Ongoing Research

Dr. Burnet’s Research Team 

Current Projects

In collaboration with co-Investigator, Hager El-Hadidi, I am working on a major project entitled, “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors in Rescuer Behavior,” and funded by the National Science Foundation Cultural Anthropology program for three years. The project seeks to understand the factors involved in human agency during mass violence, specifically, why do certain people put their lives at risk to attempt to save the lives of others? Two competing theories of rescuer behavior have emerged from prior research on the motivations of “rescuers” during mass violence. One set of theories emphasizes the intrinsic features of moral behavior such as character, “identity” (i.e., self-conception), and personality (see, Monroe 1998, 2004; Oliner & Oliner 1988, 1995; Oliner et al. 1992). The second set of theories highlights extrinsic features that affect decision-making such as geography, proximity to victims, presence of other minorities, details of genocidal policy, and opportunity (see, the collection edited by Sémelin, Andrieu, and Gensburger 2008, 2011). This research project examines both intrinsic and extrinsic factors that make rescuer behavior possible by undertaking a study of rescuers and genocide resisters during the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda. The project considers religion as a potential significant variable and compares Christians and Muslims in eight communities in Rwanda. I completed data collection for the project in May 2014 and am in the midst of data analysis.

I am also involved in an international research project based The Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre at the University of Manchester (United Kingdom). Funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), the “Gender and Political Settlements” project aims to understand how the informal and clientelistic forms of politics that characterize political settlements in developing countries shape prospects for women’s political empowerment. The two-year project is investigating the impact of the politics of inclusion on women and the implementation of specific gender policies in Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, and Bangladesh. I am leading the Rwanda case study for the project along with collaborator, Jeanne d’Arc Kanakuze, an independent consultant based in Kigali and women’s civil society leader.

My next major research project is currently in development. It will examine the polarizing issue of gun ownership in the United States with an emphasis on questions related to structure, agency, subjectivity, race, gender, and class. In Fall 2014, I began to explore the topic in collaboration with students enrolled in ANTH 511 Ethnographic Methods and in ANTH 611 Research Design: Cultural Anthropology at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky.

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