“Unessay” Project

In “Better to be hot than caught” a Vendor in Mexico that specializes in migrant goods,

My unessay project surrounds the topic of migrant material culture. It looks further deep into what specific items people choose to bring or leave behind when leaving their home countries. Also, it looks into how and in what ways do certain items create a sense of home within a space. I was inspired to do my project on this topic because I am a daughter of refugees and I wanted to understand more about the realities of those leaving their home countries in hopes of building and creating something new elsewhere. This is relevant because researching this subtopic allows archaeologists to understand migrant values and their needs in relation to the global and political climate. Furthermore, by studying material culture, it allows archaeologists to understand the harsh realities migrants face and what their needs and desires are as a whole.

Through my research, I learned that the items people decide to bring with them upon leaving their home countries are all situation dependent. For the most part, people decide to bring with them things that are necessary to their survival like food and water. They also decide to bring with them sentimental items that hold no monetary value like pictures, keys, phone numbers, or protective amulets. These items along with some of the functional items that migrants bring help to evoke a sense of emotion and nostalgia. This is a term called memory objects. In relation to creating a sense of home, memory objects help to create feelings of nostalgia and memory but these items are not necessary to create these feelings. Things like music, art, and even flags can help create a sense of home. Over time, as culture changes and shifts, a sense of home changes as well due to a shift in values. Feelings that evoke “a sense of home” are dependent on many factors such as resettlement plans, presence of a diaspora, presence of cultural goods.

With my research findings, I decided to create a podcast that highlights all that I gathered from my sources. Creating a podcast helped me understand how the puzzles fit together by forcing me to highlight important details that I wanted to talk about and include. It also made me realize how much hard work goes into the podcasts that I love to listen to. I had to create a script to follow, record my audio, and then learn how to edit all within a span of a week. With my podcast, I decided to incorporate my research by asking questions that surround my topic and use the research material I gathered to answer the questions. It worked for me because it was simple and other methods I tried were overwhelming.

From the project, I took away a greater understanding and appreciation for the work archaeologists put into researching migrant material culture. Furthermore, it illuminated how much work still needs to be done to explore this topic. Finding academic sources was very difficult and surprising considering the global refugee crisis.


De Leon, J. (2012). “Better to be hot than caught”: Excavating the conflicting roles of migrant material culture. American Anthropologist, 114(3), 477.

Digby, S. (2006). The Casket of Magic: Home and Identity from Salvaged Objects. Home Cultures, 3(2), 169-190.

Marschall, S. (2019). ‘Memory objects’: Material objects and memories of home in the context of intra-African mobility. Journal of Material Culture, 24(3), 253–269. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359183519832630

Parkin, D. (1999). Mementoes as Transitional Objects in Human Displacement. Journal of Material Culture, 4(3), 303–320. https://doi.org/10.1177/135918359900400304

Savaş, Ö. (2014). Taste diaspora: The aesthetic and material practice of belonging. Journal of Material Culture, 19(2), 185–208. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359183514521922

Shanaathanan, T. (2015). Commemorating home: Art as place making, an artist’s narration. Journal of Material Culture, 20(4), 415–428. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359183515605858

COVID 19 Consumption Trends and Social Media

By: Balqisa

As the weeks of social distancing and isolation continue to pass by, I have noticed an interesting trend within my household.  As one of seven children, it was a rarity for all of us to be home at the same time. With all of our busy work and school schedules, we would typically see each other in passing. Most of our meals were apart from each other and usually on the go. As a result of this current social climate, I began to notice that whenever anyone of us left the house it would either be to take a walk around the neighborhood or to the grocery store. 

With our social boredom, we began to try to replicate and recreate recipes of our favorite foods.  We attempted to make everything from Chicken Pad Thai to Sushi to Butter Chicken and Garlic Naan. Although it probably would have been tasted better from a restaurant, bonding over our impromptu recipes from Youtube helped fill the social void as we were able to share it on social media with our friends and family. 

Through Social Media specifically TikTok, we would see others recreate simple and easy recipes. One that caught my eye was the Dalgona Coffee recipe. Originally found in Asia, Dalgona coffee was popularized as people all around the world were staying home due to shelter in place laws. What was amazing about this coffee recipe was how it used things that were already in our pantries.  A Vox article reported that the recipe was “easy and replicable (as most emerging internet trends are), which helped it proliferate on social media. But it appears that dalgona coffee is only the beginning: As more people find themselves at home, they’re collectively gravitating toward certain activities and consumable content in their isolated reality, in hopes of feeling a little less alone”.


yes i hand whisked this whipped coffee for like 20 mins bc my mommy wanted to try it 👻 she loved it!! (달고나 커피) #korean #fyp #aesthetic

♬ Put your head on my shoulder cover by karlo – karlogutierrez

Changes in our consumption reflect how connected we are to each other on a global scale. Although social isolation feels as though we are alone, it makes it easier to know that everyone across the globe feels the same as you do. These social media trends help us by creating activities that occupy and distract us. It not only makes people feel useful but it aids in feeling less alone and more connected. 

In the past few weeks, I have noticed that in my household we have been discarding a lot of food waste as a result of us cooking more and eating out less. There is a reduced amount of plastic material being consumed as we are using plates and cups that are reusable. Also, there is an increase in the consumption of paper towels, gloves, face masks,  hand sanitizers, Clorox wipes and cleaning supplies such as bleach. Due to our current climate, we want to feel even safer and protected than before. I find myself overly disinfecting surfaces like countertops, computers and my phone to give myself peace of mind. In addition, as a family, we have begun to consume juices and teas that aid in boosting the immune system. If a future archeologist could look at our trash, they would be able to interpret our waste as people living through a pandemic that are attempting to keep themselves healthy. Things such as latex gloves and face masks can highlight how widespread this current situation is.


Hannah Cho on TikTok. Retrieved from https://www.tiktok.com/@imhannahcho/video/6804149721406393605

Nguyen, T. (2020, April 7). The micro-trends of quarantine, from dalgona coffee to PowerPoint parties. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2020/4/7/21207127/things-to-do-during-quarantine-dalgona-coffee-bread-baking-trends

About Me: Balqisa

Taken in Tokyo near the famous Sensō-ji Temple in Asakusa.

Hello Everyone! My name is Balqisa. I am graduating senior majoring in Medical Anthropology and Global Health with a minor in diversity. This is my first ever Archeology class and I am excited to learn and break some of the preconceived notions I may have. Within Anthropology as a whole, my interests surround inequality and how that affects our health and wellbeing.

Outside of class, I love spending time with my friends and family. I also enjoy traveling and learning more about other cultures. In my free time, I love hiking, painting, and photography.