Studying Vikings and Disability Leads to Outstanding Research Award: Iliana Rosa Pacheco, '22

Dec. 14, 2022

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Iliana Pacheco
Iliana Rosa Pacheco

Iliana Rosa Pacheco, who is graduating summa cum laude with a triple major in History, Anthropology, and English, is the recipient of the SBS Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award for fall 2022. This award recognizes a graduating senior in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences who has demonstrated academic achievement, originality, and creativity in an independent, undergraduate research project.

A student in the W.A. Franke Honors College, Iliana completed an Honors thesis titled “Boneless as I Am: The Memory of Aberrancy in the Ragnars Saga Loðbrókar,” an analysis of the role of impairment and disability in the Norse Viking age.

“Iliana is one of the most talented students I have worked with in two decades of teaching,” wrote Paul Milliman, associate professor in the Department of History and Iliana’s thesis advisor. “She has also produced the best independent, undergraduate research project of any student I have worked with at the University of Arizona.”

As a junior community-college transfer student, Iliana took seven courses during her first semester at the University of Arizona while also caring for her young child during the pandemic. She interned at the Arizona State Museum and is also a Magellan Circle Scholar and member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Milliman said Iliana contacted him the summer prior to starting at the University of Arizona, interested in doing an Honors contract for the course “History 405A: Medieval Europe in the Global Middle Ages” that he was teaching in the fall. Her resulting paper, “Within the Home: Women’s Roles in Viking-Age Foodways,” explored the relationship between food and gender in the Viking world.

“Iliana very impressively analyzed primary sources from both archeological and written evidence to argue convincingly that women had far greater power in Viking households than is commonly believed, largely because of their role in household management, where they controlled both the production of and access to food,” Milliman said.

For her Honors thesis, Iliana further explored gender in the Viking world, focusing as well on issues of disability.

“My honors thesis argues that the semi-legendary king Ívarr the Boneless was not depicted as disabled, but physically impaired,” Iliana said. “His adherence to culturally specific norms of masculinity and honor, or drengskapr, cemented his impairment.” 

Iliana notes that her Anthropology and English majors were vital to the construction of her thesis. “Archaeology provided primary sources in the absence of written text while English supplied me with invaluable close reading skills,” Iliana said.

“Iliana’s exploration of the cultural constructs of masculinity and disability in the Viking world is simply brilliant,” Milliman said. “Through her careful analysis of Ívarr’s life in both written accounts and material culture, Iliana demonstrated that medieval people did not view Ívarr as disabled and his physical impairment had no bearing on society’s view of him as a great leader.”