International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF) > Competitions

2009 IDRF Program


Ryan C. Alaniz
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Sociology
Long-Term Development in Post-Disaster Communities
[ project summary ]
Recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, Cyclone Nargis (which ravaged Myanmar) and Hurricane Ike, have spurred debates about how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) should respond with long-term development strategies in post-disaster communities. Such debates are particularly important given the increasing role of NGOs in development and enduring questions concerning bases of effective community development. For my dissertation, I will conduct a comparative case study of two Honduran communities destroyed by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and rebuilt by two different NGOs (the Red Cross of Honduras and Fundacion Cristo de El Picacho) in subsequent years. My doctoral research will combine field surveys, interviews, ethnography, and archival research in an analysis of the internal and external processes involved in building and developing these two communities eight years after the hurricane. I have completed much of the background research and I am seeking a SSRC International Dissertation Research Fellowship to carry out independent research in both communities in Honduras.
Ala Alazzeh
Rice University, Anthropology
Locating Non-Violence: An Ethnographic Research of the Contemporary Palestinian Political Culture
[ project summary ]
I propose to conduct an ethnographic study of the proliferation of the discourse of non-violence in Palestinian political culture and practices. Violence is an everyday reality for the people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), and a defining feature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Especially as it has been represented in media and scholars of the Middle East. There is, however, a significant and long-standing discourse and practice of non-violence in the OPT. My study aims to locate non-violence discourse and practices within the Palestinian political culture by addressing the following questions: What are the cultural particularities and the ethical, political, and theoretical foundations for non-violence in Palestine? What is the role played by global connections and the influence of other non-violent political traditions in shaping thae Palestinian national imagination and political culture? The ethnographic investigation of non-violence discourse and practice in Palestine will offer the possibility of identifying, analyzing, and theorizing the social and cultural transformations in the OPT. Meanwhile, it will clarify the relations between these transformations and Palestinian political narratives and make visible the dynamic interactions that shape and enable them. I will investigate non-violence as a discourse and cultural practice by conducting field research in the West Bank, primarily in the towns of Bethlehem and Ramallah.
Amanda Alexander
Columbia University, History
Property & Politics in Transition: Land in the South African Political Imagination
[ project summary ]
My dissertation is equally concerned with the history of land politics in South Africa and with land as a vehicle for understanding the transition from apartheid to the current order. After over a decade of market-based redistribution, land reform has reached an impasse. In order to understand this impasse, I examine an accompanying, but largely unacknowledged, problem: the fact that the post-apartheid political horizon, as it now stands, may be structurally incapable of accommodating persistent demands for a democracy based upon the equitable distribution of land. Drawing on theories and methods from history and anthropology, my dissertation will examine how the post-apartheid political horizon has been created and how it is being contested. My dissertation will address the following questions: (1) What political and economic narratives have been constructed in order to de-legitimate government-led expropriation and redistribution processes? (2) More specifically, how have the ideologies of nonracialism, liberalism, and neoliberalism combined to de-legitimate demands for redistribution? (3) What does the persistence of land demands, despite official attempts to curtail them, reveal about popular notions of the relationship between citizenship, property relations, and racialized inequality? My research takes seriously the demands of social movements, such as South Africa’s Landless People’s Movement, that have come to question the legitimacy of South Africa’s democratic transition, and will examine what such demands reveal about notions of citizenship and democracy.
Sarah Aaltje Bakker
University of California, Santa Cruz, Anthropology
Ancient Moderns: Claiming Middle Eastern Christian Identity in the Netherlands
[ project summary ]
For thirty years Aramaic speaking Christians from the Middle East have been seeking asylum in the Netherlands. Christians of different national origins, from Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, have congregated around their common Aramaic language and religious institutions to develop a newly cohesive sense of identity around the church. Their efforts are complicated by tensions that arise from their encounter with a secular insistence on the separation of religious life from political identity. This tension produces fierce debates in the community about how to represent themselves in a secular, multicultural society when their identity is staked on an ancient, sacred past. Many Aramaic-speaking Christians are working through a range of different political activities and religious practices to bring these two newly separated notions of the religious and the political into some kind of relationship. As they struggle to become recognizable subjects in a secularized and nationalized world, their strategies are fraught with tensions between competing discourses of modernity and the complex genealogies of their identity-politics. My dissertation research will try to make sense of how Aramaic-speaking Christians draw on different realms of belief, language, church affiliation, and cultural performance to construct their identities within Dutch secularism. By mapping out competing claims to Aramaic Christian identity, my research illuminates the conflicting historical narratives from which they emerge. The fragmentation within the Aramaic-speaking community that plagues efforts at cohesion arises out of an earnest engagement with both their history in the Middle East and with the politics of an increasingly multicultural Europe.
Annaliese Jacobs Bateman
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, History
Mastering the Ice to Rule the Waves: British Imperial Mythologies and the Search for the Northwest Passage, 1817-1854
[ project summary ]
If the Arctic taught the British anything, it was how to fail. Between 1817 and 1854, dozens of Naval expeditions attempted to chart the Northwest Passage between British and Russian territories in the North American Arctic. These expeditions introduced the British public to the image of the starving, freezing English explorer whose physical fragility was celebrated as proof of the nobility of the national character. My dissertation examines how this British national and imperial mythology was constructed and informed by a developing Anglo-Russian rivalry, the shifting politics of indigenous societies, and networks of knowledge and kinship that included naval officers, naturalists, Scottish whalers, Inuit people, and Russians. Though hybrid in their origins, the tales born in the Arctic ultimately undergirded a story of British exceptionality that in turn informed the “civilizing mission” at the heart of the imperial narrative. Combining archival study with anthropology and ethnohistory, my research challenges the interpretation of imperial masculinities as polarized between “strong” white Englishmen and “effeminate” indigenous others, focusing instead on the useful and unsettled meanings of British vulnerability. Drawing on the insights of the “new imperial history” I argue that British national and imperial identities were as deeply informed by competition with their imperial rivals (especially autocratic Russia) as by a strident narrative of conquest and domination. Finally, I argue that the Arctic was not a static, peripheral concern of the British state, but rather a hybrid and highly contested space in between the boundaries of sovereign empires. My work fundamentally complicates British imperial historiography by arguing that British imperial culture was one that recognized and rationalized the fact of failure, and saw itself imbedded within a competitive imperial landscape that included the harshest peripheries of the globe.
Orkideh Behrouzan
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Science and Technology Studies
Alternative Genealogies of Psychiatric Selves
Lihi Ben Shitrit
Yale University, Political Science
Women’s Activism in Religious Political Movements: A Study of Four Movements in Israel and the West Bank.
[ project summary ]
For feminist scholars, the participation of women in socially conservative religious-political movements presents two main puzzles. First, why have movements which promote social agendas aimed at limiting women’s rights (such as, for example, laws that disadvantage women in inheritance, divorce, and child custody) and space of action (through notions that women’s primary responsibility is to the home and that they are less fit to serve as political leaders) been so successful in recruiting and mobilizing women at the end of the 20th century and beyond? Second, women in these movements present a particular challenge to the movements’ ideology. On the one hand, the movement and its participants’ articulated commitment is to a sexual division of labor whereby women tend to work in the private sphere and men to political leadership in the public sphere. On the other hand, the women activists in these movements are often anything but strictly housewives and mothers. Rather, women activists engage in public political activism and at times attain such public visibility and even leadership positions that contradict their professed ideological commitments and their interpretation of the difference between women and men’s capacities and religiously sanctioned purpose in life. How do women activists negotiate and accommodate anti-feminist ideological commitments and feminist practices? My project tries to address these two puzzles and the challenges to and lessons for feminist theories and practices they present by studying forms of women’s recruitment, mobilization and participation in religious-political movements. I conduct a qualitative comparative study of two pairs of conservative religious-political movements sharing a religious heritage and a political context in Israel and the West Bank to propose a theory of forms of women’s participation in such movements.
Brett M. Bennett
University of Texas at Austin, History
Creating an Indian Ocean Rim Ecosystem: Forestry, Science, and the British Empire 1864-1963
[ project summary ]
My dissertation, “Creating an Indian Ocean Rim Ecosystem: Forestry, Science, and the British Empire 1864-1963,” argues that foresters and botanists in British colonies around the Indian Ocean rim attempted to coordinate scientific forestry policies, introduce and grow similar trees, and, ultimately, create a new ecosystem spanning the entire Ocean rim. This period corresponds to the creation and then fragmentation of an Indian Ocean network of foresters, beginning with the founding of the Indian Forest Service in 1864 and ending with the decolonization of British East Africa in the early 1960s. During this period, foresters and botanists planted millions of teak, rubber, pine, eucalyptus, palm, sisal, cinchona, and gutta percha trees in cities, plantations, and the countryside of colonies along the Indian Ocean rim. By using the Indian Ocean rim as my geographic focus, I contest Alfred Crosby and Jared Diamond’s famous argument that Old World plants were more successful than New World and Australasian plants at flourishing in foreign environments by showing the success of New World and Australasian trees in the Old World, such as Australian eucalyptus in Africa and Asia and Brazilian rubber and Peruvian cinchona in Malaya. I argue that the movement of various species of trees around the Indian Ocean during British imperialism was deliberately intended to construct a specific ecology to suit scientific and economic demands of British imperialists. While I look at this Indian Ocean ecosystem as a socially constructed process, I do not disregard the influence of nature on the spread and growth of trees. My dissertation uses methods from history, geography, and ecology to describe the environmental constraints leading to the social construction of a new Indian Ocean ecosystem. In short, I seek to reconcile social history with ecological history while offering my own new interpretation of the environmental impact of British imperialism.
Gautam Bhan
University of California, Berkeley, Development/Urban Planning
The Juridical City: The Politics of Public Interest and Urban Citizenship in New Delhi
[ project summary ]
In early 2004, an estimated 35,000 households – colloquially called ‘Pushta’— on the banks of Delhi’s river Yamuna were destroyed in the first of a series of evictions. Each of these evictions was the result of an innovative judicial mechanism created, ironically, to protect the poor: the Public Interest Litigation (PIL). What does it mean for thousands of citizens to be evicted in the name of “public interest”? The city government remained silent. Traditionally strong social movements that had historically and effectively mobilized the urban poor both as national citizens and subjects of the welfare state failed to stop evictions in the unfamiliar territory of the courtroom. Outside it, the media seemed to align with the city’s emerging middle class in describing the evictions as much-needed “good governance” just as the city prepares to host the Commonwealth Games in 2010. This project argues that the emergence of the courts as a site of urban planning and government in Delhi has created a juridical city: an urban regime of rule defined by particular notions of politics and knowledge as they e/merge in the meeting of law and government. This regime determines urban politics in the name of public interest and shifts the site of claims to urban citizenship – the right to the city -- from the political to the juridical. This shift is occurring at a time of critical transformation for Indian cities after two decades of economic liberalization, the advent of a new discourse on “world-class cities” and emergent neoliberal ideologies transforming government. Within this transformation, this project argues that urban evictions must be read as an erasure of the poor’s urban citizenship made possible through their criminalization within the courts and the resultant absence of an inclusive urban politics that this criminalization engenders.
Fahad Ahmad Bishara
Duke University, History
A Sea of Debt: Law, Empire and Commercial Society in the Western Indian Ocean, c. 1850-1950
[ project summary ]
My dissertation explores the contractual dynamics of merchant networks in the 19th- and early 20th-century Western Indian Ocean, looking at the formal and informal rules that tied the members of these networks together and how these interacted with one another in the context of competing and overlapping legal jurisdictions. The commercial rules that prevailed in this ocean basin did not simply constrain the transacting partners, but generated enough trust between them to sustain regular patterns of commerce over great distances and long periods of time. I examine the relations of debt that characterized both production and commerce, binding together members of merchant network in a series of reciprocal rights and obligations. Using merchant correspondence and large caches of court cases, my goal is to reconstruct the ways that a cosmopolitan but largely Islamic business culture coped with the expansion of the British Empire and how the debt relations that underpinned commercial society in the Indian Ocean also contributed to this imperial expansion. At a more abstract level, my project explores the juncture at which informal institutions of contractual enforcement interact with dynamic formal institutions to establish economic order over time and space and throughout political change.
Jennifer Lynne Boles
Indiana University Bloomington, History
"8 Millimeters Versus 8 Million:" Superochero Cinema in Mexico City after 1968
[ project summary ]
This dissertation recounts the history and memory of urban youth and grassroots cinema in the immediate decades after the state-sponsored massacre of student demonstrators at Tlatelolco on October 2, 1968—a day that many Mexicans claim changed everything. By focusing on the superocheros, a group of underground filmmakers from the country’s largest university in Mexico City, this project examines how cinema became a powerful political and cultural tool after a moment of perceived rupture. The superocheros’ aspirations to create a unique aesthetic that spoke to their experience meshed perfectly with the subversive potential of super-8 film—a format not taken seriously by the state and thus not censored as strictly as other forms of media and youth counterculture. Yet, like much of the grassroots culture and arts of the 1970s and 1980s, they were censored in another way—by derision and deliberate forgetting. Although these decades have been generally neglected in the historiography of Mexico, this dissertation shows that they were hardly insignificant. The films, lives, and memories of the superocheros exemplify what it meant to be Mexican and young at a time when the country seemed on the brink of an existential crisis. More than that, they reveal what a small group of youth saw, lived, longed for, and imagined. This longing was not the same as it had been in 1968; it more strongly reflected the shared memory and experience of youth optimism and disillusionment, a vulnerable national identity, debates over the influence of mass media and international counterculture, and the discourses and processes of modernity.
Hiba Bou Akar
University of California, Berkeley, City and Regional Planning
Rebuilding the Center, Expanding the Frontier: Reconstructing Post-War(s) Beirut, Lebanon
[ project summary ]
My project examines the role of religious organizations in restructuring urban space in Beirut, Lebanon and its implications for Beirut as a city-in-conflict. Two moments are important for this study: the post civil war (1975-1990) phase during which the Lebanese government has been handing out monetary compensations for internally displaced families, and the period following the July 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon, during which the war-ravaged southern suburbs of Beirut have been undergoing reconstruction. Through ethnographic and archival research in three neighborhoods in Beirut that designate different moments and sites in the processes of post-war(s) reconstruction, I examine the articulations of religion, resistance ideologies, and militarization with neoliberal economic processes in shaping urban space. I also investigate the implications of these processes on the proliferation of religious enclaves, segregation, inter-factional violence, and new phases of displacement in Beirut. The project brings “civil society” actors to the foreground in the debate on the restructuring of cities, in particular those in conflict.
Lina M. Britto
New York University, History
The Marijuana Axis: The First Narcotics Boom and the “War on Drugs” in Colombia, 1955-1985
[ project summary ]
By the time cocaine traffic became one the most profitable and problematic industries of the Western hemisphere, the marijuana boom of the 1970s in the Colombian Caribbean coast had already established the blueprint for drug production, trade, and repression in the country that is today one of the world’s principal site for the manufacture and export of narcotics. In order to examine the first boom of narcotics exports in Colombia, and the first target of the U.S “war on drugs” in the Andes, my dissertation pays attention to local, regional, national, and international developments in the realms of marijuana production, trade, and repression. The boom, popularly known as la bonanza marimbera, spread nationally, yet its place of origins and main center of production and commercialization remained in the Guajira peninsula, which borders Venezuela, as well as in the neighboring Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a lawless zone never fully integrated into either Spanish colonial regime or the modern Colombian nation-state. My dissertation proposes that similar to the coffee business in the early twentieth century, the marijuana trade in the late twentieth century constituted a new nexus for capital accumulation, novel forms of social mobility and class formation, new popular identities expressed as gendered regional discourses, and practices of state repression that reshaped hemispheric relations. Rather than considering the marijuana boom as the result of the absence of the state in a peripheral frontier zone, I examine it as a crucial prelude to the rapid extension of the drug economy that came to dominate Colombian politics, society, culture at the end of the twentieth century. It represented a turning point in the relation with the U.S., insofar it served as a laboratory for the “war on drugs” in the broader Andean region.
John A Buchanan
University of Washington, Political Science
Coercion, Commodity Capital, and Warlord Emergence in Southeast Asia
[ project summary ]
Contrary to the view that both capitalism and the modern nation state are homogenizing forces that will inexorably advance on anachronistic instances of warlords, this form of autonomous authority persists in developing countries of the post-World War Two period. Social scientists have argued that “greed” for profits from natural resources and state failure account for the emergence of contemporary warlords. Through a focus (1) on the question of local access to resources and (2) the ability of local actors to use resources to develop authority, this dissertation provides a more complex explanation for the emergence of warlords. This dissertation develops a capital accumulation hypothesis arguing that the emergence of warlord authority stems from the employment of commodity capital by strong men as a basis for developing coercive and moral authority. The inability of state leaders to regulate commodities and the presence of “lootable” commodities determines whether strong men “capture” and employ commodity capital as a basis for establishing warlord authority. Through comparisons of three areas within Burma and three opium-producing regions in Burma, Laos, and Thailand during the post-War period, my dissertation tests three candidate explanations for the emergence of warlords.
Paola A. Castaño
University of Chicago, Sociology
“The Time of the Victims”: Institutional Practices and Understandings of Violence in the National Commission of Reparation and Reconciliation in Colombia
[ project summary ]
My dissertation examines the process by which the victims of the armed conflict in Colombia are defined by the state as subjects entitled to reparation, truth, justice and memory. Specifically, I will study the practices of categorization of the victims in the National Commission of Reparation and Reconciliation (NCRR) as taking place in the intersection of understandings of violence and institutional procedures. The NCRR constitutes an exceptional case in the context of similar institutions created in post-conflict scenarios to guarantee the rights to truth and reparation to victims of human rights violations, given the fact that Colombia is still in the middle of an armed conflict. Over twelve months of field research conducting participant observation, interviews and documentary analysis, my project will focus on two areas of the NCRR: the offices devoted to the daily assistance to the victims; and the Historical Memory Group, a research team comprised by scholars working on reports that collect the memories and testimonies of the victims in different parts of the country. The practices conducted in these areas vis-à-vis the victims will be conceptualized as part of a process of stabilizing the shifting boundaries of violence in Colombia and, in that sense, as constitutive of a distinctive modality of state intervention in social life. The two central questions for this project are: How do different types of expert knowledge and forms of understanding violence enter the practice of state institutions? How does the complex coexistence of ongoing conflict and violence with a model of ‘post-conflict accountability’ (reparation, truth, justice and memory for the victims) shape a particular type of state?
James Chappel
Columbia University, History
The Lure of Orthodoxy: Radical Catholicism in Europe, 1920-1950
[ project summary ]
My dissertation attempts to explain the surprising fate of Catholicism in postwar Europe by investigating the continuities and ruptures between the postwar moment and the interwar crisis. The allegiance of the majority of Catholic intellectuals to democratization and the Cold War project represents the surprising and heretofore unexplained domestication of liberal modernity’s most persistent and radical critics. Amidst the cultural, economic, and political meltdown of interwar Europe, intellectuals across the continent flocked to the Church and claimed that only a return to Europe’s ancient faith could stave off disaster. Interwar Catholicism was, however, a contradictory enterprise in that it championed both a communal return to orthodoxy and an individual, existential commitment to Christ. In the controversies within Catholicism that arose during the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, some Catholic intellectuals rejected the idea of a continent-wide return to the faith, and transformed the notion of individual authenticity into a defense of democracy, ecumenism, European federalism, and human rights. These same Catholic intellectuals rose to positions of great political, institutional, and ideological power in the postwar decades, against the backdrop of the electoral triumph of Christian Democracy and the surprising institutional and legal preference granted the Church by American authorities. Drawing on recent sociological and philosophical research into the nature of secularity, my dissertation argues that radical Catholicism did not disappear at all, but rather transformed and secularized. Rejection of the so-called “secularization thesis” is accepted by most everyone at this point, but little has been offered to replace it in terms of close historical studies. By understanding secularization as the contingent result of intellectual, institutional, and legal struggles, I hope to show how this might be done. Secularization in modern Europe—that is, the reformulation of religion within the bounds of civil society—did not take place as a result of unproblematic diremption, but was rather the contingent result of a series of political and intellectual struggles.
Buyun Chen
Columbia University, East Asian Languages and Cultures
Dressing the Empire: A History of Fashion in Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) China
[ project summary ]
Involved in a nascent market system, helping to build new hierarchies, and implicated in the structures of gender and ethnic identity, the fashion system of the Tang dynasty (618-907) was integral to larger historical processes. My dissertation seeks to establish the terms of the Tang fashion system by investigating these processes. First, I aim to define the economic and social conditions that allowed for fashion's emergence. My second angle of approach surveys the content and stylistic changes of Tang fashion. Following these two angles of approach, my dissertation will answer three main questions: 1) What is fashion’s relationship to a nascent market system? 2) How did competition between old and new elites propel fashion? And 3) What is the relationship between fashion and silk production? In answering these questions, I will illuminate the workings of the market, the Silk Road trade and the textile industry, and shed light on sartorial change, sumptuary legislation, and identity formation to uncover the history of fashion in Tang dynasty China.
Omar Y. Cheta
New York University, Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies/History
Commerce and Law in Late Ottoman Egypt
[ project summary ]
My project is a study of economic history focusing on commerce in nineteenth-century Egypt. It relies on archival sources of a legal nature, which include commercial court records, Ottoman commercial codes, and the minutes of cabinet meetings. Historians have hardly consulted these sources before. I will use them in order to establish the ways in which commerce was envisioned by traders and legislators and the meaning of newly introduced commercial laws and regulations for the larger legal plane of late Ottoman Egypt. Studying commercial disputes will lead me to understand how commercial activities, such as money lending, were practiced. On a more general level, the study is particularly significant in two ways. First, it is an attempt to rewrite economic history through studying commerce, which scholarship has constantly abandoned in favor of agriculture and industry. Second, it is an attempt at discovering the hitherto elusive link between the centers of power in the late Ottoman Empire, namely Cairo and Istanbul during the age of reforms 1839 – 1876.
Sheetal Chhabria
Columbia University, History
The City's Slums: Producing Urban Poverty in Western India, 1870-1918
[ project summary ]
My dissertation studies the social and material formation of the urban slums of Bombay and Karachi from 1870 -1918. I use municipal records of housing and sanitation in order to challenge narratives of incomplete modernization which have positioned slums as transitional spaces and slum-dwellers as transitional figures. Stuck between village and city, agrarian production and urban industry, or tradition and modernity, slums and their inhabitants have become marginal to scholarly accounts of modern urbanization. I begin with the famines that swept across South Asia in the 1870’s and end in 1918 when the politics of region subsumed the problems of the urban poor, shaping the future contours of debates around urban poverty. By focusing on the slums themselves and the way in which slum dwellers productive work interfaced with the more formal spaces of urbanization, I attempt to interrogate the processes by which "the slum" is made as a category of modern failure or absence. My research develops a history of modern and colonial urbanization which overcomes the conceptual dichotomies which have rendered urban slums marginal to or accidents of modern industrial transformation of colonial and urban space.
Matthew Conn
University of Iowa, History
Corporal Rhetorics: Sexology, Citizenship and the State in ''German-Speaking'' Central Europe, 1880-1935
[ project summary ]
My dissertation concerns three interrelated histories. First, it examines the history of sexology and forensic medicine in “German-speaking” Central Europe, 1880-1935. Second, it explores the everyday lives of “homosexual” men and women in these lands during this era. Third, it provides a history of the judiciary and the courtroom, where laws prohibiting same-sex desires and attempts at resistance (to these laws) met head to head. My dissertation uses a previously untapped source, clemency appeals from person convicted of “unnatural acts,” in order to explore the nexus of these three histories. Ultimately, my aim is to understand the meanings and uses of (sexual) science in both legal and everyday contexts.
Alison C. Cool
New York University, Anthropology
Translating Twins: Twin Studies and the Production of Genetic Knowledge in the Swedish Welfare State
[ project summary ]
The Swedish Twin Registry (STR) is the world’s largest population-based register of twins for scientific research. It has been an invaluable resource for international biomedical researchers studying genetic causes of human diseases since its inception in the late 1950s. Many biomedical scientists consider twin research the “gold standard” for distinguishing between genetic and environmental factors in causing diseases. Most recently, behavioral scientists have been using the STR to generate data about interactions of genes and environments in relation to the heritability of complex human traits and behaviors. In the past ten years, twin studies have been used to suggest the influence of genetics in a widening sphere of human experiences, including risk-taking behaviors, cooperation, and spirituality. This ethnographic project will be situated in and around the Stockholm-based STR and will focus on the networks of Swedish scientists currently using STR resources to study genetic and environmental influences in human behavior. My research objective is to study how Swedish scientists within three disciplines – behavior genetics, psychology, and economics – actually design, execute, and analyze experiments using Swedish twins to produce broader knowledge about the heritability of behaviors, including risk-taking and decision-making in humans. This project will focus on how ways of drawing boundaries between genetic and environmental factors of human heredity might simultaneously transform both science and society. The STR’s location in Sweden offers an opportunity to study the production of genetic knowledge within the specific context of the Swedish welfare state.
Mona Damluji
University of California, Berkeley, Architectural & Urban Planning
Petroleum's Promise: Imaginaries of the Nation-State and Modernity in Baghdad 1948-1958
[ project summary ]
In the decade before the 1958 Revolution in Iraq, the pro-British regime and the British-owned Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) invested in the production and circulation of evocative media that equated petroleum extraction with the development and modernization of Baghdad. These representations of national and urban development schemes funded by government shares of IPC profits served to constitute an imaginary of Baghdad as the capital of a unified and sovereign modern nation-state in a moment where contestation over national identity and sentiments against the British ran high in the country. However, existing scholarship on development and modernization in pre-Revolutionary Iraq has ignored the barrage of IPC and government films, magazines, brochures, and news media produced during the 1950s and the significant role this media played in the British project of nation-building in the petroleum-rich region. This project will examine the ways in which the representational and material spaces of urbanization in Baghdad produced between 1948 and 1958 were co-constitutive of and constituted by imaginaries of Iraq as a modern and sovereign nation-state. Further, this project will examine whether and how these imaginaries may have served the British and Iraqi regimes as a means to manage political contestation over national identity and heightening anti-colonial sentiments rooted in Baghdad. After completing the proposed twelve months of archival research in key sites in and around London, this research will contribute a better understanding of the role that representational media has played in the history of development and nation-building in the modern Middle East. This project has clear resonance in the contemporary moment where discourses on developing and modernizing Iraq have reemerged since 2003 as central aspects of international debates on the American occupation of Iraq.
Bernard Michael Dubbeld
University of Chicago, Anthropology
Building a Respectable Home: Security and Social Differentiation in the KwaZulu-Natal Hinterland
[ project summary ]
This project investigates the ongoing and fraught process of building home in the rural and economically marginal community of Glendale, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. In a place where social order has become unstable (especially because of the decline of regular work, the diminishing power of traditional authorities, and the increasingly tenuous position of government), I consider how particular anxieties about social homelessness have emerged, prompting local claims of the building of a "respectable home". Yet different understandings of respectability have proliferated, and the claim to a respectable home will be examined as an ongoing aspiration situating the speaker within a particular discursive domain. Methodologically assembling an archive of “texts about home and respectability”, I will analyze how this search for security has produced the terms for new forms of social differentiation. These new local divisions speak directly to the question of how the poor attempt to forge social relationships and adequately situate themselves in South Africa and hopes to provide a lens through which comparative cases elsewhere could be examined.
Jonathan Echeverri Zuluaga
University of California, Davis, Anthropology
“Digital Birth”: Identity cards, mobility and the state in Senegal
[ project summary ]
In 2005 the Senegalese government adopted a system of identity cards that enables automated digital-fingerprint recognition. Historically, Senegal has been a node for West African immigrants seeking alternative livelihoods; beginning in the 21st, Dakar has become a jumping off platform for Senegalese and other West African migrants seeking to travel to Europe and the United States. How do new digitized technologies transform the relationship between mobile population and the Senegalese state? My research is situated at the intersection of two contemporary phenomena: 1) the adoption by governments around the world of digitized technologies purporting to record citizens’ identity and movement accurately and 2) processes of mobility in and out of West Africa that circumvent the territorial borders of the nation-state. My project looks, on the one hand, at how paper-based procedures and unofficial transactions interact with automated verification technologies in creating a population registry in Senegal in order to monitor citizens, and, on the other, how these different technologies transform processes of mobility of migrant populations in Dakar. I hypothesize that the juxtaposition of these different technologies creates a gap between actual birth and digital birth where citizens and state representatives interact in official and unofficial ways that are producing new modes of citizenship and novel enactments of the state.
Matthew H. Ellis
Princeton University, History
Envisaging Egypt: Geography and Conceptions of Space in a Desert Nation, 1841-1925
[ project summary ]
My project investigates the question of how Egypt was constructed and realized as a modern national space. Seeking to challenge the long-standing assumption that the territorial scope of a stable political entity called “Egypt” has always been fixed and known since ancient times, my research concentrates on contested, often transnational or cross-cultural conceptions of space and identity at Egypt’s various frontier zones to demonstrate the fraught process by which the bounds of modern Egypt were delineated. I draw from a variety of primary sources – historical maps, geographical journals, diaries, unpublished archival documents, and scientific travel and exploration narratives (among other types) – to offer a unique perspective on the relationship of space and geography to nationhood and, more specifically, to illustrate the much more complicated picture of Egyptian nationalism that emerges when we concentrate on Egypt’s fluid desert frontier regions (as opposed to just the national capital). Ultimately, by using the lens of geography to demonstrate the persistence of many different, often competing conceptions of Egyptian territoriality, I seek to re-evaluate Egypt’s relationship with the Ottoman state throughout the nineteenth century as well as to reconsider the translation of European scientific practices and ideas into the Egyptian context.
Tanwen T. H. Ellis
University of California, Berkeley, Political Science
City-States in the International Economy: Changing development strategies and social compacts in Dubai, Bahrain, Singapore, and Hong Kong
[ project summary ]
My research project investigates why rulers within two pairs of similar city-states in the Middle East and East/Southeast Asia have implemented diverging policy approaches to shared economic challenges and goals. Focusing on two oil and gas exporters in the Persian Gulf and two Asian "Tigers," this project examines why leaders in Bahrain and Hong Kong have taken steps to restructure social compacts in these polities, while leaders in Dubai and Singapore have not. All four states are endeavoring to reorganize their economies (focusing on bolstering a common group of international service sectors) in response to changing conditions in the international economy, and all four face competing pressures to enhance fiscal discipline and to protect their populations from social dislocations associated with these transformations. Yet despite important structural similarities within each regional pair, including comparable natural resource endowments, workforce compositions, and levels of welfare provision, intra-regional variation emerges within each similar pair of cases. Hong Kong has substantially retrenched it welfare spending, and Bahrain has become the only GCC state to impose and income tax (intended to finance welfare programs), while Singapore and Dubai have not significantly altered the scope or financing of their welfare systems. This project will evaluate two hypotheses concerning the possible roles of (1) a relatively high degree of state autonomy and (2) high intensity regional economic competition in shaping this variation. Responding to literatures on globalization, late development and the developmental state, and the rentier state, this project will analyze the causes of both cross-regional convergence in all four states' long-term development strategies and intra-regional divergence in specific policy approaches to attaining similar goals.
Tessa Rose Farmer
University of Texas at Austin, Anthropology
Cairo Ecologies: Water in Social and Material Cycles
[ project summary ]
In poor urban communities of Egypt, water is a profound indicator of how people establish living patterns in their neighborhoods, and of how residents deal with representatives of state institutions on a day to day basis in their search for basic necessities. This research project will study the social and material cycles of water in Izbit Kherallah, a small squatter settlement in Cairo. It will map the richness of daily life as the residents of Izbit Kherallah interact as relatives, neighbors and acquaintances to find sources of potable water and deal with the ramifications of sewage in their urban ecology. The central intellectual groundings in which this project is based are: the rereading of social life to include non-human factors, such as water; the investigation into local processes of political engagement beyond the arena of the state and civil society; and the role of the family and household in Cairo for obtaining and distributing basic resources and managing the social and health impacts of waste water in the urban ecology at the daily level. The knowledge gained from this research project will contribute to a better understanding of the interrelationships among biological, social, and infrastructural systems in the continually expanding urban world of Egypt and the Global South. Additionally, this research will contribute to the emerging study of water sustainability in social science and enhance greater cross-cultural appreciation for and understanding of the variety of ways in which people think about, manage and utilize water.
Alex Fattal
Harvard University, Anthropology
Guerrilla Marketing: Information War and the Demobilization of FARC Rebels in Colombia
Corisande Fenwick
Stanford University, Anthropology
Constructing Arabs and Berbers on the peripheries of Empire: Surveying the medieval landscape of North-Eastern Morocco, 600-1200CE
[ project summary ]
The Arab conquests (c.670 AD) and the subsequent spread of Islam, marked a period of dramatic socio-economic change for North Africa; new state and imperial formations emerged, longstanding networks of trade were severed and replaced with new routes, and new identities emerged. Yet, the impact of Islamic government is largely depicted in macro-scale political histories of the rise and fall of empires and states. These histories portray the Arab conquests as an absolute rupture in Magrebi history, creating new kinds of social and religious life, based around oppositions between Arab and Berbers. My research considers how identities were refashioned amidst this crucible of political change, tracing interactions between town-based Arab/ Berber Muslims and rural Berbers to access shifting attitudes, beliefs and practices. Methodologically, this study combines the most recent contributions to the anthropology of identity-formation in imperial situations with a micro-archaeological analysis of spatial practices on the frontier of the Islamic world to conceptualise the impact of imperial and state formations on different communities, and their lived space. By carrying out a targeted regional survey around Oujda, Eastern Morocco and conducting strategic excavations in both rural and urban settlements, my project will provide a detailed understanding of how the diverse inhabitants of late antique North Africa were both shaped by and shapers of the larger social, political and economic networks of the Roman and Islamic worlds. Understanding how categories of social identification came into existence during the early Islamic period by means of a complex interaction of politics, ethnicity and religion is as important for antique North Africa as it is today.
Susanna Fioratta
Yale University, Anthropology
Clean Money for New Mosques: Remittances, Morality, and Contestation in the Republic of Guinea
[ project summary ]
Remittance money sent from migrant relatives insulates groups of people all over the world from the volatility of global and national economies. Yet when the moral and religious legitimacy of this money’s origins comes into question, remittances can become a source of social conflict as well as economic security. My dissertation research will explore the social and moral contexts in which remittances move from migrants abroad to their home villages in the West African Republic of Guinea. Changing understandings of Islam and increasing rumors of migrants’ involvement in selling and smuggling drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol have led to escalating moral contestations between Guinean village residents and their migrant relatives who send “unclean” money home. How have debates surrounding the origins and uses of remittances transformed the social, religious, and moral lives of people living in rural Guinea and their migrant relatives alike? Taking the construction of remittance-funded village mosques as an ethnographic lens for examining transnational monetary disputes, I will investigate how people linked between generations and across continents negotiate the meanings and morality of a remittance economy.
FNU Ga er rang
University of Colorado at Boulder, Geography
Alternative (to) Development on the Tibetan Plateau: The Case of the Anti-Slaughter Campaign
[ project summary ]
Since Deng Xiaoping’s economic reform of the 1980s, the Chinese state has extended and intensified its economic development agenda, trying to shape its citizens to become rational market actors who prioritize commodity production. In Tibetan pastoral areas, this takes the form of efforts to intensify the livestock industry, encouraging herders to increase their off-take rate. As a result, Tibetan herders have become involved in selling ever-larger numbers of yaks to Chinese and Muslim traders. However, reforms also allowed a measure of religious freedom. In the past five years, many lamas (Tibetan Buddhist teachers) have become concerned about the mass sale of livestock for slaughter, because it opposes the Buddhist principle of cause-and-effect, which suggests that killing is a serious sin to be avoided. Using their tremendous influence and authority, these lamas have initiated an anti-slaughter campaign, persuading Tibetans to take oaths to stop selling livestock for slaughter – precisely the opposite of what state development discourses suggest they must do to become “developed.” Many Tibetan herders have participated in these campaigns, even though their livelihoods depend heavily on sale of animal products. Despite loss of income, many claim their lives are better off. This research project analyzes this paradox in Hongyuan county, Sichuan, on the eastern Tibetan Plateau, investigating how Tibetan herders and lamas negotiate the imperatives of state and market to articulate their own understanding of development through the anti-slaughter campaign. Through twelve months of ethnographic research, it will examine lamas’ motivations, herders’ decision-making about the campaign, the culturally specific religious idioms through which development is negotiated, and the relationship between markets, subjectivity, and religious revival.
Maria Galmarini
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, History
The "Right to be Helped": Welfare Policies and Notions of Rights at the Margins of Soviet Society, 1917-1953
[ project summary ]
The Soviet alternative to notions of rights is still uncharted in global social history. In my dissertation I will trace its course cross the first three decades of Soviet history (1917-1953). I will examine the multiplicity of ideas that underlie the defense of rights with reference to four major groups of marginalized citizens: blind and deaf-mute, orphans and disabled children, single mothers, and political prisoners. Beliefs in human dignity, notions of citizenship, and legal claims to aid were variously associated in the mental frameworks and emotional worlds of these individuals. Using citizens' requests for help as a major arena where ideas of entitlement were concretely played out, my research seeks to disentangle this tightly woven net of concepts and test whether a consiousness of rights permeated the Russian intellectual soil during Stalinism. I would propose the term "right to be helped" to signify a longstanding Russian tradition that related help to the needy with the rights of the human person. The Stalinist state buried this tradition and misconstrued notions of legal rights, but, perhaps, never obliterated a consiouness of rights in its citizens.
E. Mara Green
University of California, Berkeley, Anthropology
Everyday Signs: Rural Deaf Nepalis, Social Interaction, and the Remaking of Language
[ project summary ]
My research investigates how deaf people in rural Nepal engage in daily life in the absence of an accessible, pre-existing language. While an estimated 5500 deaf people in urban areas use Nepali Sign Language (NSL), deaf villagers - far from deaf schools, organizations, and social networks - acquire neither NSL nor the local spoken language(s). Prior scholarship on deaf people who have access to neither spoken nor signed language has focused almost exclusively on documenting the gestural systems that develop in these circumstances. In contrast, my project utilizes ethnographic and linguistic anthropological analysis to explore how social actors, faced with the need to re-make language, experience and negotiate their everyday worlds. In concrete terms, I will not only analyze the gestural systems that people create in the absence of access to “language” as it is generally conceived, but also account for how these systems develop through, mediate, and shape interpersonal interactions, local contexts, and embodied social practices. By documenting ordinary life as lived by rural deaf Nepalis, my work seeks to contribute to fundamental understandings of the culturally specific relationships between how people use communicative systems, on the one hand, and how people become cultural beings, on the other.
Anjali Clare Gupta
University of California, Berkeley, Environmental Science
“Modernized Life is how Things are Now” : A Study of People and Park Relations around Chobe National Park, Botswana
[ project summary ]
Forty years ago, the Botswana government created Chobe National Park. As a result, five villages accustomed to hunting and collecting forest products relatively freely in this northern part of Botswana found their access to grazing, hunting and gathering lands severely restricted. Elsewhere this classic “fortress-style” approach to conservation has generated active resistance in the form of land occupations, community political mobilization or illicit hunting. Yet in the Chobe Enclave, the area of land inhabited by the five communities wedged in between Chobe National Park and Forest Reserve, no such dramatic conflict has erupted. Rather, poaching levels are low and while residents may grumble about the park rules, no visible grassroots resistance movement has developed. Why? For what reasons and through what mechanisms has a certain level of acquiescence for the presence of the park and nearby protected areas emerged amongst Chobe villagers? Drawing on theories from the fields of political ecology and agrarian studies, I contend that an ability of Chobe residents to re-work their livelihood strategies in relation to the landscape explains this phenomenon. Additionally, the nature of the political and social dynamics in the Enclave village communities may contribute to the lack of village collective resistance against the park. My research will examine first, the livelihood strategies employed by individuals and households in the Enclave, focusing in particular on the state-society negotiations that shape what livelihood and land-use options are possible, and second, the political and social community dynamics in the Enclave. Studying this anomalous case of people-park relations in Botswana provides a particularly interesting context, given Botswana’s already recognized exceptionalism as a resource-rich yet democratically stable African country.
Kevan Harris
Johns Hopkins University, Sociology
The Martyrs' Welfare State: Social Bases of the Post-Revolutionary Regime in Iran
[ project summary ]
Why has the Islamic Republic of Iran endured for almost three decades amidst recurring predictions of collapse? I argue that the post-revolutionary regime in Iran remained durable because its state-building project relied on welfare. The Islamic Republic, confronted by international isolation and an eight-year war, channeled the social mobilization it inherited from the 1979 Revolution into a set of institutions that promised welfare provision to marginalized social groups in exchange for warfare participation. This warfare-welfare complex established linkages between the state and a wide array of social groups inside Iran. The social embeddedness of the regime strengthened the capacity of the Islamic Republic to sustain serious challenges to its survival. These state-society linkages, however, constrained the state even as they increased its strength, and continue to shape the social and political trajectory of Iran to the present. Through archival research, interviews, and ethnographic observation in three cities of Iran, this project seeks to reject the common assumption that Iran’s post-revolutionary regime is an ideologically rigid, anti-modern state, or a stagnant rent-seeking, absolutist state. Instead, I situate Iran within the frame of a developmental state that engages in routine and unexpected negotiation with various segments of its population in order to remain strong enough to pursue nationalist strategies abroad.
Ying Hu
Stanford University, History
The Jasak's Court: Legal Institution and Practice in Qing Mongolia
[ project summary ]
My research seeks to understand what kind of legal pluralism results when a legal order of an agrarian civilization is introduced across a cultural boundary to a pastoral society. I will examine the transplantation of the Sino-Manchu legal order to Mongolia in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Using compendia of regulations and court cases concerning theft, murder, debt, and disputes over land and household affairs, I aim to find out how the Mongol court in the banner administration functioned within the bureaucratic structure of the empire to mediate social tension in frontier society. Some of the fundamental questions include: Who took their grievances to the Mongol court? Under what circumstances did Mongols go to court? During which period and in which jurisdiction was the Mongol Code effective? How was judgment achieved? How much power did Mongol noblemen have in handling their own affairs? This project aims to weave together largely separate strands of Mongol history and Qing history while analyzing legal theory and practice in a comparative perspective—internally, vis-à-vis other regions of the Qing Empire and externally, with other contemporaneous empires. Subjecting Qing law for Mongolia to juridical analysis, I will examine the bases upon which pluralistic bodies of law were legitimated under the command of the Manchu sovereign. In addition, my project investigates the ways in which the formal legal order and non-legal forms of social ordering such as family, lineage, religion, and community intersected in Mongolia. Against the backdrop of momentous changes in the cultural and physical landscape, I will explicate Inner Mongolia’s transition from nomadic pastoralism to sedentarism.
Aliya Iqbal-Naqvi
Harvard University, Area and Cultural Studies
Abu'l Fazl: Creator of the Akbarian Idea
[ project summary ]
This dissertation project will be a detailed analysis of the thought of Abu’l Fazl ‘Allami (1551-1602), private secretary and official chronicler of Akbar (1556-1605). Akbar (1556-1605), the consolidator of the Mughal Empire in India, has come to be remembered in modern history as “Akbar the Great” mainly for his formulation of a political ideology that enjoyed legitimacy on the basis of inter-faith tolerance and collaboration. Our only direct window onto Akbar, and, more importantly, the ideas associated with him, is Abu’l Fazl, who, I argue, is the original creator of the iconic Akbarian image of history. By reconstructing the intellectual input of Abu’l Fazl we can get to the wellspring of the Akbarian worldview. I am studying Abu’l Fazl as an independent thinker in order to discover exactly how his ideas and intellectual background enabled him to fashion a very particular and enduring image of Akbar as the perfect ruler. Though this image of Akbar has lived on, I contend that the image popular in modern times is only a partial reflection of Abu’l Fazl’s “Akbarian Idea.” Through a detailed examination and contextualization of Abu’l Fazl’s writings, I will problematize this popular image, which is based on a widely held impression about both Akbar and Abu’l Fazl – that their common worldview represents a timeless rational humanism which is, practically speaking, areligious. My dissertation will trace a genealogy for the intellectual tools – the models, concepts and vocabulary – employed by Abu’l Fazl in creating the Akbarian weltanschauung to show that his ideas in fact emerged organically from the intellectual world of Medieval Islamdom and were as religious as they were anything else.
Brian Jacobson
University of Southern California, Critical Studies, School of Cinematic Arts
Studios Before the System: Architecture, Technology, and Early Cinema
[ project summary ]
In 1909 the first permanent film studio was established in Los Angeles, California; within a decade the most dominant center of cultural production of the twentieth century would take form a few miles west. As filmmaking in America became identified with a place, Hollywood, its business model took its name from a spatial system, “the studios.” While film historians have traced the subsequent influence of this system to studios worldwide, my project will investigate the studios’ origins before their institutionalization in Hollywood. My dissertation will develop a transnational history of the first film studios as they emerged in France (beginning in 1897) and the United States (from 1892), the most dominant film production centers of the two decades around the turn of the twentieth century. By examining the development of film studios in these two contexts, my project will ask how the major French and American film corporations – including Méliès, Gaumont, Pathé, Edison, Biograph, and American Vitagraph – contributed in distinct ways to the development of the film studio as a cinematic production space, as an architectural and industrial form, and as a site for the technological and cinematic innovations that would lead to Hollywood’s “studio system” and the studios of interwar France. By situating the emergence of the first film studios in the architectural and technological changes of the late nineteenth century, my dissertation will also illuminate the ways that these structures not only contributed to the development of early cinematic form, content, and industrial practice, but also how they responded and eventually contributed to the changing built environment of such major cities as Paris, New York, and Los Angeles.
Omotayo T. Jolaosho
Rutgers University, Anthropology
Performance and Community Mobilization in Post-Apartheid South Africa
[ project summary ]
The proposed project investigates the role of embodied performance in community mobilizations for social change. Preliminary research in South Africa has shown that citizens are adapting anti-apartheid performances and creating new forms in response to present conditions. I will conduct a year of research involving participant-observation, interviews, archival research and visual methodologies to situate contemporary performance activism within a longer historical trajectory. I will observe contemporary protest performances in the internal practices, external interactions, and daily routines of a community organization. Archival research will provide historical comparisons with apartheid-era protest performances. Through its focus on the performance aspects of collective action, this project will contribute to studies of social movements, political performance and the moving body.
Jakub Kakietek
Emory University, Political Science
Governments and Germs: Electoral Market Imperfections and the Politics of AIDS in Developing Democracies
[ project summary ]
Political philosophers have long argued that democratic states foster the welfare of their citizens better than autocratic ones. Recently, those normative arguments have been supported by both theoretical and empirical research, which claims that democracies produce better social policy and provide more health and education services to their citizens. This literature argues that regularly held elections create incentives for the provision of public goods: in democratic countries, citizens elect politicians who deliver policies and services that improve citizens’ welfare, and vote out of office those who fail to do so. However, this parsimonious argument does not explain why some democratic governments successfully improve the wealth and health of their citizens, while others suffer from public policy failures – “the underprovision of public goods and the overprovision of regulations and laws that benefit special interests at the expense of the whole society” (Keefer, 2005, p. 314). Nowhere are the differences between good and poor policy, and their consequences for human welfare and misery, more visible than in the ways developing countries have responded to AIDS. The research question guiding this dissertation project is: what accounts for the differences in the way democratic governments in the developing world have responded to the epidemic? I argue these differences are due to the variation in imperfections in their electoral markets. Specifically, in countries where 1) the citizenry lacks access to information, 2) the society is ethnically polarized, 3) politicians face commitment problems, and 4) a tradition of political organization is lacking, the response to the epidemic is slow, policies and institutions aimed at fighting AIDS take longer to develop, spending on AIDS and the availability of prevention and treatment services is low, and the results of efforts to fight the disease, such as behavioral change in those at risk of infection, are limited.
Renata Nicole Keller
University of Texas at Austin, History
Capitalizing on Castro: Mexico's Foreign Relations with Cuba, 1959-1969
[ project summary ]
My dissertation explores the central paradox of Mexico’s foreign relations with Cuba in the 1960s—why did a regime that practiced conservative, authoritarian domestic policies embrace Castro’s radical communist government? It will test the following hypothesis: the Mexican government capitalized upon its country’s “special relationship” with Cuba as part of a multi-pronged effort to maintain control over leftist sectors of the population. This study analyzes the understudied complexities of the relationship between foreign and domestic policy in one of the most politically charged decades of the twentieth century. My project explores the changing nature of Mexico’s relationship with Cuba from 1959-1969 on the international, national, and local levels. It examines the ambiguous nature of U.S. pressure on Mexico, and the secret cooperation between U.S. and Mexican intelligence services to monitor Cuban activities. It analyzes the ways in which the Mexican government defended Castro publicly, and worked to undermine him privately. However, my project particularly focuses on the national and local levels, and the connections between political, social, and economic developments within Mexico and the government’s foreign policy. The decade after the Cuban Revolution was one of the most tumultuous periods in Mexico since the Mexican Revolution, and the government faced significant challenges from the Left. My project analyzes the influence exercised by individuals such as former president Lázaro Cárdenas, organizations like the Movimiento de Liberación Nacional, and sectors of the population including students and workers. Through this nuanced, multi-level analysis, my project will improve the historical understanding of Mexican foreign relations, the exercise of power in authoritarian systems, and the Cold War in Latin America.
Julie O. Kleinman
Harvard University, Anthropology
Parisian Junction, Transnational Crossroads: Remaking Social and Political Experience at the Gare du Nord
[ project summary ]
This ethnographic research project examines the social life of Paris's Gare du Nord, a contested public space that illuminates contemporary struggles in urban French society. As Europe’s busiest train station, the Gare du Nord is a site of intersecting and conflicting representations, practices, and trajectories. Its users include passengers taking the Eurostar to London, middle-class commuters from Paris’ outer suburbs, and African-French Muslim youth from the Parisian periphery for whom the station is a social destination. Since the March 2007 “riot” that occurred there, it has come to symbolize, on the national level, the potential for disorder in postcolonial French society. On the contrary, local neighborhood narratives represent the Gare as a positive space of social convergence. By examining this site of contested social interaction, my research seeks to answer the following questions: 1) How have new types of urban subjectivity and political contestation emerged in the Gare du Nord, as a result of converging macro-forces and everyday social interaction, and 2) how do events and interactions in this space both illuminate and provoke changes in the social and political landscape of contemporary France? In order to answer these questions, I will conduct 12 months of fieldwork, comprised of archival research on the station's history in the context of French urban planning, interviewing city planners and officials, and doing intensive and sustained participant-observation and interviews with four station populations.
Michael James Levien
University of California, Berkeley, Sociology
From Dams to Special Economic Zones: The Changing Political Economy of Dispossession in India
[ project summary ]
Through a comparative study of land dispossession for Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and large dams in India, my research asks: what is distinct about the character, distributional consequences, and politics of primitive accumulation under neoliberalism compared with state-led development? I define primitive accumulation as the use of extra-economic power to wrest productive resources from non- or minimally capitalist agrarian producers, and I argue that it is central to India’s modernization project, from the developmental state to neoliberalism. I consider large dams and SEZ to be the emblematic forms of primitive accumulation under these respective social formations. My research will analyze the differences in primitive accumulation in India between state-led development and neoliberalism. My dissertation will compare the Sardar Sarovar (Narmada) Dam in Madhya Pradesh to an SEZ in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh. I will test three claims regarding the different character, distributional consequences, and politics of primitive accumulation in each site: 1) Compared to dams, primitive accumulation for SEZs is more speculative than productive and creates “jobless” growth; 2) SEZs enclave development, intensifying rural inhabitants’ marginality and forsaking the Nehruvian ambition of modernizing the countryside. This enclavization, combined with the speculative character of SEZs, produces what I call “dispossession without development.” 3) As a result, the India government is finding it difficult to produce consent for SEZs, resulting in more widespread and successful resistance to SEZs than was the case for large dams.
Annette Damayanti Lienau
Yale University, Literature
In the Spirit of Bandung: The Comparative Evolution of Postcolonial Literatures in Indonesia, Egypt, and Senegal (1905 to Present)
[ project summary ]
My dissertation in Comparative Literature at Yale will draw on my language abilities in Arabic, Indonesian, and French to explore an as yet unwritten, parallel history comparing the modern literatures of Indonesia, Senegal and Egypt. (These three national literatures effectively function in my dissertation as case studies in the evolution of postcolonial literature in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.) For all three literatures, the dissertation traces and examines critical historical moments through which the contours of literary nationalism are initially posited and subsequently challenged by ideologically informed, transnational literary movements (communism and Islamism), with the aim of ultimately reassessing the faultlines of literary nationalism in terms independent of the prevalent “colonial/postcolonial” binary. A primary reason for this combination of national literatures can be found in the shared Islamic religious heritage (among the majority of writers) of the three nations considered. In this respect, the position of Egypt, Senegal, and Indonesia at the center and periphery of a literary realm with a common Islamic (religious, Arabic) textual tradition offers an additional basis for comparison.
Louisa Nicolaysen Lombard
Duke University, Anthropology
Raiding Sovereignty in Central African Borderlands
[ project summary ]
My project focuses on raiding and sovereignty in the northeastern borderlands of the Central African Republic (CAR), on the margins of Darfur. A number of overlapping forces, institutions, and interests patrol and regulate the area, but none maintains total sovereignty. Newly-arrived NGOs and UN agencies collaborate with local leaders, but among these internationally-supported enclaves, logics of raiding rule. This place has long produced bounty for militarized entrepreneurs and raiders from neighboring areas, who seek resources, land, and labor. But while seizing resources, raiders also govern space and people. These repeated external raids have shaped internal power and knowledge formations throughout CAR's history. Today, raiding in CAR ties into global trade networks, and bumps up against, though also feeds off, transnational conflict prevention and humanitarian regimes. Theories of the state tend to sideline raiders' roles, and the categories used by international agencies do not address them either. I seek to explore the dynamics of raiding in two sites: one, the northeastern town of N'délé, where conservation militias combat Sudanese poachers and have to contend with an ivory-funded sultan-mayor (the grandson of the sultan who held power at the height of the trans-Saharan slave trade); the other, nearby Sam Ouandja, where the United Nations oversees a camp of refugees from neighboring Darfur adjacent to diamond mines controlled by an armed group. Through participant observation, interviews, and archival analysis, my research tracks the multiple forms of governance that operate in this borderland area and their implications for conceptions of sovereignty, the state, and international law. The findings of this research will also contribute to interdisciplinary debates about conflict and its prevention.
Kurt Thomas MacMillan
University of California, Irvine, History
Hormonal Bodies: A Transregional History of Sex and Race in Constitutional Medicine, 1911-1965
[ project summary ]
This project examines the history of constitutional medicine in twentieth-century Spain, Ecuador, and Chile to analyze changing ideas about race, gender, and sexuality in medical science that produced new models of human subjectivity and political identity. Constitutional medicine measured an individual’s health and susceptibility to disease acccording to his or her position within a grid of different “human types.” Practitioners of constitutional medicine established these categories by correlating body traits with mental characteristics using the work of anatomists, physiologists, and psychologists. Constitutional medicine is an understudied topic in twentieth-century histories of science and medicine based on prevailing historical narratives that regard psychoanalysis and cultural anthropology as fundamental revisions of sex and race in the early twentieth century. This dissertation shows that constitutional medicine not only challenges prevailing assumptions about the history of science in the twentieth century but also decenters Western Europe and the United States as dominant sites of scientific research. By analyzing the scientific work of Gregorio Marañón (Spain), Agustín Cueva Tamariz (Ecuador), and Alejandro Lipschütz (Chile), this dissertation maps the transregional circulation of constitutional medicine while distinguishing its development in particular national contexts. It also considers how constitutional medicine reconfigured ideas about sex and race through endocrinological models of glands and hormones and how knowledge of “hormonal bodies” became part of nation-building efforts in these regions.
Pedro Monaville
University of Michigan, History
Global 1968 in Kinshasa: From a Student Massacre to Ruins in a Postcolonial University
[ project summary ]
This project explores a critical event – the student massacre of June 4, 1969 in Kinshasa – and a critical site – Lovanium University – through ethnographic, archival, oral history, and digital history research. It seeks to understand the importance of the 1960s’ and 1970s’ student movement in the contemporary history of the Congo, as well as its connections with other student movements elsewhere in the world during the same period, thereby adding an African and Congolese chapter to the scholarly discussion on “global 1968.” The dissertation will begin with an investigation of the critical event of June 4, 1969, and continue with an analysis of its successive reverberations until the end of Mobutu’s regime in 1997, as political actors and opponents to the regime continued to use the symbolic capital offered by the massacred students. The argument is, in part, that June 4 serves as a kind of ground zero for Congolese politics in the Mobutu era and beyond. The political culture of Zaire and later, DR Congo has been fashioned and refashioned in continuous dialogue with the events of June 4, where death and disappearance have structured Congolese political consciousness. Through 12 months of fieldwork in the Congo, I will interrogate the memory of June 4 and political culture under Mobutu. My research methodology will combine the following three approaches: interviews with former students and professors; collection of memories and documents through the means of a website; and an ethnographic study of the spatial and institutional uses of the University campus in relation with memories of the 1960s.
Kathleen Carey O'Brien
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Anthropology
Generational Modernities: Gender and the Politics of Evangelical Indigenous Religiosity in Chimborazo, Ecuador
[ project summary ]
I propose an ethnographic study of the shifting politics and contemporary re-imaginings of evangelical Christian identity in highlands Ecuador. My research will focus on second-generation evangelicals in the province of Chimborazo. The subjects of my research were raised in “Christian households” shaped by the strict moral ethic of fundamentalist Christianity, a religion to which their parents converted en masse in the 1960s. North American missionaries promised their families a new, modern life of prosperity predicated on the rejection of “sinful” cultural traditions and the adoption of normative Christian gender roles. Over the past decade, however, members of this generational cohort have undertaken what I dub an “indigenous challenge” from within evangelical Christianity—recuperating elements of indigenous culture, reconfiguring gender relations in indigenous and/or "feminist" terms, and intensifying participation in “worldly” political activities—while remaining deeply invested in collective evangelical subjectivity (Andrade 2005; Lucero 2006). In the contemporary post-conversion context, men and women of this generation—now in their 30s and 40s, married, and actively rearing the next generation—question the triumphant, linear march of progress that conversion once signified, imagining instead an alternative indigenous modernity that both contests and relies upon the Christian modernity to which their parents converted a generation earlier. Through twelve months of ethnographic field research in the rural community of Colta Monja Bajo and the provincial capital of Riobamba, I will examine the gendered narratives and practices of the second generation and the simultaneous processes of change and reproduction they uncover in the context of familial and intergenerational interactions. This project will further understanding of a key moment of socio-cultural change and indigenous modernity in the Ecuadorian Andes.
Adedamola O. Osinulu
University of California, Los Angeles, World Arts and Cultures
Venues of Transformation: Pentecostal Spaces in Lagos, Nigeria
[ project summary ]
The Nigerian city of Lagos has, in recent years, experienced explosive population growth. This rapid influx of people has transformed Lagos into a nexus for the exchange of cultural ideas. One idea that has found footing in Lagos is global Pentecostalism. This research has four clear goals: to contextualize the advent of Pentecostalism within the regional culture; to analyze how Pentecostals are constructing physical transformation in the city; to examine how Pentecostals inscribe social transformation in their advertisements; and to investigate how these believers perform cultural transformation within their spaces. All these goals are driven by one overriding question: in what ways are Lagos’s Pentecostals looking to transform their city—physically, socially, and culturally—through the framework of Pentecostal discourse?
Wazhmah Osman
New York University, Communications
Thinking Outside the Box: Television and Gender in the Afghan Culture Wars
[ project summary ]
Although gender has always been a contentious issue in Afghanistan, since the events of 9/11 and the start of the “War on Terror”, gender has become a particularly volatile matter in contemporary Afghan society. The medium at the heart of the most public and politically charged debates, often compared to opium and Satan, is television. More specifically, the tele-visual representation of women on Afghan television has instigated a series of escalating gender battles between “Islamists”, “moderates”, and others; culminating in riots, protests, and acts of violence perpetuated against television producers and celebrities. My dissertation research examines three television programs which represent the key frameworks for the tele-visual worlds that are shaping the political landscape of Afghanistan in their negotiations for power: 1) the state, 2) the private sector, 3) the transnational ngos. All three programs are facing government charges and bans based on Article 3 of the new constitution, which prohibits anything that is deemed as “contrary to the sacred religion of Islam”. While issues pertaining to “Afghan Women” have been reverberating globally on an unprecedented volume and scale, little attention has been given to the cultural productions that constitute gender subjectivities in the daily lives of Afghans. I will observe and participate in the daily operations of the three television programs in order to explore television’s catalytic role and function in fueling these public discourses around gender issues. Few works theorize these contesting claims on Afghan identity; yet doing so is crucial because it is through such conflicts, at the intersection of gender and television, that the Afghan cultural landscape gets shaped.
Yekaterina Oziashvili
City University of New York Graduate Center, Political Science
Electoral Systems, Political Parties, and Stability of the Ethnofederal State: The Case of Russia
[ project summary ]
Ethnofederal institutions have been introduced by many ethnically heterogeneous states to moderate ethnic conflict by providing ethnic minorities with political representation and to minimize their fear of assimilation. However, critics of ethnoterritorial autonomy argue that ethnofederal states are inherently unstable because ethnically defined territorial autonomy institutionalizes ethnic differences and provides ethnoregional elites with the willingness and capacity to challenge the federal center and pursue regional nationalization. Nationalization facilitates separate community imagining, reducing people's polity-wide identity. Ethnofederal institutional design, therefore, creates smaller nation-states within the ethnofederal state which could lead to political instability, secessionist movements, and territorial disintegration. The literature on federalism also warns against ethnofederal institutional design because it prevents the formation of integrated federal political parties and encourages intransigent ethnoregional parties. This dissertation will attempt to show, with a medium-n study of ethnofederal stability, that while ethnofederal institutions have destabilizing tendencies, ethnoregional parties exacerbate and integrated federal parties moderate and localize their effect. A case study of Russia, the largest and most complex existing ethnofederation, will then seek to identify the reasons why parties have this effect through field research on the ways that parties manage tensions between the center and ethnoregional units.The Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of Russian Academy of Sciences will serve as my host institution.
Sarah Elizabeth Parkinson
University of Chicago, Political Science
Aurelie Evangeline Perrier
Georgetown University, History
Family Matters, Native Affairs: Negotiating Sex, Gender and the Family in Colonial Algeria (1830-1914)
[ project summary ]
This dissertation will examine how the politics of colonial relations restructured gendered practices and domestic life in nineteenth and early twentieth-century colonial Algeria. As military conquest drew to a close, migrants from across the Mediterranean settled in the French colony, propelling diverse ways of life and conceptions about gender and the family into contact and forcing the invention of new identities. Sexuality, gender and intimate relations became an important source of conflict and a prime theater of political contention between local populations, Europeans and the colonial administration. By focusing on Arabic sources and the role of native Algerians in contesting and redefining the gendered order produced by the colonial encounter, I hope to write the colonized people back into history and restore much of the nuance and complexity to the narrative of colonial Algeria. In order to trace this process of negotiation, I will examine four areas of inquiries: the impact of economic and social dislocation on family patterns and gender relations; the role of local leaders in collaborating with colonial authority over the control of women; the spaces and social sites of racial and gender mixing; and the way that individuals who transgressed the accepted moral codes of behavior were treated by colonial and Algerian authorities.
Kendra Christen Ponniah (now Fehrer)
Brown University, Anthropology
Decentralizing Democracy: Urban Participation in Chavez's Venezuela
[ project summary ]
Since Hugo Chávez came to power in 1998, he has been either celebrated as a revolutionary hero or vilified as an autocratic populist. Over the last decade, billions of dollars have been spent on social programs directed toward aiding Venezuela’s poor, articulated within the framework of “participatory development”. Yet the extent to which these programs facilitate greater civic engagement, and to what degree they represent the expansion of state control over public life is hotly contested. My research will investigate the interaction of local citizenship practices with national development policy, and more specifically how citizens participate in a new government program designed to foster grassroots democracy. Over the last several decades, political anthropologists studying the state have viewed participatory state programs as techniques of governance, mechanisms of constructing a “governable subject” amenable to the state agenda. At the same time, development studies scholars have documented emerging participatory programs as institutionalized mechanisms of “deepening democracy”, providing communities opportunities to expand the range and substance of their claims as citizens. I suggest that the interaction of local practices with participatory development programs in Venezuela is more uneven, partial, and contested—neither fully the oppressive apparatus of state skeptics, nor the idealized democratic vision of participatory triumphalists. Specifically, I propose that participatory programs are altering the mechanisms and meanings of citizen’s participation in their communities and with the state. The ultimate aim of this project is to understand the dynamic process by which community members are forging new citizenship practices in contemporary Venezuela.
Linda Rodriguez
Harvard University, Art History/Architecture
Artistic Production, Race, and History in Nineteenth-Century Cuba
[ project summary ]
Do images from nineteenth-century Cuba offer unconsidered perspectives on the political thought and social position of free people of color and enslaved Africans? My dissertation analyzes images produced by free people of color (pardos and morenos) and visiting artists in nineteenth-century Cuba and links them to a counter-narrative of the political thought and social position of free people of color and enslaved Africans. I argue that these images functioned in opposition to the historical narrative advanced by elite criollos and peninsulares from the years 1812 to 1868. Through this analysis, I aim to determine how images, and their production, advanced alternative interpretations of the “social self” of black Cubans. I then read these as impacting local memory and eventually the production of history. To do so, I look to three groups of images that raise questions as to how the visual arts provided a discursive alternative to the textual and visual narration of history by colonial elites. The three groups of images I have chosen include: 1) a libro de pinturas (book of paintings) composed by Antonio Aponte – a free man of color accused of plotting a massive slave rebellion at the beginning of the century, 2) mural paintings that originally decorated the walls of Havana’s elite sectors which then found favor amongst the poorer classes of people of color; and 3) costumbrist lithographs and paintings produced by traveling artists Frederic Miahle and Victor Patricio Landaluze.
Laurencio O. Sanguino
University of Chicago, History
Large-Scale Emigration between Mexico and the United States, 1916-46
[ project summary ]
My dissertation will examine the emergence of large-scale emigration between Mexico and the United States. I will use materials in private, public, and government archives in Mexico and the United States to demonstrate the centrality of migration to the governments and peoples of Mexico and the United States and the ways groups in both countries struggled to regulate the movement at different points between 1916 and 1946. As the first study to effectively situate emigration in the historiography of 20th century Mexico, my dissertation will serve as a timely intervention in Mexican scholarship. In the end, it will not only examine a movement long-neglected by historians of Mexico or illustrate the increasingly important role emigration played in post-Revolutionary debates, it will force scholars to rethink the role emigrants and emigration played in the defining events (including the land, labor, and religious conflicts) of 20th century Mexico. Perhaps most important of all, my dissertation will contribute to a better understanding of the historical and contemporary significance of Mexican migration to Mexico and the United States.
Nicholas Rush Smith
University of Chicago, Political Science
Citizen Tsotsi: Violent Crime in Democratic South Africa
[ project summary ]
Post-apartheid South Africa's murder rate is amongst the highest in the world. Puzzlingly, the increase in violent crime seems to have started in the years immediately prior to and coinciding with the country's transition to democracy. Indeed, the coincidence between increasing violent crime and democratic transition seems common to a number of countries that have democratized since the mid to late 1980s. Scholars have noted this trend in Latin America, the former Soviet Union, and throughout Africa. While researchers are justifiably critical of the validity of crime statistics both before and after democratization, the connection between democratization and rising crime in so many places around the world is remarkable, if only because of crime’s pervasive presence in these newly democratic public spheres. My research asks: Why has there been such a striking rise in violent crime in South Africa, and why has this increase coincided with the country’s democratization? What can the South African case tell us about rising crime rates in other transitional democracies? To answer these questions, I propose to conduct 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the townships around Durban from October 2009 to October 2010.
Claudio Sopranzetti
Harvard University, Anthropology
Constituting mobilities: Ice-cubes, Newspapers, and Motor-Taxis in Bangkok CBD
[ project summary ]
This project studies some of the over 500,000 motor-taxi drivers that operate illegally in Bangkok’s Central Business District (CBD), as well as two ubiquitous yet transient commodities that they transport —crushed ice and newspapers in order to investigates the role of "mobility" in constituting and re-configuring urban spaces, social networks, and legality in Bangkok. Focusing on these three fleeting vectors of mobility my research asks: How does the circulation and exchange of these two goods affect bonds of intimacy and social engagement? What techniques do motor-taxi drivers employ to navigate the spatial, social, and legal landscapes of Bangkok? What relationships do they develop with coexistent entities, such as institutional transportation providers, street-vendors, and retail businesses? How are conflicting conceptions of the city, formal and informal economies, and public and private spaces adopted, sustained, or challenged by these different forms of mobility? In answering these questions, my research strives to recover links between people, commodities, and spaces that anthropology has too often neglected. Exploring the mobility of motor-taxis, ice-cubes, and newspapers across the city, my project reclaims the constitution of the social as the object of analysis and focuses on the work that people and objects do in sustaining and constituting spatial, social, and legal connections.
Sophia Chloe Stamatopoulou-Robbins
Columbia University, Anthropology
West Bank Waste: Governance and Garbage in Two Post-Oslo Municipalities
[ project summary ]
This is a study of waste management in the absence of a state. If one indication of “good governance” is the provision of basic services, what insights do we acquire about governing authorities in the “stateless” Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) through an examination of waste management practices? I seek to answer this question by investigating a selection of multimillion dollar projects whose central policy objectives are the development of sanitation and the environment. At times, “formal” Palestinian Authority environmentalist development is seen to fail. Responsibility for sanitation is then assumed by “informal” groups such as neighborhood councils, Islamic charities and NGOs. My research will entail observing both “formal” and “informal” sanitation practices and people’s everyday relationships to waste management and its infrastructures. This will allow me to analyze how expectations of the meaning and limits of government and of civic engagement are affected by these contending sources and models of governance. Infrastructure, I argue, is a privileged discursive and the material mediator among complex institutions and the people they serve and employ. It therefore allows us to reformulate interdisciplinary understandings of the relationships among the state, governance and civic engagement. In twelve months of ethnographic and archival research in two West Bank municipalities (Ramallah/al-Bireh and Jenin), I will explore sanitation and environmental development as new terrains of governance that produce new models of political authority and social responsibilities. Thus my project will further emerging debates on those (increasingly representative) contexts where some “formal” governing structures fail to be “state-like” while other elements of society, such as NGOs, social movements and corporations, seem to operate according to “state” logics.
Jonathan J. Stillo
City University of New York Graduate Center, Anthropology
Magic Mountains in Romania: Citizenship, Poverty and the New Role of Tuberculosis Sanatoria
[ project summary ]
Since the work of T.H. Marshall, citizenship has long been considered a matter of political and social rights and obligations. Recent scholarship suggests, however, that it is now tied with consumption (e.g., Berdahl 2005). More specifically, Petryna (2002) argues for the case of Chernobyl sufferers in Ukraine, medical benefits are becoming an adjunct of citizenship, such that we can speak of “biological citizenship.” Postsocialist contexts like Ukraine offer good opportunities for exploring this theme, as governments have cut most social welfare provisions, I propose to examine this process in Romania, where a TB rate of 109 per 100,000 people makes it home to one of the worst Tuberculosis (TB) epidemics in Europe and Central Asia. There is a heated debate over the future of the country’s TB sanatoria, still a major part of TB control. In a region where Ukrainians work tirelessly to qualify for Chernobyl benefits and Georgian prisoners “cheat” to test positive for TB to be relocated to prisons with more humane conditions, I will live at Romania’s "The Pines" TB Sanatorium to examine the possibility that these institutions serve as sites of dependency where citizenship claims are made to avoid the negative effects of Romania’s transition from socialism. I will examine this from the point of view of the patients, their kin and friends, health professionals and the surrounding community. I will analyze their views of the contemporary situation in the context of their memories and understandings of these institutions historically and the possible role they are playing a role in citizenship and rights negotiations.
Megan A. Sullivan
Harvard University, Art History/Architecture
Concrete Nations: The Avant-Garde and Nation Building in Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela
[ project summary ]
My dissertation investigates the role of geometric abstract art in the processes of nation building in Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela in the decade following World War II. It focuses on the transferal and transformation of the project of geometric abstraction from prewar Europe to postwar Latin America. Moreover, it highlights the constructive role played by the rapidly modernizing societies of those nations in the radical formal innovations and refunctionalization that took place within the practice of Latin American geometric abstraction with regard to its European sources. My project has two complementary dimensions: on the one hand, it aims to elucidate the peculiar and unprecedented developments that took place within the formal, visual vocabulary that Latin American artists inherited from Europe. On the other hand, it seeks to chart the relationship between avant-garde practices of abstraction and nation making in a set of Latin American nations that lacked strong pre-Columbian traditions and underwent radical social realignments during the first half of the twentieth century. In charting these two approaches and their intersections, I posit a model for understanding the role of non-narrative art in the processes of late nation building via the creation of collective vision and identities and direct incursions into the built space of the nation. My project will not only revise the current literature on the avant-garde and modernist art practice; it will also rethink the role played by visual culture in the discursive formation of the nation in a group of countries where a strong state preceded and often dictated forms of popular nationalism.
Carla Ann Takaki Richardson
University of California, Santa Cruz, Anthropology
Converting Loss to Advantage: Science and the Reinvention of Failure in Japan
[ project summary ]
This project proposes to conduct an ethnographic study of the role of science and technology in Japan during what is popularly perceived as a period of national decline. While Japan achieved rapid economic success in the postwar period due to innovations in science and technology, recent science and engineering failures in Japan have prompted public debates about the continuing efficacy of technology for Japanese prosperity, as well as the threats that technology poses to national public health. My research thus examines a particular response to this debate in the form of an emergent Japanese scientific practice called “failure science.” Failure science advocates dissect science, engineering, and business failures in order to determine and classify their causes. Failure science practitioners are motivated by the conviction that a detailed understanding of the causes of error will allow people to learn from, communicate, and face their mistakes. I argue that “failure science” is thus both a nationalist exercise, in which advocates support risky – yet potentially lucrative – science and technology projects by embracing the possibilities of failure. Yet I also contend that “failure science” is a form of critique in which the risk-averse Japanese subject must be convinced not only to support Japanese science projects for the sake of national prosperity, but also to change their own culture into one that invites risk and uncertainty in the hope of a reward that will renew Japanese economic and cultural prosperity.
Mrinalini Tankha
Brandeis University, Anthropology
Cubanos Convertibles: Meanings of Multiple Currencies in Cuba
[ project summary ]
My research focuses on the ways in which Cubans negotiate the circulation of multiple currencies in the face of Cuba’s changing relationship to the global economy. In order to preserve socialism during this period of transition, the Cuban State has attempted to create separate “socialist” and “capitalist” spheres of exchange by enclaving the access to, and uses of two national currencies - the Cuban Peso (used only by Cubans for staples and “non-luxury” goods) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (used for tourism and foreign imported “luxury” items). I examine whether and how social practices of money, especially in workings of the informal economy, affirm, challenge and/or circumvent the boundaries of these official currency spheres. By studying the different contexts and sets of inclusive or exclusive social relationships in which multiple currency exchanges are embedded, I will rethink anthropological assertions claiming that money has the unique capability to move between anyone in any situation. I also explore whether emerging hierarchical relations or local networks of social solidarity generated in Cuban Peso and Cuban Convertible Peso exchanges influence notions of Cubanidad or Cuban personhood (as suggested by an art exhibit at the Galería Habana entitled Cubanos Convertibles or Convertible Cubans). Money is an important arena of morality and cultural production. My research concentrates on how perceptions of Cubanidad are preserved or “converted” in the social practices that maintain or contest official spheres of currency exchange. By looking at the State’s official discourses of the dual currency system, participant observation in multiple currency exchanges and open-ended interviews in Havana, my research provides an integrated analysis of the socio-economic and cultural meanings of different currencies in a post-Fidel Cuba.
Philip Thai
Stanford University, History
Capital, Commerce, and Political Economy in Southeast China, 1842-1949
[ project summary ]
Drawing upon a wide range of archival sources in various parts of China, this study will trace the transformation of Chaoshan from 1842 (the end of the first Opium War) to 1949 (the eve of the Communist Revolution). Through an analysis of merchants, enterprises, and the policies pursued by various governmental regimes, I explore the social and economic consequences for a locality like Chaoshan of forging tighter links with the global economy. This project on Chaoshan represents the first comprehensive study of the region’s economy and society from the late Qing dynasty through the Republican era, and its findings will address important issues across several fields. It will advance our understanding of the impact of the post-Opium War order on Southeast China’s development by illustrating both the benefits and costs of greater exposure to the vicissitudes of global capitalism. In addition, by detailing Chaoshan’s changing relationships with its hinterlands and forelands, as well as the evolution of business organization and practices, this study will contribute to ongoing debates in the fields of economic geography and business history. Finally, I will employ conceptual and technical tools from the emerging field of historical GIS (geographic information systems) to combine qualitative and quantitative information to better map the development of Chaoshan’s space-economy and its relationship to other regions.
Lisa A. Ubelaker
Yale University, History
Americas Mapped: Mass Media and the Making of an “American” Geography during World War II
[ project summary ]
During World War II, Franklin Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy expanded into an enormous public relations campaign that sought support for a "united continent" in an effort to prevent Axis incursion. The exportation of pro-U.S. mass media became a new tool for forging international relations in the Americas. For the first time, the idea of hemispheric unity extended beyond the political podium: Good Neighbor productions, which included magazines, radio programs, and maps, became avidly consumed cultural goods in South America. My research will not only piece together where, why and how geography travelled, but also ask what geographical arguments media communicated and how these media rose to extreme popularity in Argentina and Ecuador. My approach is uniquely situated at the intersection of history, geography and media studies, which allows me to argue that in this mass-media campaign to Latin America, geography began to expand beyond cloistered academic halls and textbooks to become the framework for political argumentation in radio, magazines and mass-produced culture. The image of a united American continent became a publicized geographical idea. What can these mass produced geography texts, their creation and consumption, tell us about how international relations function on the ground, in Ecuador and Argentina? What was the context that made these mass media so popular? What is the relationship between changing role of geography and the rise of mass media? Answering these questions will not only illuminate the consequences of geography for national and global histories, but also reveal how the rise of international mass media operated—and how it came to define—global relations in the 20th century.
Nathaniel Parker VanValkenburgh
Harvard University, Anthropology
Out of Urbs, Civitas: The Archaeology of Spanish Conquest, Colonization, and Forced Migration in the Zaña and Chamán Valleys, Peru
[ project summary ]
Through archaeological survey and excavation, coupled with archival research, I will examine how Spanish conquest and colonization transformed the social and natural landscapes of the Viceroyalty of Peru in the 16th and 17th centuries AD – specifically, through the forced resettlement of indigenous people into planned towns (the reducción movement) in the Zaña and Chamán river valleys, on Peru's north coast. I hope to clarify the scale and scope of the movement and the processes through which it was enacted – particularly how indigenous socio-political structures, culture, and agency influenced its articulation at local scales. In turn, I will investigate the effects of the movement and parallel changes in colonial political economy on indigenous daily life and cultural practices. By placing these developments in their long-term context, I will consider their formative role in colonial ethnogenesis and the development of early modern European statecraft. By so doing, I will also provide a research model that can be applied in other regions of the Americas to characterize this critical but poorly-known colonial phenomenon.
Saiba Varma
Cornell University, Anthropology
Many Lives of Suffering: Human Rights and Psychiatry in Practice in Kashmir
[ project summary ]
Kashmir has experienced massive political and social upheavals in recent years--including thirteen years of armed insurgency (1989-2002) and a devastating earthquake in 2005--leading to what human rights organizations have described as an "epidemic of trauma." Yet, despite the wide scale of suffering, there have been very few studies which have documented how Kashmiris have embodied, experienced, and overcome violence in their everyday lives. This study takes an important step in this direction by asking how social suffering is experienced differently by Kashmiri ‘experts’ and 'non-experts' in two institutional sites in the city of Srinagar: the Government Psychiatric Diseases Hospital, and the Human Rights Law Network, a human rights NGO. Specifically, I will investigate how Kashmiri lawyers and psychiatrists use the concept of ‘trauma’ to understand suffering in legal and medical terms. Second, I will ask how mass suffering has disrupted or transformed the routine practices of these ‘experts’ themselves. While anthropologists have privileged the experiences of clients or patients in their encounters with medical and legal experts, I will contribute to scholarship on violence by showing how ‘experts’ transform, and are also transformed by, different forms of social suffering. Through in-depth interviews and observations of lawyers, psychiatrists, and their clients/patients in the ‘clinic’ and ‘courtroom,’ this project hypothesizes that mass social suffering in Kashmir has redrawn boundaries between 'experts' and 'non-experts,' thus offering a critical rethinking of notions of victimhood.
Jaime L. Wadowiec
State University of New York at Binghamton, History
The Afterlives of Empire: Immigration and the Politics of Difference in Decolonized France, 1962-1974
[ project summary ]
This project examines the banlieue, the French suburb, and the harki camp, assimilatory camps established throughout rural France in 1962 to house migrating Algerian peasants, as two examples of condensed imperial space, or as racialized sites of immigration in which North African immigrants were subject to the assimilatory mechanisms of the French state. In the years that followed the end of the Algerian War, unprecedented numbers of formerly colonized North Africans sought inclusion in metropolitan France and this analysis thus extends from the moment of Algerian Independence in 1962 through the national suspension of immigration in 1974. While historians typically regard the banlieue and the harki camp as spaces of exclusion from postcolonial French society, I will explore these spaces in tandem as correlations within a wider scope of colonial politics internal to the operations of the decolonized nation-state. By juxtaposing these seemingly disparate contexts, this project investigates how metropolitan politicians, immigration officials, and social reformers sought to discipline and assimilate the female body in particular, and how their efforts reflected a broader attempt to integrate the North African community as a whole. Most importantly, an examination of the gendered modes of surveillance that policed the boundaries between immigrant populations and the ethnic French permits a larger critique of the limitations of postcolonial citizenship in the tumultuous years which followed the Algerian War.
Chika Watanabe
Cornell University, Anthropology
Cultivating Transformation in Burma/Myanmar: Ideals, Knowledge, and Capacity Building Trainings by a Japanese NGO
[ project summary ]
My project asks: How do international humanitarian and development interventions today increasingly work upon the individual as a site of global governance and transformation? Humanitarian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) today emphasize the importance of “capacity building”—that is, the cultivation of local individuals with certain ideals, often religiously-derived, and secular technical NGO skills such as project management and documentary practices. This trend is particularly salient in countries such as Burma/Myanmar, where a military government restricts external aid interventions and thus the training of local aid workers is seen as the most effective way to enable social betterment. My project bridges studies that have analyzed the practices of knowledge and those that have examined the formulation of ideals in NGO work to investigate how NGOs in Burma/Myanmar mobilize commitments to religiously-based ideals and translate them to secular practices through technical knowledge in trainings for local humanitarian workers. Moreover, I examine how local and international NGO staff as well as training participants experience these activities as forms of governance or hopeful moments of transformation. I will focus on a training program for local farmer youth in Burma/Myanmar by the Organization for Industrial, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement (OISCA), a Japanese NGO whose mission is global sustainable development, and rooted in a Shinto-derived new religious movement. I will use textual analysis, ethnographic participation, and person-centered ethnography to conduct a multi-sited research across Japan and Burma/Myanmar to elucidate the effects of transnational efforts to transform persons on global forms of social change and governance.
Matthew E. West
Columbia University, Anthropology
Intellectual Property and the Knowledge Economy's Global Division of Labor: Producing Green-Technology between Taiwan and China
[ project summary ]
The worldwide expansion of a Western regime of intellectual property (IP) was one of the most fundamental ingredients in the creation of today’s knowledge economy. Because of IP, what previously could not have been said to be owned (such as songs, stories, seed germplasm, and modified DNA), now not only can be owned, but also can be bought, sold, licensed, and stolen. While we often think of these objects of intellectual property as intangible, the majority of us will only ever interact with them through the tangible products within which they are encased—a DVD, mousetrap, or Nike shoe. This project seeks to understand IP itself through an ethnography of innovation in practice. The project will concentrate on interviewing and participant observation fieldwork situated in a Taiwanese green-technology company whose manufacturing is conducted in mainland China. By following the circulation of intangible objects of property (patented, trademarked, or copyrighted) into, out of, and within the company as its product moves from the design to manufacturing stage, this research will shed light on the changing connections between tangible and intangible commodities, the knowledge and manufacturing economies, and China and Taiwan within a global economic system. This anthropological approach to IP builds on a long tradition of anthropological interest in property adding an emphasis on the circulations of objects of intellectual property. It brings to the interdisciplinary conversation about IP a long-term, in-depth, qualitative study of the creation and modification of new intangible objects of property by investigating issues of licensing, transfers, and adaptations of IP within a transnational firm in an industry key to future innovation-driven development.
Rebecca J. Woods
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society
Bred to the Purple: Imperial Livestock and Colonial Places
[ project summary ]
“Bred to the Purple” explores the significance of “native” British breeds of livestock both in the context of the British Empire in the nineteenth-century, and in contemporary efforts to preserve rare or endangered “traditional” breeds of livestock. I trace the history of several British breeds from their place-specific origins within Britain in the early-nineteenth century to distant new homes in New Zealand and North America, and finally back again to Britain, where they are today classified as endangered “traditional” breeds. I examine how colonial environments altered livestock in both a physiological and a cultural sense, asking how, as livestock adapted to colonial environments, the cultural values and meanings they embodied shifted correspondingly. I analyze the role these animals played in cultural transmission between colony and metropole, and how they contributed to the foundation of imperial identities. By following the trail of two breeds, the Hereford cattle and Lincoln Longwool sheep, into present-day rare breeds conservation, I explore how these breeds came to be associated with certain places, cultural values, and aspects of human memory. What does designating breeds of livestock as "native" or "traditional" mean for ideas about nationality and the formation of human identities, and what do efforts to conserve these breeds reveal about the relationship between the past and the present in debates over cultural preservation and environmental heritage?
Jinting Wu
University of Wisconsin, Madison, Education
Citizenship at a Crossroad--Education, Tourism, and Migrancy in a Chinese Hmong Village
[ project summary ]
Ethnic minorities occupy a marginal space in official Chinese policies. As economic development accelerates regional exchanges and open up cultural zones of contact, minority children’s lives are intertwined with new forms of inclusion and exclusion. This project aims to examine a group of Hmong students’ lives as embedded in three transformations in their pedagogical, communal, and household spaces—compulsory schooling, ethnic tourism, and parental migration. Through offering a detailed account of Hmong students’ understandings and everyday experiences of being ethnic and becoming modernized, the goal of this project is to investigate the dynamics of the cultural production of educated citizenship in China’s ethnic hinterland. I will explore how children experience, understand, and negotiate changes in these social domains from an actor-centered, ethnographic lens. By jointly investigating formal schooling and non-formal educative domains as interconnected pedagogical forces, not isolated social phenomena, this project hopes to enhance our understanding of social conditions of ethnic education, contribute to theoretical discussions on citizenship formation, enrich the worldwide literature on Hmong studies, and illuminate issues germane to contemporary China.
Timothy Ming-Chih Yang
Columbia University, History
Sciences of Modernity: Taiwan in Colonial and Postcolonial Times
[ project summary ]
From its earliest beginnings to its postcolonial afterlife, Japan's colonial rule of Taiwan proclaimed a commitment both to science and to modernity. During its fifty-one years of rule between 1895 and 1945, Japan developed Taiwan as a laboratory of empire. After the end of colonial rule, this scientific legacy became part of the "native" Taiwanese critique against the newly arrived Chinese Nationalist (Guomindang) regime. While Korea and other former colonies have denounced Japanese rule as brutal exploitation, contemporary Taiwanese have often embraced the colonial past as an integral part of their modern history. Why is Japanese colonialism remembered differently in Taiwan? What is the relationship between colonialism and modernity? How do the different legacies of Japanese colonialism affect the geopolitical configuration of East Asia today? I hope to shed light on these larger questions by exploring the social meanings of science in colonial and postcolonial Taiwan, from the end of the late Qing Dynasty to the present. For both Japanese and Taiwanese, science represented a sign of progress and modernity that served, at varying times, as an instrument of domination, a site of Pan-Asian solidarity, and a pathway to independence. My project traces these overlapping meanings of science in order to reinterpret received ideas of collaboration, nationalism, and identity formation that have shaped modern East Asia, and to suggest implications for the relationship between colonialism and postcolonialism around the globe.
YundanNima YundanNima
University of Colorado at Boulder, Geography
Converting Pastures to Grasslands:State Interventions into Pastoral Livelihoods and Grassland Ecosystems of Tibet
[ project summary ]
This research project investigates a major Chinese government program launched in 2004, “converting pastures to grasslands,” which calls for the removal of grazing from large areas of rangeland in Tibet for the purpose of restoring purportedly degraded pastures. Based on research in Nagchu Prefecture in Tibet, the proposed project investigates “converting pastures to grasslands” as a case study of how “received wisdom” environmental degradation narratives are used to justify state interventions into the livelihoods of minority pastoralists, a pattern experienced by pastoral peoples the world over. Tracing “converting pastures to grasslands” from its conceptualization in offices in Beijing to its implementation in Tibet, the project investigates the following research questions: Why do environmental narratives underpinning “converting pastures to grasslands” persist? What has been the process of translation from project formulation by the central government to local implementation? To what extent do traditional forms of grassland management system and Tibetan pastoralists’ local knowledge conform to or contradict the assumptions of the project, and how does this affect pastoralists’ response to the project? How are pastoralists accepting, rejecting, modifying or adapting to the project? The framework for analyzing the grazing removal project as a state intervention is informed broadly by political ecology. Within this conceptual framework, the project engages with several themes of political ecological research: the persistence and effects of environmental degradation narratives; equilibrium ecosystem assumptions in pastoral management; disaggregating the state; and theorizations of the effects of state interventions. Field research over a period of twelve months will use a mix of methods that include detailed household surveys, semi-structured interviews, oral histories, focus groups, transect walks, participatory mapping and participation observation.
Ran Zwigenberg
City University of New York Graduate Center, History
Mute Memories: Menmotic sites of Hiroshima, 1945-1995
[ project summary ]
My project investigates the history of the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park through a two layered comparison with the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel. By looking at both the institutional development of the memorial and the museum, on one hand, and the commemoration activities of survivors and other civil society groups, on the other, I intend to capture the dialectical way that hegemonic and counter memories intersected. These two narratives will be not only compared but also tied together through their shared history as part of the postwar global memory discourse. Following the methodology of histoire croisée, or entangled history, I intend to examine both sites as two instances of entanglement; two histories which from the very beginning were subject to the same global forces that shaped and were shaped by them. This will enable us to understand the development of memory sites beyond the limitations of the “container” of the nation state and capture the way both the personal and the global affected the supposedly “national” memory culture and its progressive fragmentation.