if you could spend the summer reading books by the beach in San Diego? That’s what Sarah Davenport did. But that’s not all.

Davenport is majoring in anthropology and her research conducted as an undergrad is already getting attention. She focuses on sustainability – but not just the environment kind. Working with an environmental sustainability organization in Orlando, Davenport has been analyzing how the organization considers people’s racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds in its agendas and practices. She does this by observing and going with the organization to work. She will even conduct interviews either by casual conversation or a structured time where she has specific questions.

“I have been involved in environmentalism for several years now and I’ve noticed that sustainability is often focused on more economically affluent people who can afford things such as organic produce, “green” cleaning products and solar panels,” Davenport said. “My passion is to find justice for people molded with my passion for ecology and my skill in anthropology.”

By conducting her research in downtown Orlando, Davenport is looking at how the environmental sustainability organization is preparing to initiate sustainability in a low-income, historically African-American community that struggles with food insecurity. She has been working on this project since April, and will bring it to a conclusion this September.

So what is Davenport doing in San Diego? More research, this time on indigenous peoples in Bolivia. She is studying and gathering literature on how various Latin American indigenous groups manage socio-environmental conflicts between their respective national governments, capitalist market forces and other indigenous activists. This is a start to the development of a new field of indigenous resource governance.

Davenport will graduate this May with honors in her major, as a McNair scholar and having earned a scholarship from the Quality Enhancement Program. She is also one of 22 students, selected to be inducted into the Order of the Pegasus, UCF’s highest student honor. After she graduates, she will begin her Ph.D. immediately in fall 2018. Her sights are set high.

“Getting my Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology will inevitably end in a complete ethnography. I would like to have my research serve a practical purpose,” she said. “I don’t want it to sit on some shelf where it will only be used in an academic setting. I want to conduct research and write ethnographies that answer questions and solve problems that mean something to participants.”

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