Sam Boucher, a PhD candidate in history at the University of Iowa, is the winner of a Fulbright Study/Research grant to Paraguay for 2023-24.
Hometown: La Habra, California
Degree: PhD in History
Could you give us a brief synopsis of what you'll be doing with your Fulbright?
I will be traveling to Paraguay to conduct research in archives as well as oral interviews in order to generate a comparative history of the cooperative movement between the Low German Mennonites and the Indigenous Mennonites in the Gran Chaco. After collecting data to create new datasets for each cooperative, I will compare the general level of success of the cooperatives of the German Mennonite communities and the cooperatives of the Indigenous Mennonite communities in the 20th and into the 21st centuries. This will allow me to determine the benefits and detriments of the cooperative system to the two communities and the degree to which the economic cooperative system resulted in the economic success of the Mennonite colonies in Paraguay.
How do you envision this will influence your life/future career?
This research trip will allow me to become familiar with the workings of archives and libraries, connect with other scholars in my relevant field and beyond, increase my language skills, and give me the tools necessary to write a quality dissertation when I return to the University of Iowa. Additionally, the outcome of this work will contribute to the development of conference papers that I hope to present to the Center for Transnational Mennonite Studies Conference and the conference at the German Historical Institute Washington, among others. This research will also be especially relevant to the communities of Paraguay themselves by revealing the degree to which the cooperative model has been successfully replicated in the indigenous communities. This will allow any shortcomings of the replication to be addressed and a new synthesis will allow for a new economic model to be adapted to the needs of the local community. Ultimately, this project will be useful to any future researchers on the intersection of European models and indigenous communities including historians of various fields and social workers directly engaged with these communities.
What advice do you have for future students interested in applying for a Fulbright?
The most important aspect of the application process is to start early. Writing the initial proposal is the easiest part. Afterward, you will need to send your application to several readers for commentary and feedback. Then the long editing process begins. The earlier you start, the less stressful this process will be for everyone involved.
Were there experiences at the UI that inspired you to pursue a Fulbright?
From May to August 2022, under the auspices of a University of Iowa Stanley Graduate Award for International Research, I undertook research in Berlin at the Ibero-Americanische Institut (IAI) regarding the degree to which Mennonites benefitted from their perception as German by the Mexican government in the 19th century who gave preference to ‘white’ immigrants. I spent the time at the IAI going through Spanish language documents and newspapers for references to Germans and sorting the references into positive and negative perceptions; most references to Germans in Spanish-language newspapers were positive. By going to Berlin and researching this topic, I realized the importance of finding the right archives and the need for a hands-on approach to my methodology. This inspired me to pursue a Fulbright fellowship in order to build connections with local communities rather than solely finding sources in archives.
Are there individuals you'd like to thank for their investment in this process?
The professors who aided me the most in the application process were Dr. Mariola Espinosa and H. Glenn Penny; they both encouraged me in every step of the application process and took the time and energy to write substantial letters of recommendation for me.
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