Commencement 2021: Nicholas Ames, PhD in Anthropology

Author: Mary Hendriksen

Rsz Nicholas Amesfield Shot

At Commencement 2021, Nicholas Ames received his PhD in Anthropology.

Throughout his time at Notre Dame, Nicholas has been affiliated with the Keough-Naughton Institute—attending the weekly Lectures and Public Talks Series and working with other Notre Dame students, graduate and undergraduate, on the islands of Inishbofin and Inishark through the Landscapes of the Irish Coast project, led by Faculty Fellow and Professor of Anthropology Ian Kuijt and Professor of Anthropology Meredith Chesson.

Nicholas researches historic migration and the influence immigrant communities have on the development of contemporary urban America. He came to Notre Dame from the University of California, Berkeley and entered the University as a Notebaert Fellow, the Graduate School's most prestigious fellowship. In addition to Professors Kuijt and Chesson, he is advised by Professor Maurizio Albahari.

"In my migration studies," Nicholas explains, "the focus is on individuals emigrating from western Ireland (primarily County Mayo and  County Galway) during the 19th and early 20th centuries. A large number of people emigrated from these two counties during this period in particular, and most ended up in the same places as their forebears, essentially re-concentrating and recreating family and community ties in the space of urban America."

For his thesis, Nicholas conducted research primarily in the Louisburgh area of South-West County Mayo, and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cleveland, Ohio for the American portion of his research.

"My aim is to identify the degree of mutual influence Irish and Irish-American communities have on the development of communities at ‘home,’ and vice-versa, through the exchange of remittances, passage, goods, and ideas. The point is to understand the influence of these historic immigrant communities and their extensive trans-national connections on the social-scape of modern day America."

Nicholas spent considerable time interviewing families as well as studying artifacts here and abroad. Perhaps his biggest adventure was guest crewing on a Dutch tall ship in the Summer of 2018 to better understand the hardships and psychology of a sea passage.

Nicholas believes that his findings "can expand beyond the Irish and beyond the United States to better understand the ways in which immigrant populations across time have, and continue, to shape the communities in which we live."