Two Anthropology Candidates Named 2022 Newcombe Fellows

May 11, 2022

Paloma Rodrigo Gonzales and Mikey Elster received the prestigious fellowship for their research in ethics and religion.

2022 Anthropology Newcombe Fellows
Paloma Rodrigo Gonzales and Mikey Elster (Photos courtesy of Gonzales and Elster)

Two Graduate Center Anthropology Ph.D. candidates, Mikey Elster and Paloma Rodrigo Gonzales, were named 2022 Charlotte W. Newcombe Dissertation Fellows by the Institute for Citizens & Scholars. The one-year, $30,000 fellowship, awarded to 22 doctoral candidates nationwide, supports scholars who are addressing questions of ethical and religious values in interesting, original, or significant ways.

Elster’s dissertation project, Coming of Age in the Clinic: Ethics and Politics of Care in Transgender Pediatrics in New York City, is an examination of what transgender young people, their families, and their doctors consider good care in the broadest sense of the term.

Elster is interested in the political and social aspects of transgender medicine.

“There has been a dramatic upsurge in anti-trans sentiment on the right wing,” Elster says, “with states attempting to redefine transgender pediatrics as a form of child abuse. This has given conceptions of care a pointed political significance, as anti-trans legislators claim that they are acting to ‘protect’ or ‘care’ for children by prohibiting them from accessing actual medical care.”

In her dissertation project, From Stained Souls to Stained Skins: The Presence of Religious Epistemologies in the Typification of Peruvian Bodies, Rodrigo Gonzales examines how colonial Catholicism and 19th-century scientific racism led to the racial and racist configuration of a dark-colored birthmark, known to this day as the Mongolian spot, that is prevalent among infants in Peru. 

“Race is a social construction with no biological existence,” Rodrigo Gonzales says. “However, people continue to experience and make sense of race through the physical body.” She seeks “to better understand and dismantle racial and racist ideologies that sediment on racialized human bodies.”

“The Anthropology program is extremely proud of Paloma and Mikey,” said Professor Jeff Maskovsky (GC/Queens, Anthropology, Psychology), executive officer of the Anthropology Ph.D. program. “We celebrate ICS’ recognition of their dissertation research. These write-up grants demonstrate the high quality and urgent public relevance of their work.”