Christine Metz Howard
International Affairs

KU geography student receives prestigious doctoral dissertation award

Thu, 11/17/2022

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas geography doctoral candidate Carolisa Watson has received the prestigious Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Award.

Carolisa WatsonThe U.S. Department of Education granted Watson $35,2255 to conduct research on Tibetan identity in Dharamsala, India, for 10 months. Each year about 100 fellows representing around 40 institutions receive the award from the Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays International Education programs.

The Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship Program provides opportunities to doctoral candidates to engage in full-time dissertation research abroad in modern foreign languages and area studies. The program is designed to contribute to the development and improvement of the study of modern foreign languages and area studies in the United States.

“I am delighted to see Carolisa receive this award to complete her important dissertation fieldwork with the Tibetan diaspora community in India. Her proficiency in Tibetan and use of the language in her research embodies the mission of the Fulbright-Hays funding,” said Rachel Sherman Johnson, KU director of internationalization and partnerships.

Through the Fulbright-Hays project, Watson aims to better understand how Tibetan identity is expressed through placemaking — the process of creating meaningful public spaces — in Dharamsala and the ways in which place and identity interact.

As a visiting scholar at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, Watson will engage in archival and ethnographic fieldwork as she explores the relationships among Tibetans, Dharamsala and the governmental organizations that impact Tibetans in diaspora. Sitting on the edge of the Himalayas in northern India, Dharmsala has been home to the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration since 1960.

Watson will draw on an interdisciplinary background in geography, folklore, religious studies and media studies to understand how individuals engage with their larger communities and the city itself to create meaningful places and express collective and individual identity.

“The goal of this research is to understand how Tibetans in diaspora in Dharamsala construct and present Tibetan identity through placemaking,” Watson said. “This study will illuminate the underlying relationship between diaspora and exile communities and the places they inhabit.”

Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad grants are part of the larger competitive Fulbright-Hays Program, which dates to 1961 when the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright sponsored legislation for several programs that aim to increase mutual understanding between America and the rest of the world. Since the broader Fulbright program’s inception in 1946, 489 KU students, including Watson, have been awarded Fulbright and Fulbright-Hays grants.

Watson graduated from KU with a bachelor’s degree in East Asian languages & literatures and global & international studies. She has a master’s degree in folklore and ethnomusicology from Indiana University. She has previously received Foreign Language and Area Studies funding to student Tibetan, Mongolian and Chinese languages.

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