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cydney seigerman, brazil, 2019-2020

CYDNEY SEIGERMAN
Fulbright Year: 2019-2020
Country: Brazil
Proposal Type: Research
Field of Study: Anthropology
Proposal Title: The Multiple Dimensions of Water in a Water Insecure Place
UGA Department: Anthropology and Integrative Conservation, Ph.D.
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan

Access to water is a basic human right essential to the fulfilment of all other human rights, but more than two-thirds of the world’s citizens are confronted on a daily basis to the immediate threat of water security, which is defined as having enough water of sufficient quality to lead a healthy and productive life.

Cydney Seigerman will spend her Fulbright year studying just what water means for people living in the water-scarce environment of Ceará, Brazil’s Jaguaribe Valley, and in Fortaleza, the state capital of Ceará.

“How can these people’s intrinsic struggles to survive and strategies to thrive be understood in a context characterized by abundant water-related conflicts?” says Cydney. “The inter-basin dynamics of the Jaguaride Valley and the city of Fortaleza – also known as the Jaguaribe-RMF system – in Northeast Brazil are a microcosm of the water-related challenges faced in water-scarce regions worldwide.”

Cydney earned her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Spanish in 2013 from the University of Michigan and subsequently studied theater in Madrid, Spain, before pursuing her Ph.D. in Anthropology and Integrative Conservation at UGA. She also served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in 2013-14 in Madrid.

Cydney’s research during her Fulbright grant will integrate her background in the natural sciences, social sciences, and fine arts, and she says her research will focus on both the experiences of water insecurity at the individual and household levels, and the social and political relations that shape and are shaped by these experiences.

“While periodic droughts have long characterized Northeast Brazil, recent climate patterns, including the 2012-2017 drought in Ceará, severely increased the stress on limited water resources,” says Cydney. “Climate-change models suggest that these trends will continue, which will likely exacerbate conflicts related to water scarcity and the tradeoffs of provisioning scarce water resources for industry, irrigation, and human consumption.”

“The state’s response to limited water supplies has focused on technical aspects of water provisioning, including investments in dams and canals. Regional water conflicts recently intensified as prolonged drought left important reservoirs with little water.”

She adds that Brazil has endeavored to improve water management by transferring federal-level decision-making to the river basin level, but the needs of small, rural communities remain poorly understood and often unheard, causing resentment and conflict.

Cydney’s Fulbright research was motivated by her ongoing collaborations in Ceará. In 2018, she spent two months conducting water-related research in the Jaguaribe-RMF system, while in 2019, she had an internship with FUNCEME, the state climate center of Ceará. During her summer 2019 fieldwork, she also met with local theater groups to discuss possible collaborations during her Fulbright grant.

While at UGA, Cydney has received various research grants to fund her summer fieldwork in Ceará. She was also awarded a graduate research fellowship by the National Science Foundation. She has had the opportunity to share her research at national and international conferences, while also working to increase cross-discipline communication by co-developing a workshop series called “Exploring Research as Craft” with Alden DiCamillo, a Master’s of Fine Arts student.

Cydney is a running enthusiast and has competed on UGA’s club track and cross country teams (earning second-team All-America status in 2017). She says she’ll use running as part of her community engagement while in Brazil.

“I will work with Força Falcão de Atletismo, a running team that cultivates the talents of youth runners from low-income families in Fortaleza,” she says. “As an avid runner, I will volunteer as an assistant coach at practices and races. I will carry out activities such as leading dynamic stretching warm-ups, acting as a pacer for workouts, and handing out water and snacks.”

At the end of her Fulbright year, Cydney says will complete the analysis of data she compiled and then write and defend her Ph.D. dissertation. She plans to work as an Anthropology professor at a research university, focusing on water use in the United States, Brazil, and Spain, and will develop management policies that support groups most vulnerable to water scarcity.