Anthropology Student Wins National Fellowship

Ethan Morton-Jerome
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Ethan Morton-Jerome

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Ethan Morton-Jerome, a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a Mediterranean Regional Research Fellowship from the Council of American Overseas Research Centers. The award will support research for his dissertation, “Palestinian Labor on West Bank Settlements and Palestinian Authority Efforts to Create Employment Alternatives,” supervised by Ted Swedenburg, professor of anthropology and a faculty member in the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies.

“I am grateful to my adviser, Ted Swedenburg, for his invaluable assistance both with the application process and in support of my fieldwork,” Morton-Jerome said. “Receiving a fellowship from the Council of American Overseas Research Centers allows me to continue my research and my affiliation with the Palestinian American Research Center.”

Morton-Jerome will conduct his research in Palestine. His fieldwork focuses on the estimated 25,000 West Bank Palestinians who labor in factories, construction and agriculture on Israeli settlements. The work is considered by the Palestinian National Authority to undermine the possibilities for creating an economically viable Palestinian state. His research considers why, in the face of local opposition, these workers undertake such employment, the economic conditions that push as well as attract them to do so and how they make sense of and justify their employment. He is also studying the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to create employment alternatives to settlement labor.

“This is cutting-edge research on a critically important dimension of the West Bank Palestinian economy,” Swedenburg said. “Very little research has been done on the subject, and Ethan is the first to conduct ethnographic fieldwork with Palestinian settlement workers.” 

“Ethan is a very bright student, passionate about his work. And that work is timely and significant,” said Peter Ungar, chair of the department of anthropology. “He wants to know how Palestinian workers reconcile the fact that, while employment from Israelis allows them to feed their families, they are viewed by many in their communities as ‘traitors’ to the cause for Statehood. This is an extremely ‘hot’ topic that might help us better understand cultural dynamics in this volatile region, an important step toward developing a solution to one of the most difficult problems in geopolitical dynamics today.”   

The Mediterranean Regional Research Fellowship program enables pre- and early post-doctoral scholars to carry out research in the humanities and related social sciences in countries bordering the Mediterranean. The program is served by the Palestinian American Research Center to improve scholarship about Palestinian issues, expand the pool of experts knowledgeable about the Palestinians and strengthen linkages among Palestinian, American and foreign research institutions and scholars. Financial support for the program is provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. These nationally competitive fellowships are awarded for a minimum of three months and maximum of nine months of research abroad.

Morton-Jerome participated in the U.S. State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship Program in the summer of 2010. He studied Arabic in intensive language training programs. His field research has been supported by a fellowship from the Palestinian-American Research Center funded by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as well as funding from the University of Arkansas King Fahd Center.


Darinda Sharp, director of communications
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences

Alexis Whitley, communications intern
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences


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