Research center spotlight: Ethnicity and Ethnography Laboratory and Research Center
The launch of one of Illinois State University’s newest research centers is due in large part to the hard work and vision of a single professor. Anthropology Professor Nobuko Adachi started the Ethnicity and Ethnography Laboratory and Research Center (EELRC) last year after receiving seed money from the College of Arts and Sciences. So far, the center has held a conference and conducted a research project; however, Adachi’s vision for the center is much grander.
Adachi was hired at Illinois State in 2007 as an assistant professor and was promoted to full professor this year. She has published several research articles and six books. Her latest volume, Ethnic Capital in a Japanese Brazilian Commune: Children of Nature (2017), examines a Japanese commune in Brazil whose members consider themselves the heirs of the “real” Japan.
In an interview last spring, Adachi laid out what the center has done and which direction she hopes it goes in the future.
Adachi said the idea for the EELRC came about a few years ago.
“I was on the research committee for the University,” she said. “In that time, I asked the provost why we have CTLT (the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology), but we don’t have a center like that for research. I would like to create that center.
“So we started thinking about it. I wasn’t able to pursue those things at the time because my duties increased. So when I got this initiative grant, I wanted to build up a research center.”
The center’s coming out party was a two-day conference focused on immigration and racial issues in the era of President Donald Trump. Adachi found collaborators from throughout the college and used some of the college’s funding and grants from the Sage Fund and the Dean of Students’ Multi-Ethnic Cultural and Co-Curricular Programming Advisory Board to organize the event.
In February, the center held “Social, Ethnic, and Racial Boundaries on Campus and Community in the 21st Century,” attracting about 90 attendees to the Bone Student Center.
The conference featured international scholars, students, and community members sharing research and their experiences on topics such as guns and policing, travel bans, undocumented students and immigration policy, and the impact of microaggressions on communities and higher education.
Adachi said there was powerful testimony from campus members, including an African-American student from Chicago’s South Side, who recounted an episode in which he and a white friend were stopped by police while walking around town but only he was questioned.
“Microagression is everyday life,” Adachi said. “(Victims) have struggled with it since they were born. They are not really inside American society.”
Last year, the center sponsored its first research project, a study examining the marriages of Japanese women to American men who live in the United States. Adachi’s undergraduate students conducted interviews with couples from different eras, exploring how they raised their children, focusing on questions of culture, language, and education. One student plans to further the project in graduate school.
“It’s successfully working for that one project,” Adachi said. “But we would like to put up the information online so people can accumulate more work together, so it can develop.”
Sharing research and connecting with other researchers are the main objectives of the center, Adachi said. Like CTLT, she would like to offer workshops to faculty. Instead of focusing on teaching, EELRC’s events would train faculty on how to procure grants or publish research.
“We want to inspire other people to share their research,” Adachi said.
She conceded her plans for the center could largely depend on how much support she can muster from across campus. “There is only so much I can do by myself.”
Illinois State faculty interested in collaborating with the center should contact Adachi at nadachi@IllinoisState.edu.