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Undergraduate Researchers

Ngeri Nnachi

Ngeri Nnachi, American Studies

“The Effects of Patriarchy and Migration on Nigerian-Igbo Culture Sibling Sets within the United States”

This study focused on immigrant familial relations within sibling sets of Nigerian-American families of the Igbo tribe living in the United States. Traditionally Igbo culture is patriarchal, granting males greater respect than females within the family. As a second generation Nigerian-American, I have been afforded the opportunity to negotiate between that traditional system and a range of family styles practiced in the United States in constructing my family relationships. In this study I examined how four sets of siblings from immigrant families negotiated the tension between Nigerian and American practices to create distinctive family structures and practices. The extent to which families retained or modified tradition depended on the values held within the families. I conducted and analyzed interviews with key members of each sibling set to examine the effects of migration and patriarchy on their families. The dynamics between each of the sets as well as the structure within them varied. All families have retained the sibling-centric structure, but some now allow sisters to function as the head of the family. Where one lived, where one grew up, how many siblings one had and what gender grouping one belonged to all worked together to affect how they interacted.


How did you find out that you could do research in your field as an undergraduate?
My department (American Studies) approached me with an application to apply for the Honors Section which involved a year-long research venture.

How did you decide on your research project?
I changed my topic a few times and finally landed on my topic through critical analysis of my family dynamic.

Who did you seek out as a faculty mentor? How did you know that would be the right person? Was your mentor easy to approach?
I love everyone in my department so it would have been very difficult for me to pick a faculty mentor. I left it up to our advisor to place me with whomever she felt was best.

How long did you work on your project? How much time did it take each week? Did you get academic credit for the work?
It was a two-semester-long project with deadlines to guide us along the way. There were no set time intervals for me due to the nature of my research. I had many interviews to rely on so I was going along with other people's schedules which got in the way of my keeping myself to a set schedule. I did get academic credit through the Honors course.

What was your research project?
My research project looked into the issues of gender, preference, tradition and socialization practices within the Nigerian-Igbo community particularly amongst sibling sets born and raised within the United States.

How did you know about presenting your work at URCAD? Was the application difficult?
I had attended URCAD a few years before and really enjoyed the experience. The application process was relatively easy. It was made to be easy by the facilitators and I am very thankful for that.

Were you nervous about preparing and delivering an oral presentation to the UMBC community? What help did you have preparing? How many people came to your presentation?
I was most certainly nervous. To put myself at ease, I attempted to practice on friends but soon realized that method was highly ineffective because I was too comfortable with them. My whole department (which I love so much) attended my presentation as well as a few other students and friends.

What else were you involved in on campus during the time you worked on your research? Did you have time for anything other than course work and research?
Well, including my class load, I was also the President of the American Studies Council of Majors. I made sure I had time for other things such as leisure reading and interacting with family as well as friends.

What are your plans for after UMBC?
I plan on taking the LSAT's in December and apply to law schools next year. I hope to become a Family Lawyer and Child Advocate.

Do you plan to do anything that builds on the research you did last year?
I am deeply interested in cultural studies as a whole. I hope to look into a lot of that on my own just for my own knowledge. If there is a way to incorporate that into my work or educational experience, that would be even better.

What advice do you have for other undergraduate about the research opportunities at UMBC?
Take advantage of all avenues on campus. There are so many resources at your disposal and it is up to you to seek them out. Our school is known for its emphasis on research which translates to there being an abundance of support on campus. Do not limit yourself to any one source... do not be afraid to tap into anything.