International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF) > Competitions

2013 IDRF Program


Gregory Afinogenov
Harvard University, History
The Noblest Commerce: Intelligence and Sinology on the "Russian Route," 1685-1825
[ project summary ]
My dissertation deals with the way Russians came to understand, study, and spy on their southeastern neighbors, the Qing Empire, as the two states confronted each other between the late seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries. Intelligence, in the sense of practice-oriented knowledge gathered by actors working on behalf of the state, was vital for diplomatic and commercial relationships: for instance, ambassadors not only needed to know how the Qing court functioned, but also how best to make their way to the Chinese border and beyond. But embassies and trade caravans also shaped the way knowledge was created and circulated. The same ambassadors who had relied on the works of their predecessors returned to augment the Russian state's store of intelligence; for their part, trade caravans provided ample cover for spies as well as often serving as the only means of carrying letters and papers. A particular focus of the project is the relationship between the new Russian Academy of Sciences, created in 1724, and the Jesuit missionaries in Beijing. By forging scientific ties, the two groups nurtured each other's political hopes, with the Jesuits aiming to develop Russia as a link between Europe and China and the Russians hoping to cultivate their new correspondents as a privileged source of influence and intelligence at the Qing court. The role of the Jesuits as well as the increasing volume and importance of trade between the two empires ultimately gave the Russo-Chinese relationship crucial, and wide-ranging, global ramifications. By the end of the eighteenth century, the story had come to involve not just Russia and the Qing but also Britain, France, and the United States. In the nineteenth, the complex of intelligence-gathering mechanisms developed in the previous century produced, and gave way to, the specialized academic discipline known as sinology.
Ahmad Amara
New York University, History
Echoes of Legal Pasts: Landed Property Relations in the Negev, 1858-1948
[ project summary ]
My dissertation research aims to explore the interplay of geography and law in a relational way in the Negev, now part of Israel, under two different regimes: the late Ottoman, since the enactment of the Ottoman Land Code (1858-1917), and the British Mandatory (1917-1948). Looking at both the social and the material dimensions of geography and law, this project examines the frequent reconfigurations of land relations in the Negev over the century preceding 1948 and how land rights were defined and reshaped within a unique legal order that evolved through the dynamic interaction of state law and tribal customary law. This dynamic relationship was influenced by fluctuating notions of modernization, sovereignty, authority, as well as ongoing capitalist development, all of which impacted the land regime and had significant social repercussions. Focusing on this region's Bedouin-Arab population, my project draws on Ottoman, British, and Israeli archives, personal papers and interviews, to explore the system and evolution of landed property relations, in the context of a broader analysis of state-society relationships. My dissertation will examine how the shifting understandings and categorizations of specific legal, spatial, and social realities by governmental and social actors (including courts, judges, regional governors, tax and land registry staff, inhabitants, and local leaders) shaped the geographic and legal order in the Negev. My project's focus on land relations in the Negev since 1858 provides an excellent angle from which to investigate the legal orders of imperial, colonial, and post colonial regimes in this particular region, and challenges the neat distinctions often drawn between each political order. Further, the research challenges scholarly tendency to treat the legal history of modern Palestine as if each regime brought with it an entirely distinct legal system.
Hannah L. Archambault
University of California, Berkeley, South and Southeast Asian Studies
Mobility and Locality: Afghan Identity in South India 1629-1779
[ project summary ]
I propose to follow the history of two Afghan family lineages, the Miyanas and the Pannis, over a hundred and fifty year time span between 1629 and 1779 as they moved across frontiers and between political centers in central and southern India. While attending to these groups' roles in the major political events of the period, I will also focus on situating them within their cultural contexts. Through attention to their literary production and participation in regional and extra-regional religious networks but also through practices of marriage, patronage, adoption, friendship and other ties that bound them to localities, I seek to uncover a political and cultural history focusing on themes often overlooked in state-centered narratives: the regular movement of groups across state frontiers, the construction of social identities spanning diverse cultural and political contexts, and the production of densely interlocked local, regional and transregional spheres of belonging. The project makes three interventions in existing historiography. Firstly it seeks to articulate a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be Afghan in early modern India across commonly divided time periods and geographies. Secondly, the project seeks to expand our understanding negotiations between local, regional and imperial power structures. Finally, the project aims to contribute to a body of scholarship on the nature of global transformations taking place in late medieval and early modern Eurasia.
Kyoungjin Bae
Columbia University, History
Objects of Taste and Knowledge: Chinese Furniture between London, Batavia, and Canton in the Long Eighteenth Century
[ project summary ]
My dissertation examines the interaction between Europeans and Chinese in the material culture of export Chinese furniture in Canton, Batavia, and Britain during the long eighteenth century. Specifically, it concerns the transmission of cultural and technical knowledge through the production and consumption of furniture and the plural representations of China resultant from such transmission. By examining the Chippendale-style "Chinese bookcase" in Britain, the "Chinese cabinet" of Dutch colonials in Batavia, and the vernacular display cabinets of provincial Canton, my project goes beyond previous scholarship's focus on the exotic chinoiserie to show how Europeans and Chinese co-produced and co-domesticated "Chinese-ness" in heterogeneous ways by mixing exotic and familiar cultural elements. It also replaces the East-West binary with multiple vectors of interest and interaction occurring triangularly between three important trading zones. Following the trajectory of export furniture highlights the networks between dispersed artisans, merchants, and consumers, who formed a complex web of connections that played an important role in the formation of the early modern global trade. By locating its subject matter at the intersection between the local and the global, therefore, my dissertation will reconfigure the transmission and trans-culturation of taste and knowledge through the movement of objects and people in the long eighteenth-century world.
Narges Bajoghli
New York University, Anthropology
Restaging the Revolution: Military Media and the Contested Legacies of Revolution in Iran
[ project summary ]
If successful, every revolutionary movement eventually faces a certain dilemma: how does the commitment to the revolutionary project get transmitted from one generation to the next as historical circumstances change? In the case of the Iranian revolution, from the 1979 generation to the present, different media forms have been critical indicators of generational sensibilities, from the graffiti, posters, faxes and other "small media" that characterized the early days, to the work in feature film, television, and social media identified with the contemporary moment. My research investigates how a new generation of Iranian revolutionaries deploys these media to constitute their own generational experience as cultural activists, and as a strategy for "restaging the revolution" for younger generations who have not shared that experience. I request funding for twelve months of ethnographic research on contemporary Iranian paramilitary culture, focusing on their media practices. The Basij, a popular wing of Iran's famed Revolutionary Guards, formed in 1980 at the outset of the Iran-Iraq War, building a reserve army among Iran's civilian population. Since then, their charge has shifted dramatically from guns to media. To understand why and how that has happened, I will focus on the work of Basij media producers as they create mainstream films and television serials at the Center for the Cinema of Revolution and Sacred Defense in Tehran, their most important film studio. Due to preliminary fieldwork and relationships established while making my well-received documentary on Basij victims of chemical weapons, I have permissions from key Basij media producers to shadow them on-set in order to understand how and why they create what they call revolutionary entertainment. This work is intended to contribute to theoretical questions about how media shape political dispositions and sensibilities and how states attempt to resignify revolutions for younger generations.
Sophia Balakian
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Anthropology
The Fraudulent Family: Kinship, Knowledge, and Uncertainty in Refugee Resettlement from Nairobi
[ project summary ]
In 2008, the US government instituted a DNA pilot program to assess "fraud" in its Refugee Family Reunification Program. Over 80% of refugees "failed." While the US government took these results as confirmation of lies and deception, this research seeks to understand the social and cultural processes undergirding this social fact. In addition to genetic requirements, the Family Reunification Program rests on normative, US ideas about familial love and stable cohabitation. In what ways do ideologies of family that shape refugee resettlement policies—including the importance of genetics, and notions of "enduring love" that preclude pragmatic interests—conflict or converge with ideas about kinship and familial practices among refugees in Kenya? How do these and other discourses inform kinship as refugees living in Kenya seek resettlement in the United States? By charting how claims to kinship are articulated, negotiated, contested, or denied within an assemblage of state, non-governmental, and stateless actors involved in refugee resettlement in Nairobi, this research investigates multiple articulations of power as they shape the "family unit." Attending to uncertainties and mutual misunderstanding between refugees and the people who assess their claims, I approach "the family" as a lens into a broader paradox of the interwoven threads of humanitarianism and security that forge refugee resettlement as an ideological practice. By locating "the family" on fortified frontiers between East Africa and the US—where kinship exists as a contested sphere of knowledge—I propose an ethnography of kinship on the border.
Mou Banerjee
Harvard University, History
The Baboo, the Bibi and the “Padri Sahib”: Christianity, Colonialism and the Creative World of Indian Intellectuals, c. 1813-1907
[ project summary ]
My dissertation examines Indian intellectuals' encounters with and response to Christianity in the nineteenth century – a relationship broadly unexplored in the existing historical literature, and critical, I assert, to India's putatively secular modernity. The Baboo and the Bibi of my title are the westernized Indian intellectuals, male and female, whose role as intermediaries in colonial India has been thoroughly investigated. Less examined, however, is the significance of their encounters with the "Padri Sahibs" – the white missionaries. Their proselytizing was the subject of debate, ridicule, but just as frequently, evoked serious engagement on the part of India's burgeoning intelligentsia. The men and women who had direct access to Western modes of education, owing to their proximity to colonial agents and evangelicals in the metropolitan centers of Calcutta, Bombay, and Delhi, played a decisive role in the creation of an Indian public sphere. In the way that Christianity was approached, examined and theorized by a spectrum of Indian intellectuals, from Ram Mohan Roy to Brahmabandhab Upadhyay over the course of the nineteenth century, I see the development of a complex relationship of both overt repudiation and covert fascination. I intend to investigate how their extensive examination of Christianity, as a faith and a choice, represents not only a philosophical engagement, but a sustained set of contestations over the nature of faith's sociopolitical implications, and of the political responsibility of the colonized subject. The paradox of Christianity as the catalyst of the modernization impulse in India, and its change over the nineteenth century into a potentially conservative force, privileging the colonizer, provides a rich tension to this narrative.
Joshua Paul Batts
Columbia University, East Asian Languages and Cultures
Windows on the World: Japan's Port Communities and the Global Experience, 1547-1634
[ project summary ]
My project investigates Japan's port communities in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, a period marked by the dynamic expansion of commerce abroad and political integration at home. I look at the ports of Shimonoseki, Sakai, Nagasaki, and Ishinomaki during the period 1547-1634, asking how their encounters with a diverse of array of foreigners and resurgent political authority shaped how they conceived of their communal identity and how they perceived their place in the world. Eschewing the elite diplomatic and economic histories which have dominated this field of Japanese history, I focus on the local actors—monks, smugglers, pirates, and provincial traders—who oversaw the development of arms manufacture in Sakai, policed and plundered Inland Sea trade routes, bargained with missionaries and warlords alike in Nagasaki, and dispatched an embassy to the Spanish throne from Ishinomaki in the decades leading up to and after the political consolidation of the country under the Tokugawa shogunate in 1600. I assert that this combination of economic opportunity, political turmoil, and the lived experiences of the archipelago's port communities defined the contours of local, regional, and nascent national identity across the archipelago. By narrating Japan's history during this time not through the lens of isolation, but encounter, I contextualize the Japanese experience within the waterways of East and Southeast Asia, host to the competing agendas of terrestrial states, bustling etrepots, privateers, and the initial outposts of aspiring empire. I address the intersection of local lived experience and global networks of exchange, and weave this convergence together into an exploration of ground-up responses to emergent state power.
Nadim Bawalsa
New York University, History
Identifying Palestine: Transnationalism, Citizenship, and the New World Order (1925-1930)
[ project summary ]
The dissertation research project for which I am seeking Mellon IDRF funding explores how the 1925 Palestinian Citizenship Order promulgated by the British colonial authorities in Palestine, and the ways in which it was implemented, helped create a new kind of legislated Palestinian diaspora. This phenomenon most conspicuously affected Arab communities in Latin America, whose approximately 25,000 Palestinian immigrants would ultimately, despite their best efforts, be denied the right to return to their homeland as citizens. At the same time, the British policies that denied citizenship to most members of the new Palestinian diaspora established the framework within which that diaspora came to play a role in forging a distinctive Palestinian Arab national identity in Palestine and abroad. Drawing on sources in Arabic, Spanish, French, and English, and on archives, libraries, and collections in Israel, Palestine, Latin America, Switzerland, and Britain, my project seeks to go beyond conventional narratives of the emergence of a Palestinian national identity by treating that process, for the first time, as fundamentally transnational – one that involved Palestinian communities in Honduras, Cuba, Costa Rica and Mexico as well as in Palestine itself. But it also examines the ways in which this process was bound up with an emerging international legal order that played an important role in the lives of subjects of the new Middle Eastern mandates, as well as with the specificities of struggles over legally classifying Palestine's inhabitants, actual and potential. A transnational framework can elucidate the emergence of nationalistic sentiment among Palestinians worldwide during this period, and the particular difficulties that Palestinians ultimately experienced as a result of British citizenship legislation promulgated in the context of a new international legal order.
Marcelo A. Bohrt
Brown University, Sociology
Decolonizing the State: The Micro-Politics of Transforming Bolivia’s Racialized State Bureaucracy
[ project summary ]
Bolivia is currently undergoing an epochal transformation in race relations. Since Evo Morales was voted in as Bolivia's first indigenous president in 2006, indigenous men and women have entered the national civil service en masse, occupying authority positions which were largely reserved to the white and mestizo population since the colonial era. This change is the most visible outcome of the Morales administration's initiative to "decolonize" the state bureaucracy in a country where nearly 50 percent of the population is categorized as indigenous. Yet, "decolonization" envisions fundamental changes to the institutional logic of the state and bureaucratic practice that challenge the power and authority of an old generation of bureaucrats. My research examines the micro-politics of "decolonization" of the national bureaucracy. It seeks to understand how decolonization is experienced, perceived, and participated in by old and new bureaucrats on the ground as they attempt to unravel or protect organizational racial boundaries and the institutional logics that sustain them. Relative to countries where attempts have been made to de-racialize state bureaucracies, the currently unfolding project of "decolonization" in Bolivia appears as a much more profound challenge to racial subordination, offering a unique opportunity to examine the micro-politics of racial and institutional change. Through a combination of participant observation within the confines of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and in-depth and semi-structured interviews with bureaucrats across various state agencies, I examine how, in the context of a macro-political and institutional change, bureaucrats interpret, negotiate, and rearticulate racial boundaries and institutional logics in everyday life, and to what effect.
John Boonstra
University of Wisconsin, Madison, History
Circuits of Silk: Commerce, Colonialism, and Cultural Encounters Between Lebanon and Lyon
[ project summary ]
My project will analyze the connections between the French silk trade with Lebanon and the construction of colonialist ideology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Focusing on the economic exchanges and cultural encounters fostered through transnational commerce, I will investigate how the interactions of industrial corporations, imperial agents, and mostly female silk workers in both Lebanon and Lyon at once informed and drew from stocks of imperial knowledge. I approach capitalist practices and Orientalist discourse as mutually constitutive, and my dissertation aims to explore the complex intersections between economic and cultural forms of French imperialism. The goal of my research is to explore how the convergences and contradictions between corporate structures and discursive representations shed light on France's imperial relationship with Lebanon. By tracing circuits of exchange, I aim to elucidate how colonial knowledge mediated commercial practices connecting metropole and colony. I propose breaking down the historiographical separation of economic and cultural colonialism, and I therefore interpret material interests alongside articulations of fantasy, stereotypes, and ideology. In the fields, factories, and marketplaces of France and Lebanon, I suggest, cultural encounters both reflected and constructed imperial power relations. Through the archival records of French silk corporations, consular and military officials, and workers' syndicates, I will be able to evaluate the ways in which laborers, employers, and elites engaged with capitalist structures and colonial governance. From French economic and political expansion into Lebanon in 1860 through formal colonization after the Great War, I intend to track how relationships between material interests and cultural worldviews informed the experiences of capitalism and colonialism across the Mediterranean.
Lewis Addison Bradford
Indiana University Bloomington, Anthropology
Globalization, Migration, Land Tenure and the Evolution of Racial Subjectivities in Southern Morocco
[ project summary ]
The dual processes of colonialism and globalization have combined to alter the cultural landscape in Morocco's desert south. Difference has been historically defined in Morocco through language and the linguistic divide between Arab and Berber speakers. However, in Morocco's southern oasis communities, difference has also been defined through land tenure. Specifically, "Black" families were prohibited from owning land and relegated to a lower social status. Following independence, Black Moroccan families were able to take advantage of employment opportunities in the north and have begun to dismantle the physical signposts of their marginalization. Through the purchase of land and the productive use of funds provided by NGOs, Black Moroccan families are remaking the cultural and physical landscape of southern Morocco. In addition, migrant networks embed the local cultural processes of southern oasis communities into broader social movements that include a trans-national Berber rights movement, environmental activism and the Arab spring. By focusing on the oasis community of Akka in Morocco's Tata Province, I will work to understand the impact of these economic changes on how Moroccans understand difference and how previous racial ideologies are reproduced in new and unique ways.
Tristan Brown
Columbia University, History
The Western Muslim Frontier Corridor in the Making of Modern China, 1684-1928
[ project summary ]
In order to explain how China came into the twentieth century in nearly full possession of its imperial territories, this research will examine the collection of Muslim communities in western China, which align with the border of the Chinese cultural area and Turkestan, Tibet, Mongolia, and Southeast Asia. I propose a reading of history in which a Muslim frontier corridor, formed in western China during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), allowed the gradual unification of imperial territories during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties (1644-1911) through its three major constituents: Muslim middleman merchants, Muslim frontier soldiers, and itinerant Islamic scholars. My hypothesis looks at local actors rather than the central state to explain how such a consolidation was gradually facilitated. I have formed this hypothesis on the basis of two months of archival research in western China with the support of an SSRC Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship (summer 2012), and I propose twelve months of dissertation archival research and fieldwork in western China over the 2013-2014 academic year. I have secured a yearlong affiliation with Ningxia University, China's premier institution for the study of Chinese Muslims (the Hui), which will allow me access to relevant archives both inside and outside of Ningxia, the Chinese Muslim Autonomous Region. Beyond addressing a critical question relevant to both China's past and present, my project looks and speaks to studies of Muslim minority peoples, circulation and internal migration, middleman minorities, geo-spatial analysis, and non-state actors as agents of historical change, with implications for both global history and contemporary Asia.
Maura Capps
University of Chicago, History
All Flesh Is Grass: Cultivation as Conservation in the Grasslands of Britain's Settler Empire, 1750-1860
[ project summary ]
This project focuses on sown grasslands in Britain, New South Wales, and Cape Colony in the age of "Enlightened" agricultural science (1750-1860). I observe two parallel processes at play in this time period: 1) Britain's "New Husbandry," a form of intensive agricultural cultivation based primarily on grass-based crop rotation and increased livestock production (mixed husbandry), and 2) the settler revolution in what would become the British Commonwealth following the loss of the American colonies. I suggest that these seemingly discrete developments are, in fact, related, and that this becomes evident when we uncover the part grasslands have played in agrarian development throughout the Empire. I examine the role of grassland cultivation in colonial responses to ecological thresholds, namely soil fertility. I question both the portrayal of ecological imperialism as a largely unsupervised phenomenon and the interpretation of settler practices as singularly exploitative. I do this by examining the scientific networks overseeing biological transfers and the "on the ground" efforts of settlers to establish agrarian sustainability. My overarching argument is that grasses became the calculated foot-soldiers of agrarian development in the settler empire and were, therefore, foundational in the history of British settler colonialism and fundamental to understanding environmental transformations in these territories.
Elizabeth Ann Cecil
Brown University, Religion
Mapping a Contested Landscape: Religion, Politics, and Place in the Making of Pasupata Identity
[ project summary ]
This nuanced regional study investigates a formative period in the history of the "Pasupatas," the earliest known religious community devoted to the worship of the Hindu God Siva. Through an interdisciplinary approach that integrates the study of new manuscript sources and epigraphic data in Sanskrit, with fieldwork at three vital groups of temple sites, my work will illuminate the ways in which this community participated in, and was shaped by, the religious competition and political upheaval that permeated early medieval northwest India (7th-9th century CE). Using these sources, I will work to recover the many, often marginalized, voices that animated this diverse community and, in doing so, engage in a radical rethinking of what it meant to be "Saiva" (i.e. a devotee of Siva) in this contested region and historical period. This study will produce an alternative history of early Saivism, which challenges the traditional scholarly categories and binaries (e.g. popular/élite; lay/ascetic; orthodox/heterodox) that circumscribe the study of Indian religions. By theorizing the ties between the self-fashioning of the Pasupatas and the dynamic landscape in which they were embedded, my work will move beyond my immediate sub-field and discipline to explore the polysemy of religious identity in India, both medieval and modern. Fieldwork at three clusters of early medieval temple sites—located near Mumbai in Maharashtra, Mandasor in Madhya Pradesh, and Chittorgarh in Rajasthan—will be an intrinsic element of my study of this region. By studying architectural elements and aspects of religious imagery and by analyzing the interrelationships between the natural and constructed features of these sites, I will theorize the multiple ways in which devotees used and experienced these lived spaces. This study will shed new light on the social function of sanctified spaces as media for the negotiation of socio-political hierarchies and the expression of religious identity(ies)
Nadine S. Chan
University of Southern California, Film Studies
Colonial Cinema Across Borders: Educational Film in Malaya and the British Empire (1920-1957)
[ project summary ]
My dissertation traces the relationship between educational film and the imperial project in British Malaya – currently Malaysia and Singapore. My timeframe begins in 1920 with the production of the first educational films in Malaya, and concludes in 1957 with Malaya's independence from colonial rule. Films produced by the Malayan government as well as by the colonial government in Britain sought to teach colonial subjects about the place of the colony in relation to the British Empire. During this period, ideas about using cinema for education in the colonies underwent shifts that underscored the changing texture of imperial rule globally. The establishment of film libraries and international film associations during the interwar years imagined a world where educational films could circulate freely. These developments in film policy reflected the turn towards a more decentralized British Empire in the 1920s, followed by the divestment of imperial territories altogether after WWII. Hence, although the context of my study is that of British Malaya, this dissertation is inseparable from a larger study of economic imperial internationalism between World War I and the "end" of empire. My research engages with underutilized archival sources and fieldwork methods uncommon to cinema studies to make new historical claims about the role of cinema in the management and construction of the Empire. It brings an understudied contextual examination of film in Malaya into conversation with larger shifts in the nature of empire and global economy. It discusses media and Islam in Southeast Asia, and its connections to modernity and national citizenship under colonial government. By connecting cinema history to an understanding of an emergent and changing sense of internationalism from the 1920s to the 1950s, this project will illuminate the highly influential ways in which visual media culture facilitated the transition from classical imperialism to global capitalism.
Laurence Coderre
University of California, Berkeley, East Asian Languages and Cultures
Consuming Revolution: Yangbanxi as Material Culture of the Chinese Cultural Revolution
[ project summary ]
As the 'post-Mao' designation of the contemporary period makes plain, the present circumstances in the People's Republic of China are often considered in contrast to what preceded them. While the dramatic socioeconomic changes China has undertaken over the past thirty years may render this desire understandable, the clean break intimated by the 'post-' prefix is a fallacy. The rampant market commodification said to define the Chinese 'postsocialist' condition did not emerge from a vacuum. Despite the widely held characterization of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) as a time of aestheticized politics and ideological indoctrination, it was by no means devoid of everyday things, which were also 'consumed' in their own way. This project examines Cultural Revolution material culture and investigates how the circulation and consumption of quotidian objects during that time prefigured postsocialist market commodities. As the pinnacle of the socialist performing arts, the yangbanxi––a repertoire of, originally, eight model works––were promoted by objects spanning every conceivable form. I focus on the constellations of things, brought together by and around these yangbanxi 'tie-ins,' as they developed in relation to three 'media': ceramic knickknacks, amateur performances, and recorded sound technologies. Each of these constellations invoked different modes of circulation and consumption, and I examine how these disparate modes participated in and facilitated Cultural Revolution constructions of time, the body, and space. In doing so, I pay particular attention to the materiality of these ideologically 'marked' things, thereby troubling notions of propaganda as a top-down process of passive indoctrination. Instead, I consider how individuals interacted with and through these constellations of things and the relationship between such interactions and commodity consumption under postsocialism.
Luisa Cortesi
Yale University, Anthropology
Living in Floods: Knowledge(s) and Technologies of Disastrous Water in North Bihar, India
[ project summary ]
How do people in rural north Bihar, India, live and make sense of water in a landscape periodically destroyed by floods? The proposed study draws on disaster studies, environmental anthropology and science and technology studies to trace how water-related knowledge(s) are deployed in everyday practices, and mediated by technologies, in a frequently flooded environment where people live in, and often die from, water. This query enables an ethnographic perspective on wider debates about human knowledge and adaptation in conditions of rapid environmental change and specifically on the ways in which rural inhabitants react to environmental disasters drawing on cultural resources such as local knowledge and networks, as well as technologies of water management. The proposed ethnography combines an epistemological analysis of life in a disastrous waterscape with the close observation of pragmatic responses to waterborne disasters to reveal complex forms of articulation between dynamic ecologies, water-related practices, environmental knowledges, and technological choices.
Elizabeth H. Cross
Harvard University, History
The Compagnie des Indes and the Fate of Commercial Empire in the French Revolution
[ project summary ]
My dissertation studies the fate of France's late eighteenth-century global empire through the lens of the last French East India Company during the final years of the Old Regime and into the French Revolution. Though this Company has not received any recent scholarly attention, the history of its incorporation and liquidation elucidates a broader transformation in the policy and structures of France's empire. My project will examine the interrelated nature of colonial and metropolitan histories, particularly as I explore how the imperatives of global commercial competition with Britain – especially in the aftermath of France's territorial losses in the Seven Years War in India – informs economic policy at home. I hypothesize that, as Indian markets were drawn into the sphere of British influence, French policymakers began an "imperial exit strategy" that encouraged the development of industries in the mainland to replace key goods imported by the Company. This exit strategy reached its ideological apogee during the radical phase of the Revolution, which I see as part of an ongoing battle between two conflicting visions of France: a maritime, cosmopolitan one, and an insular, continental one. I will place my work in broader scholarly contexts by exploring the links between the policy of exit strategy and larger anti-imperial trends in eighteenth-century intellectual history and political theory. My research will thus explore how eighteenth-century France navigated the balance between foreign expansion and domestic prosperity, which will have contemporary relevance to current debates in both history and other social science disciplines about the origins and processes of globalization.
Julia Cummiskey
Johns Hopkins University, History of Medicine
Knowledge Production in the African AIDS Epidemic: The Rakai Health Sciences Program
[ project summary ]
With the contemporary emphasis on evidence-based practices in public health it is more important than ever to understand how that evidence is manufactured and brought to the attention of policy makers. Over the past thirty years experts have amassed an enormous body of knowledge about the microbiology, epidemiology, treatment, and prevention of AIDS in Africa. However, we know almost nothing about how this knowledge was produced. This project aims to fill this gap by using written and oral sources to trace the history of AIDS research at one of the most important AIDS research sites in Africa: the Rakai Health Sciences Program (RHSP). This project will address the following questions: How were research agendas and questions defined by the RHSP? How was AIDS research shaped by local politics, economics, and institutional arrangements? How have these decisions, conditions, and relationships changed over time in relation to the shifting nature of the AIDS epidemic, fluctuations in priorities of funding agencies, and changes in the global commitment to fighting AIDS in Africa? As a case study in knowledge production by an internationally-funded, African research team, the RHSP offers an exceptional opportunity to observe the creation of biomedical evidence within a global network. By applying the methods of historians of science and medicine as well as local history and ethnography, this study aims to inform the ways that consumers of this evidence assess its value and relevance.
Katyayani Dalmia
New School, Anthropology
Inhabiting One’s Skin: An Ethnography of Skin Color and Appearance in a North Indian City
[ project summary ]
This project sets out to examine the lived experience of bodily appearance and skin color in the South Asian cultural context. Scholarship on South Asia has extensively investigated forms of social difference and hierarchy in the region, producing a substantial corpus of literature on caste, class, and gender. Surprisingly, however, this dense body of writing has not significantly addressed the question of skin color, and how it might also relate to practices of social differentiation and hierarchizing. This project proposes to investigate how color, as a central social preoccupation in South Asia, relates to formal social classifications (caste, class, race, gender) without entirely mapping on to any of them. As such, it draws from research on the varying formulations of race and color in different world regions, and seeks to identify the specificities of the discourses and experiences of bodily difference and color in the South Asian situation. It will investigate this problem through focusing on three kinds of sites –the matrimonial photography studio, the Unani skin clinic and the more informal site of the neighborhood and home – in Lucknow, a North Indian city considered to have its own specific history of emphasis on bodily aesthetics.
Robyn d'Avignon
University of Michigan, Interdepartmental Program in Anthropology and History
Granaries of Gold: Farm, Labor and Entrepreneurship on Senegal’s Mineral Frontier
[ project summary ]
The exhaustion of minerals in traditional mining sites has pushed the 21st century's scramble for resources to remote regions, such as Kedougou in southeastern Senegal. Considered an economic backwater by the colonial and postcolonial state, Kedougou is now a boomtown. Corporate mining firms prospect for gold, iron ore, and uranium alongside thousands of artisanal gold miners who migrate to the region from across West Africa. While this influx of global capital generates economic opportunities for Senegal’s poorest region, the mineral boom greatly inflates local food prices. Struggles to control labor and household granaries intensify as men and women increasingly abandon farming for entrepreneurial activities on the goldfields. This dissertation draws on ethnographic and historic research among farmers, miners, state agents and entrepreneurs to analyze how tensions to produce gold or grain impact competition over labor, natural resources and Kedougou’s economic future. With the state threatening to close artisanal mines unless residents ‘return to the fields’, I ask: How do mining activities influence the region’s foodways? What are the political implications of a mineral boom unfolding in a region long marginalized by state developmental strategies? By addressing these questions, this project probes the future of food and farm on West Africa's mining frontiers.
Jeremy Aaron Dell
University of Pennsylvania, History
Preserving Tradition: Archival Experience in the Western Sahel
[ project summary ]
This project explores the history of reading and writing in the Western Sahel through an historical ethnography of public archives and private libraries in Senegal, Mali and Guinea-Conakry. Beginning with late-19th century manuscript collecting efforts by French colonial administrators, it examines how archivists and Islamic scholars throughout the 20th century have discursively constructed a West African intellectual tradition by physically constructing archives of handwritten Arabic manuscripts. How have these various actors reconciled the seemingly disparate goals of establishing West Africa's regional specificity while acknowledging its membership in the putatively global community of Islam? More concretely, how have they actually gone about assembling a manuscript corpus? By following the passage of manuscripts from private homes to public archives, this project traces the shifting status of textually authorized forms of knowledge in the Western Sahel. Through its attention to archive formation, it examines how a host of readers—scholars and laypeople, Qur'anic school teachers and students, manuscript prospectors and library owners—have engaged with the substantive contents of texts as well as their ritual, aural and material aspects. In seeking to explain how the idea of a locally constructed Islamic textual tradition came to hold special importance in the Western Sahel, it also attempts to reconstruct debates over political and religious authority and appreciate the range of religious practices and political futures that have been envisioned in the region. More broadly, it challenges the tendency to equate African intellectual history with the history of African writing in European languages in order to highlight a ubiquitous but often overlooked dimension of intellectual life on the African continent.
Rosanna Dent
University of Pennsylvania, History and Sociology of Science
Interdisciplinary Indigeneity: The Xavánte and the Human Sciences, 1962-2012
[ project summary ]
Indigenous bodies, relationships, and communities have long been considered valuable sites of research by scholars in the human sciences. In this project, I examine the history of research on the Xavánte, a Brazilian indigenous population that, since the 1960s, has endured repeated interaction with a variety of researchers. Scholars visited, measured, and sampled the Xavánte, viewing them as saturated with scientific data that required urgent documentation in the face of their imagined impending cultural extinction. Inquiring into the highly interdisciplinary research agenda of the geneticists, cultural anthropologists, physical anthropologists and others who have studied the Xavánte, my work aims to elucidate questions of research practice, interpretation, and sociability across disciplines. By bringing the history of the biological and social sciences into conversation with a rich historiography of indigeneity and ethno-racial identity in Brazil, this project will inform understandings of the role of the human sciences in producing knowledge about "the indigenous", and the subsequent mobilization of this knowledge to diverse political and social ends. It will contribute to the nascent history of science for the second half of the 20th century in Brazil. Finally, using oral history and both formal and multimedia archives, this project seeks to understand how the Xavánte have experienced, participated in, and resisted their positioning as a privileged source of knowledge for cross-disciplinary study.
Samuel R. Dolbee
New York University, History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies
Infrastructure and Illness in the Modern Middle East
[ project summary ]
By unearthing the environmental history of development and disease in the peripheral triangle of territory between Aleppo, Mosul, and Baghdad between 1858 and 1939, my project explores the connections between infrastructure and illness, between humans and non-human nature, and between the Ottoman and post-Ottoman world. The work follows bureaucrats and beasts of burden, railroads and rinderpest, and peasants and Pasteur-Institute-trained scientists to tell a synthetic story of the integration and disintegration of this space under Ottoman imperial, Turkish and Iraqi republican, and British and French colonial authorities, illuminating continuities obscured in the limited temporal scope and spatial scale of historical accounts bounded by particular political regimes or state-defined spaces. Beginning with Ottoman modernization efforts in the mid-nineteenth century, the project explores how roads and rails created a unified space between and around these three cities, and how epidemics illuminated this degree of cohesiveness. Additionally, I follow how health interventions underpinned by new understandings of disease based on germs enabled innovative interventions into the lives of humans, plants, and animals. Finally, I explore how various political regimes coped with these transportation networks and disease ecologies after the post-World War I dismemberment of the Ottoman domains. Based on archival research and powerful mapping tools like GIS, the product promises to illuminate the shared legacy of integration and disintegration in a broad swath of the Middle East now divided among different nation-states, bridging accounts of the late-Ottoman and interwar Middle East while also speaking to the developing field of the environmental history of disease. The project ultimately aims to highlight the unexpected connections forged in the process of modern states' attempts to simplify space, as well as the limits of these interventions.
Kathryn A. Dooley
Harvard University, History
Consumption as a Tool of Self-Fashioning and Sociability in Post-War Soviet Central Asia, 1945-1985
[ project summary ]
I plan to conduct research in the national libraries and archives of Tashkent, Bishkek, and Moscow from September 2013 to August 2014 in order to investigate how the consumer culture that arose in postwar Soviet Central Asia created new opportunities for self-definition, reshaped social relationships, and drove cultural change in the region. Drawing on a combination of Soviet archival sources, articles and images from the local-language Soviet press, and collections of personal documents, I will examine how Central Asians utilized the consumer goods available through the Soviet planned economy to "perform" both new and old cultural affiliations and social distinctions. Ultimately, I will argue that the expanded sphere of consumer choice that arose in Central Asia from 1945 to 1985 became one of the primary engines of cultural change in the region. However, the direction of this change was not determined by Soviet ideology or external homogenizing pressures, but instead by the ways that Central Asians incorporated the new kinds of consumer goods on offer into their own self-presentations, social contests, and cultural disputes. By engaging with cross-disciplinary theoretical literature on consumerism and globalization, my dissertation will both offer fresh insights into the interaction between local social dynamics and sweeping cultural change in the field of Soviet Central Asian history and present scholars across disciplines interested in cultural change with a case study in a profound but voluntary and piecemeal cultural transformation of a historically Islamic society.
Ryan C. Edwards
Cornell University, History
An Ecology of Exile: Earth and Elsewhere in Argentina's Ushuaia Penal Colony (1860-1960)
[ project summary ]
My dissertation constructs an ecological history of Patagonia, one that is attentive to both environmental and social systems and scales. Patagonia has piqued popular imaginations since the 1525 publication of The Voyage of Magellan, and for nearly five hundred years, travelers from Darwin to Chatwin have traversed this mythic region. While their biographies and missions vary significantly, these traveler accounts have been reduced to a shared lexicon, rendering the region as empty and windswept. Ushuaia, the region's southernmost city, is marketed to tourists today as the "the end of the world," while Patagonia has become the quintessential "landscape of the imagination," a boundless region frozen in time. To complicate these narratives and re-imagine Patagonia, I focus on the Ushuaia Penal Colony in Tierra del Fuego. The prison operated from 1902 to 1947, though my project focuses more broadly from 1868 when a Patagonian penal colony was proposed in the senate, to 1960 when a national park was constructed adjacent to the then defunct prison. By investigating the social world of the penal colony and the complex infrastructure that sustained its operation, my project analyzes how Patagonia's southern terminus has been historically linked to and co-productive of state institutions, modern technologies, international economies, and ecological transformation. I examine journalist accounts, prison personnel correspondence, and local businesses and newspapers, but most importantly, I engage the writings of prisoners exiled to Ushuaia. These sources provide alternative understandings of the region and reveal a complex history that continues to be a footnote in Argentine historiographies. Unlike travelers who sought and continue to seek a Patagonian landscape prefigured by preexisting narratives, prisoners were forcibly sent there and assumed that exile would be their death. My project constructs a social and environmental history of Patagonia through their "exiled eyes."
Madeleine Elfenbein
University of Chicago, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Locating 19th-Century Ottomanism in the Global History of Ideas
[ project summary ]
In the 1860s and 1870s, Ottoman intellectual life underwent a dramatic change as the first independent journals appeared in Istanbul. Their authors, the Young Ottomans, represented the first coherent group of dissident intellectuals the empire had ever seen. While initially casting themselves as the Ottoman wing of a broad European movement for liberal reforms, their writings soon revealed a far more ambitious set of aims: to push for a radical overhaul of Ottoman state and society while preserving and defending the legitimacy of Ottoman sovereignty within both European and Islamic discourses. This broad and perhaps paradoxical mandate yielded one of the most complex and interesting intellectual movements of the 19th century, yet it remains among the least studied and understood. My project seeks to fill this lacuna with a year of archival research to recover the broader intellectual context out of which the Young Ottoman movement arose, and to which it belongs. Drawing on abundant yet underutilized state records held in French and Turkish archives, as well as journals, private papers, and library records, my project aims to use these documents to reconstruct the transregional and transnational networks that gave shape and meaning to the Young Ottoman project. My research will seek to identify their interlocutors in Europe, the Arab world, and beyond, and to use these connections to situate the Young Ottomans in the various currents of political and social thought in the late 19th century. A further aim of my project will be to explore the relationship of the Young Ottoman movement to the state bureaucracy out of which they emerged. My research aim to present a fuller picture of the Young Ottomans in their various guises as bureaucrats, dissidents, exiles, and informal agents of the state, and through this inquiry to shed light on how their thought was subverted by the state it sought to transform.
Caitlin Rose Fox-Hodess
University of California, Berkeley, Sociology
Dockworkers of the World Unite: Transnational Class Formation and the New Labor Internationalism
[ project summary ]
My project uses multi-sited interview and archival research to study the relationship between global union federations and transnational working-class formation through an examination of federations' efforts to organize complementary solidarity education and action among dockworkers' unions in the United States, the Southern Cone and Europe. While a large body of literature has examined class formation at the national level, very little research has been done on transnational working-class formation. This lack of research is surprising given the growing interest among social scientists, movement practitioners and policy makers in understanding the effects of economic globalization on workers. While the globalization of capital has arguably led to many adverse consequences for organized labor, it may also present an opportunity for new forms of transnational organization that could facilitate improved outcomes for workers. I examine these possibilities through a comparative case study of two international federations of dockworkers' unions, the International Transportation Workers Federation and the International Dockworkers' Council. Dockworkers play a crucial role in the flow of commodities in the global economy, and the nature of their work requires a significant degree of international coordination, making them excellent candidates for a study of labor federations and transnational class organization. The comparative dimension of my study allows me to examine the effects of organizational form, federation politics, alliance structures and national contexts on transnational class formation among dockworkers through nested comparisons in three global regions. My project thus sits at the intersection of political sociology, labor sociology, comparative historical sociology, the sociology of globalization and labor history, and promises to yield important insights into processes of transnational class formation and labor standards in the global economy.
Anne Gillman
Johns Hopkins University, Political Science
Shifting Margins in Brazil: State-Society Interactions in the Cultural Sphere
[ project summary ]
State-society relations take on distinct forms "at the margins," understood not only as a spatial border, but also as a social border by which subnational communities are hierarchized and excluded. This project examines the ways that such margins can shift in the context of cultural policy. Specifically, it examines this process as it occurs within the Brazilian Pontos de Cultura program, a state-sponsored initiative that for the past decade has supported diverse artistic activities in marginalized communities throughout the country. As remarkable as the program's innovative mission of "bottom up" cultural development is its painfully bureaucratic mode of implementation, generating tensions that state managers and marginalized artists negotiate together. What distinct forms of state-society interactions are emerging in the context of the Pontos de Cultura Program? How are state managers and artists negotiating the contradictions between the bureaucratic order of the state and the creative agency involved in cultural production, and how might such interactions change the practices or perceptions of those involved? What kinds of narratives is the program generating, and how do they impact the ideational marginalization of particular populations? To address these questions, the project relies on interviews with state officials and artists, observations of program activities, review of materials produced about the program, and analysis of the program's cultural outputs. It builds on a small but insightful political science literature which has helped highlight the role cultural forms play in political action and the broader systems of meaning within which power struggles occur, but which has tended to presume an oppositional relationship between state and society. This work explores the space culture creates for more collaborative encounters between state and marginalized actors, in which relationships of authority are altered and room for creative agency is expanded.
Stephanie Glickman
Northwestern University, Art History/Architecture
For Profit and Power: The Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the Art of Trade, c. 1600-50
[ project summary ]
My dissertation will offer the first comprehensive study of paintings, prints, and other cultural artefacts that were commissioned and collected in the early seventeenth century by Holland's most prominent tradesmen: officers of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Across genres as diverse as cartography, seascape, still-life, and elaborate public ceremony, I aim to trace what I call "VOC aesthetic prerogatives" in the Company's corporate self-representation. In four chapters, I will examine officers' collections, the decoration of Amsterdam's Dutch East India House, Company-mediated cultural encounters, and contemporary aesthetic and economic valuations of tactics of visual immediacy in art production, in order to offer insight into the role that projective images of economic prosperity played in the formation of Dutch entrepreneurial spirit, Company legitimacy, and national identity. I propose that the VOC's cultural production communicated the VOC's programmatic interests positively and positioned viewers as virtual participants in its projects of overseas expansion. My cross-genre approach will illuminate an abiding concern of VOC patronage: the crafting of appearances of control and ownership of the spatio-temporal axes of the East, which we might characterize as the "optics of possession." Drawing on scholarship that has posited still-life painting as an early form of capitalist commodity fetishism, I demonstrate how maps adorning the "geopolitical theaters" of VOC boardrooms and seascapes displayed in officers' private residences likewise figured as extensions or fantasies of ownership. The critical theory and terminology of encounter studies in the fields of anthropology and literary theory also inform my interpretation of the ways in which diverse representational strategies glorified Company gains, distanced grim realities of life "on the ground," and fostered notions of the Eastern Other and of nationhood in the collective Dutch imagination.
Ian Goldstein
University of California, Berkeley, Music
The Poesis of Musical Remembering: Andalusian Resonances in Contemporary Spain and Morocco
[ project summary ]
This ethnography explores contemporary, intercultural musicmaking practices of Moroccan musicians living in Granada, Spain and the Tangier-Tetouan region of northern Morocco, alongside those of their Spanish collaborators. Steeped in historic Arabo-Andalusi genres that connect Spain and Morocco, yet musically innovative, how might we consider their efforts as a poesis of musical remembering, a creative deployment of the past in the present? Given the divergent backgrounds of the practitioners, what knowledges, skills, and sensibilities do they require, sustain, and transmit? Finally, what is produced or mobilized—and what effaced—socially, culturally, and politically, in the sonic wake of these spatio-temporal encounters? What does it mean, in essence, to remember musically? These questions are addressed through the framework of three overlapping modalities of memory—socio-cultural, interpersonal, and embodied-sensory. Through this research I aim to develop a multifaceted theoretical conception of the cultural work of remembering. Remembering in this view constitutes a problematic, both an ethnographically observable tension between creative agencies and social obligations, as well as a multiform analytic. As a flexible theoretical paradigm, remembering thus provides an opening through which to link material and phenomenological approaches within anthropology of the senses, ideas about the centrality of the body in philosophy of mind, questions about musical knowledge and skill in ethnomusicology, and concepts of performativity in poetic and narrative discourse as taken up by linguistic and cultural anthropology.
Carlos A. Gomez Florentin
State University of New York at Stony Brook, History
Transnationalizing the Dam: The Unanticipated Consequences of the Itaipu Dam in the Making of the Upper Paraná Region (1957-1992)
[ project summary ]
My dissertation centers on the story of the connections between the largest developmental megaproject of the western hemisphere – the building of the Itaipú Dam in the late twentieth century – and its unintended effects in the making of a new transnational region: the Upper Paraná in the borderlands of Brazil and Paraguay. As an interdisciplinary environmental historian I draw on classic social theory in conjunction with environmental and development studies to explain the impact of the Itaipú Dam. I address two major conceptual questions. First, I explain a crucial developmental experience in the Southern Cone through the lens of the theory of the unanticipated consequences of social action. Secondly, I seek to grasp the role of megaprojects in the making of transnational regions through its most sensitive political, social and environmental effects. The scholarship on the Itaipú Dam has focused on the intended effects of the dam: energy, development, modernization, state-building, and environmental costs. However, I argue that the most significant effects of the construction of the Itaipú Dam were unanticipated: informal modernization; unplanned urbanization; the unexpected effects of scientific management of the environment; and the rise of unruly borderlands. I pursue five lines of research: modernization; urbanization; environmental history; transnational studies; and democratization. My research method is multidisciplinary and combines archival work with interviews in United States, Brazil and Paraguay. The time period of this study spans three and a half decades from the foundation of the border town of Ciudad del Este in 1957 to the creation of MERCOSUR (the Southern Common Market) in 1992, a year after the completion of the Itaipú Dam. The region under study cuts approximately ninety-thousands square miles across the Brazilian border state of Parana, and the Paraguayan border states of Alto Paraná, and Canendiyú, all connected by the Paraná River waters.
Timothy Michael Gorman
Cornell University, Development Sociology
The Social Nature of Salt: Understanding Salinization in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta
[ project summary ]
In the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam, salt water has long been considered a threat to development and a constraint to agriculture. Consequently, a line of anti-salinity defenses – from dikes to dams to giant sluice gates – has been built up over time to keep the tides at bay and protect rice-growing farmland from saline intrusion. In recent years, however, these defenses have been challenged both from the outside – by global sea level rise – and from within – by those seeking to switch from rice agriculture to saltwater shrimp aquaculture for international export markets. Over the last decade, dikes have been demolished, irrigation canals re-purposed for shrimp aquaculture, and massive sluice gates opened to allow the unimpeded flow of saline water into once-protected farmland. While much attention has been paid to sea level rise as an external driver of environmental change in the Mekong Delta and in Vietnam more broadly, this research project looks instead at the situated, social, and contested nature of salinization. To do so, I employ a mixed-methods approach – drawing upon geo-spatial analysis, participatory mapping, surveys, ethnographic observation, and key informant interviews – to explore how salinization is produced through society-nature relations, how it simultaneously works through and reshapes access to resources and the distribution of productive assets, and how it is contested politically at multiple scales. By working from within a case study of the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang, I will argue that the ongoing process of salinization provides a window onto changes in human-nature interactions and technologies of water control, shifting social relations of property, and competing visions of development and resource governance in Vietnam.
Aubrey P. Graham
Emory University, Anthropology
Implicated Images: Photography, Aid and Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
[ project summary ]
International aid agencies number more than 25,000 worldwide, increasingly acting and photographically documenting their work in conflict zones. Their striking imagery often portrays both individual victims and aid-helped survivors. Research addressing these images notes their ability to evoke Western compassion as well as to unwittingly heighten conflict in the regions they depict. Despite the dramatic and potentially deadly effects of humanitarian images, how such photographs become loaded with local meaning in communities where they are made, intersect regional systems of representation, and articulate the nuanced social identities carried therein, remains poorly understood. This project addresses this gap by analyzing the connections and contrasts between humanitarian and local visual culture and practice in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – the site of both the deadliest conflict since WWII and one of the world's largest humanitarian efforts. While history, politics, resources, and economics motivate the conflict, combatants target civilians for their social identities, including politicized ethnic differences and categories of belonging, which are often marked or interpreted visually. Employing participant observation, structured and unstructured interviews, and a novel combination of photographic methods, this project addresses the processes of local and humanitarian image creation and interpretation. Balancing local and aid agency perspectives through the comparison of local visual culture (photography by Congolese for their own use and enjoyment) and humanitarian visual culture (photographs created by both Congolese and Westerners for aid agencies) this project examines how humanitarian photographic practices and processes shape social identities and impact local and international relationships, power dynamics, notions of belonging, and ultimately, the ongoing violence in the eastern DRC.
Maron Greenleaf
Stanford University, Anthropology
Making More Than a Market: Carbon Credits and Distributive Politics in Acre, Brazil
[ project summary ]
The carbon stored in forests has new monetary value, created in the effort to mitigate climate change. The Brazilian state of Acre—renowned for its social movement against deforestation and related social dislocation—is developing what is considered the world's most advanced effort to activate this value. There, environmentalists in the state government and their partners are creating 'carbon credits': commodities representing carbon emissions avoided by reducing the state's projected deforestation rate, which are sold to outside polluters. They want to distribute revenues from these sales as forest protection 'incentives' to support rural producers, who are celebrated as central to Acre's forest-based identity. This project investigates how the production of these 'credits' might reshape the distributive practices of the Acriano state and its partners and, simultaneously, configure both credit developers and 'beneficiaries' as political subjects. I seek to reveal the political practices that marketizing carbon emissions may engender, such as claims for carbon ownership or compensation for forgoing deforestation. I ask: 1) what visions and rationales do officials and their private partners employ to produce credits? 2) how does credit production impact distributive practices of the Acriano state and its partners? and 3) how does credit production shape political practices, identities, and associations? Through ethnographic research with officials, project developers, and credit 'beneficiaries,' this project aims to investigate whether and how, contrary to conventional expectations, the marketization of carbon buttresses social welfare programs and redistributive politics in Acre, Brazil.
Zoe Griffith
Brown University, History
Cities of the Nile, Cities of the Sea: Ottoman Egyptian Ports in the Long-18th Century.
[ project summary ]
In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte launched an ill-fated and short-lived invasion of the Ottoman province of Egypt in order to secure French access to grain in the Mediterranean. Napoleon's campaign reveals an untold story of regional political economy linking the Ottoman state in Istanbul to Egyptian cultivators in the Nile Delta and French consumers across the way. Semi-autonomous military rulers in Egypt imposed monopolies on valuable agricultural commodities after 1760, fundamentally altering the terms of imperial taxation and regional trade. My dissertation analyzes these developments in the context of an interregional political economy based on the production, movement, and exchange of Egyptian agricultural commodities in the long-18th century. Taking the movement of Egyptian cash crops––rice, grain, and sugar––as a lens, I explore the activities of intermediary groups of merchants, brokers, and ship captains in the Egyptian port cities of Rosetta and Damietta in linking provincial agriculture into the geopolitics of imperial consumption. Ottoman responses to challenges of imperial provisioning recast our understanding of underlying developments––administrative reforms and commercialization in the eastern Mediterranean––that are typically ascribed to European military and commercial penetration of the Middle East. By focusing on the internal dynamics of the Ottoman economy in the Mediterranean, my project situates the Ottoman Empire within global developments in early modernity: commercial agriculture and the entry of non-elite groups into the political realm. Triangulating from a wide-array of little-used sources including court records, imperial orders and shipping registers, chronicles and travel literature, and consular reports in Arabic, Ottoman Turkish and French, I analyze challenges faced by Ottoman bureaucrats and the ability of local merchants, brokers, and ship captains to leverage their access to agricultural produce into political capital in Istanbul.
Leslie Hirst Hempson
University of Michigan, History
The Social Fabric of Khadi: Experiments in Industry in Twentieth-Century India
[ project summary ]
Khadi, or handspun, handwoven cloth, is perhaps the most well known of all Indian material artifacts, having served as the unofficial uniform of the Indian nationalist movement. However, it also played a vital economic role, for it lay at the center of Mohandas Gandhi's alternative vision of the Indian economy. This alternative vision called for a shift in the prevailing mode of economic development toward one that was more equitable and sustainable, concerned above all with the empowerment of individual artisans. In these and other respects, Gandhi's vision of the economy diverged sharply from the one subscribed to by many of his contemporaries: that of a territorially bounded national economy governed by the directives of a developmental state. Still, despite the potentially transformative nature of Gandhi's vision, historians have mostly overlooked his contributions to Indian economic life on the grounds that his economic program was never realized. My examination of khadi will demonstrate that this was not true, however, and that Gandhi was the founder of an alternative vision of the Indian economy and an alternative form of economic practice. In doing so, it will draw our attention to a site of economic activity that exercised considerable influence over many Indians' experience of everyday economic life in the past and continues to have relevance to this day. My project will investigate the political economy of khadi production in North India between 1910 and 1960. It will do so not from the perspective of Gandhi alone, however, for he exerted only partial control over khadi's development. Instead, it will examine the material emphases of the program surrounding khadi— the development of new technologies and financial instruments, the construction of technical schools and markets—in an effort to map the changing contours of an alternative realm of economic practice that has left an indelible imprint on many aspects of Indian society and economy.
Colin Brewster Hoag
University of California, Santa Cruz, Anthropology
Inundation Nation: Water, Land, and Power in the Lesotho Highlands
[ project summary ]
The Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) is a multi-billion dollar effort to transfer water from the mountains of Lesotho to Johannesburg, South Africa. Faced with few other economic opportunities, the Lesotho government has placed water export at the center of its development strategy. State officials suggest that "white gold" can free Lesotho from dependence upon other nation-states, although many people in Lesotho suggest that revenues generated from the LHWP benefit an urban elite and not ordinary people. The opportunity to exploit this economic potential has brought water under new kinds of national scrutiny, calling into question who owns it, and what kinds of properties and capabilities it has. One particularly important arena of scrutiny is that of soil conservation efforts, where my ethnographic study is centered. Acute soil erosion threatens to reduce the capacity of Lesotho's reservoirs and compromise project infrastructure, leading the LHWP to implement erosion control programs collectively known as Integrated Catchment Management (ICM). ICM places the blame for soil erosion mostly on common land tenure, proposing to shift land management authority from chiefs to exclusive "grazing associations" controlled by commoners and state officials. Rates and causes of soil erosion are notoriously difficult to measure, however, and ultimately hinge on ideas about how water interacts with soil, and how these interactions are shaped by the practices of herders. This dissertation project investigates these empirically informed debates about water's behaviors and capabilities, and what new forms of association and resistance are emerging from such debates. Through twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork with ICM fieldworkers and ordinary people in the Lesotho highlands where ICM is being implemented, I ask: What are the socio-political implications of changing ideas and practices surrounding water in Lesotho?
Lauren Honig
Cornell University, Government
Building the State Plot by Plot: The Role of Customary Authority in Consolidating State Power
[ project summary ]
As global and domestic demand for agricultural land rises across Africa, so do the stakes of the struggle for control of land between states and customary authorities (CAs). While chiefs, kings, Islamic marabouts, and other customary authorities maintain a great deal of power over the allocation of rural land, the rapid increase in large-scale land deals is shifting control over land from customary authority to the state. In response to increased interest in customary land, some CAs comply with state requests for land while others challenge the state and claim the right to control community resources. My project seeks to explain the variation in the resistance and consent of CAs when states attempt to consolidate their authority over land. This research explores the agency of CAs in building the state through a study of three forms of customary authority, in Western Senegal, Eastern Senegal, and Central Zambia. I focus on the internal accountability mechanisms that constrain some CAs from acting independently of their constituencies and hypothesize that given the same state incentives, CAs with internal institutional constraints will be more likely to resist ceding land to the state. Within each of the three sites, I will develop a spatial dataset and analyze patterns in the spatial relationship between recent land developments, the location of CAs, and key characteristics of the CAs. Next, I hone in on the role of internal institutional constraints through comparison of one pair per site of most-similar cases of CAs that responded differently to state attempts to convert large tracts of customary land. By implementing paired case comparisons and spatial analysis in three regions of two different African countries, I will test my hypotheses and identify patterns of resistance and compliance to the state-building process across varied configurations of state and customary authority.
Salman Hussain
City University of New York Graduate Center, Anthropology
The Hijras, the 'Missing,' and Human Rights: Legal and Political Mobilization in the 'Lawyers' Movement for the Restoration of Judiciary' in Pakistan (2007-2009)
[ project summary ]
This project examines how the 'Lawyers' Movement for the Restoration of Judiciary' in Pakistan facilitated new possibilities for law and the juridical apparatus. How did the mobilization of lawyers make possible the use of law as an instrument and court as a site for correcting political, social and economic wrongs for the socially and politically marginalized? The language of (providing) justice, (fighting) corruption, and (establishing) rule of law emerged as the central mobilizing trope in the 'Lawyers' Movement'. However, after the movement consolidated, these tropes became central to the public discourse on law and criminality, and they now serve as prescriptive devices to call attention to and resolve most social, political and economic problems in Pakistan. As a result, socially and politically marginalized groups, such as the hijras (transgender performers), have petitioned the higher courts for protection of their human rights. Hijras were awarded voting rights by the Supreme Court in 2009. As the liberal, rights-oriented language emerged as the central mobilizing trope of the 'Lawyers' Movement', my research question is: how, and in what ways, did this particular way of framing social and political wrongs by lawyers involved in the Movement produce the desire for the socially and politically marginalized (the hijras and the claimants for the 'missing,' respectively) to demand civil and human rights from the courts? Along with examining the judicial archive of the hijra case and conducting interviews with hijras and their counsel, my research will consist of collecting oral-histories and conducting interviews with the lawyers who were active in the movement and direct-observation of a supreme court case to do with the human rights violation of the 'missing persons,'suspected members of various separatist and militant groups who are claimed to be in Pakistan's intelligence agencies' extra-judicial custody in their domestic 'war on terror.'
Ahmed Ali Ibrahim
City University of New York Graduate Center, Anthropology
Authoritative Scriptural Interpreters: An Anthropology of Islam
[ project summary ]
Shortly after the collapse of the central government in Somalia in 1990, there began to sprout up clan-based Islamic or Shari'a courts in southern Somalia. The courts began a process of centralization which culminated in the formation of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in 2004. By 2006 the ICU was in control of all of southern and central Somalia. An Ethiopian invasion of the country in December 2006 resulted in the disintegration of the ICU as a governing entity and a unified political movement. The Shari'a courts did not only represent different clans and sub-clans but also distinct schools of thought and theological positions within Islam in Somali society. This project will approach the emergence of the courts and their unification as an entry point to conduct a historical and ethnographic study of how local Islamic practice and orthodoxy is established. It will do so by focusing on the role and position of authoritative scriptural interpreters in the formation of the Shari'a courts and in today's Somali society. How do kinship and politico-economic conditions influence who and how scriptures are interpreted, understood, and lived? This project will provide the first in-depth and explicitly theoretical attempt to understand how local cultural and political factors interact with foundational Islamic scriptures in the establishment of local Islamic practice and orthodoxy. In so doing this project will engage with and contribute to the general literature on political Islam and specifically the anthropological debate on how to conceptualize in a single analytical framework the relationship between Islam as a universal religion and the diversity of specific local Islamic practices.
Elizabeth Ettenger Imber
Johns Hopkins University, History
Jewish Political Lives at the End of Empire: Zionism, Nationalism, and British Imperialism in India, South Africa, and Palestine, 1917-1948
[ project summary ]
My dissertation explores Jewish "political thinking" in the British Empire from 1917 until the 1948 founding of the State of Israel, focusing specifically on three different groups of Jewish leaders in India, South Africa, and Palestine. By Jewish "political thinking," I mean the frameworks by which Jewish leaders in the British Empire understood and acted out their political loyalties, sense of national belonging, and visions of political futures shaped by British imperialism, Zionism, and local, non-Jewish nationalisms. I examine Jewish political thinking through the lens of four issues central to Jewish life in the empire during this period: colonial systems of racial classification and their impact on Jewish citizenship and electoral categorization; Jewish relationships to non-Jewish locals, particularly in relation to nation-building projects; Jewish relations with British colonial authorities; and finally Jewish attitudes towards Zionism, British imperialism, and other non-Jewish local nationalisms. The three groups of Jewish leaders in my dissertation—Baghdadi Jewish leaders in India; Anglo- and Lithuanian Jewish leaders in South Africa; and the Zionist leadership in British Palestine—reflect a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds, cultural and religious practices, politics, and socio-economic statuses among the heterogeneous Jewish communities living throughout the empire. Despite their varied backgrounds, these Jewish leaders all served as intermediaries between the Jewish community and British colonial authorities, while simultaneously confronting Jewish nationalist ideals. An examination of their political thinking can illuminate the nexus between Jewish politics and British imperialism in the age of nationalism. Based on extensive archival research, this dissertation will use a broad range of sources including parliamentary debates, memorials, diaries, travelogues, personal correspondence, minutes, reports, sermons, lectures, and newspapers.
Milos Jovanovic
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, History
Order Come Into Being: Urban Life in Belgrade and Sofia during the Long Nineteenth Century
[ project summary ]
My dissertation examines the reconfiguration of urban order in Belgrade and Sofia from the mid-nineteenth century to the eve of the Balkan Wars. I examine varied urban practices and spatial forms, from city planning to prostitution, taverns to prisons, in order to sketch out a set of processes which characterized the functioning of the modern (Balkan) city. Through a comparative approach that stresses the transnational nature of urban transformation in the post-Ottoman period, I look at the "Westernization" of the cityscape, the adoption of anthropometric measures against criminals, and the employment of public health to manage populations. I find these to be mutually-constitutive components that framed the experience of city life during the second half of the long nineteenth century. In the post-Ottoman processes of reconfiguration in Bulgaria and Serbia, Sofia and Belgrade became centers of a political ecology much larger than the imagined national space. The management of space and population, the basic tool of the modern state, was an urban set of skills, both cities a microcosm of state power. Likewise, it reformed old spaces of transgression, such as taverns, and engendered new subversive strategies - the wide-spread changing of identity, the proliferation of con-artists, swindlers, and cafe-chantant singers. By looking at the modernization of two Balkan cities, I argue that the global phenomenon of urbanism was more than the cumulative actions of hegemonic, Westernized elites pretending towards imagined national or bourgeois cultures. Rather, it was constituted precisely through the tensions of their relationship with various marginalized groups, a continuous production of a new, distinctly urban world.
Sumayya Kassamali
Columbia University, Anthropology
Death is Everywhere: War and Mourning in Najaf and Karbala
[ project summary ]
This project seeks to map the relationship between a set of religious beliefs and practices surrounding death, and the experience of war. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the rise to power of the country's long-repressed Shi'i majority, the southern Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala have been thrust into global spotlight as the religious centers of the ruling establishment. These war-torn cities are home to the tombs of 'Ali and Husayn, the foundational figures of Shi'i Islam, and attract millions of visitors culminating in the annual re-enactment of the 7th century martyrdom of Husayn on the battlefields of Karbala. Yet in recent decades, these ancient religious centers of pilgrimage and ritualized mourning have also become sites of combat fighting, armed insurgency, and targeted sectarian attack. How do followers of a tradition organized around the remembrance of a sanctified dead, confront war – that which places death at the forefront of social relations? Through thirteen months of fieldwork in Najaf and Karbala, I intend to map the relationship between religious doctrines of death and everyday practice, forms of private grief versus public mourning, and the different ways local deaths are narrated in popular discourse. My project builds on a longstanding social-scientific interest in how societies experience collective tragedy and intimate loss, bringing accounts of contemporary Iraq into conversation with anthropological analyses of death and Islam. In doing so, I extend ethnographic attention to a location that remains both vastly understudied in the literature of the region, and politically potent.
John Michael Kennedy
Columbia University, Anthropology
Coming of Age in Palestine: Childhood and Youth between Two Generations
[ project summary ]
The mass mobilization of young people – known colloquially as "children of the stones" – in the first Intifada generation gave rise to intense debates in Palestinian society and the international community about the exposure of children and youth to political violence within the context of national liberation. Since the Oslo state building process and the second Intifada, these debates continue amidst the establishment of institutions within the Palestinian Authority (PA) and a flourishing of international humanitarian and development projects that have shaped children and youth as populations with particular rights and needs, requiring new modes of governance. How do historical events marked by violence (i.e. the two Palestinian uprisings) serve to complicate the very distinctions between "childhood," a category of social and political immaturity, and "youth", a period of nascent political subjectivity? How do fluctuating classifications of age – normatively marked with words like child, youth, adult, and generation – (re)structure relations of power? My project will investigate how categories of childhood and youth are differently constructed and mobilized for the first Intifada generation and the current Aqsa (or second Intifada) generation, by both Palestinian and international actors. As the first full-length ethnographic study to draw attention to Palestinian children and youth as political subjects, this research will speak to the role of state and non-state practices of age classifications, and the forms of political participation and social formation that such practices make possible.
Ashish Koul
Vanderbilt University, History
Political Families and Familial Politics: Family, Gender and Politics in Punjab, 1880s-1950s
[ project summary ]
This project will re-conceptualize early twentieth century politics in colonial Punjab by analyzing the role of family networks in enabling Muslim women's political participation in this period. Using family as a category of historical and critical analysis, my research will focus on politicians belonging to the professional, middle-class Mian family of Baghbanpura, near Lahore, especially Mian Muhammad Shafi (1869-1932) and his daughter, Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz (1896-1979). First, I will reconstruct their lives and careers, reform-minded promotion of Muslim women's education, and political choices. Second, I will contextualize their actions in the socio-political landscape of late nineteenth-early twentieth century Punjab to develop a narrative encompassing Muslim social reform and Muslim politics – issues that have hitherto been examined in disparate historiographies. I will develop this narrative by combining a critical social history approach to government records with literary close readings of Muslim women's memoirs and other writings. By adopting this family centered, integrated approach, my project will illuminate the historical connections between practitioners of social reform and political actors in Punjabi Muslim society of this period. In light of Shafi and Shahnawaz's experiences as well-known reformers and eminent politicians, this project will then investigate how these forces allowed Punjabi Muslim women to embark on political careers and succeed in public office. My attention to Punjabi Muslims' practice of reform, and Punjabi Muslim women's techniques for doing politics can shed light on late twentieth century emergence of political families – like Bhuttos and Nehrus in Pakistan and India respectively – and the rise of prominent women politicians – such as Benazir Bhutto and Indira Gandhi – in the subcontinent, despite the persistence of gender discriminatory societal paradigms that inhibit most South Asian women's lives.
Seung Cheol Lee
Columbia University, Anthropology
Financialized Ethics: Governing Individual Bankruptcy in South Korea
Stephanie Mc Callum
University of California, Santa Cruz, Anthropology
The Veins of the Nation: Progress and Decay in Argentina's Railroad System
[ project summary ]
Argentina has the largest railroad system in Latin America, currently encompassing 34,000 kilometers of tracks (nearly nine times the length of the country). The history of trains in Argentina is intimately tied to state-making efforts to pacify and "whiten" the nation, and to different historical moments of progress and decay. Trains occupy a central place in national imaginaries and are seen as the "veins of the nation", connecting people and bringing life to out-of-the-way places. Today, dilapidated trains continue to be used by a large proportion of urban and suburban dwellers for commuting purposes, resulting in all-too-frequent accidents. In some parts of the country, trains have stopped running altogether, leading to accusations of "ferricide", the killing of the national railroad system. Yet trains are also being recast by politicians as machines that will propel Argentina into global modernity. Through multi-sited ethnographic research in the capital city of Buenos Aires and in the phantom town of Laguna Paiva, this project will show how trains are used to materialize and contest spatial and racial projects of nationhood. By engaging closely with the cartographies of progress and decay and with the social and material life of railroads, this project will show how, in the wake of economic crisis and political instability, everyday life in Argentina is being remade around trains.
Michelle McCoy
University of California, Berkeley, Art History/Architecture
Cultural Exchange and the Heavens in the Arts of Liao-Yuan China and Inner Asia
[ project summary ]
In pre-modern China, the heavens were understood as an active agent of fortune and misfortune, and a barometer of the court's moral rectitude. They were thus a major preoccupation among elites and a frequent subject of visual representation. This preoccupation underwent major changes between the collapse of the Tang dynasty (618-907) and the Mongol conquest of Eurasia in the thirteenth century, a period that saw the rise and fall of the Inner Asian "conquest dynasties" of the Khitan Liao (907-1125), Tangut Xi Xia (1078-1227), and Jurchen Jin (1115-1234) in addition to the Northern and Southern Song (960-1276) dynasties understood to be natively Chinese. The Song and Mongol-ruled Yuan (1276-1368) periods have been described as "the heyday of Chinese astronomy" for their technical advances in instrument production and calculations. Meanwhile, worship of astral deities became widespread across the cultures of China and its evolving northern frontier. These parallel developments involved a host of practices that spanned cultural strata, variously aimed at political and soteriological goals, and by states and private individuals alike. Correspondingly, the material evidence of these practices straddles the disciplines of art history, history, and the history of science, and unsettles modern conceptual distinctions between astronomy and astrology, science and superstition, and art and religion. Consisting of both received texts and objects transmitted through collectors, and objects that were scattered around the globe after being excavated in the early 20th century, these materials have yet to be addressed as a coherent body. In my dissertation, I hope to reintegrate these materials and reconstruct the context of their production. My foremost concerns are the aesthetic dimensions of premodern astronomy and the role of religious concepts in shaping how the cosmos was represented and understood.
Jeremy M. Mikecz
University of California, Davis, History
Andean Spaces and Indigenous Places in Early Colonial Peru: A Spatial History
[ project summary ]
How did indigenous experiences of the Spanish 'conquest' and colonization of Peru vary across space? While recently ethnohistorians and practitioners of the 'new conquest history' have shown that conquest was never complete nor absolute and that colonization was a negotiated process mediated through the prism of their own culture, the spatiality of conquest and colonization remains unexplored. To address this, my dissertation is a spatial history of early colonial Peru, examining particularly how indigenous people used space, distance, and environment to mediate their participation in Spanish colonial politics, economy, and society. In this effort, I will employ the tools of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to visualize the changing spatial practices of colonial-era Andeans. Since Andeans did not have their own writing tradition, I must rely on colonial records. However, when searching for evidence of indigenous autonomy and power, absences and anomalies in the colonial record can often be the most telling. By plotting out these absences, anomalies, and discrepancies over space and topography I intend to show just how incomplete was the Spanish conquest of Peru. Moreover, I intend to argue that indigenous people intentionally – if not consciously – adopted spatial practices meant to resist, counter, or create leverage against impositions of colonial power. My dissertation consists of three related parts: a spatial history of the conquest itself (Part 1), an examination of how indigenous spatial practices confounded Spanish efforts to control them (2), and finally, an analysis of the changing relationship between Andeans and their landscapes (3). Much of the research for the first part can be done using published sources, while the other two will require intensive archival research in Peru. The geographic scope of this research will focus on Cuzco and the much understudied region to its north, including Jauja, Junín, and Huánuco.
Max Mishler
New York University, History
Boundaries of Freedom: Abolition and Punishment in the Atlantic World
[ project summary ]
My dissertation considers the relationship between slave-emancipation and prison reform in the Anglophone-Atlantic world. In particular, I examine the rise of a trans-Atlantic reform community in England and British North America that began to simultaneously advocate for the penitentiary model of punishment and the abolition of slavery. I trace how these reform sensibilities evolved into state policies of emancipation and prison reform in the northeastern United States and the British Caribbean at the turn of the nineteenth century, paying attention to the role of new systems of incarceration in structuring post-emancipation society and the ways in which former slaves increasingly came to be subject to new punishment regimes that constrained the possibilities of legal freedom. I argue that the penitentiary served to enforce order in the context of slave-emancipation and the birth of liberal freedom, influencing subsequent emancipation projects in the French Caribbean, U.S. South, and Brazil and leaving a lasting legacy of black incarceration visible in contemporary mass incarceration.
Meghan L. Morris
University of Chicago, Anthropology
Relations of Dispossession: Property and Sovereignty in Colombia’s Land Restitution Program
[ project summary ]
This project examines the making of property, sovereignty, and legality through an ethnographic study of dispossession and restitution of land in Colombia. I will undertake this research through an ethnographic examination of Colombia's state-sponsored restitution program, which aims to restore and grant title to over six million hectares of land – approximately five percent of the country's territory – to people displaced and dispossessed in the country's ongoing armed conflict. In Colombia, about five million people are internally displaced – more than in any other country in the world. By following several restitution cases, I will examine how displaced claimants, opposing parties, armed actors, and state officials create and contest property rules in the processes of dispossession and restitution that are at issue in those cases. Understanding the property relations and rules involved in claims to dispossession and restitution, and how they are negotiated in these processes of contestation, becomes a crucial window into how sovereignty is made in the region, as the state, guerrilla and paramilitary groups, and local communities assert authority through control over land. These processes also provide insight into how notions of legality are created, as citizens and armed actors mobilize formal and informal rules in order to claim land. Through this research, I aim to bring into conversation and contribute to continuing debates within the humanistic social sciences around property and social relations, sovereignty, and law and legality.
Golnar Nikpour
Columbia University, Area and Cultural Studies
Prison Days: The History of Prison and Punishment in Iranian Modernity, 1896-1979
[ project summary ]
My dissertation offers a history of the modern Iranian prison from the late Qajar era of the late 19th century to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Starting from the truism that all modern Iranian intellectuals and movements have cut their political teeth within the four walls of Iran's penal institutions, my dissertation argues that the prison is a preeminent site from which Iranian political and public discourses have been articulated. Through an examination of state archives as well as political and literary texts, I argue that questions of citizenship, rights, criminality, embodiment, and martyrdom were all constituted in the shadow of the peculiar intimacy between the state and its prisoners.
Milad Odabaei
University of California, Berkeley, Anthropology
Giving Words: an Ethnography of Translation and History in Modern Iran
[ project summary ]
This project is an ethnographic, historical, and textual study of practices of reading, translation, and history-writing in post-revolutionary Iran, where "translation" has emerged as one of the central forms of intellectual production. Following a cue from a number of prominent scholars working and thinking in Iran today, translation is understood as a cultural practice that reaches beyond linguistic transposition and instead concerns the capacity of a society to reconnect to its traumatic history and multiple cultural traditions. I recognize this phenomenon as a "translation movement" that echoes earlier historical conjunctures in which translation has been central to the development of cultural and political life in Iran and the Near East. Following a central formulation in contemporary Iranian debates, my hypothesis is that contemporary practices of translation are at once the realization of a "crisis", a historical, political and cultural disablement, and an attempt at "cultural regeneration", one that seeks to reconnect the reader and speaker to living memories and renewed potentialities. This project will unfold on two related and yet distinct moments and field sites to examine this hypothesis. The first is an ethnographic engagement with the intellectuals involved in reading, translating and teaching texts that they understand to belong to the Western experience of modernity, with a particular emphasis on the conditions of possibility of thinking history and historiography in Iran today. The second is an ethnography of what I call "minor histories" of Iranian modernity, which I intend to base in Iranian Kurdistan. Drawing on anthropology's understanding of productivity of cultural translation, as well as Islamic articulation of production of knowledge as an "act of being," this project examines how in the context of traumatic history of Iran the translation movement produces cultural regeneration in staging a non-secular form of critique.
Sonja Gammeltoft Ostrow
Vanderbilt University, History
The Pollsters and the People: German Social Scientists and the Pursuit of a Post-Fascist Public
[ project summary ]
My dissertation will examine the West German social scientists who sought to theorize, identify, and render legible a national democratic "public" through empirical opinion and market research. My project will show how opinion researchers responded to, and built upon, theoretical frameworks developed during World War II and the empirical work begun by occupation authorities in Germany in order to count, categorize, and study the lives and opinions of their countrymen. These researchers also linked their findings to the political and economic process in new ways, helping to envision and make sense of the West German transition to democracy from dictatorship. Instead of beginning with one definition of "the public" and of "public opinion," then, I will trace the varied and often conflicting attempts by West German opinion researchers and social scientists to define these concepts in theory and practice, focusing on research conducted in the 1940s up to the early 1970s. I will also explore reactions to empirical opinion research among the very "public" that these social scientists sought to analyze. My dissertation intersects with the work of scholars who have sought to determine what, after the horrors wrought by Nazism, explains the subsequent stabilization of democratic governments in Western Europe. While economic growth and Cold War pressures played a crucial role in the post-war democratic project and a corresponding society-wide reassessment of the relationship between citizens and states, I contend that these processes were also buttressed by the work of opinion researchers. Only by understanding the reconceptualization of "public opinion" that these pollsters led can we make sense of the larger intellectual and cultural shifts that structured the post-war trajectory of Western Europe. An SSRC grant for the 2013-14 academic year will allow me to conduct archival research in order to uncover how West German social scientists contributed to this process.
Kasia Paprocki
Cornell University, Development Sociology
Big Shrimp, Rising Waters: Development, Dispossession, and Resistance in Southern Bangladesh
Joseph Warren Peterson
Yale University, History
Muslims and Jacobins: Catholic Representations of the Other in Nineteenth-Century France
[ project summary ]
Counter-revolutionary Catholics in nineteenth-century France—from influential thinkers such as Joseph de Maistre and Juan Donoso Cortès to later culture warriors like Louis Veuillot, Léon Gautier, and Emile Keller—wrote extensively about Islam in the context of their domestic struggle against secularism, and the resulting orientalist discourse was deeply ambiguous. Catholic apologists respected the religious devotion of their Muslim enemies, and were often critical of secular imperialism, yet they also advocated the work of missions and "civilization." Studying Catholic discourses on Islam will shed light on broader issues in the study of reactionary religion, including how conservative Catholicism constructed its "other" more generally, how it conceived of the relationship between the social and the individual, and how it navigated between modernity and tradition. Far from being an occasional interest, the confrontation with Islam was a central preoccupation of French Catholics in the nineteenth century, to such an extent that their domestic struggle against secularism and Jacobinism cannot be understood without reference to their more global orientalist discourse. Taken together, the plurality of religious opponents unleashed by empire and the plurality of political opponents unleashed by revolution presented a radical challenge to the universalist hopes of Catholicism. How Catholic apologists tried to process this challenge, to find categories from within their tradition for expressing differences which had previously been ignored or repressed—this is what needs to be explored.
James Phillips
New York University, History
Experimental Subjects: Psychoneurology and the Science of the "New Man" in Russia and the Soviet Union, 1904-1938
[ project summary ]
My dissertation examines the relationship between the scientific study of human thought and behavior and political projects of individual and social change in Russia and the Soviet Union, from the early 1900s to the Great Purges of the late 1930s. I focus specifically on a cluster of interrelated disciplines known in Russia as the psychoneurological sciences, which together promised to provide a unified science of the human subject. Such knowledge was seen by many throughout the period as a key to producing a better society and a more healthy, conscious, and virtuous person. Placing Bolshevik ambitions for the creation of "New Man" within this broader chronological and intellectual frame, I hypothesize that the psychoneurological sciences served to define both the conditions of possibility and the very limits of human transformation, with profound implications for the fate of the revolutionary project throughout. To test this hypothesis, I will examine the theoretical and practical developments of these experimental sciences of the human subject from the founding of V. M. Bekhterev's Psychoneurological Institute in St. Petersburg in 1904, through their proliferation in the early Soviet period and application to domains of labor, propaganda, child development and national minority integration, to their eventual liquidation by decree in 1936. By reconsidering the relation of science and ideology in early twentieth century Russian history, my research will contribute to significant debates within the field, including questions of expertise and the state, of continuity across the revolutionary divide, and of connections and commonalities between Soviet Union and western Europe. In this way, my project will offer a reappraisal of what is often dubbed the Great Experiment, not simply as an experiment in the building of socialism, but as an experiment in the application of scientific knowledge of the human subject to the management and ordering of human affairs.
Jessica E. Plummer
University of Texas at Austin, Germanic Studies
The Serial Form and Modern Agenda Setting: The German Kolportageroman 1871-1914
[ project summary ]
My dissertation project investigates the late nineteenth-century German Kolportageroman (colportage novel). Colportage novels, serial novels sold by door-to-door book salesman, constituted an important nexus of influence in nineteenth-century popular print culture. Their connection to other media and genres such as the periodical press and classical drama has, however, not been recognized. My dissertation remedies this by exploring the broader cultural significance of these novels as key in the development of early mass media and culture in Germany. My approach to the colportage novel draws on theoretical notions from media studies and literary scholarship to broaden a literary understanding of the narrative qualities and cultural importance of "cheap literature" and the strategies of modern serialization. The colportage novels' serialization and their interconnection with the larger media and literary landscape offers a perspective on this literature that contrasts with traditional literary scholarship, which has been largely unable to divorce itself from the idea that inexpensive, mass-produced popular literature is simplistic, detrimental to its readers, and symptomatic of social inequality. In preliminary investigation, I discovered three fascinating elements in the novels that will form the core of my project. The first is the close relationship between colportage novels and contemporary events and news reports. The second is their connection to works of canonical "high" literature. The third element is their serialization, which links them closely to the larger media landscape and to innovative publishing and distribution technologies. Reflection on the contradictory convergences between the news and fiction, high and low, whole and fragment in many of these novels will shed light on their importance as an effective force at work in the formation of public opinion.
Kailani Polzak
University of California, Berkeley, Art History/Architecture
Picturing, Circumnavigation, and Science: English, French, Russian, and German Observations of Oceania 1768-1822
[ project summary ]
I propose to undertake eleven months of research in England, France, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand investigating the publication of accounts of expeditions to Oceania in order to explicate how these voyages were crucial to the development of anthropology as a natural science in the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. Research will take place in museums, libraries, and archives so that I may review drawings, engravings, books, correspondence, journals, and records of oral histories. I will conduct this work in preparation for writing my dissertation in which I intend to demonstrate that the pictures generated during Captain Cook's first voyage of 1768, the 1800 French Expedition to Australia, and the Russian Rurik journey around the Pacific Rim in 1815 were part of a data set that was constitutive to theorizations of race and its connection to physiological, cultural, political, and aesthetic differences.
Gabriel Rocha
New York University, History
Empire Made Flesh: Incursionism, Animals, and Islands in the Formation of the Iberian Atlantic, 1450-1600
[ project summary ]
This project investigates how merchants, migrants, and mariners involved in incursions of trade and aggression between 1450 and 1600 created an Iberian Atlantic island circuit that enabled and sustained the Portuguese and Spanish empires. Often understood as imperial expansion, these processes gain more analytic clarity if considered under the rubric of "incursionism": episodic, opportunistic initiatives that gradually coalesced into bases for further expeditions. On the Madeiran, Canarian, Cape Verdean, and Azorean archipelagos, as in southwestern Iberia, incursionists participated in resource arrangements and markets in which animals figured prominently as sources of labor, consumption, and concern. Conceptualizing the ways in which incursionism and subsistence drew from the presence and uses of animals, and how these dynamics figured prominently in political and legal arrangements, amplifies the scope for analyzing how incursionists came to build the footholds of Iberian empires on islands that were neither centers nor peripheries. Further, in settlements and their surroundings, municipal charters enumerating rights of access to communal resources created a legal framework with which those invested in benefiting from animals contended. I construct a socio-ecological history of hunting and fishing, pastoralism, and the commerce in animal products, inquiring into what extent these activities held local and regional import at the crossroads of Atlantic thoroughfares. I also investigate the degree to which incursionism and its reliance on animals and islands held political implications for Iberian imperial objectives and the juridical-theological architecture of empire. Materially, I argue, the presence of wild and domesticated animals, and the commerce in animal products, undergirded and contributed to incursionist ventures and regional trade networks; discursively, they served as a living template for conceiving of empire and mobilizing incursionist enterprises.
Susan Rosenfeld
University of California, Los Angeles, History
Yorùbá at the Crossroads: Ritual Commodification and Cultural Exchange between Lagos and Salvador da Bahia, 1808–1890
[ project summary ]
This project investigates the structures of conjunction involving òrìsà worship that informed the creation and maintenance of trans-Atlantic relationships between the Yorùbá-speaking community in contemporary Lagos, Nigeria with those Afro-Brazilians in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, many of whom repatriated to Lagos during the nineteenth century. Through multi-sited research that combines oral histories, archival research and analyses of symbolic clusters within performance and visual genres, my dissertation reconceptualizes and retemporalizes Lagosian òrìsà worshippers' contact with Afro-Brazilians who practiced Candomblé—Brazil's creolized derivative religion whose roots rest in Yorùbá òrìsà tradition—as central to the early development of Yorùbá-centric local and trans-Atlantic discursive and material networks. Thus, this dissertation argues that indigenous Yorùbá notions of change and exchange dictated the circum-Atlantic ritual commodification of goods. In this context, "ritual commodification" refers to the investment of religious objects with various forms of exchange value through the enmeshment of ritual and capitalist symbolism and practice. I hypothesize that these "structuring structures" shaped local Yorùbá-speaking òrìsà worshippers' social and economic interactions with Afro-Brazilian Candomblé practitioners and returnees during the first half of the nineteenth century, directing these groups' late nineteenth-century dealings and discourses surrounding politics of identity in Lagos. As follows, the historical question that directs my research is: How did Yorùbá-speaking people capitalize on Atlantic ritual commodification—modeled from these indigenous notions of change and exchange embodied within the structure of òrìsà ritual and practice—to negotiate existing fields and forge new spaces of economic, social, and political distinction throughout the nineteenth--century in Lagos, despite these people's marginalization under British imperial rule?
Jason Ross Rozumalski
University of California, Berkeley, History
Legal Landscapes of Early Modern England, 1489-1700
[ project summary ]
Early modern English life has been described by David Rollison as "a culture of households in a landscape". Over the past fifty years, historians have created a nuanced and creative historiography that enriches modern understandings of the social and family lives of those lost households. This dissertation extends that sophisticated work toward understanding how the individuals that populated those households related to the landscapes in which they lived and how that relation, in turn, affected social and governmental interactions among neighbors and their nation. The project begins by asking why representations of the physical world, and landscape in particular, dramatically changed in early modern England and then continues to analyze why and how those changing representations affected the reach and the capabilities of law. This dissertation uses one of the richest yet understudied textual legacies of early modern English history—court records concerned with real property—in conjunction with material artifacts such as surveyors' tools, maps, and the landscape itself as its evidential foundation. Using the law of real property as a way of approaching this history is significant because it brings together otherwise seemingly disparate aspects of human life including the distribution of wealth and well-being, the development of rights, political ideology, commercial enterprise, environmental quality, and the idea of what it means to "own". The English law of real property remains one of the few systems created during the early modern period that remains relatively unchanged, affecting not only English but also global debates over the rule of law, environmentalism, and human rights today.
William Runyan
University of Michigan, Comparative Literature
Knowledge in Dispersion: Theorists of Yiddish Culture in New York City, Mexico City, and Buenos Aires (1890-1967)
[ project summary ]
Following East European Jewish emigrants to new locations and to new national, linguistic and cultural realities, my dissertation will examine the shifting global outlook and extension of Yiddish cultural projects—efforts to sustain a vibrant artistic and institutional sphere in Yiddish—situated in the Americas. Rather than privileging one transregional axis, my approach aims at a careful engagement with the geographic imaginations and travel itineraries of Yiddish intellectuals during the first half of the twentieth century, drawing upon the highly productive but hitherto little examined Yiddish text culture of the Americas: autobiographical writings, travelogues, cultural criticism, literary works, translations and correspondences. A comparative focus on three regional centers of Yiddish culture—New York City, Mexico City and Buenos Aires—opens a vantage that illuminates both interamerican and transatlantic dynamics of travel and cultural circulation, rather than thinking of Jewish immigrant culture mainly in terms of arrival and integration into new national contexts. My objective is not only to chart networks, movements and locations lived and imagined, but also to excavate a world of thought sustained by them: to ask how the upheavals of two world wars and the foundation of the state of Israel could be understood in relation to the present and future viability of a dispersed Yiddish cultural life. In undertaking a study of historical consciousness in dispersion, I hope to offer a fresh perspective on the present transnational moment.
Alfonso Salgado
Columbia University, History
The Party Family: The Private Life of Communists in Twentieth-Century Chile
[ project summary ]
The Party Family, the title of my doctoral dissertation, encapsulates the multiple layers of this research on communist activism in twentieth-century Chile. First and foremost, this is a study of communist families, their internal dynamics and their private practices. Second, it is an invitation to think of communist parties as extended families, with networks of solidarity and hierarchical relationships based on gender and age. Finally, it is an attempt to engage with, and speak to, the larger audience of scholars interested in what political scientists call the family of communist parties. The research spans from the mid-1930s to 1973 and is based on four types of sources: the communist press, oral histories, civil registry documents, and internal party documentation. By studying Chilean communist families in the long duration and through a diverse set of sources, my research delves into the interpenetration of the public and the private spheres in political activism. "The first duty of a militant," the statutes of the party asserted, "is to make the acts of his or her public and private life fit the principles and program of the party." A communist was not only supposed to be a good revolutionary in the street, but also the best spouse and parent at home. I believe that a study of this dimension of Chilean communism can help advance a more holistic definition of political activism. Focusing on armed insurgency and state repression, scholars of Latin America have aptly argued that politics was a matter of life and death. I put the emphasis on everyday activism at home rather than intermittent violence in the streets to rethink politics as an existential matter in the broadest sense. Although centered on a specific communist party, informed by sociological questions, and rooted in historical methods, my dissertation seeks to challenge our understanding of what constitutes both politics and human beings as political animals.
Jasmine Leah Samara
Harvard University, Anthropology
The Politics of "Choice" in Greece: Debating Islamic Law, Women's Rights and European Obligations
[ project summary ]
Greece's policy of allowing Muslims in Thrace to choose between Islamic law or Greek civil law for family law matters presents a revealing site to explore the politics of human rights in Europe. While the Greek state and minority NGOs insist that the use of Islamic law is a matter of individual preference, human rights advocates and legal scholars assert that this system violates the rights of Thracian Muslim women, who are not free to exercise genuine choice. Thus, they argue, Muslim women must be empowered by eliminating the Islamic law option. Through ethnographic research and interviews with lawyers and rights advocates, this project examines: How is choice measured and assessed? What types of data and evidence-gathering processes do legal scholars and human rights advocates rely on as indicators of a person's ability to choose freely? How do accounts of Thracian attorneys who advise Muslim clients in navigating these legal systems support or challenge prevailing narratives on Islamic law in Thrace? By exploring the processes of evidence-gathering and representation through which knowledge on Muslim experiences is produced, and how these connect to broader debates on Greece's (contested) European obligations, this project seeks to contribute to the anthropology of human rights, knowledge, and the state.
Nir Shafir
University of California, Los Angeles, History
The Road to Damascus: Travel and Knowledge in the Seventeenth-Century Ottoman Empire
[ project summary ]
Did travel play a significant role in the intellectual world of the early modern Ottoman Empire? In the late seventeenth century, major Ottoman intellectuals began to undertake and record detour-rich pilgrimages. My research explores how these travels functioned not only as a pilgrimage itinerary but also as a forum for social commentary and as a means for claiming the validity of experiential and even empirical or naturalistic knowledge. I argue that these multiple and intersecting meanings of travel emerged as a response to a burgeoning piety movement that spurred these intellectuals to set out on pilgrimages and comment on contested phenomena such as the miracles of saints and prophets and the botanical qualities of plants. I compare the works of four travelers and one geographer and situate them in the intellectual debates of the time in order to both understand the significance of travel and to open to more serious inquiry the understudied field of Ottoman intellectual history. I do so by engaging with history of science scholarship which has shown that new methods and ways of knowing are not simply abstract intellectual constructs but concrete solutions to the social and political crises of a society and thus deeply connected to a particular society's intellectual, social, and material conditions. To understand this transformation, I plan to reconstruct the intellectual world of these travelers through research in the manuscript libraries and archives of Istanbul and Cairo from July 2013 to June 2014
Samuel J. Shearer
Duke University, Anthropology
Producing Urban Futures in Post-Genocide Rwanda
[ project summary ]
This research focuses on Kigali City Master Plan—a fifty-year urban planning project that the Rwandan government and its partners call a model of sustainable urban growth, environmental design, and economic development. Financed by international investors and outsourced to architecture firms in Singapore, and Boulder, Colorado, the Kigali City Master Plan is emblematic of new and flexible forms of urban planning that activate global networks of capital and expertise. The Master Plan also promises to demolish much of the city's current built environment to produce something entirely new: a holistic urban project, a vector of capital flow, and an entrée into the world economy. In the process hundreds of thousands of Kigali's residents will lose dwelling and work places. Yet surprisingly, those residents who are most vulnerable to losing their homes also dream along with urban planners and government officials of the better future the plan promises. Through informal interviews, participant observation, and critical analysis of the Master Plan and related media, this research will investigate the relationship between the material forces of global capital that destroy and create built environments and the utopian imaginaries that provide the vital energy for large-scale planning projects
William Stroebel
University of Michigan, Comparative Literature
Objects of Contention: Material Culture and Modernity in Greece and Turkey
[ project summary ]
My dissertation explores the material foundations of modernity in Greece and Turkey. Tracing specific 20th-century commodity objects through each phase of their complex lives—from production to circulation to consumption—I will use novels and archives to recover the strategies by which Turkish and Greek subjects have attempted to incorporate these "things" into their own narratives. I do not deny the very real and corrosive power of global capital or state ideologies within the lives of individual Greeks and Turks. Instead, I will embody the larger ideological and institutional forces of modernization within specific objects—biscuit tins, face creams, newsprint—recovering the strategies by which Greek and Turkish subjects resisted, colluded with, and repurposed these forces. Ultimately, I aim to demonstrate just how analogous (indeed, interrelated) Greek and Turkish experiences of modernity were. Next year, I will focus on my two Turkish chapters, conducting archival research in Istanbul and Ankara. The first chapter will follow the spread of Western commodity objects in Turkey during the years of statist industrialization (1930s-1970s). Reading through journals, magazines, editorials, advertisements, memoirs and letters, I will attempt to reconstruct the narratives that these objects and their owners were weaving through their everyday practices. The second chapter will treat literature itself as an object, examining the formation of a national print culture in the 1930s and 40s. By rereading a key mid-century Turkish novel as it was originally published serially in its newspaper (situated between political editorials and commodity advertisements), and by tracing out its readership and distribution network, I will attend to the interrelation between print, state, and commodity culture.
Myra M. Sun
Columbia University, Area and Cultural Studies
Cover to Cover: Editing, Authorship, and Materiality in the Making of Modern Chinese Literature, 1916-1937
[ project summary ]
I am applying for the IDRF grant for 2013-2014 to conduct research in China on the hitherto unspecified role of editing in the modern [re]construction of textual authority and literary authorship during the Republican period. By examining the complex cultural enterprise of editing in relation to a flourishing design culture, my project traces the rise of a new literary medium, the paperback monograph, during the 1920s, as part of the progressive reformists' experimentation with media technologies in advancing their claims to literary modernity. I take as my focus a representative group of Shanghai-based writers and editors, whose collective experiences and labors across influential publishing houses, journals, magazines, and compendiums positioned them in the vanguard of literary publishing in China. At the center of this network of interpersonal, professional, and institutional relationships is the iconic writer Lu Xun, whose sustained and rigorous editorial activities have been woefully neglected by the vast body of Chinese and English-language scholarship on early 20th century literature and history. Consequently, an entire stratum of cultural collaboration and intellectual labor remains unnoticed and under-studied, in tandem with the names of some of the most important textual workers of modern Chinese literature: Zhen Zhengduo, Zhao Jiabi, Sun Fuyuan, Zhao Jingshen, to name a few. I take these individuals' publications and organizational affiliations as a point of entry into the rapid diversification and selective consolidation of editing practices across textual, pictorial, and filmic media over a period of roughly two decades. Combining methods of literary criticism, social history, and media studies, I reconstruct the historical moment of rupture and recalibration of literary practice as a critical reconfiguration of symbolic power amongst editors, authors, and publishers, from which literary authorship emerged as adominant form of creative labor.
Maria C. Taylor
University of Michigan, Art History/Architecture
The Industrialization of Siberia and Soviet City-Environment Interactions: Krasnoyarsk, 1950s-70s
[ project summary ]
This dissertation critically reassesses the relationship between late-Soviet industrial urbanism and the Siberian landscape. How did the local urbanists tasked with "building Communism" in the post-Stalin period—by expanding factory production, providing housing to the newly urbanized masses, and achieving the fusion [sliianie] of town and countryside—engage with both 'place' and 'plan' during the push to industrialize, modernize, and scientifically manage Soviet cities? Specifically, how did architects and planners discursively and materially construct the "Soviet city" in Siberia, a culturally and climatically fraught environment for industrial citybuilding? When and where did the Siberian 'site-specificity' of terrain, climate, and abiotic systems mutually influence the "standardized" design, construction, and reception of late Soviet urbanism? In order to adequately address the multiple scales and network of city-environment interactions, this dissertation focuses on the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, a provincial capital vividly transformed by the triple currents of industrialization, environmental awareness, and large-scale infrastructural interventions. Preliminary research suggests that local urbanists in the post-Stalin period treated Siberian citybuilding as an opportunity for mutual influence and benefit between nature and society, rather than a one-dimensional attempt at "mastery over nature." By investigating the ideology and professional norms shaping Siberian city-environment relations, this dissertation contributes to interdisciplinary conversations on the more-than-human city, Soviet center-periphery relations, and 20th century architectural history. Methodologically, it draws on urban environmental history modes to assess key sites such as the Krasnoyarsk Hydroelectric Dam, Yenisei River embankment, bridges, and industrially-oriented left-bank districts, using regional archives and other sources not available to Cold War-era historians.
Adam Thomas
University of California, Irvine, History
Racial Ambiguity and Citizenship in the Postemancipation British Caribbean and United States
[ project summary ]
My work uncovers overlooked experiences of racially ambiguous people in the postemancipation British Caribbean and US. Scholars tend to define these societies as failed experiments in racially inclusive citizenship, but in doing so they rely on dichotomies like black/white, free/enslaved, and success/failure. I place racially ambiguous people in their frameworks. Instead of addressing those whose physical traits defied easy categorization--e.g. people of "mixed race" who "passed"--I analyze subjects whose "black" or "white" appearance came into conflict with typical racialized assumptions of normative behavior. For example, "black" Jamaicans who voted in favor of white landowners in local government were accused of disloyalty framed in terms of ambiguous identities: they were "black" men with "white hearts." I discuss four means by which ambiguity was created: transracial adoption, political participation, economic practices, and sexual habits. Subjects include former slaves adopted by white families, and their understanding of national belonging; black Jamaicans accused of acting white and excluded from an imagined exclusively black community for doing so; depictions of African Americans as "prosthetic" citizens in the postbellum US white "political body"; and white sectarian missionaries in the Caribbean and carpetbaggers (Northern officeholders in the US South); both were accused of racially impure sexual tendencies and relationships to property by white supremacists seeking to reclaim citizenship as exclusively white. I trace common vocabularies and experiences of ambiguity in both locations. In particular, I uncover a transnational conservative movement that opposed racial equality, and shared means and objectives of undermining its proponents. In its focus on racial ambiguity, the study adds to discussions about postemancipation societies, racial identity, black nationalism, and white supremacy, revealing more complex and contradictory pictures in each case.
Niko Klein Vicario
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Art History/Architecture
Import/Export: Raw Materials, Hemispheric Expertise and the Making of Latin American Art, 1933-1945
[ project summary ]
This dissertation analyzes the construction of a field called "Latin American art" in the years between 1933 and 1945. Conditioned both by anti-imperial ideals and neo-imperialist agendas both within and outside Latin America, this field was negotiated by artists who operated as transnationally mobile cultural brokers in the midst of geopolitical reorganization. This dissertation argues that the import/export market for works by artists such as David Alfaro Siqueiros, Joaquín Torres-García, Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta, and Cândido Portinari during the 1930s and 1940s produced a field called Latin American art at the interface of what I am terming hemispheric expertise (the cross-disciplinary project to collect and organize knowledge about the region). It was within this field that artists produced coded, polysemic images reflexively analyzing the discursive and commercial networks linking, among others, Mexico City, Havana, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, and New York, conditioning their production, circulation, exhibition, critical reception, and sale. In particular, struggles over raw materials which shaped relations between Latin America and its export markets in turn shaped these works as spaces of representation in which such conflicts were figured, camouflaged, abstracted, and critiqued.
Guillaume Wadia
Harvard University, History
Covert Imperial Statecraft: French Intelligence and the Growth of the Secret State in Interwar Morocco
[ project summary ]
Covert Imperial Statecraft examines the French Protectorate of Morocco's intelligence apparatus during the years between the First and Second World Wars. It focuses on the methods used on the ground to reconcile the anxieties of French officials in Paris with the counter-hegemonic demands of Moroccans and non-French, foreign actors. Based on preliminary research in French and Moroccan archives, I argue that French civilian officials in Morocco transferred their authority to French intelligence officers in an attempt to halt what they believed was the slow decline of the French Empire. Further, I contend that French intelligence officers created shadow bureaucracies, removed from the constraints of French and international public opinion to offer new solutions to the French Empire's crisis of power. Maintaining order and legitimacy required renewed engagement with Moroccans as well as rival European powers active in the Mediterranean. Yet, the shift from civilian rule to an intelligence state offered embattled French politicians, Moroccans who could not be seen as cooperating with a colonial power, and foreigners who had no official reason for competing with French colonial order, the plausible deniability needed when interacting with one another. All sides had indeed reached an unproductive stalemate that they would try to overcome through political and economic means during the 1920s and 1930s.
Anna Weichselbraun
University of Chicago, Anthropology
Regulating the Nuclear: The Textual Production of Technical Independence at the International Atomic Energy Agency
[ project summary ]
The proposed study is an ethnography of the communicative practices through which civil servants at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seek to establish and maintain the organization's legitimacy as the sole arbiter in the regulation of global nuclear technology. This project asks how, against accusations of politicization and regulatory capture, various actors at the Agency work to display and communicate "technical independence"—the unbiased technical competence and legal judgment by which the IAEA's missions can be made globally acceptable—to a vast international audience. The results of this study aim to expand anthropological knowledge in four domains: (1) the study of bureaucracy and documents, (2) historical and social scientific studies of knowledge and expertise, (3) analyses of legal and political language, and (4) understandings of a changing nuclear age. This project's careful attention to language as embedded in a range of other semiotic (sign) systems can offer a novel perspective on how the nuclear order with its laws and knowledge is constituted and contested. The research is based on 14 months of participant-observation, interviews, and archival work at the public information, legal, and training divisions of the IAEA and will be completed by rigorous linguistic anthropological analyses of the actors' interactional, ritual, and documentary practices.
Kirsten M. Yoder Wesselhoeft
Harvard University, Religion
An Ethics of Renewal: Muslim Moral Formation and Transformation in Paris and Marseille
[ project summary ]
Through a fine-grained ethnography of religiously engaged Muslims in the environs of Paris and Marseille, my dissertation will explore narratives, practices, and pedagogies of moral formation and transformation. The central aim of this research is to understand how the individuals I speak with conceptualize what it means to be a "good Muslim" in the French context. What practices are most important? What authorities are most compelling? What strategies for becoming a better Muslim are adopted? My research will be carried out in mosques, Islamic educational institutes, and study groups. I will investigate how the ethical development of participants in these pedagogical contexts interacts with and sometimes incorporates both transnational discourses of Islamic morality and the values and practices of non-Muslim French society. My research will portray how some French Muslims learn, enact, and theorize moral improvement through a religious framework. This will include two main elements: a study of pedagogy in my three contexts of focus, and a study of participants' personal narratives and discourses of formation. I hypothesize that many French Muslims experience and narrate their religious formation as at once a series of wholly free, deliberative choices and as the inevitable result of some outside force. I further hypothesize that this is true both for watershed moments of moral transformation and for everyday ethical deliberation and practice. My dissertation will reframe recent discussions about freedom in two ways: first, by considering freedom as it functions in narrative and rhetoric, rather than as a descriptor of human behavior, and second, by exploring the ways that within these narratives and rhetorics, freedom may be bound up tightly with constraint.
Christine M. Willie
University of California, Davis, Native American Studies
Sheep Is Life and Diné Decolonization: Re-membering the Spanish and Mexican Arrivals to Navajoland
[ project summary ]
Grounded within the Diné (Navajo) epistemology of Sheep Is Life and with traditional sheep butchering as an analytical framework, this dissertation aims to provide unique insights to Diné relationships with sheep, the dialogue between sheep butchering and decolonization, as well as Diné perspectives of the Spanish and Mexican arrivals to the southwest. Utilizing Indigenous methodologies and Diné research methods I challenge research of sheep as a mere economic/ecological subject, studies of Diné pastoralism as a relationship of domination, and ultimately, scholarships that treats sheep as a foreign object introduced to Diné alongside Spanish colonialisms. As much as this is an ethnographic study of the co-constituted identities between sheep and Diné, my project also argues that Diné practices of sheep care and sheep butchery are complex responses to Western ways of knowing as well as critiques of the Western monopoly on knowledge production. My hypothesis suggests that maintaining sheep as the axis of this project will allow for previously marginalized or ignored Native intellectualism of the Spanish and Mexican arrivals to emerge. Although traditional butchering techniques vary throughout Navajoland,the simultaneous dismembering/re-membering process allow for dialogue between these variations and with decolonizing practices. While butchering requires the dismembering of sheep, it demonstrates how sheep re-member Diné by reinforcing kinship, promoting dialogue, and re-purposing the dismembered sheep according to Diné ways of sensing the world. Therefore, much as the dismembered parts of sheep are used rather than discarded, I will address how the butchering of sheep allows for the dissolution and reconfiguration of Western knowledges and previous academic research in ways that heal Diné experiences with colonialism starting with the Spanish arrivals continuing until the contemporary.
Duncan McEachern Yoon
University of California, Los Angeles, Literature
The Sino-African Imaginary: Cultural Exchange and The Afro-Asian Writers Bureau (1958-1978)
[ project summary ]
While most all studies of China and Africa focus on current economic or foreign policy concerns, my dissertation maps the literary and cultural history of the Sino-African imaginary. Growing out of the Africa-Asia Conference of Bandung, Indonesia in 1955, the Afro-Asian Writers Bureau attempted to forge Third World cultural solidarities via alternative conceptions of modernity. Although they did not use the term, they attempted to define the parameters of what is now understood as Postcolonial Studies. Among other exchanges, the Bureau provided a transnational forum for the aesthetic entanglements of Pan-Africanism, Marxist humanism, and Maoism. In 1966, it would divide into a Cairo-based, Soviet dominated bureau and a Beijing-led, Chinese dominated one. The publication of literary anthologies and journals such as Lotus (Cairo) and The Call (Beijing) would straddle the complications of the split, the aesthetic line between propaganda and art, as well as Maoist versus Soviet definitions of socialist realism. The importance of Africa as a ground of ideological contestation ultimately produced a "socialist scramble" on the continent. Maoism's emphasis on the rural peasantry, racial difference, and the role of literature and culture in national revolution resonated with many Pan-African writers and intellectuals such as Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Kwame Nkrumah and W.E.B DuBois. Thus, the Sino-African imaginary of the period was based on a cultural exchange that lay outside of a colonial power dynamic. By analyzing the horizontal cultural exchanges of the Global South, my thesis moves beyond the limitation of most postcolonial scholarship that focuses on a vertical analytic of the colonizer/colonized. Furthermore, it reinterprets the Cold War outside of an American/Soviet dichotomy. By focusing on the rise of a Sino-African imaginary, I both reread the Cold War from a Third World perspective and provide a cultural historicization to contemporary Sino-African capitalism.
Jesse Ray Zarley
University of Maryland College Park, History
Mapuche Political Culture from the Late Spanish Empire to the Early Republic: Territory, Ritual, and Power, 1793-1862
[ project summary ]
Unlike many indigenous groups in the Americas, the seminomadic Mapuche of southern Chile and the Argentine Pampas resisted conquest and incorporation by the Spanish imperial and national states until the late nineteenth century. My dissertation asks how and why conflicting cultural and economic uses of space shaped Mapuche kinship groups' ability to maintain their territorial autonomy for centuries. By drawing insights from geography, ethnohistory, and Spanish borderlands studies, I focus on how treaty negotiations known as parlamentos, political alliances, and kinship organization illuminate Mapuche, Chilean, and Spanish expressions of power through symbolic and material appropriations of land. Specifically, I explore how the Mapuche exercised control over land and dictated the physical, economic, and cultural boundaries of their world to outsiders from a 1793 parlamento until Chile began its military campaign against the Mapuche in 1862.Though independence reconfigured these alliances, it did not result in the physical incorporation of the Mapuche-controlled territory into Chile. Chilean and Argentinian independence, I argue, created new opportunities for the rise of powerful Mapuche territorial units capable of allying with and opposing the nation states. I suggest that these new forms of Mapuche kinship organization that drew from non-Mapuche conceptions of land changed substantially in the transition from Spanish Empire to Chilean national state.
Corinna H. Zeltsman
Duke University, History
Ink under the Fingernails: Mexico City Printers and the Material Politics of Print, 1810-1910
[ project summary ]
My dissertation project examines Mexico City's printing industry—its oft-neglected participants and sites of production—to recast our understanding of print's crucial role in independent Mexico's history. I argue that printers were integral mediators in the major conflicts that shaped newly independent Mexico's historical development. By asking how printed materials were produced across the nineteenth century, my research reveals that Mexico City printers were central not only because they issued texts that engaged in and fueled such conflicts, but also because they maintained close business and political dealings with the federal government. While historians of Mexico's first century of state formation have focused either on metropolitan elites or rural and urban popular sectors, my work explores the socially mixed space of the printshop, where a diverse group of men—from manual laborers to educated editors—navigated difficult economic and political realities as they worked to produce printed materials for diverse and often fractious audiences. Scholars of the press have relied on abstract notions—particularly theories that link expanding print capitalism to the rise of a public sphere—rather than trace print's growing role in forming the nation's politics and culture. My project focuses instead on print production itself: its main actors, their social position and professional practices, and printed products (considered as visual and material objects that used design and images to influence viewer experience beyond literacy) in order to understand how printers acted as key but controversial mediators in Mexico's political and cultural debates. Examining these material politics of print, I argue, challenges misleading dichotomies—between text and image, literate and oral, worker and intellectual, public and private—and opens a new way to interpret Mexico's dramatic century of conflict, consolidation and crisis: as it formed on the printshop floor.
Ann E. Zimo
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, History
Muslims in the Landscape: A Social Map of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 13th Century